While Gorliz is one of the most popular beaches for sunbathing and swimming near Bilbao, the town has lots more to offer. The town has spectacular cliffs, a pretty lighthouse, a pine forest that rolls down to the beach, a charming town centre and a long list of events and activities throughout the year. And it’s only a stone’s throw from Bilbao. A whole new world just 25 kilometres away.
With green meadows surrounding the bay, Gorliz shares the Butrón estuary with the seaside town of Plentzia. The geographical location and configuration of the area is responsible for its mild, year-round microclimate. Nowadays, while the town’s economy relies mostly on tourism, the small, surviving livestock and arable farms lend it a certain charm. In years gone by, the town had a large fishing fleet and an important shipbuilding yard where vessels for transporting iron ore were built.
Gorliz beach is one of the most beautiful and safest beaches on the Basque coast. Protected by the shell-shaped bay of Gorliz, it is a great place for relaxing or doing some bodyboarding, diving or swimming, or for exploring the dunes and surrounding scenery.
There’s direct access from the beach to the pine forest. The forest in Gorliz is the second largest recreational area in Bizkaia and is ideal for walking, enjoying a picnic or organizing a cook-up at the designated barbecuing areas.
Nearby, in Astondo, visitors can visit the petrified dunes and observe the fascinating geological phenomenon. Declared a Special Area of Conservation by the EU and a Site of Geological Interest by Bizkaia Provincial Council in 1990, they are the only dunes of this kind on the Basque Coast. Petrified dunes are formed by wind-blown sand hardening and drying. The hardening occurs when the moisture in the sand evaporates and the dry sand compacts and creates different layers. This is how sandstone is formed. The wind can sometimes cause these layers to develop horizontally resulting in highly unusual rock formations.
Located between the petrified dunes of Astondo and the lighthouse is the Regional Government Farm (Granja Foral) where visitors can see pottokas, a native Basque breed of horse. Next to it is the Wildlife Rescue Centre which rehabilitates injured animals and returns them to their native habitats.
The tallest lighthouse
On the far side stands the tall, white tower of Gorliz lighthouse which casts its beam from Cabo Billao. Built on the cliffs in 1990, it stands at a height of 165 metres above sea level. The 21-metre tower crowned with a glass lantern is the tallest lighthouse on the Cantabrian coast. There are splendid views of the coast from the cliffs.
Located in Azkorriaga, at the top of Uztrikotze, the Castillo Roto fort was built in the 18th century to defend the coast against attacks from the English in the Bay of Biscay. An old Second World War coastal defensive battery can be seen on the footpath to the lighthouse.
One of the most interesting features in the town of Gorliz is the 10th-century church which was completely remodelled in the 18th century and now stands in the town centre. Next door is the archaeological site where the first documented example of an 8th to 10th-century High Medieval settlement in Bizkaia once stood.
Activities all year round
Activities and events take place in Gorliz throughout the year. The Bizkaia Canicross Championship takes place in February; in March, there is a magnificent bean stew competition; the annual Flower and Plant Fair takes place on Easter Sunday; the San Pedro Festival is celebrated on June 29; the Santiago Festival, Agricultural and Crafts Fair, and Habaneras music festival is held around July 25; the Andra Mari Festival, paella competition and Basque rural sports exhibition takes place around August 5, the Urezarantza Fao festival is on over the third weekend of August; the Cross Popular cross-country run takes place in September; the European Heritage Seminar and the Uribe food festival take place in October while the Mushroom Festival is held in November. Guided tours of the town and food and wine-related activities (tours and tastings) are available throughout the year.
The beach is a good excuse to visit Gorliz. The rest is a bonus. Don’t miss it.
Getting to and from Bilbao and surrounds
Gorliz is connected by road to all the main towns nearby: Getxo, Bakio, Mungia and it is only 20 minutes from the airport. There is a bus to and from Gorliz every twenty minutes that connects with the trains on the Bilbao Metro Line 1 station.