The Iberian Peninsula is an essential destination for all those who love trekking and mountaineering. Both in the north area and in the south, we find mountain chains with peaks that will test our resistance and provide us with breath-taking views and ecosystems found nowhere else in Europe. However, if we really want to know how this tradition is experienced in a region, we should visit the Basque Country. Of all the Basque Country’s traditions, weekend trips into the hills are among those with the deepest roots. And everyone knows that Monte Gorbea is the top of Basque mountains.
Why visit Gorbea? The Gorbea massif separates the historical province of Vizcaya from Álava. Among this series of hills and mountains, the highest one, the one after which the chain is called, rises up: Gorbea. This elevation has profound meaning for Basques and helps us to understand some of their religious traditions. For example, the mountain peak is crowned by a cross, which was first erected in 1899 in response to Pope Leon XIII’s call to place this symbol on mountaintops to welcome the 20th century. Despite all of the century’s ups and downs, and the fact that it fell down twice because of the harsh climate, it has always been re-erected. Perseverance, the quality that Basques are so proud of.
The height of this mountain, 1,482 metres, granted it the status of a “monte bocinero” (signalling mountain), since in the past it was used to send acoustic or visual signals to the surrounding villages to warn them of danger or announce important news.
Apart from its symbols, Monte Gorbea is located in a 12,000-hectare nature reserve featuring diverse fauna and flora that is worth enjoying: we will find deer, boars, badgers, martens, mink, mountain cats or birds of prey.
The relief also has some surprises in store: rivers of frozen, crystal-clear water, karstic formations that give rise to chasms and caves; forests of beech trees, oaks, alder trees and other varieties.
There are several routes, with different degrees of difficulty, leading to the top of Gorbea. You can find more information here.
And after Monte Gorbea, where can we stay? Even if we just go for a walk through the impressive woodland of the Gorbea (Gorbeia in the Basque language) nature reserve, our body will need to be fully revived. In the reserve we will come across the Hotel Spa Etxegana. The hotel is well known for making the tranquillity, relaxation and revival of the body its main objective; for this reason, it has been awarded Relais du Silence status.
All of its rooms feature a hydro-massage bath, while reflecting different decorative styles: colonial, Victorian or Provençal.
We cannot leave the Basque Country without trying its cuisine: foods with substance and taste that lift up even the most despondent of spirits. The hotel features an interesting range of culinary options.
A weekend in Gorbea nature reserve will give you incredible scenery, physical exercise and the opportunity of discovering one of Europe’s oldest cultures.
You can’t miss it.