The Natural Park takes its name from the pass running through it from north to south, and from the sanctuary built in honour of San Antonio Abad and San Antonio de Padua. It is a place of pilgrimage located in the heart of the natural area. Etymologically speaking, Urkiola comes from "urkia", the Basque word for birch tree, which can be easily found in the park.
Mountaineering, climbing and prehistoric sites
The Urkiola Natural Park basically comprises a series of massifs and enormous white limestone rocks and deep gullies and valleys between each one. The Urkiola mountaintops have promoted a great love for climbing and hiking. Anboto (1,330 m) is the park's highest summit and it is frequently visited, but just the most daring approach the cave of Mari (a Basque mythological figure) on its northern slope. More caves attracting lovers of potholing are Askondo, Baltzola, A-1, Abaro-Jentilzubi and Larrano o Urrekazulo caves.
The steep walls of Astxiki, Urrestei and Alluitz are an appropriate scenario for a rock climbing and have been the cradle of great Basque mountain climbers. Nowadays Atxarte owns one of the most important rock-climbing schools of the Basque Country with over 400 easy and difficult climbing routes.
The area accommodates prehistoric sites, such as Axlor and Bolinkoba, which have provided animal and human remains (cave bear, reindeer, horse, remains of teeth of human forebears from the Middle Paleolithic period in Axlor), as well as the tools used by our ancestors.
The parkland offers numerous routes that are recommended throughout the area, including many picnic areas. Besides, there are two lodges in the sanctuary where visitors can stay overnight, since camping in the park is not allowed.
In the vicinity of the Urkiola Pass stands the Interpretation Centre of Toki Alai, which accommodates a permanent exhibition of the natural and cultural characteristics of the park. We strongly recommend to visit this centre in order to get a better understanding of the landscape. Besides, it is accessible to disabled people.
There is a rock climbing school in the park.
The area offers varied activities, such as rock-climbing, abseiling, hiking, mountaineering, potholing, biking, guided tours...