Things to Do in Vera de Bidasoa-Bera

On the Banks of the Border River

On the banks of the Bidasoa River, on the border with Guipúzcoa, you’ll find Vera de Bidasoa-Bera, a picturesque village that has an interesting urban center with buildings that carry great heritage value.

Planning Your Trip to Bera

The things that you have to see in Vera de Bidasoa are the exteriors: the facades of the buildings in the urban center. Thus, walking through the town and exploring can take a couple of hours. In the nearby Igantzi, there is a business for active tourism that organizes activities in the valley. Your excursion can continue to the north to visit the Guizpucao villages of Irún and Hondarribía to admire the sea. If you prefer the mountains, you can go to the Parque de las Peñas de Aya. You can visit the Parque del Señorío de Bertiz to the south and continue on the N-121b highway to get to the town of Elizondo. This is a beautiful village where you can find some great food. In the evening, you can continue on this road to the north and visit Zugarramurdi and its caves. To learn more about the food and accommodations in the valley of Bidasoa, check out our pages about eating and staying in Vera de Bidasoa.

Want to Get to Know this Place?

There is no clear record of the origin of the town’s name. Throughout the history of Vera de Bidasoa, the Castilian and Basque languages have been used intermittently, which have led to different theories for each language. It could be due to the fact that the town is on the banks of the Bidasoa River, but if “Bera” derives from the Basque word “behera,” meaning “the lower part,” the name could be in reference to the fact that the town is located in a lower-altitude area of Navarra. Regardless of the name’s origin, the town now bears a nickname “de Bidasoa,” which became popular in 1916 to avoid confusion in distinguishing this town from others in Spain.

Vera de Bidasoa is a border town. Throughout its history, it has served as a defense for the kingdom of Navarra against the French and the Guipuzcanos (segregated by their king and added into Castilla in 1200). In 1402, Carlos III the Noble recognized the towns sacrifices by granting it privileges. The fact that it is a frontier town has also encouraged Vera de Bidasoa to be favored throughout its existence by one of the most flourishing economic activities in history: smuggling.

The patron of the Iglesia de Vera was the lord of Alzate y Urtubie, who in 1606 named Lorenzo de Hualde as the pastor. This was one of the main collaborators of the inquisitors when generating the paranoia about witches that unleashed the Proceso de Logroño, in which many of the townspeople and their neighbors were accused of witchcraft.

In the summer of 1794, Vera de Bidasoa was occupied by the French troops of La Convención, who plundered everything. It also suffered destruction during the Guerra de la Independencia and the Carlist wars. In 1872, the Pretender Don Carlos de Borbón entered Spain through Vera de Bidasoa to start the last of the Carlist wars.

foto antigua Panorámica de Vera de Bidasoa
Panorámica de Vera de Bidasoa (Postal Ed. A. Olleta)

At the beginning of the 20th century, Pío Baroja bought a farmhouse in the town, and from then on, the history of the town has been linked to the lineage of the writer. Other famous figures of the Baroja line have walked its streets, including Carmen Baroja, an anthropologist, writer, and mother to another anthropologist and historian Julio Caro Baroja. Another link to letters that the town has is to Ignacio Larramendi, a writer and academic in the Royal Academy of the Basque Language, Euskaltzaindia.

The urban center of Bera extends along the left side of the Bidasoa River until the Cantabrian Sea. It is a beautiful historic area that has many stately mansions which follow the traditional architectural guidelines of the area. It is common in the area to see facades with timber beams, balconies decorated with multitudes of pots, porticoed bottom floors, and large gabled roofs. Among all the houses, the most interesting is the Caserío Itzea, which was built in the 17th century and bought in 1912 by the writer Pío Baroja. The house was occupied by him and his family for generations. Take special notice of its spectacular wooden eaves.

The Casa Lazarobaitia, built in the Renaissance style, once held the Pretender Don Carlos in 1872, just before the last Carlist war began. Another interesting building you can see in Vera de Bidasoa is the Casa Arostegia, erected in 1796. Joseph Bonaparte stayed there on his flight to France from Vitoria. Shortly after, Duke Wellington stayed there too. On the upper part of its façade, you can see the Legia family coat of arms.

The Casa Zelaia is a harmonious, traditional structure. It has a lattice of wooden beams in its upper floors and large wooden balconies. The Hornacina del Cristo de Contrabando rests on its grounds. It is a figure that, as its name implies, comes from the fruits smuggling. The foreign origin of the image is evident in the fact that it is bound by four nails, one in each extremity, instead of the three that is traditionally Spanish.

Casa Itzea, perteneciente a la familia Baroja, en Vera de Bidasoa
Casa Itzea, perteneciente a la familia Baroja

Of all these houses, the civil element of Vera de Bidasoa is most obvious in its Ayuntamiento, which was built in 1776. In 1983, in the midst of the restoration of its façade, remains of ancient murals representing the four cardinal virtues were discovered. The picturesque group was studied and completed by Julio Caro Baroja, and it was later restored by the local painter Juantxo Larramendi.

The Iglesia de San Esteban was constructed in the 16th century in an old tower house that was converted for ecclesiastical use. Despite subsequent remodeling, you can still see its characteristics of fortress housing. It houses what is considered to be the best Romanesque organ in all of Navarra as well as an excellent wooden ashlar.

Practical Information

Coordinates

43° 16′ 42″ N, 1° 40′ 57″ W

Distances

65 km from Pamplona

34 km from San Sebastián – Donostia

484 km from Madrid

Parking

You can find parking on the Paseo de Julio Caro Baroja and around the bus station.

Altitude

56 m

Population

3,829 (as of 2013)

Corpus Christi

San Esteban (August 2nd-6th)

Carnaval ( Pastors and nurses, Sunday Comparsa,
the queuing and parade of floats on Carnaval Monday, and finally, collection and presentation of the Iñude
Esta Artzaiak by the children on Fat Thursday)

Feria de Artesanía

Lurraren Eguna

Día de la Tierra (Fourth Sunday of October)

Nearby Destinations

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