Day trips from Vitoria: immerse yourself in the magic of the Botanical Garden of Santa Catalina
Come to the botanical garden of Santa Catalina and discover a magical place just half an hour from Vitoria: a perfect plan for an trip with family or friends. Located in Iruña de Oca, this botanical garden extends over an area of 32,500 square metres, with over 1,000 different plants and a spectacular landscape. Presiding over the complex is the Santa Catalina Palace-Convent, whose remains bear witness to its former splendour. The views of the Sierra de Badaia create a fairytale backdrop, the ideal setting for a day to remember.
How to get there from Vitoria
The journey from Vitoria is very straightforward. On the A1, the journey takes just les tan half an hour. Take exit 345 and follow the signs for the Botanical Garden. There are three car parks in the area to choose from, depending on whether you prefer to walk for a while or park at the closest. Opening hours are on Monday to Friday from 11:00 to 15:00, and on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 to 20:00.
History of the botanical garden
The origins of the Botanical Garden of Santa Catalina go back to the 13th century, when the oldest tower was constructed. It was originally the residence of the Iruña de Oca, a wealthy family who lived here until they moved to Vitoria a century and a half later. On their departure, they ceded the building to the Jerónimos clerical order. Later, it became the property of Dominican friars, who built their convent here, which was known as the Monastery of Santa Catalina. They also built a church next to the tower. The end of this period came in 1835, with the Confiscation of Mendizábal, which led to the monks abandoning the place. In the following years, it deteriorated until it ended in ruins. In the early years of this century, the Iruña de Oca City Council recovered it for tourism, transforming it into what you see today.
One of the garden’s most intriguing attractions is its collection of bonsai. This is a permanent exhibition located in the ruins of the convent. The plants were contributed by the Bonsai Araba Association and are the perfect excuse to visit the ruins admiring the beauty of the whole.
The context and location make the garden a perfect habitat that attracts numerous species of butterflies. The natural attraction of the environment for these insects has been improved by the placement of host plants, enhancing their settlement and reproduction. This planting has bought the oasis of butterflies to life, a surprise that dazzles children and adults.
In 2005, the Santa Catalina Botanical Garden received recognition as a Stellar Park by the Starlight Foundation. This foundation grants this certification to environments free of light pollution, suitable for stargazing. Contemplating the sky in this place is a fantastic spectacle and is part of the landscape and natural heritage that are its treasures. This is known as star tourism, yet another reason not to miss a visit to this beautiful corner of the Alava province. An unforgettable way to round off your plan when organising excursions from Vitoria.
Tree of wishes
In a garden with so much charm, a magical element that evokes its ancient history could not be forgotten. In Santa Catalina, an old, dried-out carob tree is preserved, inside which visitors leave their wishes with the dream of seeing them fulfilled. In addition, audio has been installed that turns it into a talking tree that tells ancient legends of the area.
In addition to guided tours and dramatised shows for children, many other activities encourage you to stay a little longer. The Iruña de Oca City Council, together with the Association of Friends of the Botanical Garden, organises a programme of cultural events during the summer. Storytellers who dive into Basque mythology, a butterfly workshop, family yoga or read theatre are the suggestive names of some of their proposals. As if all this were not enough, workshops on medicinal plants, bird watching and temporary exhibitions are also scheduled. Finally, there is a permanent exhibition on bees and beekeeping.
Plans for all tastes
The unique natural environment and the peace that breathes in every corner make the place an ideal destination for a different day out. If you are staying in the capital of Alava and you are thinking of organising excursions from Vitoria to make your trip more complete, this is a perfect alternative. The extended opening hours during the weekends make it possible to link different plans, combining history, nature and cultural programs.
Accommodation in Vitoria
Once you have visited Santa Catalina or any of our proposals, it is essential to return to adequate accommodation to relax and restore your energy. The Líbere Vitoria aparthotel is the perfect place for this. At your disposal, you have studios and apartments with 1 and 2 bedrooms, with or without a terrace, whichever is most suitable for your type of trip. And there is also private parking. So whether you are travelling alone or with family or friends, Líbere is the ideal location for your trip to Vitoria.