If you want to experience the coast of Bizkaia in a economic and scenic way, here’s the best route by car through Bizkaia’s most fascinating ports. So get the car ready and prepare to visit the most dazzling beaches, experience exquisite gastronomy, and travel along picturesque roads by the sea.
We’ll start the route in Portugalete and end in Ondarroa, which borders on the neighbouring Gipuzkoa. Without stops, the estimated route is 3.5 hours, but the key to this road trip through the ports of Bizkaia is to discover what each destination offers. We’ll spend the first night in Portugalete, just 20 minutes from Bilbao on the A-8. It is usually a cheaper option to spend the night in Portugalete than in Bilbao. Because of Portugalete’s proximity, you can still spend a full day in Bilbao, where you can visit the Guggenheim and other attractions. But if you fall in love with Bilbao, here are some recommendations for spending the night. The important thing for our road trip is that you organize yourself as best you can and then let yourself go, spending as much time as you please at each port. Let’s begin!
1ª stop: Portugalete
Choosing Portugalete as the first stop on the route by car through the ports of Bizkaia allows us to visit the Abra and Bilbao itself. Portugalete is a medieval village located at the mouth of the Nervión River. Its maximum splendour was reached in the contemporary age, when the families of Basque nobility settled there. You can still see its luxurious houses from the nineteenth century today. Portugalete is famous for its suspension bridge (Puente Colgante), a ferry bridge that was the first of its kind built worldwide. The visit to Portugalete can take half a day, so you can park the car, explore a bit, go out to dinner, sleep in Portugalete, and the next day leave for Bilbao.
2ª stop: Bilbao
Leaving Portugalete, you can reach Bilbao in 20 minutes by car on the A-8 motorway. This cosmopolitan city is known among its inhabitants as the botxo (the hole) because it is located in the valley formed by the Nervión and Ibaizábal rivers and is surrounded by mountains. Where to start? Bilbao can be divided into the left bank of the Nervión River, the most avant-garde and modern area, and the right bank where the Old Town is located. You can try some pintxos and other famous gastronomy in Bilbao, and then explore the main parts of the city in a day. And if not, you can always spend the night in Bilbao– there’s plenty to do.
3ª stop: Getxo-Guecho
Only 15.5 km from Bilbao on the BI-637 motorway is Getxo. This town is located on the right bank of the Nervión estuary, and was the home of much of Bilbao’s industrial bourgeoisie since the beginning of the twentieth century. For a century, it has been one of the areas with the highest quality of life in Spain, and it has an extraordinary summer resort. Here are our recommendations for where to eat and where to sleep in Getxo.
4ª stop: Plentzia – Plencia
After visiting Getxo, we’ll arrive in Plencia in 18 minutes on the BI-2122 (13 km). The small port of Plentzia was distinguished in the Middle Ages as one of the main ports in Bizkaia. With time, the sea blinded its estuary with sand, making its development impossible. However, Plentzia now is home to a wonderful beach that has transformed into a cosy summer resort. In its surroundings there is a wide range of active tourism activities. If you want to spend the night in Plentzia, we recommend staying at the campsite on the beach there, but here are more options.
5ª stop: Bermeo
To get to Bermeo from Plencia take the BI-631 road. It is the longest trip of those previously mentioned at 29 km, but in just under 40 minutes you will arrive at your next destination. Bermeo is a historic fishing village; its port is still among the main ports of the Cantabrian Sea. If you have time, we recommend visiting the impressive area of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe on your way to Bermeo, which is famous for being Dragonstone in the show Game of Thrones.
6ª stop: Mundaka – Mundaca
The next stop on the road trip through the ports of Bizkaia is Mundaka. It is very close to Bermeo, only 8 minutes away. Mundaka is also a fishing village located in the Urdaibai Nature Reserve, so its natural surroundings are spectacular. Moreover, since the end of the twentieth century it has become a benchmark in the world of surfing.
7ª stop: Elantxobe – Elanchove
From Mundaka, we’ll travel half an hour by car (24 km) to Elantxobe, the village that hangs from the cliffs. It is a unique town built in the shelter of Cape Ogoño and the two cliffs that guard it. The streets of the village are distributed like an amphitheatre along the hillside until you reach the small fishing port that rests at your feet. It is an urbanistic rarity and an unforgettable place for hiking and great views. Before reaching Elantxobe, we recommend taking the BI-2238 road to the Oma Forest, a special place where the trees have been colorfully painted.
8ª stop: Ea
Next, take the BI-3238 for 7 km towards Ea, one of the most unique villages in the Cantabrian Sea. The visit to Ea consists of a stroll from the parking lot of the road along any of the two streets that flank the river until you reach the tiny port and its little beach, only visible at low tide. The turn should be along the other street.
9ª stop: Lekeitio- Lequeitio
The next stop on the road trip through the ports of Bizkaia is Lekeitio, only 10 km away. Its two beautiful beaches, the island of San Nicolás (only accessible by foot at low tide), the port of Lekeitio and its historic centre can be visited in one day. Lekeitio has kept its seafaring tradition alive, as well as some popular and controversial patron saint festivals.
10ª stop: Ondarroa
Last stop! We’ll travel the last 22 kilometers along a winding road (BI-2405) for 40 minutes until we reach Ondarroa. Here, you can explore the town by foot and taste the fresh fish of the Cantabrian Sea, as it is one of the main unloading ports of the Basque Country. It also has a beautiful and traditional historic quarter. Some must-see sights include its port, the Artibai River, the bridges that cross it and its historic buildings. If you have time left after your visit in Ondarroa, a short distance away is the excellent beach of Saturrarán.
See you on the road!
Written by Paloma Díaz Espiñeira
Translated by Shannen Smith