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Best time to visit Basque Country


A small island connected to the mainland by a medieval bridge and 231 steps


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This island is full of history—Knights Templar, Francis Drake and the Huguenots of La Rochelle have been here and left their marks. No wonder it looks like a perfect illustration from a medieval novel. Gaztelugatxe is located off the coast of Biscay and belongs to Bermeo municipality in Basque Country. It is connected to the mainland by only an old medieval-era bridge. The island hosts a hermitage named Gaztelugatxeko Doniene or San Juan de Gaztelugatxe and was dedicated to John the Baptist, and dates back to the 9th-10th century.

The bridge and other structures could have been constructed by the Knights Templar. The hermitage has been burned and destroyed a few times over history but was rebuilt each time. The hermitage belongs to the parish of San Pelayo in Bakio and is available to visit. According to legend, after you climb up the old staircase, ring the bell three times and make a wish.

Gaztelugatxe comes from the Basque word gaztelu which means "castle" and gaitz which means "difficult". In 1334 it was the place where the Lord of Biscay, Juan Núñez de Lara, confronted Alfonso XI, King of Castile. In 1593 it was attacked by Francis Drake. One year later it was attacked by the Huguenots, who killed the caretaker. In the 18th century, it was attacked by English troops. In 1978 the hermitage was almost destroyed by fire.

You can visit the island all year, the best time to visit is spring through fall, namely from March to October. Winters are too cold and humid to enjoy the outdoors. Summer is better in terms of weather, as well as transportation options. Besides, the church which is usually closed is opened during the summer. Also, there's a pilgrimage arranged for St. John's Feast. This means summer on the island can be crowded.

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