Visit San Juan de Gaztelugatxe and immerse yourself in the world of Game of Thrones.
Discover one of the most iconic destinations on the Basque coast: San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. This islet is a magical place; a natural vantage point carved out of the rock that envelops you in a fairytale atmosphere. Such is its charm that it was selected as a location for an episode of the famous series. Whatever your reason for visiting the islet, you will be captivated – a perfect choice for an excursion with friends or a family day out.
History of the islet
The sound of the name contains the first mystery that invites us to know more about this location. If we dig deeper into the secrets hidden in words, the etymology tells us of a castle on a rock or a place that is difficult to access. Its majesty and the no fewer than 241 steps leading to the hermitage seem taken from a movie. In this case, reality surpasses fiction, and this rock has a long history dating back to the 9th century when the original hermitage was built. Later, during the 12th century, it became a convent, until the religious order abandoned it two hundred years later. Throughout its history, it has had a defensive function and been the scene of battles and attacks by sea. It is said that the legendary pirate Francis Drake was one of those who came to loot this fortress. At some points, historical events are interwoven with legends, such as the one telling us that Saint John the Baptist once came here and reached the top in just three steps. The truth is that a long walk awaits ordinary mortals if they want to climb the islet, but the views are well worth it.
How to get to Gaztelugatxe from Bilbao
Barely 30 kilometres separate Bilbao from this beautiful enclave on the Euskadi coast. If you are travelling by car, the journey is simple: take the BI-631 road, and before Bermeo, follow the signs to continue on the BI-2101 to Bakio. After passing this town, follow signs to the islet, where you will find parking for visitors.
Those who opt for public transport have several options to get there by bus. In Bilbao (Moyúa), you can take the A3518 line towards Bakio or the A3528 towards Bermeo. The easiest option is to take the bus to Bakio and once there, connect with the bus to Bermeo and get off at the Gaztelu Begi stop, which is the closest to the islet.
Finally, another exciting option is to take a boat trip from Bermeo. This is a one-hour cruise that offers a different perspective to get to know this charming islet.
An area declared a Protected Biotype
Visiting the islet is a unique experience for many reasons. As well as admiring the spectacle offered by the exuberant nature, you will be amazed by the ability of humans to adapt the most inhospitable environments to their requirements. An area of more than 150 hectares between Bermeo and Cape Matxitxako has been declared a Protected Biotype to preserve this natural wonder. The cliffs and rocky areas bathed by the sea are a feast for the eyes, inviting contemplation.
Entry tickets and restrictions
One of the measures that have been taken to maintain the building in the best condition is the system of entry tickets. Although the tickets are free of charge, capacity is restricted to ensure the safety of both visitors and the buildings themselves. For this, the website tiketa.eus/gaztelugatxe has been established, allowing you to reserve the desired dates by time slots.
The real-life Dragonstone in GOT
The seventh season of the cult series marked a step-change in the islet’s history, as its public image has multiplied exponentially. The number of visitors grows every year, with the natural setting of this famous series as one of its attractions. But, for fans, Gaztelugatxe will always be Dragonstone.
What to see in the surroundings
There are many other attractions in the area that can complete a perfect day for tourists. After visiting the islet, there are several alternatives, including nearby beaches such as Laida, Meñakoz or Laga. Idyllic walks along the shore or water sports such as surfing are equally appealing proposals. There is also an option to suit bird watchers, with the Urdaibai Bird Centre just a few kilometres away. The Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve is an environment of great natural value and beautiful landscapes.
Where to eat nearby
There are many possibilities to eat well in the area, but Zintziri Errota is undoubtedly one of the most outstanding. Located in a typical Basque farmhouse, the surroundings and the taste and presentation of its dishes are equally spectacular. Other highly recommended options are the Asador Ibaiondo and the Arimune Restaurant, two different styles but both of excellent quality.
A visit to the unique islet of Gaztelugatxe is a memorable experience, which deserves to be rounded off with the excellent cuisine of any of these restaurants.