The 9 Best Hikes in Bilbao
The beautiful old city of Bilbao is packed with amazing things to do, memorable sights to see, and incredible restaurants to indulge in. And one of the best ways to experience it all is on foot.
Of course, you'll have a much easier time getting around if you don't carry more than you need to. Drop off your unneeded bags at a Bounce luggage storage in Bilbao, and you'll be ready to hit the trails and explore some Basque country hiking routes. Besides your hiking boots, some water, and map, and some sunscreen, what more do you need?
The capital of a now autonomous region in Spain, Bilbao is full of proud history and surrounded by two mountain ranges, the Cantabrian Mountains and the Pyrenees Mountains, and is only ten miles from the Bay of Biscay. The city became popular after the construction of the Guggenheim Museum in 1997 and is also renowned for all its fine dining experiences available, from Michelin-starred restaurants to small cafes. It may seem daunting to try to get around Bilbao on your own, but with all the amazing natural and architectural sights, you definitely won’t regret leaving your hotel room for a bit of Bilbao hiking.
Bilbao Cathedral Loop
Intermediate 2-3 hrs
So called because of the Bilbao Donejakue Katedrala (Santiago Cathedral, or Saint James Cathedral) this route will take you through the Old Town of Bilbao and past some of the must-see monuments, such as the Guggenheim Museum, the Santiago Cathedral, and the five bridges that link the Old Town to the New Town. Drop off your shopping or extra bags at a luggage storage locker and head to one of the region's many restaurants, because this is Spain after all, and you really can’t leave without trying some of the fine eateries that are generously sprinkled throughout the city.
Puerto de Getxo
Easy 30 minutes+
If you are looking for a leisurely waterfront stroll, Puerto de Getxo is the place for you! Located 30 minutes from Bilbao on the Bay of Biscay, and accessible by train from the city, the port is full of restaurants, bars, various small shops, and a wharf with tons of boat and bridge tours available. You can go for a picturesque walk along the beach and still have time to experience the best brunch in Bilbao. Therefore it's a great place to go for a relaxing walk the whole family can enjoy while still seeing a lively area of the city.
Bidezabal to Sopelana
Easy 3-4 hrs
Also found along the coast of the Bay of Biscay, this hiking route that originates in Bidezabal almost seems like it was created exclusively for history buffs. The route will take you past historical bunkers from the Spanish Civil War, a nineteenth-century lighthouse, and a seventeenth-century fort, not to mention the magnificent cliff faces and beautiful sea. You can walk all the way to Sopelana (a trip of about three and a half to four hours), or stop at any point and head back to Bidezabal. From there just hop on the train for a short ride back to central Bilbao. It's always great to be able to find a hiking trail you can explore on public transport, and because it's so accessible to people of all fitness levels, this is an excellent way to explore some hiking in Bilbao.
Artxanda on the Ganguren Route
Intermediate 2-3 hours
Starting in a residential neighborhood, this more challenging trek will bring you gradually higher and higher into the hills, where you will be treated to an unforgettable view of metropolitan Bilbao, along with the natural charm of Basque Country. Take the trail to the Aranzelai Reservoir and you’ll find a lovely park full of trees as well as a dam and pond, and picnic tables on site, perfect for taking a break and enjoying the scenery. From there you can continue up Mount Ganguren, then turn back to the metro or push ahead to climb Mount Avril. From there, the walk back to town will be steep in some spots, but still quite enjoyable.
Intermediate 3 hrs
One of the smaller mountain peaks surrounding the city, the Pagasarri can be reached on foot right from the streets of Bilbao. With a plethora of trails overlooking the Basque countryside, and the opportunity to take a slight detour to see an old hermitage, it is certainly a climb worth taking. Being steep in some places, it will require a bit more experience, but is definitely worth the effort.
If you would like to continue your adventure from this point, you can follow this route to the Ganekogorta, a more challenging experience.
Hard 5 hrs
Continuing along the Pagasarri route will bring you to the majestic peaks of the Ganekogorta, with breathtaking views of Basque Country, you’ll be granted some of the best photo opportunities in Spain. With steeper inclines and longer trails, it requires a more experienced hiker to get all the way to the top from Bilbao, and you will want to bring extra water and sun protection.
At just short of a thousand meters or 3200 feet to the summit, this is a demanding trek better left for experienced hikers. However, the reward is spectacular views from the summit and the knowledge that you conquered one of the main peaks of Basque country.
Bilbao to Ermita de Santa Agueda
Intermediate 6 hrs
Starting in Bilbao, begin a journey to Portugalete across one of the city’s picturesque bridges. After crossing the Cadagua stream, you will enjoy a peaceful nature walk in the countryside skirting the city. Soon you will come across the hermitage of Saint Agatha, a lovely old Catholic church with an unknown date of construction, and from there you can continue all the way to Portugalete. Hiking the whole trail from Bilbao to Portugalete will take an average of six and a half hours and is one of the top free things to do in Bilbao.
Hard 30 days
If hiking from Spain to France is on your bucket list, this is the trail for you!
Originally created by medieval pilgrims during the Reconquista, this ancient mountain path will carry you over the Spanish mountain ranges all the way into France.
The recovery of this trail’s infrastructure began in 2012, and while there is sufficient signage posted, it is not as prevalent as signage on other trails may be. This trek is an adventure that will take about thirty days, not an outing to be completed in an afternoon, so make sure you are fully prepared or engage an experienced guide service to get the most out of your trip. Still, if you're someone who enjoys a true wilderness experience or you just want to challenge yourself, this multi-day trail has a little bit of everything. Spectacular scenery, quaint villages, and fascinating history await on this multinational trail. It's a truly unique way to appreciate not just the Basque country but a decent chunk of Europe itself, and an experience you won't forget anytime soon.
Nervión River Falls and Wolves path
Intermediate 2 hrs
This riverside trek will transport you to what feels like a new world. Best traveled in the spring when the falls are most spectacular, it will take you along a cliff face in the canyons of Basque country. It boasts wondrous views and is a great area for birdwatching. At just over seven hundred and twenty feet tall, Nervión River Falls is the highest waterfall in Spain, as it pours over the cliff and into the valley beneath.
If you want to take this trail, it would be best to hire a guide, as they will know the safest routes and all the best areas to explore. Plus, the sometimes slippery trail can be a challenge unless you're really steady on your feet, so it's a good idea to go someone who knows the terrain and can get you out of any trouble you may get into.
Easy Hikes in Bilbao
The easiest hiking routes you will find are within the city itself, such as the Bilbao Cathedral Loop. Built along the Bilbao Estuary as a fishing village, the city is an interesting and beautiful combination of seafaring history, and modern art and architecture. You can wander along the scenic stone streets in Old Town, or take some pictures of the many bridges that span the rivers running through the city. Plus, by staying in the city, you'll be able to treat yourself to some of the amazing food and culture available in Bilbao, so you'll be experiencing the best of both worlds. A good walk and a fascinating city to explore at the same time — what more could you want?
Intermediate Hikes in Bilbao
With various trail systems and parks, the Pyrenees Mountains are a great choice for someone who is looking for more adventurous hikes, but not an intense workout. Because they are so close to the city itself, many hikes can start right in the metropolitan area, then gradually climb higher into the mountains, granting you an unparalleled view of the city.
Nervion River Falls is also a great place for a hike that will challenge and reward you in equal measure. The sometimes difficult terrain means it's a good idea to bring a guide to make sure you see the best of this iconic location. However, if you're an accomplished hiker you could travel the route with some friends and see a side of Spain most people never get to.
Difficult Hikes in Bilbao
Many of the hiking routes that you will find start as an easier trail, but can be followed higher into the mountain peaks. This is certainly true in the case of the Pagasarri trail, which will lead you right from the streets of Bilbao to the intimidating mountain of the Ganekogorta. If you want a tough challenge, you'll find it here. This Basque country mountain should only be climbed by the most experienced and well-prepared hikers.
Make sure you are prepared for whatever length of trail you are planning on hiking, and then some. If you are planning on spending a longer period of time in the mountains, it would be wise to bring along a local guide.
Bilbao is a place with a unique and remarkable combination of seafaring history and modern designs, full of great food and culture. Whatever you are interested in, be it history, architecture, modern art, or just a relaxing stroll along the streets, Bilbao has a hike for you.
With mountain ranges within a short walk from the city itself, it is perfect for both visitors hoping to browse local shops, as well as adventure seekers looking for a more challenging experience. And while some of the trails are safest if traveled with a guide, hiking is one of the most economical and popular pastimes for your next adventure.
So drop off your bags at a Bounce luggage storage in Bilbao and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime. Seeing the Basque country on your own two feet is an opportunity you shouldn't miss, and you'll come away with memories of an intriguing part of Spain that will last you a lifetime.