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The Basque Country is one of Spain‘s most spectacularly stunning areas, home to soaring mountains, dramatic cliff-lined coasts, green pastures and quaint rural villages, not to mention numerous natural parks.
The Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve sits on the Basque coastline between Bilbao and San Sebastian. It is the most important natural park in the Basque Country and was even declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1984. The Oka River runs through the middle and flows out to the Mundaka estuary, creating an important wetlands area, home to birds such as fish eagles, spoonbills and Eurasian bittern. Visitors to Urdaibai will also find some of the most stunning beaches in the Basque Country – including Laida and Laga.
The Aizkorri-Aratz Natural Park is home to some of the highest mountains in the Basque Country and covers 16,000 hectares between the provinces of Gipuzkoa and Alava. Its characterised by soaring mountains, rocky limestone ridges and vast grassy meadows. The park contains part of the iconic Camino de Santiago, as well as many other walking and hiking trails.
Located on the west edge of the province of Alava, on the border with Burgos, sits the stunning Valderejo Natural Park. A wide valley hemmed in by steep green hills and rocky cliffs, the River Purón flows through the middle, creating a haven for wildlife. There’s a rural interpretation centre in the park for visitors, as well as nine marked hiking trails of varying lengths and difficulties to explore it.
One of only 120 UNESCO Global Geoparks, the Basque Coast Geopark is a spectacular part of the Basque Country. Covering an area of 90 square kilometres along the shores of Gipuzkoa, it encompasses the villages of Deba, Zumaia and Mutriku. Dramatic cliffs characterise the coastline, while the interior is home to the largest number of caves in Gipuzkoa, including the UNESCO World Heritage Ekain Cave.
A vast mountain range, spanning the provinces of Alava and Bizkaia, Gorbeia Natural Park covers 20,016 hectares. Its highest point, after which the park is named, is Mount Gorbeia, standing at 1,480 metres, and topped by an enormous cross – now a symbol of the park. One of the most popular parks for adventure sports, it’s especially well known for its various mountaineering routes. Hiking and mountain biking can also be done here.
Situated in the eastern part of the province of Gipuzkoa, near to the border with France, Aiako Harria sits in foothills of the Pyrenees. Its boundaries are the Rivers Urumea and Bidasoa, and in its centre are huge granite massifs, towering up from the sea. One of the oldest parts of Spain, the land here dates as far back as the Paleozoic Era. The park’s most distinctive feature are the Three Crowns, or Tres Coronas – Irumugarrieta (806 m), Txurrumurru (821 m) and Erroilbide (837 m).