san juan de gaztelugatxe

Blog post updated in May 2024

I discovered this marvel over 10 years ago while doing my Erasmus in Bilbao. I remember being so impressed by its beauty. Since then, I haven’t stopped saying it: you have to visit San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. Since the place became a setting for the famous Game of Thrones series, it’s not as easy to visit as before, but don’t let that stop you from discovering it. Here are my tips for exploring this fantastic place.

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, the wonder of the Basque Country

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is a must-visit if you are in the region.

Easily accessible from Bilbao and San Sebastian, it’s the perfect excursion.

A small island

 This small island is connected to the mainland by a winding stone bridge.
Legend has it that San Juan disembarked in Bermeo and reached Gaztelugatxe in three steps.
These three steps left traces, one of which is found on the numerous steps winding from bottom to top on the islet. I say numerous because there are a total of 241!
It might seem like a lot, but it’s not so difficult to reach the top if you take your time.
If the weather is favorable, the place seems calm and pleasant, but when the sky darkens, it becomes mysterious.
Lost in the gray clouds, struck by waves crashing against the rocks, the island is impressive.
At low tide, the sea reveals rocks sculpted by the constant movements of the water. Whether the weather is good or bad, you can always take magnificent photos.
As you climb the narrow staircase, be sure to enjoy the panorama. With each step, the view of the island and the mainland changes, offering a new perspective.

The hermitage of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe.

Once the ascent is completed, the small hermitage stands proudly before the eyes of the visitors.
It has been reconstructed several times due to attacks, looting, and fires. The latest reconstruction is recent: in 1980. Both inside and outside, medieval tombs dating from the 9th to 12th centuries have been discovered.
After circling the hermitage, it is customary to sit down to rest and enjoy the view. From here, you can admire the mainland and be impressed by the greenery that covers it. One could almost feel as if they were in Ireland.
After taking a selfie, with the ocean in the background or not, it’s time for the superstitious to ring the bell three times in a row, without forgetting to make a wish.
Sometimes you may have to wait in line to approach the rope, but it’s a must for every tourist.
San Juan de Gaztelugatxe also has magical powers. In fact, people suffering from calluses can place their feet in the rock crevices found on the ascent. It is also said that the hermitage has powers related to women’s infertility.

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe tickets

Due to its popularity, it’s no longer possible to freely visit San Juan de Gaztelugatxe during the high season.
It’s essential to reserve your free entry on this website.
High season periods:
  • Holy Week (Easter), Christmas, and holidays.
  • From June 15th to the end of September.
  • Every weekend between the last week of March and the end of the year.
Duration of the visit: between 1 hour and 15 minutes and 2 hours.

How to get to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe?

Two options are available:
By Car: Take the BI-3101 road between Bakio and Bermeo. There is a free parking area where you can park, and then it’s about a one-kilometer walk. The descent and, consequently, the ascent are quite easy. It’s just a matter of going at your own pace, bringing water and sunscreen if it’s hot, and avoiding high heels (I don’t know why, but there are always women in heels). There are many benches before reaching the stairs, perfect for taking a moment to rest.
By Bus: From Bilbao, you can take the Bizkaibus A3518 Bilbao-Bakio or A3527 Bilbao-Bermeo. If you’re coming from Bakio or Bermeo, you should take the A3524 line and get off at the Gaztelu Begi stop.

Where to eat in San Juan de Gaztelugatxe?

You can bring your sandwich and eat it on a bench along the path leading to the island.

Next to the hermitage, there is also a small covered area where you can rest and have a meal, sheltered from the wind.

On the mainland, there is also the Eneperi bar-restaurant, which offers very nice views.

Where to stay in San Juan de Gaztelugatxe?

It is impossible to sleep on the site as it is an island.

I strongly recommend staying in Bilbao or San Sebastián and using both cities as a starting point to explore the region.

Important Dates

– June 24: Feast of San Juan. The residents head to the island on foot or, at least, try to get close.
– July 31: Feast of San Ignacio de Loyola. The residents of the town of Arrieta celebrate a pilgrimage.
– August 29: Feast of San Juan Degollado. It’s the turn of the residents of Bakio to visit the island.


If you visit San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, you will marvel at its beauty, and to ensure this continues, it’s important to travel responsibly.
Here are some easy gestures to implement during your visit:
  • Opt for public transportation instead of your own vehicle to reach the site.
  • Do not litter.
  • Bring a pocket ashtray with you.
  • Do not try to remove a piece of stone or pluck a flower.

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is a unique and charming place.

Enjoying the view it offers of the impressive cliffs and the Basque coast is magical for the visitor who has had the opportunity to climb there.

I sincerely hope to have sparked in you the desire to go and visit this special place.

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visit san juan de gaztelugatxe
visit san juan de gaztelugatxe
visit san juan de gaztelugatxe

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