The Itzina Massif (570 Ha.) is found within the Gorbeia Natural Park and represents a magnificent sample of karst formation, a geological phenomenon that is a constant feature in the relief and landscape of many Basque mountains. Rainwater has been dissolving the limestone rocks, which have a high content of calcium carbonate, throughout millions of years... The point is that these rocks, so solid in appearance, are actually highly soluble over such long periods of time.

Category: Protected Biotopes
Municipalities:

Bizkaia: Orozko.

Information:

Parketxe de Areatza
Gudarien Plaza, 1. 48013 Areatza
Phone: 946 739 279
E-mail:parketxea@hotmail.com; parques.naturales.protegidos@bizkaia.net

Services:

Rain gradually wears away the rock, making the fissures deeper and deeper. The water runs down through the hollows left by previous erosion attacking the areas of greatest solubility, leaving a cracked mountainous surface riddled with countless underground conduits. The oldest ones take the shape of caves through which water no longer flows, since it has moved to deeper substrata.

We can see from the air how a rocky plateau stands out in the surrounding, encircled by a crest-shaped border that looks as if it were protecting the inner concave surface. The highest rock on the ridge is Lekanda (1,302 m) on the eastern side. To the south we find the outstanding Altipitatz and Arteta Peaks, and to the north the Askorrigan Summit. At the feet and to the exterior of the latter, we scan a close-knit group of smaller jagged peaks, the Atxas (from the Basque word "haitza", meaning crag).

We find the easiest way into the area to the northeast of the karst, through the "Ojo de Atxulaur". This natural hole in the mountain has been used since time immemorial by shepherds (who also have their huts and sheepfolds in Itxina) and woodcutters. However, it is not advisable to enter the area without someone who knows it well, since there are no paths and signs or traces to orientate yourself. This warning should be particularly heeded on foggy days.

The interior of the massif is an enormous labyrinth of sinkholes surrounded by cracked and fissured rock elevations. The landscape, particularly in autumn when the beech trees have taken on their reddish tones, is simply superb, perhaps unequalled in the entire Basque Autonomous Region.
One of its best-known caves is Supelegor (one of the nearly 500 cavities excavated by water on the Gorbeia Massif), which is haunted by some of the characters of Basque mythology.

Remarks

Walks through the biotope, excursions to the surrounding summits and potholing in the various caves are some of the alternatives to become acquainted with the protected natural area.

Fauna

The vertebrate fauna is conditioned by the high altitude, which gives rise to severe conditions. However, it is outstanding the presence of at least eight bat species.

There is also a remarkable range of invertebrate cave-dwelling fauna, with exclusive species adapted to environments with no light and poor in nutrients.

Flora

Flora also takes refuge in these karst areas, since their complex topography reproduce all sorts of different environments, several of which are hardly accessible. There are more than 175 catalogued species of mosses and hepaticas.

One aspect which has contributed to this abundance of species is the large amount of rotting wood in the park, something which is difficult to find in other places in the Basque Autonomous Region due to massive forestry activity.

This wealth of flora is increased by the presence of singular species on the crests and vertical rock faces. Some beech trees grow in the harshest and most unexpected places and today there is still evidence of the use of these trees for producing charcoal.

Location and accomodations in the neighborhoods

Access: No access by car but on foot from Urigoiti (up Orozko) or Pagomakurra (up Areatza).

Car Park: No parking place in the area. You can park in the Urigoiti neighbourhood or the Pagomakurra recreational area.



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