Hike to Oma (painted) forest

One of the “touristic” places to visit in Bizkaia’s countryside is the Oma painted forest. In this post I’ll tell you how to get there using public transport.

The local artist Agustín Ibarrola started painting the trees of this forest in 1982. In a couple of years, he had achieved a collection of paintings that you can see from different standpoints (which are signaled on the ground).

Since trees are living things that grow, some of the drawings may not be nowadays as perfect as a couple of decades ago (maybe some repainting work has been done to solve a bit of this problem, but I am not sure, so don’t quote me on this).
Another funny thing is that the artist started painting a forest that was not of his property. Someday the owner decided to cut a few trees and some drawings were spoiled (after that the government said the forest should be protected).

OK, now how to get there 🙂  My suggestion is to start in the village of Gautegiz-Arteaga, which is a few minutes after Gernika (a very important village in Bizkaia’s history!).

From Bilbao, there is the Bizkaibus A3513, going from Termibus.
The bus stop in Gautegiz-Arteaga is number 4045, in Herriko Enparantza 28. (The buses have an electronic screen telling what’s the next stop, but you can also warn the driver that you want to get off there, just in case, and [s]he can maybe remember that and warn you when you must get off).
[More info on the bus should be found here. If not, just google Bizkaibus]

arteaga oma 1

In this map, the starting point is the green circle. The route to the forest is in blue (starting in the valley and then going upwards), and in yellow there is an extra option, a visit to a small castle (which nowadays is run as a hotel and restaurant).

The blue circle is an area with a baserri restaurant, a parking, pic-nic area, and also a path to the cave of Santimami(ñe), which is possible to visit only with a guided tour requested beforehand. In this cave lived some of the “ancient Basques“, so it’s also an important spot for our history, and also World Heritage of UNESCO. If you are really adventurous, you can try to find the way up to the mountain, starting from this cave (it’s a narrow path between the trees, not relly comfortable maybe). The view from the mountain (Ereñozar) is really good – you can see perfectly the Urdaibai area, with its tidal river.

From this area there are two options (A and B) to get to the forest (and option C is the way to the cave).

arteaga oma 2 “A” goes through the valley, so it’s more calm and in my opinion is more beautiful (really beautiful during spring-summer, with all in gren, with the flowers and the beautiful Basque sheep [Latxa sheep] and other animals) and I would take it as the option to go there, then “B” for coming back.
“B” goes through the mountain and forests, it’s not so beautiful, and I prefer it for the way back, when you are not so interested in the view but more in just getting back 🙂 (during summer an extra in path “B” is that you might find wild strawberries on the side of the path – actually in “A” too, but not so many).

A good point to start with “B” and use “A” to come back is that it would be the “official” way to enter in the forest.

In the picture I don’t show you the forest, just the starting points. From there you still have a nice walk to the forest (maybe 30-45 minutes, always depending on the speed).

If you get there by car, you’ll have to leave it in the parkig, so also in that case this will be your starting point.

Enjoy!

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BILBOROCK: Villla de Bilbao 2014 & more

Don’t kow if I have already mentioned it in some other post (the blog was not active for a few years)… Bilborock is a gothic church turned into a modern musical space.  Nice idea, ain’t it?

In this place there are free concerts from time to time, and in the present and coming months there are concerts of the Pop-Rock & Metal Contest “Villa de Bilbao” 2014, with several groups that want to become famous and are going to show their best.

There are concerts in September (at 20:00): 11th, 12th, 18th, 19th, 25th and 26th.

October: 2nd, 3rd, 9th, 10th, 16th, 17th and 23rd.

November: 7th (finals of Metal), 8th (finals of Pop-Rock)
[there are also some Electronic concerts the 6th]

Agenda of the current month (in Spanish) should be here.

Apart from this contest, they organize some other activities (theatre plays, language exchange….) so the best is that you visit Bilborock and learn more about it from your own experience. 😉

Bilborock is near the Old Town, right on the other side of La Merced bridge (Mesedeetako zubia in Basque).

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Living in Bilbao and studying in Leioa Campus (UPV/EHU)

If you are going to study in Leioa’s Campus of the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) but want to live in the city, here is some useful information as for where you should be looking for a flat.

First, a map with some areas of Bilbao (in different colours) and an orientative location of bus stops to Leioa Campus (the green dots).

bilbao - zonas (bus UPV)

There are 7 different bus lines that go to that campus, but the location of bus stops is enough for you to get an idea of where you shouldn’t be looking for a flat or room. The areas in brown are really to be avoided (except for maybe some streets neighouring with other areas).

The price can be very similar in all the areas of the city (strange as it may seem, but some owners think they can ask wathever they want, even if their flat/room is a crap in the worst area) so it can be really hard to find something really cheap that is really worth the price. Maybe it’s better to pay 300€ in a nice and well located room than 250€ in a place that will make you be away of public transport, shops, bars, nightlife…etc.

Casco Viejo (in red) is the Old Town, obvsiouly there are no bus stops inside there. The area is full of commercial and leisure options (shops, bars, retaurants, museums, library…).

Abando/Indautxu (in green) is the “posh” area of Bilbao. People with more money live here. There’s also plenty of commercial and leisure options, probably more pricy. If living here, I’d choose a place not far from the Old Town, because probably you’ll be going there frequently with your friends.

Bilbao La Vieja – San Francisco (in black) is the “multicultural” area, or the area with more inmigration (specially from Africa). In the past it was a bit dangerous, but now is very much OK (people are more relaxed, and there’s police constantly there just in case). Some people prefer this area because it’s more diverse (people, shops, restaurants…) and that makes it interesting. But also some people don’t want to live in this kind of ambience, so it’s up to you to decide if you may agree with suck a place or not. Some buildings here are quite old and not very well mantained tough.  Price here could be lower, but not necessarily (as previously mentioned). The streets closer to the river are more interesting, as they’re closer to the Old Town. 

Uribarri / Castaños (in dark blue). Uribarri is closer to the City Hall and is more of a workers neighbourhood that benefits from a quite central location but still mantaining a neighbourhood ambience, and price. The streets closer to the river and Old Town are to be prefered. Castaños is the area behind the Campo Volantin street (which goes along the riverside), it’s a bit more “medium-upper” class maybe. In both there are plenty of shops and bars, but they are quite calm, so they’re quite good for living.

Begoña/Santutxu (in white) are in the area above the Old Town (going up the hill). Begoña is more calm and residential, and Santutxu is a very densely populated neighbourhood (too much people in too little space, but at the same time plenty of commerce & bars). I don’t like them much, but they can also be a good option for you, if you find a place close to one of the bus stops. 

Deusto (in light blue) is a nice neighbourhood, but a bit away from the centre [although here there are plenty of buses, and the metro] and sometimes pricy, so it coul be an option, but for a similar price a more central place could be better.

San Ignacio (in purple) is still less central than Deusto, and should be cheaper, but also well connected by public transport. Arangoiti (which is alo in purple) is up in a hill, above Deusto. It is cheaper, and could be a good option, but when coming back home you’ll have to the public transport or do some exercise going uphill (which can, on the other hand, keep you away of the gym). 

The areas in brown (except maybe the streets closer to some other area) I would consider not interesting at all for you (unless you really find something cheap there… but then you’ll probably need to spend more time – and money if you take some transport – to get to other parts of the city from here).

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3 Hikes from or close to Orduña

Orduña is the only municipality in Bizkaia that was granted the status of city. This title is not very important nowadays, except for the inhabitants of Orduña, who are very proud of the important role their city played in Bizkaia’s history. So you can also explore this small city before or after your hike.

Another funny fact of Orduña is that even though it is part of Bizkaia, it is surrounded by Alava and Castille, apart from the rest of Bizkaia.

Also, if you want to try one of the most famous tortillas in Bizkaia, go to the Belatz Gorri: http://www.belatzgorri.com/latortilla.html

Hike 1: Mount Txarlazo (Virgen de Orduña)

In this hike you go from Orduña (293m)  to the top of Mount Txarlazo (927m). From the Train Station (if you go by car you can park your car there) you must go in the directio of the mountain range. You will cross a bridge above the railway, then start going up and in a couple of minutes you will find the sanctuary of “La Antigua”.

Continue going straight up, and soon you’ll be surrounded by vegetation. A few minutes later, going up, there is a path gong to the lef, but this is not your way, so just continue the main path, the one to the right (there are signals telling where each path takes you anyway).

From there on, you just need to go all the way up the main path (if in some point there is some other path, which probably will go a bit down, not all the way up, don’t take it). It’s as easy as just going up. Some minutes before reaching the top (and thus entering in Castilla y León), there is a fountain (so you don’t need to carry your own water) and also a couple of pic-nic tables if you fancy a little rest. There are some other pic-nic tables before reaching that point as well.

When you reach the top, to get to the Virgen de Orduña go to the left and up a couple of minutes you will be there. You will be rewarded with a wonderful view over Orduña, the Ayala (Aiara) Valley and much more… of course, on condition that there is no fog that day J. Also, from up there you can venture to hike to other mounts.

Hike 2: Nervión waterfall

For this hike you’ll need to go by car, because the public transport doesn’t take you close to it. This waterfall is the biggest in Spain, something like 230 metres.

Go to Orduña and from there take the road to Burgos. The car will make all the effort to take you up to the mountain range, so the hike takes place in a mainly flat area. Soon when you have reached the top of the mountain range, you’ll see a parking and the entrance to the recreational area of the Mount Santiago. Continue by car an some minutes later you’ll find a parking, but if you think there haven’t come yet too many people you can continue and try to park in a parking that is a couple of kilometres further (the hike is really dull in the road, so it may make sense to try reaching the other parking).

From one parking or the other, continue the way walking, until an area where you’ll find an interpretation centre, and some signals telling you different hiking options. My recommendation is to take the circular route, first to the Mirador esquina Rubén and then continuing along the cliffs to the Nervión waterfall. It’s a bit longer, but much  more beautiful.

Hike 3: Gujuli (Goiuri) waterfall

This is the little sister of the Nervion waterfall (about 100 metres), and a kind of second option, but sometimes more beautiful. This is probably not even a hike (because you get by car really close to it), but it’s a very beautiful place to visit in the Basque Country, situated in the territory of Alava.

Just go by car to the tiny village of Gujuli (Goiuri) in Altube valley. If going from Orduña just take the road BI-2521 and in the road you will find a signal to the Mirador (viewpoint) of the waterfall. (Check out google maps to get an idea of where Gujuli is before venturing there, just in case, because it’s not a big village you’ll notice easily, and you can go pass it if you are involved in a conversation or something).

There is a parking there, close to the road, so park your car and walk to the viewpoint. You’ll see the waterfall from quite a distance, so better take some pictures and venture to the palce where the waterfall is, close to the houses and church of Gujuli, and crossing the railway (a train every one hour or something, but anyway, be careful there) you will get really, really close to the waterfall, and therefore to the cliff, so be extremelly careful not to fall.

Enjoy!

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Bilbao surrounded by mountains

The city of Bilbao is surrounded by mounts. We can take advantage of this situation and escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. I’ll write about a few of the several mounts we have in Bilbao, dividing them in three categories.

1-     Mounts you can reach walking/hiking or more effortlessly by using the public transport (the easy option).

2-     Not very high mounts that you can only reach by hiking (a more demanding but highly rewarding).

3-     The highest mounts (the more demanding, only for people in good condition).

1- Artxanda and Kobetas.

Artxanda: An incredible panoramic view of Bilbao, a municipal sports centre (with an open-air olympic swimming pool, tennis courts…), a wide range of restaurants, space for picnic, children area and some other stuff.

We can start our hike from the bridge above the Guggenheim museum [you must be on the left side of the bridge when going up] and then all the way up and to the right.

If you can’t or don’t want to hike, use the public transport:  Funicular or bus (Bizkaibus), being the first one the nicest and maybe easiest.

Kobetas: Another wonderful panoramic view of the city, but a bit further from the city centre than in Artxanda. In kobetas there is a beerhouse and a park where some music festivals take place in summer.

You can hike from Basurto neighborhood or take a bus (number 58) that stops right in the door of the beerhouse.

2- Arnotegi + Malmasín and Serantes (actually these two are not in Bilbao).

Arnotegi: (426m) Not too high, but also not too much visited by people, or cyclists that sometimes ride down the mount like crazy… just a little hike in order to step on grass and maybe stop hearing the noise of the city. Nice view of the city and the coast in the distance. You can start in the road that is on the left of Iberdrola’s buldings in Larraskitu, go up and a couple of minutes later you’ll find on the left side an access to a “recreative area” (some tables for picnics and barbacue), go all the way up and then follo the signals or your instinct.

Malmasín: (362m) This mount is more famous because there is a tunnel of the seepdway that goes through it. From La Peña you go to park Montefuerte but instead of going inside it, walk up and on the left side of the park to find the way to Malmasín.

Serantes: (451m) A mount with an incredible view of the coast, the river and almost all the “Gran Bilbao” metropolitan area. From the metro stop of Mamariaga (in Santurce) start going up until you find a road behind all the buildings, then just follow this road. Some time after walking in this road you get to a point whre there is a fountain and you will see that it’s possible to abandon the road and continue walking on grass with a more or less clear to see and follow track, which basically is just going up and up to the top of the mount that you are seeing from below.

3- Pagasarri, Ganeta and Ganekogorta.

Pagasarri: (673m) This is Bilbao’s preferred mount for hiking. It’s not too high but in some points it is very steep, so it may be a bit tiring and put your legs to the test. On the other hand, you should know that a lot of families with their children go up the Pagasarri every weekend, so don’t think it’s something impossible. There are even people who go up riding their mountain bike (but also some try and can’t do it)!

In the top there is a quite big and more or less flat area for walking and observing the land below you in different directions. You’ll probably see some animals (cows, horses… people…) and in autumn you might find sloe to prepare your own “patxaran”.

There are several starting points for the hike, I suggest San Adrian/Larraskitu, and from there just go up, up, up… when you reach the top of the track to Pagasarri, just go to the left, first you’ll see a house/refugee that on weekends is open as a bar, and if you continue going up in that direction you will reach the summit of Pagasarri.

Ganeta: When you are in Pagasarri you seee that there is a hill nearby, with some communication antennas. There isn’t much to do there but I let you know that this is another mount, called Ganeta. So this is to the right when the track to Pagasarri reaches it’s highest point.

Ganekogorta: This is the highest mount in Bilbao, with almost 1,000 metres. It’s my own favourite mount around Bilbao because the view from up there is completely awesome, especially if you know the surrounding mounts and villages. Since it’s the highest point, you have a 360º view.

Once you have reached the Pagasarri, it won’t be much harder to go to Ganekogorta, but you still have a few kilometres of walk (it’s not as steep and going up Pagasarri, so it’s a more relaxed walk).  If you have time I strongly recommend that you make it for the Ganekogorta and eat your sandwich up there observing Bizkaia and maybe having the chance of seeing some birds of pray flying not very far from you.

The track to Ganekogorta is between Pagasarri and Ganeta, so, at the highest point of the track to Pagasarri, just continue straight and going down. You’ll see a big gate and there is the way to Ganekogorta. But maybe, before going there, you’d like to visit the “neveras” and  have some water from a fountain that you reach by going down a path that it’s to the right of that big gate.

Apart from these mounts which are the most interesting ones that are really close to Bilbao, there are so many others in Bizkaia… so if you like hiking, and you stay a long time in our country, don’t doubt to visit places like Gorbeia, Urkiola, Orduña….

Enjoy!

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Going to the beach + hiking in the coast

Although the weather here not very often suggests you going to a beach, when it’s hot you have several options that are easy to reach with the public transport. And when it’s not so hot, maybe you’d like to hike in the coast. Here are a few options:

USING THE METRO:

1-     The easiest option from Bilbao: Arrigunaga, taking the metro to BIDEZABAL and then when you come out of the metro station just go to the left (going up) and when you are on the top of the street just continue walking, cross the road and start going down and you are in the beach. (2 minutes walk) (The metro, from the city centre, in MOYUA, takes 25 minutes to BIDEZABAL).

If you only want to go to the beach and don’t care about different options you don’t need to continue reading.

But if you want to know about other options…

2-      Two (or four*) options in the same area: Barinatxe and Arrietara, taking the metro to LARRABASTERRA. (from Moyua, it takes 30’). From the station you have a fair walk of about 15 minutes to reach them. They are bigger than the previous one, and they are very popular among  young people, surfers… When you come from Bilbao in the metro, notice that the coast is always on the left side, so when you come out of the Larrabasterra metro station, just look (or ask) for a road that goes to the coast and in the end you’ll find these beaches.  [*Actually there are a couple of other beaches near the mentioned, but you must walk more to get to them. In this case they are nudist friendly: Gorrondatxe and Meñakoz]

3-     Two other interesting beaches. Taking the metro to PLENTZIA (from Moyua, 40’), then just cross the bridge in front of the metro station and walk down the river to the port and the beach of Plentzia. And just after this beach there is the beach of Gorliz. You can also walk inside the village of Plentzia and visit the old part, instead of walking along the river. If you go to Gorliz, from there you can have a nice hike up to the cliffs and end in the lighthouse (a long option is start going up to the cliffs near the beach, and a shorter one is going up a road that is nearby – if you have time, I suggest going up from the beach cliffs and go down using the road).

Also, if you would like to enjoy an easier walk along the cliffs of our coast, a very popular one is from Bidezabal to Larrabasterra (actually the village is Sopelana, but I want you to remember the other name, because it’s the metro station you will use). And it’s really easy, from the metro station in Bidezabal walk up (left) and on the top of the street turn to the right. Continue walking and a couple of minutes later when the road goes to the right abandon it and continue straight so you appear below the beach. Then just follow the coastline until you reach the next village. J If you want a longer walk, you can do it from Bidezabal(1) to Plentzia(3).

>> But you don’t need to walk all the way from one village to another. If you don’t want to walk much, you can just go see the cliffs that are closer to Bidezabal and come back to the same metro station (just walk a bit further than the light house to see the most beautiful cliffs).

USING THE BUS (BIZKAIBUS):

(Try this link or Google the website of Bizkaibus to get updated info about the buses)

1-     Bakio (bus takes less than 1 hour, don’t know exactly how much): It’s the longest beach in Bizkaia. From here you can hike to the beautiful San Juan de Gaztelugatxe isle (connected to the coast with a high stone bridge). Just follow the road that is close to the beach all the way to the right and then it starts to go up, just continue going up and in the first chance you can go to the left, you will (or should) see there is an indication of the walk to San Juan, which is basically walking that road that goes to the left in this occasion. In the middle of the walk you reach a place where there are a couple of restaurants, in this place (also you should she indicators) just go to the left / down and in a few minutes you’ll see the isle. You can go up to the little church that is there (people usually ring the bell 3 times and wish something or just ask the bad spirits no to bother you… the legend says that San Juan was running after the devil and with 3 jumps he reached the top op the isle and caught him… so pay attention if you see the 3 footprints in the places where San Juan jumped)

2-     Lekeitio (my favourite J). (1 hour and 20 minutes with the bus that goes through the speedway, other buses going there go to many villages and are slower.). Here you have a couple of beaches, an isle you can reach walking when the tide is down (so google up for the tide’s ups & downs), a mount (Lumentza) with an incredible view over the village and the coast just 15 minutes from the centre, just going up from the cemetery, you can also have a longer walk to the lighthouse.

Enjoy!

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My recommendations for Bilbao/Bizkaia

If you are visiting or going to live in Bilbao/Bizkaia but don’t know what places and stuff you should not miss, here are my reccommendations:

 (I just mention A FEW names of places, drinks, foods or experiences, it’s not complete but it can help you focus if you don’t have a clear idea of what to do here, specially if you won’t stay long here. If you will stay long – you’ll have time to find out about other stuff)

DRINKS
Patxaran (a liqueur typical in the Basque Country: anissette + sloes),

Kalimotxo (a soft alcoholic drink: cola + red wine),

Txakoli (a white wine).

FOOD

Pintxos (Basque appetizers or, in some places, haute cuisine in miniature),

Chipirones en su tinta (small squids in a black sauce),

Bacalao al pil-pil / bizkaina / club ranero / bilbaina … (different recipes of cod fish),

Marmitako (tuna pot)

Idiazabal cheese (most appreciated sheep cheese)

Goxua, Intxaursaltsa…  (basque desserts)

Carolina, Pastel Ruso, Bollo de mantequilla… (sweets created in Bilbao)

Also, being a CSer try to join some cooking event if there is something like that taking place during your stay.
PLACES

Staying only 1 day, don’t miss:
Old Town, walk along the riverside, Guggenheim exterior, Alhóndiga.

Staying 1 weekend, don’t miss: The above mentioned + Puente colgante and the coast + going up to mount Artxanda or Kobetas for a fantastic view of Bilbao.

Staying 1 week or more: The above mentioned + visiting some museum(s),  with a good weather a walk along the coast cliffs or going to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe or Lekeitio (also in the coast), Gernika (very important village in Bizkaia’s history) and maybe visiting other Basque cities (the biggest: Donostia/San Sebastián, Vitoria)…

 Some other suggestions:

– Visit as many different villages as you can (coast and inland) you can reach them easily by using the public transport.

– Go hiking: hundreds of mounts (in Bilbao don’t miss Pagasarri and Ganekogorta, or nearby Serantes. Also in the region don’t miss Urkiola, Gorbeia, Orduña… and many others), Salto del Nervión (one of the highest waterfalls in Europe), Caves (Baltzola, Pozalagua, Santimamiñe).

– Specially during the summer there are Fiestas all over Bizkaia and the Basque Country, get info about which are taking place during your stay. If you will be here in August, don’t miss the Aste Nagusia of Bilbao, or those happening in Donostia and Vitoria.  In July they celebrate San Fermin in Pamplona.

– Watch or maybe try to practise some Basque traditional sports. For other sports, like football or basketball we have Athletic Club and Bilbao Basket.

– As mentioned before, try to get involved in some cooking event. If it takes place in a txoko, much better, because these places are typical of the Basque Country.

Enjoy!

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