The first reference to Orduña dates back to the 8th century, but it was not founded as an actual town until 1229, when Lope Díaz de Haro, Lord of Biscay, granted it under the jurisdiction of Vitoria. In 1284, the Castilian Prince Sancho “El Bravo” confirmed this status. In 1288, King Sancho IV of Navarra seized the Castle of Orduña, which was retained as a nominally dependent villa of the Burgos rulers. When King Enrique and his wife passed it on to his son, Prince Don Juan, the estates of Biscay (1370) and Orduña (1373), were both united as royal domain.
Orduña was of interest because it is located in a fertile valley that contains the shortest path between the plateau and the ports of Bermeo and Portugalete. It was accessible through a road (only suitable for cavalry, not for cars) that went around the steep Peña de Orduña, a mountain port with 900 meters of altitude with a drop of 9% in many areas, down to the 298 meters of the valley plain. This road was dangerous when the terrain was dry and impracticable the rest of the time. In spite of everything, it was used to transport Castilian wool that was exported to the north of Europe and to the South, where bars of iron and Basque weapons were transported alongside travelers and luxury products from Europe.
During the time of Juan II of Castile, the commercial activity and customs increased until 1467. It received the title of “city” from King Enrique IV, thus being the first and only Vizcaya villa to have this title. It was given by Enrique IV to the Ayala family, who retained it until the Catholic monarchs recovered it by force. The residents of the city would come to buy the castle and make sure that they did not fall back under the power of feudal lords.
In 1535, a large fire devastated the city, reducing the majority of its heritage to rubble and ashes. Still, Orduña was able to back restore its previous position.
In the mid-sixteenth century, the authorities of the estates of Biscay, together with those of Orduña and Bilbao, pushed for the opening of a royal road (suitable for wagons) to the port of Orduña. The authorities of Navarra and Guipúzcoa attempted to disrupt this project that jeopardized their trade routes. Meanwhile, the Alaves destroyed the advances at night that were made by the workers during the day. Finally, the emperor Carlos V suspended the project on May 17, 1553.
In March 1686, the Bizkaia authorities got the authorization to widen the road by the port of Orduña, facilitating the traffic of goods. In 1774, its commercial relevance intensified to the point that, between the reigns of Charles III and Charles IV, an important commercial customs port was built there. It began to be operative starting in 1792.