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Bilbao-Bermeo

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Bilbao

Everything hinges on the “Guggenheim Bilbao” effect...the energy that has given the city its global outlook, making it the driving force behind its regeneration. Frank Gehry’s design leaves no-one indifferent. Nearby, the Bilbao Museum of Fine Arts displays its relevance with a collection of over ten thousand items. An avant-garde setting like no other. A space dedicated to the “cult of art” that concentrates the greatest names in global architecture.

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Gernika

A symbol of Basque self-government, Gernika is a must on any tour of Urdaibai. The Casa de Juntas (Government House) and the emblematic tree under which the charters of Bizkaia were sworn are the main attractions, but there are many more. The nearby Paz (Peace) Museum and the wonderful Peoples of Europe Park, with valuable sculptures and wooded areas, are also worth a visit. However, the event that attracts most visitors is not a monument but the busy Monday market, that fills the streets of the town with life and bustle.

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Urdaibai

After leaving Gernika, the train ventures into the most beautiful landscapes of the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve. It is now time to relax and enjoy the views through the window. The tidal river is at its best as we discover a true natural paradise. Sandy flats that appear and disappear to the rhythm of the tides, marshes that are home to a vast biodiversity, and evergreen meadows next to hundred-year-old hamlets serve as the backdrop to a trip that will always feel too short.

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San Kristobal

Opposite San Kristobal and its platform, you will find the most interesting marshes of the estuary. A winding path leads to them, where visitors can enjoy a world half-way between the land and sea. A wooden observatory provides a chance to watch birds as they peck in the silt and dive into the water in search of food. Although the greatest number of birds gather during the autumnal migration, any time of the year is good to enjoy this impressive natural setting.

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In the shade of Txakoli

Long lines of pillars next to the paths remind us of the past importance of txakoli in Urdaibai. This structure allowed the vines, planted on both sides, to grow over the paths, creating an arbour. This generated the ideal conditions for growing vines and provided shade for the people using the roads. An easy two-hour hike will lead to an ancient arboured path that will take us to the Madariaga Tower, which has been transformed into the Basque Biodiversity Centre.

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Itsasbegi

Txatxarramendi Island seems to float in the tidal river next to the Itsasbegi unmanned platform. Its stunning forests eventually became a botanical park. The main feature found here is the Cantabrian oak forest, one of the last examples of the type of forest that covered the entire district thousands of years ago. You can reach Txatxarramendi on foot over the sand flats at low tide; however, there is also another option, less romantic but more practical, which consists in crossing the bridge that connects it to the mainland.

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Laida

As we approach the mouth of the estuary, the horizon opens up before us. The sandbanks appear as beautiful abstract paintings as the train rolls by. The tides and currents play with the landscape, modelling it into the beautiful dunes found on Laida Beach. At high tide, the sandbanks disappear almost completely. Then, the fishermen take to the sea in their small boats. When the tide goes out, it is the turn of the beach-goers and sunbathers.

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Mundaka

At the mouth of the Urdaibai estuary, we can find the seafaring charm of this ancient fishing town. The chapel of Santa Catalina, perched on a small promontory at the mercy of the ferocious onslaught of the sea, watches over the surfers, who come here to ride the best left-breaking wave in Europe. Together with them, the fishermen in their small boats provide a bit of colour to the small entrance to the port; the ideal location for the Old Quarters with its intricate lanes.

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Izaro

Between Mundaka and Bermeo, the train leaves the estuary behind and passes through cliffs that overlook the Bay of Biscay. Stranded opposite the mouth of the river, as if it were a large rock washed up by the force of the waves, we will find Izaro Island. Today, it is an uninhabited islet at the mercy of the wind that used to be home to a Franciscan convent until it was razed to the ground in the 16th century by Sir Francis Drake, a fearsome English privateer that gave Izaro its legendary fame.

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Bermeo

Bermeo tastes of the sea, of fresh fish and salt. The entrance to the port, surrounded by picturesque fishermen's houses, witnesses the constant comings and goings of seamen. This is the anchorage of the largest inshore fishing fleet in the Bay of Biscay, an endless collection of boats of various colours. Such is the importance of fishing in the town that the most representative building in the Old Quarters is the Fishing Museum. It is housed in Ercilla Tower, a sturdy Gothic building that competes in beauty with the cloister in the nearby convent of San Francisco.

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Bilbao-Donostia

mapaDonostia Meadows of the River Oria Orio Zarautz Zumaia The Tidal Flats Deba Deba Tidal River Mendaro Durango Bilbao

Bilbao

Everything hinges on the “Guggenheim Bilbao” effect...the energy that has given the city its global outlook, making it the driving force behind its regeneration. Frank Gehry’s design leaves no-one indifferent. Nearby, the Bilbao Museum of Fine Arts displays its relevance with a collection of over ten thousand items. An avant-garde setting like no other. A space dedicated to the “cult of art” that concentrates the greatest names in global architecture.

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Durango

The town of Durango is part of the Urkiola Nature Park, the home of the Urkiola Sanctuary. The town centre is noted for its rich and varied monumental heritage, particularly its Old Quarters in a beautiful medieval style. Don’t miss Santa Ana Gate, the Church of Santa María de Uríbarri, and the magnificent Kurutziaga Cross, from the late 15th century, which represents the tree of life. You will find it at the Veracruz chapel, transformed into the Kurutzesantu Museum.

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Mendaro

Lumbering barges loaded with cocoa from overseas made their way up the Deba River towards Mendaro almost two centuries ago. Today, this ingredient arrives by road, but the famous local chocolate is still prepared in the traditional manner. It is perhaps the most popular but not the only charming feature of the town. Several tower houses, chapels, and the serene beauty of Kilimon Valley invite travellers to stop and enjoy this town where the train leaves the coast behind and heads inland.

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Deba Tidal River

In the past, it was the cocoa-laden barges that sailed up the Deba on the incoming tide; today, it is the fishing boats. The banks are full of improvised moorings for the boats that seek refuge as the night creeps upon the river. Also in search of places to spend the night, but attracted by the abundance of food, hundreds of birds occupy the marshes along the river banks. Once again, the train is a unique witness to this explosion of life.

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Deba

An ancient anchorage for galleons, Deba has streets with a feel of the sea and the outstanding Gothic church of Santa Maria. Its portico and cloister attract many tourists, although it was the beach that made Deba one of the most popular coastal towns in Gipuzkoa. The reason for this success is the coastal railway line, which has brought visitors from all over the peninsula since the line opened in the early 20th century.

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The Tidal Flats

Between Zumaia and Deba, the train travels through a virgin landscape where the hills merge with an untamed coastline. This is an area of flysch, the most imposing tidal inclines on the Basque coastline. The stunning cliffs resemble layers of rock that crumble away uncovering the history book of the Earth. There are no roads here, only paths used by hikers to reach the most beautiful parts of this district.

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Zumaia

Located in a privileged enclave of the estuary of the Urola River, Zumaia hides beautiful surprises. The Gothic church of San Pedro stands out among the labyrinthine lanes of the Old Quarters. Further uphill, the San Telmo Chapel balances dangerously on a cliff overlooking Itzurun Beach. The fantastic Zuloaga Museum can also be found on the shores of the Bay of Biscay, with its magnificent collection of paintings that include works by Goya and El Greco.

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Zarautz

The long Malecón promenade that extends as far as Getaria, hanging on a cliff, is a popular item with visitors and locals alike. Zarautz Beach, admired by surfers, extends at its feet. Further inland is the old section of the town near the Euskotren railway station. Tower houses, mansions, and busy squares are testimony to a rich past and to a lively and welcoming town today.

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Orio

The port, located on the opposite bank to the Euskotren station, is the centre of this fishing village. Fishing nets, stacked boxes, and boats of all sizes and colours are the typical sights on this part of the tidal river. As you make your way up the hillside, the narrow lanes dotted with restaurants lead to the heart of the Old Quarters. This is the site of the medieval church of San Nicolas, built on a rock, and of several mansions with coats of arms.

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Meadows of the River Oria

Between Usurbil and Orio, the train travels through a landscape that changes with the tide. The River Oria, the backbone of Gipuzkoa, flows more slowly in this district and forms a tidal river. These are generous waters where people fish for elver, and where the banks provide pleasant walks. But there is no better way to enjoy this area than from the window of a train that overlooks the estuary from its privileged route. The rhythmic rattle combines with the landscape noted for its natural beauty and the presence of busy fishermen in their small flat-bottomed boats.

Donostia

San Sebastian has been hailed as a tourist destination for more than one hundred years when the royalty and nobility chose it as their holiday destination. The popular La Concha Beach, of fine sand and calm waters, is the core element of the city. Mounts Igeldo and Urgull enclose a beautiful bay in which the evergreen island of Santa Clara seems to float.

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