San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, Spain

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Between the fishing villages of Bermeo and Bakio is the unmistakable natural treasure of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, Spain.  This ancient islet has been transformed into a peninsula by the building of a narrow path that leads to its highest point. This path has turned it into one of the most visited places on the northern coast of Spain. Book a Skip the Line Games of Thrones tour here.

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What makes this place special, apart from its composition, is its privileged location on the coast of Biscay. It is surrounded by islands, cliffs and wild beaches worthy of admiration.

It is one of the greatest jewels of the Basque Country and has been the scene of important historical events and legends. In addition, it became a filming site for the Game of Thrones series. Here we tell you all the secrets about this natural wonder which is now admired worldwide.

Stormy day
Stormy day at San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. Image from Canva

The Hermitage of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

Overlooking the Bay of Biscay and crowning the top of this rocky peninsula is the hermitage of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe which dates back to the tenth century. Throughout history, it has suffered several fires, shipwrecks and pirate sieges. A fire ruined it completely in the seventies, however shortly after it was rebuilt to be the hermitage you see today.

The hermitage rises from a rock 150 meters above sea level and is a sight to behold. From here you can appreciate the green color of the vegetation that surrounds the islet, the turquoise sea and the very long stairway that leads to the hermitage.

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Rock, sea and wind combine in this magical place of cliffs and wild beaches. On winter days it is quite a spectacle because you can appreciate the violence of the waves breaking against the rocks. Furthermore, this place transmits special energy.

Tradition has it that you have to ring the bell of the hermitage three times to make a wish and ward off evil spirits.  Other legends say that this place intercedes to help women suffering from fertility problems. The hermitage is also a mythical place for the fishermen of the area. The boats have the habit of going around it three times when they leave and return for fishing campaigns.

Stone bridge
Stone bridge to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. Image from Canva

How to Get to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe belongs to the town of Bermeo, less than an hour’s drive from the famous city of Bilbao. Once there, you can park your car at the top of the cliff and walk down a forest track for about half an hour. The path offers beautiful views of the rocky peninsula and at the end is the stone bridge that connects the islet to the mainland.

Now it’s time to cross it and make a hard climb to the top. There are 241 steps but reaching the top is worth it. Once at the top you are rewarded with an unbeatable panoramic view of the coast and the road just traveled. And then, of course, you can ring the bell of the chapel three times as tradition dictates.

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, Spain is known for being a filming site for Game of Thrones but it is also a place of stunning natural beauty. #spaintravel #gameofthroneslocations #SanJuandeGaztelugatxe
Image from Canva

Curiosities

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is one of the most famous places in the Basque Country. This is especially true since it became one of the settings for the seventh season of Game of Thrones.

It was chosen as Rocadragon, the place where John Snow and Daenerys meet. Not surprisingly, the producers of the series fell in love with San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. It fits perfectly with the landscapes surrounding the Seven Kingdoms.

Therefore, walking along the narrow path that leads to the summit seemingly transports you to another world and another era. However, in the series, the hermitage is replaced by an imposing castle.

Another curiosity about this place is its name, which means “rock of the castle”.  Moreover, since the 10th century, it has been one of the most important pilgrimage destinations on the Basque coast.

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, Spain path
Path to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. Image from Canva

Practical Information

The climb to the top is tiring, so it is best to wear comfortable shoes to traverse the cobblestone path.  The total distance is about 3 kilometers.

Since its fame has increased for being the setting of Game of Thrones, the number of visits to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe has been limited. Now there is a reservation system that only allows the entry of 1462 people per day to avoid its deterioration. Even so, the entrance is totally free and can be obtained online at this page: Gaztelugatxe Tiketa – Gaztelugatxe Tiketa

Natural beauty around San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
The natural beauty around San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. Image from Canva

Boat Route to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

There are boat routes that allow you to admire the greatness of this place from a unique perspective. On board the boat you can contemplate closely this treasure of the Basque coast.

In addition, the boat routes also allow you to admire other places around Gaztelugatxe such as Bermeo, Cape Matxitxako and Akatz Island. There are many different routes and they are a good option for the elderly or people with mobility problems as it avoids having to climb more than 200 steps.

If you go

Book a Skip the Line Games of Thrones tour here.

Gaztelugatxe Tiketa – Gaztelugatxe Tiketa

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe | Top trips Basque Country |  Tourism Euskadi – Tourism in the Basque Country

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe Boat Trip from Bermeo – Civitatis.com

Author Bio: Based in France, Lucia Otero Medraño is Spanish with a master’s degree in travel journalism. She has worked in the tourism sector but her true passion is to live enriching experiences and discover amazing places around the world and write about them. In her spare time, she likes to enjoy her second passion, music.

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