Bakio, Spain : San Juan de Gaztelugatxe


Bakio, Spain

  • Population: Just over 2500
  • Location: Province of Biscay, Basque Country
  • Reason to go: Beaches, Hiking, and History

Not many people have heard of Bakio, Spain, a coastal town along the Bay of Biscay. However, this small town has a lot to offer beach goers and adventure travelers alike. Gorgeous beaches, intense hiking areas, and rich history fascinate all who make the journey to the small town.

Getting There:

Located in a remote part of the Basque Country, Bakio is easily accessible from Bilbao by bus for those without private transportation. The bus, number A3518, runs from the city center of Bilbao at Plaza de Don Federico Moyúa to Bakio every hour starting at 06:30 until 21:30 on normal days. During festivals it runs every two hours from 08:00 to 22:00. The same bus will also return you to Bilbao at the end of your adventure. The hours for the route back to Bilbao on a normal working day are 06:25 to 21:25 with a bus running every hour. On festival days, the bus runs from 09:10 to 21:10 every two hours. Always check before making last minute plans at to verify the most up to date hours for both directions.

What to Do:


Although there isn’t much available in the area of shopping in Bakio, it does have some amazing outdoor life that nobody should miss out on experiencing. The Bentalde bus stop, the last stop on the route from Bilbao, leaves visitors of Bilbao within walking distance of Playa de Bakio. Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful beaches, this breathtaking area has soft sand running along the clear blue water of the Bay of Biscay. On a clear day, you can see for miles!


Writing in the sand of Playa de Bakio

If you visit Playa de Bakio in the summer, you can, of course, relax on the warm sand and soak up the water. However, if you visit during the cooler months, don’t expect to see any people swimming in the frigid water. Although the northern part of Spain may get quite cold during the winter months, that doesn’t mean that you can’t still visit this quaint town and have a full experience!

Bakio, Spain

Playa de Bakio in Winter

The unwalked winter beach can provide a great opportunity for photographers to get amazing shots. As well as allow for biology lovers to witness the serenity of the small tide pools filled with different crustaceans in the rocky cliffs on the east side of the beach. Here, visitors can really enjoy the natural world while watching the power the water holds as its waves advance and ebb on the rocks’ surface. For an amazing vantage point, take the stairs next to the cliffs – you will not be disappointed!

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe:

Watching the tides roll in over the sparkling sandy beach can be relaxing, but perhaps the most important attraction is that of San Juan Gaztelugatxe. Just outside of Bakio, this religious retreat was dedicated to John the Baptist and sits upon the tiny island of Gaztelugatxe.

Bakio, Spain

View of Bakio from the path between Bakio and San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

Getting to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is not for the unfit. It is nearly 6 kilometers from the beach to the hermitage. Although the scenery is gorgeous and definitely worth it to stop and relax along the road, one must be prepared for an intense workout as it is climbing up multiple steep hills/mountains. The path leading to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe had many beautiful sites of the beach, the town, the cliffs, and the hills while walking that visitors will surely miss out on if they chose the alternative option of taking a taxi to the entry to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. However, due to the intense walking from the entry to the actual island, it is advisable for those people who may not be able to handle such a difficult hike since there are no stops for water/assistance along the secluded way.

If you do choose to drive/take a taxi, most people park their cars at Gaztelu Begi, one of the only public buildings between Bakio and San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. This restaurant serves a variety typical Basque food: decadently rich and flavorful. It is definitely a great stop for those people that need a break after hiking as want to have a nice meal before continuing on to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe.

Bilbao, Spain

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe from a distance

Hiking down the mountain to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe can be quite slick, so visitors should wear the proper footwear as the dirt path leading to the hermitage can be quite steep at points. A lookout point of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is great for those who would rather experience the all-around beauty of the place without the hike. However, for those people who do make the trek to the actual building, the spectacular views as visitors walk across the manmade bridge to the islet are worth every moment. Connected to the mainland by a winding set of stairs, San Juan de Gaztelugatxe provides an amazing experience for those people who wish to experience a less traveled path. Your senses will come alive with sounds of rushing water of boulders, the smells of saltwater engulfing your nose, and the warmth of the sun reflecting off the water!

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

Looking down steps from the religious retreat

Relax at San Juan de Gaztelugatxe and enjoy the setting sun if you like. It is a reward like no other as you explore the small religious retreat. Or, instead, you can begin your venture back down the cobble stone steps and up the mountain before it gets dark. This is advisable as it is potentially dangerous to attempt to hike up the mountain in the dark. This option also allows you to head back toward Bakio and view the sunset at one of the many resting spots along the path of cliffs that you hiked previously. Whichever you choose, on a clear day, you are sure to witness a rainbow of color.

Bakio, Spain

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

To return to Bilbao, take the bus from Bentalde to the end of the route at. And, remember all the exhilarating experiences of an incredible daytrip that not many have bear witness to seeing.

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Travel Advice:

– There are no lights along the along the road between Bakio and San Juan de Gaztelugatxe so it would be a good idea to have some sort of flashlight/torch for safety as it does get dark quickly after watching the sunset.

-This area of Spain speaks a special dialect of the Spanish language known as Basque. People in the region also know Castellano, but be prepared to see some potentially strange spellings of words on menus.

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