Thousands of pilgrims have passed this route for centuries, now known as GR 229, climbing up the Mendiola valley, this six kilometer path traces a pedestrian route up to the sanctuary of Urkiola. From the top enjoy views of the Durangaldea and the plains of Alava.
Hiking, A Local Passion
Durangaldea is a municiality of Biscay with the capital city of Durango. Located a thirty minute drive from Bilbao, this hiking route is popular with locals. Hiking is a favorite past time of the Basques. To truly understand the Basques, do as the locals do. Go grab some chorizo, jamon and cheese from the local charcuterie, a freshly baked baguette and some liquid refreshments. Then enjoy a day on the mountain.
Begin the route from the Atxarte parking lot, it can get busy so aim to get there early if you are planning a weekend hike. Start walking past the Atxarte gorge, a spectacular rock formation. Heavy mining in once threatened this natural reserve but was halted in 1995, you can still see scars on the mountain from the past industrial era.
Further up ahead are the quarries, hoppers and loaders that once fueled the Basque economy, they lie now dormant as memories of the past. Up ahead is an even older monument, the oldest chapel in the area Santo Cristo built into the rock. Locals believe the chapel has miraculous powers and can ward off evil spirits.
Continue on the paved trail passing century old caserios dotted on the hillsides. Less than one kilometer into the hike the paved road becomes a gravel trail as you enter the forest.
Continue through the woods until you arrive at the BI-623 highway crossing. Go left towards a caserio and a sign that leads towards Urkiola in 1.3 km, this is the final stretch before arriving.
Once you get to Urkiola be sure to visit the church sanctuary, the vista point with spectacular views of the valley and Anboto mountain range. If you are ready for a break choose from Mesón Buenos Aires, Restaurante Bizkarra, or the Hotel Restaurante Santuario de Urkiola next to the church. Enjoy a rest, drink and local dishes from pintxo de tortilla to traditional basque dishes. Restaurants serve lunch from 1 to about 4 p.m., a weekday ‘menú del dia’ or daily menu deal is served Mon to Friday, at other times bar snacks, drinks and sandwiches or bocadillos are available.
Head towards Durango. BI-632, Abadiño to Elorrio. At one point you will see the neighborhood Muntsaraz deviation (on your right) to Mendiola. Continue 3 km to the quarry and parking.
Length: 2h Distance: 6 km