When I plan our travels, I got different inspirations from guided tours. Sometimes, we love to take some of these, as it is amazing to discover the place with someone who knows the place. But, when we rent a car, we do the route by ourselves. San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, was on my top list to visit, because of GOT. That is why I began to check any routes that included this amazing place.
Our route had to look like this one: Bilbao->Getxo->San Juan de Gaztelugatxe->Puerto Viejo->Bermeo->Castillo de Butrón. But at the end, we managed to visit only Bilbao->Getxo->San Juan de Gaztelugatxe->Hendaya (our airbnb).
Here I will write you exactly what to do to make a perfect day trip to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe.
Firstly, to say that it’s one of the most magical places in Europe that we’ve ever been to. But, before you visit it, you have to know a few things ahead, like hot to get there, what to do while there and how to enjoy some more sights and activities.
San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is a small islet in the Bay of Biscay on the northern coast of Spain. The islet sits along a rocky coastline and is connected to the mainland by a man made bridge. It dates back to the 9th century and is dedicated to St. John the Baptist. However, throughout the ages various structures have been built such as a hermitage, church, and convent, and the island was even used defensively.
A long, winding staircase of 241 stone steps snakes back and forth up the steep hillside of the islet, all the way up to the top where a small church sits. After you climb up all the steps and make it to the top, you will be rewarded with incredible views of the lush landscape, rocky coastline, and the beautiful blue ocean beyond.
Don’t ́t forget to ring the bell outside of the church 3 times, and make a wish. Legend has it that if you ring the church bell three times after your hike and make a wish, it’ll come true.
In addition to its long and rich history, San Juan de Gaztelugatxe has recently become famous from being used as a filming scene in Season 7 of HBO’s Game of Thrones.
Preparing the visit to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe.
San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is becoming a popular place to visit in Spain. Now, because we went on holiday, there were less people, and they left us enter. But, from the information point told us, that for the next time, we must reserve our place online ahead of time. You’ll need your passport number as well as the date and time you plan to visit.
The entrance is free at the moment, and even if you reserve it online, it is still free. Not sure for how long this place will have the free entrance.
How to get to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe from Bilbao.
As mentioned previously, we rented a car. So, we drove from Bilbao to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe and it took us about 30 minutes. There is enough free parking space to park your car.
If you plan to visit the place by bus, there is public transportation available from Bilbao to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. You’ll have to take 2 busses to get directly to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, however, on weekends, the second bus doesn’t run so you will have to walk from Bakio or Bermeo.
There are two bus lines that stop in the nearby towns of Bakio and Bermeo:
Bizkaibus line A3518 Bilbao-Mungia-Bakio: ~37 minutes (Bakio is ~5km to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe,~1.5 hours walking)
Bizkaibus line A3527 Bilbao-Mungia-Bermeo: ~43 minutes (Bermeo is ~10km to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, ~2.5 hours walking)
Weekdays: There is a second bus you can catch (Bizkaibus line A3524) that runs every 2 hours from Bermeo to Bakio and it stops at San Juan de Gaztelugatxe.
What to bring for a visit to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe.
Bring food and water if you plan to get right to the church at the top. Prepare yourself for a hiking route, as you will have to walk a lot. Wear comfortable shoes, it is a must, as there is mostly downhill and uphill, and you will have to climb a ton of stairs.
How long it takes a visit to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe?
I planned to stay there for about 30minutes, as much as 1h, but it took us perfectly 3 long hours.
At a moderate pace, hiking the entire San Juan de Gaztelugatxe trail will take about 1.5 hours round-trip. You’ll probably want to spend 20 – 30 minutes at the church at the top, so add that to the total time you allocate for visiting San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. In addition, you will likely linger a bit to take photos, so budget time for that as well staircase San Juan de Gaztelugatxe.
We were with 3 kids, and I think this made us to stay for so long. But if you do not have so much time at your disposal, then I advise you to walk only 15 minutes, to the first place reserved for taking the pictures.
What to do before or after your visit to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe?
As a part of day trip, I will propose you to visit all these places: Bilbao->Getxo->San Juan de Gaztelugatxe->Puerto Viejo->Bermeo->Castillo de Butrón.
We did only Getxo, and stayed there for almost half of the day. But, if you only want to visit it fast, then you will perfectly get in time to other places as well.
The place is right as expected. I had lots of expectations of this beautiful place, and I was afraid to go there with kids. But, all the kids enjoyed running there and for and watch the beautiful views.