The Mundaka Estuary, heart of the Reserve
The Mundaka Estuary stands at the centre of this exceptional area that was declared a Biosphere Reserve by the UNESCO in 1984. The estuary consists of twelve kilometres sand banks where salt and fresh water merge, forming the most important wetland of the Basque Autonomous Region. The setting is of great international significance since many strange migratory bird species take a rest or spend the winter there, such as the grey heron, the cormorant, the tern, the spoonbill and a great number of waders, which live on animals that can be found buried or semi-buried in the mud and sand.
To be precise, we find ourselves in the valley of Oka River. Gernika is the main town in the area dotted with numerous smaller country villages that compose delightful landscapes. The estuary itself is the heart of the reserve. We recommend that you visit it at different times of the day in order to enjoy the scenery at both high and low tides. The two roads leaving from Gernika, one towards Bermeo and the other towards Laga-Elantxobe, run along opposite banks of the estuary, allowing us to admire virtually all the area. The views from either bank are lovely.
On the coast, to the east of the estuary, we encounter Cape Ogoño, an impressive limestone bulk that provides shelter for the shag and the peregrine falcon. Laga Beach stretches at its foot, which, despite being visited by numerous swimmers, still preserves valuable specimens of the extremely special psammophyte flora (typical of sandy areas and dunes). An outstanding element on the landscape such as Izaro Island stands solitarily in front of the estuary. It is home to an important nesting colony of yellow-legged gulls, in addition to the recently installed colony of common egret.
Low tide uncovers enormous stretches of beach near the mouth, including that of Laida, which are later covered as the tide comes in. Upstream and from the same road, particularly from Gautegiz-Arteaga to Kanala, there is a fairly good view of the marshlands.
Santimamiñe Caves and the Oma Forest
Within the Urdaibia Biosphere Reserve, there are two inland places we must visit: Santimamiñe Caves (no public access) and Oma Forest. The caves created in the surrounding area by the dissolution of the limestone were home to prehistoric hunters. One of these caves is Santimamiñe, located in Kortezubi, a magnificent example of cave painting that depicts the animals those prehistoric men hunted. Other caves contain material (bones, tools) left behind by their inhabitants.
The Oma Forest is located in the surroundings of the same town. This enchanted forest establishes a new relationship between nature and art. On painting hundreds of pine trees with colour and life, artist Augustín Ibarrola has created an enormous canvas that visitors can rearrange at will, just by playing with the different perspectives while walking through the trees.
Fishing is allowed just in certain areas when respecting the rules established for this activity.
The mountainous area in Urdaibai is not accessible to disabled people.