Spain | Basque Coast | San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

Roadtrip Europe Basque Coast Spain San Juan Gaztelugatxe
Picture perfect with the weather, the wild flowers, the blue hues in the water and the green rocky background.

Woody World Packer Travel Rating

10 Nature
7 Family Travel
10 Photography Opportunity
9

Located on the Basque Coast in North West Spain, between the cute little seaside towns of Bakio and Bermeo you will find one of the most photographed attractions of the Basque coast: San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. Only accessible from the mainland by a man-made footbridge of around 240 steps up ( and down on your way back ) and a steep hike down from the parking area to sea level, you definitely have to work for your view. But believe us, the views on top of the island of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe are utterly beautiful and are definitely worth the exercise.

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe & the Basque Coast on Instagram

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe and the Basque Coast are probably not the first tourist attractions you think about when you are planning a visit to Spain, and when I shared some of our pictures of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe on our INSTAGRAMย page, a lot of our followers didn’t even know this magical place on the Basque Coast existed. Funny enough I found out about San Juan de Gaztelugatxe on Instagram myself!ย The perfect place to discover some amazing places around the globe, you would otherwise maybe never have found. And on our turn, we inspire other travellers to visit this Spanish gemย โ™ฃ

The hike up and down at San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

After driving with our camper through the calm Spanish beachside town of Bermeo, we arrived at the parking area of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. From there we already had amazing ocean views over the Basque Coast and we could see the rocky island with the church on top of it from a far distance.

From the parking area you walk through a little entrance path with some restaurants and a souvenir shop ( which were closed when we were there ) and then the adventure begins.

The climb down the hill is quite challenging and steep with more than 225 uneven stairs, but the scenery along the way with views over the Basque Coast is absolutely stunning with picture perfect views in every direction you look. We were also lucky in regards to the weather with clear blue skies, which made an amazing colourful contrast against the dramatic scene of the mainland with her pitch black rocks, dark blue ocean and rough greenery.

Semmie insisted of walking all the way down himself. And with some help of us at the really steep parts ( as of course he wanted to do most of it himself ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) he really enjoyed the hike down the hill. Till we reached sea level again and it was time to walk upย the famous crooked bridge to go all the way up to reach the summit of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. Sem decided it was time for us to carry him as he didn’t like the sound of the strong wind and the ocean waves smashing into the rocks. He demonstratively covered his ears as soon as he set one step on the bridge. This ment some extra exercises for us ๐Ÿ˜‰

More than 240 steps later and amazing views over the Basque Coast, we reached the summit of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. Because there were not that many people on the bridge at that point, I decided to make some pictures of the stairs first, before walking around on the summit. What a view!

The legendary bell of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

Along the way, Semmie noticed the clock ( bell ringing several times ) and he became more and more curious and was very excited to ring the bell himself.

It is a tradition for visitors to ring the chapel bell at the summit three times while making a wish. During the busy summer months, the bell continually rings as each person wants to take their turn at the bell.

Of course we rang the bell, made some wishes and had a look around. The church was closed, but we could have a tiny sneak peek inside before the long way down and up the hill again.

On the scene of Game of Thrones

De unique bridge that leads to the summit at San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is definitely one of the most beautiful bridges we ever came across. It reminded us of a scene straight out of Game of Thrones. And not really surprising; scenes of Game of Thrones season 7 are actually filmed at Gaztelugatxe we found out after we looked it up later.

Turns out San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is the mystical island of Dragonstone in Game of Thrones season 7. And while the scene in Game of Thrones is completely different than San Juan de Gaztelugatxe in real life is and massively edited, fans of Game of Thrones are visiting San Juan de Gaztelugatxe in big numbers, since it was the scene of Dragonstone Island in the popular hit series.

Visit San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

If you think it looks amazing in the photos, ย just wait till you see it in real life!

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, which means castle rockย in Basque language, is definitely a must see on your Basque Coast bucket list. It is located just off the shore along the Bay of Biscay, 35 km east from Bilbao and close to the beautiful city of San Sebastian, which we will write about later.

The best time to visit San Juan de Gazelugatxe is during spring and autumn. During the summer months it can be crowded with people on the summit and also on the stairs, and although there is always a nice breeze at the Basque Coast, it still can be very hot in Spain.

Don’t forget your Lonely Planet when you book your next trip to the Basque coast, Spain! Get it here for the best price!

Have you ever heard of Gaztelugatxe? Or do you know other Spanish hidden secrets? Talk to us in the comments below!
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14 Comments

  • It really has Swati Sam.
    But with good reason, as San Juan Gaztelugatxe is truely beautiful.
    I am sure you will love it there!
    Hope you are having a wonderful trip up there. Are you planning on any other destinations on the Basque coast?

  • Hi Kareemah,

    Thank you so much.
    Hahah, you are not the first one who ask us how we get up with our little one.
    He actually did very well on the steep climb down ( he is 2 and want to do stuff by himself without help haha ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) and when we arrived at the bridge at San Juan Gaztelugatxe he wasn’t to sure, as the loud noises of the ocean so he wanted us to carry him. So this is what we did. We carried him most of the way. That was a good exercise ๐Ÿ˜‰ But the way down he wanted to do half of it himself again. We were lucky with the weather and the stairs weren’t slippery at most parts.
    We also went to San Sebastian, which we found a surprisingly beautiful city and drove around in Bilbao. We fell in love with the Basque Coast in Spain.
    Hope you are having a wonderful week.
    Jo

  • Such an amazing place. Love the pics of the summit of San Juan Gaztelugatxe. The place has become extremely famous with GOT fans. We are planning a visit here soon. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • What a great post. I recently did something similar with a video and a blog post. I went to Getxo, Bilbao, San Sebastian and San Juan Gatzelugatxe. San Juan was by far the best of them all for me!!!! The pic of your family and gorgeous baby is adorable. I have to ask how did you guys climb up that the islet with your baby. I thought the trail was slippery and I was panting for my life. lol

  • Hey Jasmin,
    You can always come back and visit the Northern Parts of Spain. We visited San Sebastian and San Juan de Gazelugatxe on the Basque Coast ( and a quick tour through Bilbao ) which are all stunning. More about Northern Spain to come, so stay tuned ๐Ÿ˜‰
    Jo

  • Oh my this place looks like a dream! I travelled around Andalucia last winter but didn’t have time to make it to other parts of Spain and seeing these pictures really makes me to regret it! Would absolutely love to hike around San Juan Gaztelugatxe ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Hi Mal!
    The coolest online family ๐Ÿ˜‰ Yeah in the pocket baby! hahaha.
    The camper is a rental ( obviously ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) and it turned out to be a tiny miny bit bigger than we expected ( Read: OMG What a massive beast – We had trouble to drive through many small cute streets, but survived without scratches ๐Ÿ˜‰ )
    We found this hidden gem on Instagram of all places, love to go off the beaten tracks and find cool gems.
    Hope you will have an amazing weekend! XXX Jo

  • Great photography as always and interesting article. Been to Spain many times but never heard of Gaztelugatxe either but looks amazing. Will bookmark it for our next trip. Thanks for sharing.
    Micky

  • It looks like such an amazing place! I’ve no idea how you always find such amazing hidden gems, I would never know they existed if it wasn’t for you!!! And your camper- oh my goodness!!! It is super duper impressive! You’re seriously the coolest online family I know! Xxx

    Mal

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