The Gaztelugatxe Protected Biotope (158 ha) covers the stretch of Bizkaia's coast lying between the area around Bakio to the west, and Cape Matxitxako (Bermeo) to the east. This is a particularly remarkable coastal area, even more if we take into account the very few islands and islets on our coastline. Besides, Cape Matxitxako, one of the biotope's limits and the most prominent point of Bizkaia's coast, is a geographical feature of significant reference.

Category: Protected Biotopes
Municipalities:

Bizkaia: Bakio, Bermeo.

Information:

Bakio Tourism Office
Phone: 946 193 395
Fax: 946 193 161
E-mail: turismo@bakio.org

 

Bermeo Tourism Office
Phone: 946 179 154
Fax: 946 179 152
E-mail: turismo@bermeo.org

Services:
Services:

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe and Aketze

Travelling along the road between Bermeo and Bakio, two rocky islets of typically pale limestone colour will come into our view: San Juan de Gaztelugatxe and Aketxe. Both are located in front of a stretch of coast formed by cliffs and hillsides with very steep slope. The former of the two, which is a kind of peninsula, is accessed through a bridge over the rocks left by the sea between the islet and dry land. At one end the waves have carved perfect tunnels into the rock. At the top of a seemingly endless flight of stairs we will come to the hermitage of San Juan. According to the legend, Saint John the Baptist got to there after disembarking in Bermeo, leaving his foot imprints on the stone road. The shrine dates from the 10th century and could have been a Templar monastery. The temple has suffered many ups and downs throughout the years, including fires and plunderings by privateers such as Francis Drake. Therefore, the building we will encounter is a totally rebuilt hermitage.

The Rock of Aketxe rises prominently out of the sea. The presence of human beings on the islet has been limited owing to the fact that it can only be accessed by boat. Thanks to its isolation the place has become a seabird sanctuary. 200 storm petrel pairs, shags and yellow-legged gulls have chosen this exceptional setting as their nesting place.

Remarks

Angling from the ground allowed.

A specific route takes the visitor through the biotope and its most important sights.

Fauna

The Rock of Aketxe is a significant nesting place, including for the yellow-legged gull and the shag. It is particularly remarkable the colony of storm petrel. This little-known bird is the smallest seabird in Europe, since it is not much bigger than a sparrow. It normally lives on the high seas, only coming inland to nest and at the dead of night.

Another bird sighted on these cliffs is the rock dove, forebear of the domestic dove. Natural populations of this species are extremely rare.

The surrounding waters accommodate sea basses, whiting pouts, horse mackerels and even big predators such as conger eels and moray eels. At a lesser depth, among calcareous red seaweed, slugs, baillon's wrasses and rainbow wrasses seek refuge, as well as invertebrates such as sea urchins, actinias, sea cucumbers, octopuses, velvet swimming crabs and spider crabs. The highly prized goose barnacles can be found on the rocks.

Flora


On solid ground we can see steep cliffs where, among vegetation that is adapted to salt and sea winds, plants such as Cochlearia danica, Limonium binervosum and the wild olive tree stand out. The latter one is the predecessor of the cultivated olive tree and it was already spotted by a number of botanists in the 19th century. Over them we can find heather, gorse, holm oaks and vineyards of the neighbouring farmhouses.

Location and accomodations in the neighborhoods

Access: Access from the BI-3101 road between the towns of Bermeo and Bakio.

Public Transport: Bus line by Bizkaibus that takes this route in summer stops in Gaztelugatxe.

Car Park: There are a few parking places at the foot of the stairs that lead to the hermitage. It is also possible to park in a viewpoint that is one kilometre far.



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