Santa Catalina Botanical Garden - arabaturismo
Santa Catalina Botanical Garden
It has the honour of having been recognised as the world’s first starlight park, as the conditions are ideal to observe the night sky. Visitors are provided with instruments to identify the most relevant stars and constellations.
Santa Catalina Botanical Garden is built on the ruins of the palace-convent of the same name and is located on south-eastern side of the Sierra de Badaia.
The original tower house was built in the 13th century, during a period of feudal unrest, by the most powerful family of Iruña de Oca. A century and a half later, when the area became more peaceful, the Iruña family decided to change their place of residence and moved to the present tower of Doña Otxanda, in Vitoria-Gasteiz, handing over their old residence to the order of St. Jerome.
A few years later it was passed on to the Augustinian monks, who built the Monastery of Santa Catalina, preserving the old tower, to which they attached a church along with its corresponding cloister. In 1835, with the ecclesiastical confiscations of Mendizábal, the monks were told to vacate the site and it fell into ruin.
The complex, covering an area of 32,500 square meters at an altitude that varies between 605 to 675 meters above sea level, currently belongs to the Iruña de Oca Town Council. This institution has headed the recovery of this space to create a complex that combines environmental education, recreation and an encounter with nature. A model for new creative ways to establish a relationship between human beings and nature.
Santa Catalina Botanical Garden is the first place in Spain to be certified as a Starlight Park, as the conditions are ideal to observe the night sky. This title has given rise to concerts under the stars, Full Dome 360º planetarium sessions and nocturnal guided tours.
The activities are complemented by an interesting cultural program: bird identification courses, learning about medicinal plants, etc. It also has temporary exhibitions and permanent one on the life of bees, beekeeping and the production of honey, jelly, wax and bee glue.
During the tour of the Garden we can see plants from the Sierra de Badaia, as well as others from the five continents, discover the natural wealth of the surroundings, marvel at the secrets of the convent ruins that take us back to medieval times. It is a stroll where we blend history with nature.
The idea of locating a botanical collection on this site is based on the enormous wealth of flora that exists in this area, due to the convergence of species from a Mediterranean climate and species of an Atlantic nature, thanks to the special microclimate.
Walking around the Santa Catalina Botanical Garden provides an opportunity to enjoy varied views: the ruins of the convent from the bottom of the ravine, while from the highest points the views are more panoramic, with the ravine visible in almost in its entirety along with the Plains of Álava, the Iruña-Veleia archaeological site, the town of Trespuentes with its bridge over the river Zadorra, Mendoza and its Tower, and the Montes de Vitoria.
In addition, it has a permanent exhibition of bonsai. Since 2021 it has become a more accessible space for people with reduced mobility, vision and hearing problems.
It also has an app that allows you to discover the garden through a 3D recreation of several of its corners in the 14th and 16th centuries. For now, the application offers the possibility of knowing the appearance of the choir area, the central nave of the church and the cloister, as well as the exterior, although the objective is to "expand" the list of points where you can travel back in time. "The best thing is to position yourself in the place of the botanical garden that appears on the screen and compare how it was before and now," recommends Iker Ordoño, one of the entrepreneurs of the Arkikus project who has developed the 'app' that also serves as an audio guide.
Some 1500 metres south of the town of Trespuentes, 5 km from Nanclares de la Oca and 12 km from Vitoria-Gasteiz The Garden has three car parks at different levels with a capacity for 170 cars.