The Iron Belt is a hiking route that starts at the sanctuary of Santa María del Yermo, in the town of Llodio. This route combines the attractiveness of the beautiful mountain and valley landscapes, and the historical interest of the remnants of fortifications and trenches that were built during the Civil War to defend Bilbao.
This wartime infrastructure was erected between 1936 and 1937, nonetheless it never saw action, given that the Nationalist forces chose to attack and break through Bilbao’s line of defence at Gamiz-Fika.
Two well signposted routes with information panels at various points allow you to learn about these vestiges of the Civil War between Llodio and Arrankudiaga, and visit trenches and pillboxes. You can also discover an area that encompasses an enormous wealth of ethnography, history, nature and architectural heritage.
For good reason there are various lime pits, chestnut pits and ice stores along the route accompanied by informative placards that explain how and why they were used, as well as the mythology of the valley.
The walker can choose between the short 8.5 kilometre route that takes about two and a half hours, or the longer, almost 13 kilometre, four and a half hour route. Both options are circular routes, starting and finishing at Santa María del Yermo and the Santa Lucía hermitage, which you can get to by car or on foot.
The more adventurous walker can take the challenge of completing the Route of the Smugglers, a 20 kilometre six hours walk, that separates Llodio and Bilbao along a route traditionally used by bandits and blackmarketeers.
Llodio is located in the north of the historic territory of Álava, 55 and 24 kilometres from Vitoria-Gasteiz and Bilbao, respectively. The best route from either of these cities is to take the AP-68 and then the A-625 or BI-625 depending on which.
Public transport can be used