Encartaciones is located only twenty minutes from Bilbao, despite its proximity, it remains one of the least known and beautiful corners of the Basque Country.
What to see
Composed of sixteen municipalities, Encartaciones hides a treasure trove of history that has left its mark over the centuries. The first traces of human presence in the region are found in the cave paintings of Karranza and Arenaza.
Other remnants of its long history include the presence of a road built during the Roman Empire, which passes through the municipalities of Balmaseda, Zalla and Sopuerta. Including the Roman Bridge of Balmaseda which is still used today.
During the Middle Ages the first formal institutions began to regulate the life of the people and inhabitants of the region. In the entire territory of Bizkaia councils were established, these meetings gathered local leaders under the shade of an old oak tree, Encartaciones was no exception where council meetings were held in a sacred place called “the oak council,” it can still be visited today, almost six hundred years later in Artzentales where in 1394 the ‘Old Fueros’ or laws were created.
Clan wars and torre castles
Despite progress the Middle Ages was also a very turbulent period in the area with wars and battles taking place between clans, lords and powerful families of the region. From the 14th and 15th centuries, for over a hundred years different sides fought for dominance in the region, the two main clans were the Gamboínos and Oñacinos. Today one can explore the legacy of this battle between towers, providing both shelter and defensive structures; these towers demonstrated the power and influence of their lords, some can still be explored today. Finally in the late 15th century, the battle between the clans gave way to a period of economic and political stability where urban councils took over disputes and the construction of villas and palaces marked an era of new prosperity.
Trade and economic activity
In 1576 an important agreement with the lordship of Biscay, lead to a decision that would define the economic development of the region until 1770, the treaty of the Camino Real was signed and Encartaciones joined the port of Bilbao as an official trade route for goods coming from Castile. Trade flourished in both directions, Castile sent wool and wheat, while Encartaciones provide iron products which came from iron ore deposits in the many mountains that hug the region. The port of Bilbao was a key location for the export and import of goods to northern Europe, in particular the Netherlands.
After 1770, there was a decline in trade traffic on the Camino Real due to the opening of a new route along the Camino,the customs office of Orduña. The decrease in trade thus forced many young entrepreneurs to look further towards the Americas to seek out their fortunes, that their homeland was unable to provide. Some migrants who left eventually returned with their fortunes and riches brought from other lands. These families became known as “Indians” and they built stately manor homes and beautiful palaces in Encartaciones that stand today.
If you are interested in exploring more about the history of this fascinating region filled with hidden treasures, check out the local experiences that bring Encartaciones rich history to life.0