Gorbeia Natural Park, declared as such on 21st June 1994, offers us one of the most rewarding experiences that can be found in Euskadi.
Its magic can be felt through all the senses: see the beauty of the landscape, hear the song of the birds, feel the flow and babbling of the water falling or climb to its numerous peaks. Among these, that of Mount Gorbeia (1,481m), from which this exceptional 20,016 hectare setting, located between Álava and Bizkaia, takes its name.
Delving into its surroundings is to discover extraordinary places, such as the Itzina massif (Orozko), impressive limestone rock with almost vertical walls; the caves of Mairuelegorreta, in the municipality of Zigoitia, with more than 12 kilometres of galleries are among the deepest of Euskadi; and the beautiful Goiuri/Gujuli waterfall (Urkabustaiz), with a drop of more than 100 m.
However, if there is something that defines the skyline of the Park, it is the mythical Mount Gorbeia, the highest peak in Álava and Bizkaia. It is the reference point of Basque mountaineering and it even lays claim to one of the most popular Basque songs. That is why it becomes necessary to reach the top, be photographed next to its 100-year-old 18 metre high iron cross, raised in 1907 to comply with Pope Leo XIII’s order to erect crosses on the highest peaks of Christendom.
The task, however, was not that easy. The one that stands there today is the third one, given that two tremendous gales blew down both the first, 33 meters, and the second, 23 meters.
If we stop to view the landscape, we can see a limestone terrain with a mosaic of leafy beech, oak and Pyrenean oak woods in one of Euskadi’s most biologically rich ecosystems. In its skies we will see the vulture, the goshawk and the sparrowhawk; and in its forests we will sense the presence of the marten or the wildcat, although we will most probably meet the largest of its inhabitants and emblem of the Park, the deer.
Hiding in its streams, elusive specimens of otter and Pyrenean desman, sharing their habitat with a large array of amphibians, such as the Iberian frog or the Alpine newt, both endangered species.
An essential element of the landscape is the extensive pastures that, for thousands of years, have fed livestock and a shepherding culture, the watchword of Gorbeia: indigenous breeds of horses, cows and sheep, such as latxa sheep, Terreña and Pyrenean cattle, Pottok ponies or Azpi Gorri goats, who have become the true keepers and mistresses of the park’s pastures.
Sheep pens and shepherds’ huts can still be seen along with remnants of other activities in the area, thanks to the balance between the human and natural environment that has allowed this outstanding cultural heritage to be preserved: megalithic monuments or old lime kilns which, along with surviving myths and legends, mark out the body and soul of this magical setting.
That is why discovering Gorbeia involves enjoying its legends, its art, gastronomy, rural surroundings and traditions.
Personal preferences will make the visitor choose the museums, nature, heritage or hiking, but to begin to enjoy the Park it is best to start with the Sarria Park House or Parketxea.
- The mountain routes are not suitable for people with mobility problems.
Entry to the park is free, however, the Park House has its own opening times and calendar.
Just 20 minutes from Bilbao and Vitoria-Gasteiz you have a paradise for your senses at your disposal, offering nature, tradition, gastronomy and leisure in its purest form. Since 2010, Gorbeialdea Rural Development Association and the Cuadrilla de Gorbeialdea have been working together to promote tourism in the Gorbeia area.
Gorbeia Natural Park is divided between Álava and Bizkaia, and has different entrances. One of these is the Park House of Sarria, near the village of Sarria.