Tourism of Mundaka


This is one of the natural jewels of Biscay and unique in the Basque Country. It is situated entirely in the district of Busturialdea and includes a series of habitats with great ecological wealth, of an esteemed and irreplaceable value.

The river Oka rises on the slopes of mount Oiz (the central core of Busturialdea) and from Gernika it becomes a ria (from the influences of the tides) where marshes can be observed, covering a distance of 12 km to its mouth in Mundaka where a wide estuary is formed, outlining extensive sandy spots. Therefore, we can distinguish three different sections:

  • The birth of the river Oka on the slopes of mount Oiz.
  • In Gernika becomes a ria and forms marshes.
  • It flows out in Mundaka forming a wide estuary with an area of beaches.

The total area of Urdaibai is 220 square kilometres, which is almost 10% of the total surface area of Biscay and it is formed by 22 municipalities, amongst Morga and Zornotza only share a small part of their land with the reserve. In all, the reserve has 42.500 inhabitants, more than half live in Bermeo and Gernika-Lumo, the most important towns in Urdaibai.

For its extension and conservation, Urdaibai is not only the most important wetland in the Basque Country, it has also an international interest as it represents an important resting and wintering place for migratory birds from Northern Europe. The Unesco declared it to be a Biosphere Reserve in December 1984 and five years later, in July 1989 the Basque Parliament approved the protection and Regulation act for the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve.

The reserve is include in the Ramsar convention (1992) which brings together the most significant wetlands of the planet.

Birds flee from the cold of Northern Europe, take refuge here before continuing their journey in search of warmer climates. Thus, species which are rare even to the Iberian peninsula can be observed here, such as geese or eiders. It is also possible to see grey herons, cormorants, terns, spoonbills, seagulls and a great number of limicolae (curlews, sandpipers, godwits, green/redshanks..).

The nearby island Izaro and the cliffs of Ogoño shelter a large number of seagulls and other less common species such as cormorants and peregrine falcons.

Another special feature of the district is the diversity and wealth of its landscapes. Two different types of landscapes can be distinguished: inland landscape with abrupt mountains and steeps slopes; and the costal landscape full of cliffs. The low mountains (the highest one Sollube measuring 663 m. followed by Goroño measuring 607 m.) surround both banks of the ria.

The Cantabrian Holm-oak woods receive special protection. These woods give refuge to typical fauna of these habitats: martens, foxes, hedgehogs, thrushes and blackbirds. The countryside is in harmony with its surrounding and stands out for its naturalistic value, as the diversity of habitants that it offers provides bird fauna above all with a large variety and availability of resources and places of refuge. “Unfortunately” the pinus insignis and the eucalyptus have come to occupy 65 % of the reserve surface area.

In short we can say that the three most important values to be protected in Urdaibai are:

  • The wetlands linked to the ria.
  • The Cantabrian Holm-oak woods.
  • The coastline.

This area’s charm is completed by beaches such as Laga, Laida, Laidatxu, San Antonio, Txatxarramendi island and the beautiful towns of Mundaka, Bermeo, Elantxobe and Gernika. The district has a broad architectural and public work heritage: country chapels, tower houses, town halls, etc.. and traditional feasts.

It is also worth emphasising the arqueological interest of the reserve, where there are both open-air sites (Roman site in Forua) and caves (Santimamiñe in kortezubi). Not far from the caves of Santimamiñe, there is Oma valley, where “Enchanted forest” of Agustin Ibarrola is situated, a wood paintings in the trunks of pine trees.

From an ethnographical point of view, the culture linked to country houses and consequently to the primary sector deserves special attention. It is important the role that has been played in preserving the wealth and diversity of the Basque language, which in districts like Urdaibai still have an important presence.

The different sport activities which are carried out there; surfing at Mundaka sandbank and Laga beach, canoeing, trekking…

Municipalities which form the district of Urdaibai: Ajangiz, Arratzu, Arrieta, Bermeo, Busturia, Elantxobe, Ereño, Errigoiti, Forua, Gautegiz-Arteaga, Gernika-Lumo, Ibarrangelua, Kortezubi, Mendata, Morga, Mundaka, Munitibar, Murueta, Muxika, Nabarniz, Sukarrieta, Zornotza.