Bilbao is near the sea, surrounded by green mountains and a few kilometres away from beaches and nature reserves. The Transporter Bridge of Bizkaia, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, joins the two banks of the river Nervión, and the beautiful coastline means that there are many outdoor leisure activities available around Bilbao.
Artxanda and The Bilbao Green Belt
In recent years the Bilbao’s green areas grew significantly, increasing from the 6 square metres per person that existed in 1999 to the 24 square metres which the city will provide when the most recent projects are completed.
The municipal supply of leisure and recreation in green areas includes both urban parks, which are located in the city centre, and forest areas, which are part of the so-called Bilbao Green Belt. Its goal is to group together the municipal forest parks of both hillsides around Bilbao with the urban parks.
One of Bilbao’s most emblematic spots is Mount Artxanda. Walking up it offers the possibility of discovering the city from another angle. However, there are more comfortable and quicker means of ascending, such as the funicular or the bus. You get the best impression of the city and its Ría from its mountains.
The coast and fishing villages
On the Basque coast, the powerful Bay of Biscay merges spectacularly with the mountains. You will find very picturesque towns, ports with a great fishing tradition, a legendary wave in the surfing world, beaches of fine sand, estuaries, dunes, islets…In addition, along the way, you will not lack opportunities to savour fine fresh fish, washed down with the best txakoli, the famous local white wine.
The beaches closest to Bilbao are very popular with local residents and holidaymakers alike in the summer season. They are easily reached by public transport, thanks to the nearby Metro Bilbao underground stations, in Getxo (15 min), Sopela (20 min) and Plentzia (30 min).
The Basque coast has many spots where to go big wave surfing. The Bay of Biscay boasts waves of up to 10 metres that are ideal for tow-in sessions. One of the best ways of enjoying the sea in its glory, to feel its strength and swell, is to go surfing.
Gaztelugatxe was declared a protected biotope in 1998 and a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) in 2013 to safeguard its land and marine plants and animals. You can visit Gaztelugatxe by making a reservation on the online ticket booking platform. Get to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe from Bilbao by public transport. The Bizkaibus bus network offers different schedules throughout the year as well as special services at Easter and in July and August.
The Urdaibai Biosphere
It was declared by UNESCO in 1984, extends over an area of 23,000 hectares. The 12 kilometres of sandy areas which form the mouth of the Mundaka estuary are the most important wetland area in the Basque Country, and it becomes a resting and wintering site for many species of migratory birds which are rare in the Iberian Peninsula, such as the grey heron, the cormorant, the common tern, the Eurasian spoonbill and a large number of wading birds, along with fish, amphibians and reptiles.
This landscape and its ecological diversity is completed with prehistoric sites such as the Santimamiñe cave and the necropolis at the Roman settlement in Forua.
Bilbao and the surrounding areas are a paradise for lovers of the great outdoors. Hiking, climbing, greenways, canoes, kayaks, sailing, boat trips, driving or para-gliding are just some of the activities that you can do in the natural parks, cliffs, beaches and mountains. What it offers is sport and adventure in an unrivalled natural setting.
Vitoria-Gasteiz, Donostia San Sebastian and other cities
Donostia-San Sebastian is just one hour from Bilbao and Vitoria-Gasteiz half an hour. Donostia is a beautiful coast city, European Capital of Culture for 2016. Vitoria-Gasteiz has an historical beautiful urban ensemble that will surprise you. It was named European Green Capital in 2012. Both of them can be reached by car, by bus or, if you have time, by train.