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 INSTAGRAM 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! 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 gem ♣
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 😉 ) he really enjoyed the hike down the hill. Till we reached sea level again and it was time to walk up 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 😉
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, just wait till you see it in real life!
San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, which means castle rock 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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