Our next destinations in Spain were Nervion Falls, Flysch cliffs and San Juan De Gaztelugatxe. To visit these three sights we stayed in Bilbao, an industrial port in Northern Spain, for two nights. From Bardenas Reales National Park to Bilbao we passed near Nervion Falls so we detoured to visit the falls enroute to Bilbao. As of Flysch cliffs and San Juan De Gaztelugatxe we visited them after reaching Bilbao.
When we reached Nervion Falls the place was heavily covered by mist and we could not see more than two feet from our faces. We could only hear the sound of the falls but could not sight the falls not even a small part of it. Since our stay at Bilbao (two nights) was only an hour drive to the falls we frequently checked the weather forcast for the next two days to find an opportunity to revisit Nervion Falls. Unfortunately the weather forcast for the next two days worsen so we finally left the Bilbao without catching a sight of the falls.
We visited San Juan De Gaztelugatxe on the first evening and Flysch cliffs on the next morning, both destinations were beautiful. On the second evening we also spent some time exploring Bilbao old town where old architecture buildings co-exist with furturistic museum.
Nervion Falls was one of the highlights of this trip, it was a must-see a destination that we had waited eagerly to see since we chanced upon a picture of this falls. From Bardenas Reales to Nervion Falls was 197 km which took about 2.5 hours.
To get to the falls we had to turn right to a side road, the turning point was at co-ordinates: 42.939179, -3.034240. It was already raining when we arrived at the turn off point. From the turnoff we drove about 3 km to the 3rd carpark which was also the last carpark and the nearest carpark to the falls.
From the carpark it was just a short walk to a visitor center. It was raining so we waited at the visitor center for the rain to lighten. Once the rain became a small drizzle we started our 2 km walk to the Nervion Falls view point.
The walk was pretty easy on relatively flat ground. The gravel path led into a forested area. The drizzle did not stop many visitors and us from trekking to the falls and along the way we saw many more coming back.
It took about 35 to 40 minutes reach the Nervion Falls. Though the rain had stopped the mist was very thick and the nearer we were to the viewing deck the heavier was the mist. We stood at the viewing deck staring into….NOTHING! It was just a grey emptiness in front of us. All we could hear was the roaring sound of the falls. We were absolutely disappointed.
Nervion Falls was formed when Nervion river made a 300 metres spectacular fall into Delika canyon. It was the highest “free leaping” falls in the Iberian Peninsula. At times we read that when the wind was strong, the water of the falls flipped upwards into the air. Too bad we were not fortunate enough to see the falls.
San Juan De Gaztelugatxe
From Nervion Falls we drove into Bilbao which took about an hour and smoothly checked into our stay at about 4 pm. Since we had about 5 hours till the sunset we decided to drive to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe which was about 45 minutes from Bilbao.
Surprisingly at 5.30 pm the area near Gaztelugatxe was packed with visitors. We drove to a huge carpark but it was full with cars. We parked along a side of a road that was barricaded (fenced off) for vehicle. The barricaded road was an old road that went down to the beach, to near Gaztelugatxe. With that road cut off it would be a long way to walk down to the beach. So we went for an alternative route which was a pedestrian path/steps directly down to the beach.
The alternative route was beside a restaurant/bar “Eneperi”, At the start of the path we came upon a little wooden Kiosk and the people manning the kiosk asked if we had made an online reservation… to use path (blue path)?..to visit Gaztelugatze?.. We were very surprise! We did not know there was a need to make an online reservation! The lady quickly assured us that it was a must to make an online reservation, she was just checking so that she could issue the appropriate entrance tickets which was free of charge.
The path which started as a gentle downslope soon changed to stairs and the route was not as short as we expected, it was pretty steep at some sections. Already we were thinking of the return trip…so many steps to go up! Soon the view of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe came into sight. Gaztelugatxe was the name of the islet sticking out of the coast. It was linked to the mainland by an impressive “zigzag” bridge. The bridge led to a hermitage sitting on top of the island. This hermitage was dedicated to John the Baptist.
On the return walk to our car we took the longer road (the one which was barricaded at the top) it had no steps but involved a longer up-slope road (red path). The route was about two 2 km long but it seemed longer than that. This route used to be a proper road for car to get down to the beach, but the road was not maintained, had cracks and potholes and was closed to traffic. We found along this longer path several miradors (viewpoints) of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe and the views was very good too.
After we left Gaztelugatxe, on the way back to Bilbao we passed a scenic coastal town, Bentalde. We stopped to search for dinner and went into restaurant “La Bakiense jatetxea” just by the sea. It was close to 8 pm and we were hungry.
Upon entering the restaurant we found out it was still too early for the kitchen to serve dinner! We had to wait for an hour if we wanted dinner. In the end we just ordered coffee and sandwich. Yummy! The sandwich was topped with the famous Spanish slice pork! We ate a couple of sandwich each and that became our dinner.
The total cost came up to €11.60 for four sandwich at €2 each and two cup of tea at €1.80 each.
We visited Flysch Cliff on the second day. After a homecooked breakfast at our stay we drove eastward to Flysch Cliff. It took about an hour to reach our destination.
We knew exactly where Flysch Rocks/Cliffs was sited but we did not know how to get there with minimal tracking. There were a few possible start points as based on Google map, but we were not sure how far would the roads to these start points go before they ended. Once they ended would be where we had to go on foot. Our best bet was to start at Pt 2 (co-ordinates: 43.293853, -2.311752) which we believed would involve only a short straight forward walk to Flysch Rocks/Cliffs.
We drove to Pt2 which ended at a railway track. The road continued across the train track but there was a “No entry” sign so we parked our car by the side of the road just before the train track. We walked across the train track and it was a gravel path with private farms on both sides. The farm dogs were barking loudly and a farmer pointed us to a gate/barrier.
The gate was to keep out animals and not visitors. So we swang open the gate and continued our walk. We came to a valley and we saw several food paths. We randomly picked one that went up the opposite hill which should overlook the sea. Once we reached the hill ridge we saw the Flysch Cliffs!
The cliffs were very massive and impressive. Sheets and sheets of massive shales stacked closely forming the cliffs and beds of the sea. The tide was low and we could see the shales extending all the way to the waves.
Unlike Gaztelugatxeko there were not many visitors exploring Flysch Cliffs. Occasionally we saw a couple trekking along the ridges coming from the east or west side of coast. They probably came by to coastal paths from either Zumaia or Deba.
On our second day in Bilbao we visited Flysch Cliffs in the morning and was back at our “stay” by early afternoon. After we had our rest, at about 5 pm we were ready to explore the town. We could take a bus into town or take a walk. We decided to walk to see more of the town and probably come back by bus.
On our way to Bilbao town we encountered several interesting buildings. There was the Basilica of Begona a very grand building. The current temple was built on the ruins of a former primitive hermitage in the XVI Century. The construction lasted a century!
Soon we came to a wide tiled path that went downslope, at the end of the slope was a beautiful arch. This Tuscan triumphal arch was the gateway to the old Mallona cemetery, built between 1828 and 1830 according to the plans of the architect Juan Bautista de Belaunzarán.
After the arc was more steps going down. At the bottom of the steps was a square with many people about. It was the Unamuno Miguel Plaza of Bilbao. This Plaza was at the heart of Bilbao medieval old quarter. There were bars, cafes and fascinating buildings around the square.
We walked toward the river, Nervion River, that ran through Bilbao. Near the river we saw many impressive buildings. There was an opera house, Teatro Arriaga with two domes. It was built in Neo-baroque style by architect Joaquín Rucoba in 1890. Joaquin Rucoba was the same architect that designed Bilbao City Hall.
We walked along the river toward the Bilbao super modern museum, Guggenheim Museum. Along the route we came upon a unusually designed bridge, Puente Zubizuri. It was a curved walkway supported by steel suspension cables from an overhead arch. This was a pedestrian bridge with access ramps and stairways on both sides.
After Zubizuri bridge came another bridge. This was a high overhead bridge, Puente de La Salve, that connected to Bilbao Guggenheim Museum across the river. Puente de La Salve was both a vehicular and a pedestrian bridge with an iconic huge red arch on it. From the east bank we found a lift that brought us up to the bridge platform, there we walked on the pedestrian sidewalk to cross to the other west bank of the river.
Bilbao Guggenheim Museum was a super modern looking museum, it was designed by Canadian American architect Frank Gehry and opened some twenty years ago. We especially like its “silvery-golden” tiles/curtain walls that shone brightly as the sun rays hit it. From far it looked like a “titanium” clad ship anchored on the Nervion River.
Our “wandering” from our “stay” to Bilbao Medieval Quarter to Bilbao Guggenheim Museum had took us over a distance of close to 3.5 km. It was about time to turn back. We walked back to Bilbao Medieval Quarter and found a pizza place to have our dinner.
Before the pizza place we were looking for restaurants that served dinner but at 8 pm most restaurants were filled with locals standing with glasses of wine in their hands around tall tables, feasting on finger food and chatting and chatting. It was just impossible to go into any of these restaurants and sit down and order dinner so we ended up with pizza again.
We ordered two huge slices of pizza and it came up to only €5.
Our stay in Bilbao
Our stay at Bilbao was “Estudio Arabella” booked from Airbnb. It was one of the cheaper accommodations near to the old town. It was a studio with kitchen, washer and dryer. The cost was €120 (all in) for two nights. Our Airbnb stay was located in a residential estate where we saw many tall apartment blocks. We tried to park our car at the location where our host, “German” had advised but found no free lots so we parked our car at the base of another apartment block where we saw “white-line” lots.
We contacted “German” via whatsapp to inform him of our arrival and he came almost immediately to meet us. He brought us to a ground floor unit in one of the apartment blocks. Though our unit and its interior looked similar to that shown in the pictures of the Airbnb listing, somehow on site it did not looked as comfortable, it looked smaller and duller.
The front face of the studio was a door and a glass-block wall. There was no proper window but two small lourve-glassblock-windows. The corridor immediately outside the door was a public access area so we kept our door and glassblock windows close to prevent curious “locals” from looking in. But with door and windows close we felt “couped” up in the studio. The studio had no wifi or a television so it got very boring in the evening. For the price we paid this place was still value for money, but somehow we were still glad that we only be staying here for two nights!
We made a mistake of washing our clothes at night, the washing-process noises was amplified in the enclosed studio and made it impossible for us to sleep. We were reluctant to cancel the washing process because of our limit “Spanish” understanding and we did not want to complicate the washing process.
Though the studio had a kitchen, the enclosed studio was not condusive for complex cooking. So we used the kitchen to prepare siple breakfast only.
Car parking in the estate was free. There were many parking lots but it was not easy to find one that was not occupied. We had to circulate around the many apartment blocks to look for an empty slot. Parking far away was not an issue as long as we were not off loading or uploading our bags into the car.