Euskadi is a land of contrasts. One minute you can be whale watching in the deep blue waters of the Bay of Biscay and the next find yourself contemplating the vast Alaves plains, which hint of the Mediterranean, after having have passed through the vertiginous peaks of the Urkiola mountains. The enormous amount of biodiversity present, together with its broad cultural and historical legacy, make for a land unique in the sense of feeling at one with the power of nature while at the same time being able to appreciate man’s mark on the land until present times.
Urdaibai, biosphere reserve, overseen by Sea Eagles and Spoonbills, brings together in this one-off enclave all types of estuary birds common to this habitat and the surrounding countryside. Century old oak forests add to enrich the natural mosaic of the landscape while the impressive Cape Ogoño, with its sheer walls of over 300m dropping straight into the sea, acts as centinal looking down on the mythical island of Izaro residing just off the coast of the charismatic fishing port of Mundaka.
The rocky peaks, the countryside and forests mainly made up of beech and oak, are home to a wide variety of birds adapted to each of the tiny ecosystems to be found here. Deer, especially in the bellowing season, are one of the many species easily sighted as well as bats, which shelter during the day in the many caves of the Itxina Massif.
On one hand, Urkiola offers the typically traditional landscapes dotted with basque farmhouses, where the Latxa sheep graze in pastures, alongside beech trees which have been used for centuries to produce wood-coal and firewood. On the other hand, abrupt cliff faces offer a unique chance to view the necrophagous birds of the area along with brightly coloured species like the Rock Thrush.
SWAMPS OF VITORIA- GAZTEIZ
Just outside the city limits of Vitoria, Salburua offers an unbeatable setting to get amongst and view the wonderful abundance of waterbirds, made all the easier with excellent facilities for the observation of these ornithological delights. In the springtime, dense carpets of orchids can be admired in the neighbouring swamps of Mendixur.
AIZKORRI-ARATZ NATIONOL PARK
The rocky cliffs of the Aizkorri Ridge, the rich pasture land and the age old forests molded into the idyllic settings by Basque farmers and their farmhouses, hide numerous natural wonders in the guise of spectacular caves. The Arrikrutz and Aitzulo caves are just two of them, where if you sit quietly, you may feel as though you are tucked away in one of the many nesting sites of the local vultures.
THE BASQUE COUNTRY ITINERARY
It’s perfectly possible to visit places outside the aformentioned. However, it’s highly recommended that if the visitor wishes to experience the large variety of eco-systems and wildlife in this unique setting, then the following itinerary is the most practical.
DAY 1; Transfer from Bilbao airport to accommodation in B&B country house in Urdaibai. Time permitting, a visit to Ogoño or the tidal flats may be organized additionally.
DAY 2: Whale watching out of Bermeo in the morning and a visit to Gernika or tidal flats in the afternoon. Time of year, state of tides and availability of whale watching boat all need to be taken into account.
DAY 3: Trekking in Urkiola completing a route designed to end in a country house where lodgings are to be found for the night, not before a visit to Alluitz Natura, where visitors are shown local farming traditions and methods.
DAY 4: Excursion around Gorbea until Itxina, time permitting visiting the caves of Baltzola or Jentilzubi. Accommodation in previous night’s lodgings.
DAY 5: Birdwatching, mainly necrophagous,in Unza. Afternoon visit to the Abornikano oak forest in Urkabustaiz. Transfer and accommodation to La Guardia in the afternoon.
DAY 6: Visit to La Guardia Lagoons and enjoy the experience of an afternoon lunch in Casaprimicia.
DAY 7: Return and tour of Bilbao, Vitoria or Salburua on the way back.
Guided service is 170 Euros+VAT total per day for a group of up to 6 people.