Urkiola, the magic stone
Some places beat. You can feel that vibration in your foot sole and in the air you breath. That’s when you get to connect with the people who live in that land without travel guides or antrhropological studies. Urkiola vibrates. It gives rise to connect with Biscay.
A twenty-minute walk from the parking lot on the top is enough. After passing by a couple of traditional restaurants you reach the sanctuary consecrated to San Antonio. The temple is a place of pilgrimage in spring. It attempts, unsuccessfully, to command santicity.The beechwood,the buzz of the hidden creeks and the omnipresent limestone cresting convey the litany of a religiousness that has been lost over time. It summons rites before writing existed.
Any path through the oak trees awaiting the sun will lead to a viewpoint over the valley. In the mist you can see small flocks of sheep and the red roofs of the farmhouses. We will follow the footsteps of the old charcoal burners and see the pits of the forgotten ice makers.
The sound of the sheep bells rings. The wind toots between sheepfolds and grottos. Perhaps snow will fall and everything will become even more stunning. That’s why you should be wearing good shoes and jacket. Cold will never be as bitter as it can be for those who follow the road to the south and, beyond Otxandio, head towards Araba. Here, in the highlands, the Cantabrian Sea make temperature warmes, as it happens throughout Bizkaia.
Those who know the old stories will know that in the belly of the magic stone lived a pre-Christian goddess who pierced the skies like a fiery sickle. And that the last brown bear in Bizkaia was hunted on that hill. But you don’t need to know any of this to realise that Urkiola is much more than a natural park. Beautiful in summer. Indispensable in winter.
THE SANCTUARY SAN ANTONIO IS A PLACE OF PILGRIMAGE IN SPRING
HOW TO GET
By road, half an hour between Bilbao and Durango.
From Durango, towards Vitoria-Gasteiz via Urkiola, with a final route dotted with curves but perfectly asphalted and signposted, which takes another twenty minutes.
A STOP TO TAKE REST
In the traditional restaurants on the hill, next to the car park. You can also buy cheese and cold meat.
Friendly service and good quality.
A BAR WITH AWARD
Assorted tortillas, cod, octopus, gildas, anchovies, Bilbao, mushrooms, tigers, squid rings, perretxikos, Roman hake…
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