San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is an impressive tiny island in the coast of Bizkaia. It is definitely a “must” if you are visiting the Basque Country. It is located between the towns of Bakio and Bermeo, and connected to the mainland by a man made bridge. At the highest point of the island, there is a small church dedicated to John the Baptist from the 10th century. It has even been said that he set foot on this island.
Originally, San Juan de Gaztelugatxe also had a strategic purpose as a defensive point protecting the power of Bizkaia’s lords. It was also sacked by Sir Francis Drake in 1593. Rumor has it, that during the inquisition, those accused of witchcraft were locked in the caves of the island.
The narrow path to climb to the hermitage contains between 220 and 240 stairs. Nobody really knows how many exactly. It should also be noted that sometimes it is not permitted to park directly next to the bridge due to the unstable ground there. If that is the case, you will have to park up the hill and expect to walk downhill around a kilometer. Don’t let that deter you though because it is really worth it. We recommend you to take it easy maybe even take a snack. You can stop at one of the many benches located off the road and take in the views.
According to legend, after the climb to the top, you should ring the bell situated in the front façade of the church three times and make a wish. Next to the church there is also a small area that is protected from the wind were you can take a break.
There is a restaurant/café called Eneperi on the mainland hillside in front of the islet, where you can enjoy a good meal while contemplating the gorgeous view.
San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is located between the towns of Bakio and Bermeo, right of the road BI-3101, and the only way to get there is by car.
Get the best deal for your rental car here!
We are partnered with booking.com to find the best rate for the hotel, bed & breakfast or hostel that you are looking for in the Basque Country. Search through a compelling list of accommodations based on price, reviews and location to find the best place for your stay.