The wetlands, greenways, protected areas, and five natural parks in the province of Alava are well-known among nature lovers and sports’ enthusiasts. Less so, however, are the province’s blue-flag inland beaches, which are ideal spots for sunbathing, swimming and practising water sports. Read on for more information…
Located on the edge of the Ullíbarri-Gamboa reservoir, there are three inland beaches where visitors can sunbathe, swim or simply enjoy the silence and beauty of nature at sunset. Located in Garaio and Landa Provincial Parks, the three beaches fly the coveted blue flag and offer an excellent range of facilities.
Water sports enthusiasts will enjoy swimming, canoeing, windsurfing, and paddle boarding on the lake while others may prefer to walk or cycle on the 43-kilometre trail that runs along the entire perimeter of the reservoir.
The prestigious Vitoria-Gasteiz Ironman Triathlon, which attracts thousands of spectators and participants annually and takes place on Sunday, July 14 this year, starts on these fresh-water beaches. Don’t miss this exciting event if you can!
Garaio Provincial Park
Located on the banks of the Ullíbarri-Gamboa reservoir, at the edge of the ancient town from which it takes its name, Garaio Provincial Park occupies a small 116-hectare peninsula that juts out into the reservoir near the mouth of the River Zadorra.
The parkland, which borders the reservoir and features gently rolling, lush green hills of large, open, well-tended meadows dappled with small copses, is an ideal place to discover nature and learn to respect, care for and protect it.
Blackthorn, hawthorn, maple and ash; storks, robins, jays, tits, and wagtails; and butterflies, badgers and hedgehogs are just some of the flora and fauna you can see there.
Garaio boasts two blue-flag beaches, Garaio Sur and Garaio Norte, as well as a range of useful, visit-enhancing facilities including an information office, waymarked trails, viewing points, drinking fountains, toilets, showers, and a lifeguard service during the summer season.
Swimming aids are also available for people with reduced mobility.
Popular attractions at Garaio include nature watching, walking, cycling, nature photography, guided tours, workshops, kite-flying and swimming.
Visitors can consult the activities and facilities on offer at the Ullibarri-Gamboa reservoir at the information office in Garaio Provincial Park.
Landa Provincial Park
Landa Provincial Park covers an area of 40 hectares at the north-east end of the Ullíbarri-Gamboa reservoir, in the Arlaban/Estación district of Arrazua-Ubarrundia, in Alava. Its location, easy access by car, excellent facilities and infrastructure make it an ideal choice for getting out in the great outdoors.
Landa boasts a blue-flag beach with showers, a lifeguard service in summer, and swimming aids for people with reduced mobility. There is also a recreational area with picnic tables, water fountains, a children’s play area, a small bar and toilets.
The park’s rustic landscape is a blend of large expanses of well-tended meadows (with an occasional specimen oak or ash in the middle) and small forests of pine trees providing both sunny and shaded areas along the water’s edge. Once you’ve been there, you’ll definitely be back.
Landa is also a great place to set off from on hiking or cycling adventures.
Landa Provincial Park
Mendixur Ornithology Park is located near an inlet on the Ullíbarri-Gamboa reservoir. The birds are the park’s main attraction and an excellent indicator of the health of the park’s aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems.
To ensure an optimum birdwatching experience, there are two visitors’ walking trails, two observation posts and a series of information and interpretation panels.
Ideal as an introduction to birdwatching, the park teaches visitors how to identify the different species, tell them apart and learn about their habits. Thanks to the rich wildlife on this and the other Ullíbarri-Gamboa reservoir peninsulas, the area was invited to join the Basque birdwatching project Birding Euskadi in 2010.
How to get there
You can cycle or walk to Garaio Park safely away from road traffic by taking the Basque-Navarre greenway.
If you decide to drive, the entrance to the park is on the A-3012 which can be accessed either by taking the Ozaeta exit off the A-1 Vitoria-Gasteiz–Pamplona motorway or by taking the N-104 in the direction of Ozaeta. There’s a signpost indicating the turn-off for “Parque de Garaio” just before you reach the town of Maturana.
Take the first turn on the left to get to Mendixur Ornithology Park.
Landa Park can also be reached on foot or by bicycle via the Basque-Navarre greenway (from Vitoria to the Arlaban mountain pass). It’s a fairly flat 13.4 km walk/cycle from Gamarra. If you are driving, Landa Provincial Park is 17 kilometres from Vitoria and the main entrance is on the A-627 from Vitoria to Bergara. The A-3002 from Ullíbarri-Gamboa and A-3014 from Garaio will also take you there.