The unknown Biscayan treasure in the heart of the Basque Country
Renowned as a Historic-Artistic Grouping since 1964, the town of Elorrio is located in the Duranguesado region, and borders with the provinces of Gipuzkoa, all through Arrasate, and Araba, through Ibarra. It is at the summit of the Besaide where the three territories that make up the autonomous community converge.
It has always been logistically important. Its bridges cross the upper course of the river Ibaizabal, whose waters run alongside the Guggenheim. Its cobbled streets lead to footpaths that connect the valleys. In the mid-14th century, Don Tello,
20th lord of Bizkaia, granted the town around the monastery of San Agustín de Etxebarria the status of town. During the 16th and 17th centuries, it thrived on trade with the Spanish colonies in America and the manufacture of weapons for the dreaded Tercios. Local craftsmen produced 3,000 halberds and 1,500 lances for the crown every month.
The wealth generated led to numerous palaces lining the streets and squares of the municipality, of which around twenty remain, some with their gardens, as well as almost 70 heraldic coats of arms. All in a very small, lively and, at the same time, extraordinarily preserved space, which is well worth a walk and a visit.
Nature invites you to go for a walk in the meadows, either along the network of paths linking the neighbourhoods around the town centre, of which two gates remain from the original wall, or along the greenways that replace old railway lines. Another option is to climb up to the Besaide and walk over the three territories at the same time from its summit while enjoying spectacular views.
It is not difficult to find a good tavern where you can refuel or a cozy country hotel. In addition, the town is still growing, as it is home to the logistics centre of one of the largest food distribution companies in the Basque Country.
Before you start your walk, ask about the two most famous fountains in the area.
Elorrio celebrates the only display of armed people in Biscay. It takes place in October, when a smart company of a captain and 15 riflemen parade through the streets in full dress uniform with fine ceremony and fire salvoes.
Legend has it that the annual celebration dates back to the return of local soldiers after the battle of Lepanto. The date seems accurate, around 1570, but not the reason, which may be related to the popular militias that the municipalities maintained, armed and trained in Biscay. In any case, we are talking about 450 years of annual salvos.
On the outskirts of Elorrio, opposite the hermitage of San Adrián, is the Argiñeta funerary complex, made up of twenty tombs and five stelae. Although these pieces were built in the early Middle Ages to be used in the necropolises of the different neighbourhoods in the area (Mendraka, Miota, Berrio), they were regrouped in the 19th century, creating the evocative and romantic spot that we can see today.
It is the most important set of its characteristics in the Basque Country, both for the number and quality of its elements and for the remote chronology of some of them (7th-9th centuries). On their covers you can read funerary inscriptions that constitute the oldest written testimonies of the presence of Christian settlements in Biscay.
HOW TO GET TO ELORRIO BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT
It can be easily reached from Bilbao by Bizkaibus, line 3923
The narrow-gauge railway linking San Sebastian and Bilbao passes through Durango and Abadiño, near Elorrio.
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Mexican restaurant of reference in the town.
The ﬂavour of Mexico in Bilbao.
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