“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
The Basque Country is a stunning place. If you have more time than just a few days in Bilbao, you should consider doing some day trips. I’ve put some information together for those of you who might be interested.
Oma Forest or Bosque de oma
I love walking outdoors and I love art, so what better combination than a work of art in a forest. Oma Forest is basically an open-air museum. The sculptor and artist Augustin Ibarrola created a fantastic piece of art in a forest near Kortezubi, the Basque Country. It represents the relationship between nature and human presence. It is a really fun day out too because some of the paintings are only visible from certain positions, so it’s like a treasure hunt for art!
You can get there by car, train or bus. Kortezubi is about 40 minutes from Bilbao. Once you’re there, it’s about 7km in total and to see the whole forest, it takes anywhere from 2 hours onwards, depending on how long you want to spend
If you want more information, or directions on how to get there, I would suggest consulting the Bilbao Tourism website.
San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
That’s a mouthful! And if you want me to pronounce it, you’re all out of luck. Even if we can’t pronounce it, it’s definitely worth seeing.
Gaztelugatxe is an islet off the coast of the Biscay bay. The only thing connecting the island to shore is a very high, narrow bridge. At the top of the island there is a beautiful little church dedicated to San Juan or John, The Baptist, and that’s all they could fit on the islet.
Gaztelugatxe is a 45-50 minute drive from Bilbao, so again, it’s a great day trip from the city and you’ll be sure to get some sea air considering you’re in the middle of it.
Apparently if you ring the bell of the church three times it means you’ll marry!
The last thing to see/do in Bilbao depends on the time of year you’re going. Aste Nagusia is Basque for ‘great week’ – and what a great week it is! It’s Bilbao’s most important festival and although the exact dates change every year, it’s normally the third week of August. I happened to arrive the day before it started (by chance!) and it was amazing. There are crowds of people out on the streets every day singing, dancing and celebrating and every evening there are fireworks displays to beat the band! So if you’re flexible with your dates, I’d recommend trying to plan (at least a few days of your trip) during the festival – to see how Bilbainos really like to party!