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University of the Basque Country
Sarriena z/g 48940 Leioa (Bizkaia)
The Basque Country
Aizkorri-Aratz Natural Park and Sanctuary of Arantzazu

The Aizkorri-Aratz mountain range is a prominent massif (max 1551m) that demarcates the boundary between the Atlantic and Mediterranean basins. It is one of the main Basque mountaineering references, with multiple hiking and climbing routes. The area, which covers a surface of 19,400 ha, was declared Natural Park in 2006.  Multiple habitats characteristic of Karstic landscapes can be found in this limestone mountain range, such as bare rock mountain peaks, high altitude grasslands, extensive beech forests and long and deep underground galleries. Many caves, such as Arrikrutz and Aizkirri, contain prehistoric paleontological remains of cave bears and lions. The Aizkorri-Aratz Natural Park is also an important part of the Basque cultural heritage. Human activity has shaped its landscape since the Neolithic: historical shepherding modified large grazing areas (Urbia), and the use of resources such as wood and charcoal influenced the development of some of the forests. Megalithic monuments, dolmens, tumuli and monoliths are witnesses of those thousand-year-old activities. 

Conference attendees will have to choose between the four excursion options*, which have different schedules (some buses leave at 7:30 while others at 8:30) due to the different length of the proposed routes**. All itineraries will begin at the magnificent Sanctuary of Arantzazu (Oñati), located in the gully with the same name. After having been rebuilt three times along its history, the sanctuary was finally demolished and built again in 1951, with the participation of several renowned Basque artists, such as Eduardo Chillida or Jorge Oteiza.

After the morning trips, all groups will meet at Arantzazu Sanctuary at 13:00 (those climbing the Aizkorri Peak will probably arrive later), where lunch will be served. During and after the lunch we will enjoy rural sports and traditional Basque music exhibitions.

* Each one should bring water and snacks for the routes.

** Appropriate clothing is required (coat or raincoat, cap, comfortable footwear) above all for the hiking trips to Urbia and Aizkorri, as weather could be changeable.

Gomiztegi shepherding school

Bus leaves at 8:30
This 2 km adapted route starts at Arantzazu Park House and ends at Gomiztegi farmhouse. In this easy and guided itinerary we will learn about the Aizkorri-Aratz Natural Park and we will see some isolated beech pollards along the way. In the visit to Gomiztegi, we will hear about the origin and functioning of the farmhouse, and also understand the central role of shepherding in Basque culture. We will take a closer look to this millenary job in a tasty way, as the visit will end with a cheese degustation.

Beech pollards of Iturrigorri

Bus leaves at 8:30
This circular route starts and ends in Arantzazu Sanctuary and will bring us to Iturrigorri forest. Iturrigorri is a magnificent beech woodland located in the heart of the Aizkorri-Aratz Natural Park. An European Union LIFE project, aimed at preserving pollard beeches and making public their importance for biodiversity, is being developed in this woodland. The route, with beautiful views at many points, runs between small streams, natural fountains, shepherd shelters… Along the route we will also have the opportunity to see old football fields used years ago by the young monks from Arantzazu.

Grasslands of Urbia

Bus leaves at 7:30
The route starts on the Sanctuary of Arantzazu (750m). A path goes through a temperate broadleaf mixed forest, which turns into a thick beech forest as we gain altitude. After almost 5 km of steep slopes through the forests we reach the mountain grasslands of Urbia (1,189m). Below the impressive Aizkorri mountain range, this open landscape hosts several shepherd shelters, where traditional mountain cheese is made during the summer term. Additionally, we will be able to buy a snack or a drink in the “Urbiako Fonda” tavern and recover strength. We will follow an alternative route back to Arantzazu, crossing the endless grasslands of Urbia and completing a circular route. From “Urbiako Fonda” the path keeps gaining altitude through mild slopes for other 2.5 km (max altitude 1,323m) and, lastly, we will go down into steep slopes to get to the Sanctuary of Arantzazu (750m) after other 4 km.
Further info

Aizkorri Peak

Bus leaves at 7:30
The path between Arantzazu and Urbia is shared with the third itinerary. After reaching Urbia (1,189m) we will continue across the grasslands, to get at the foot of Aizkorri mountain (1,200m), where a steep slope climbs through a rocky landscape. From the summit of Aizkorri peak (1,528m) we will be able to enjoy beautiful views: the sea in the North, the Pyrenees in the East and Urbasa mountain range in the South. We will return following the ascent route.