Basque Fact of the Week: Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve

Euskal Herria is known for its lush beaches that almost immediately lead to towering mountains that once were thought to be home of the goddess Mari. However, even in this wonderful landscape, there are special regions that stand out and the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve is one of those. Centered around the Oka river and covering about 85 square miles, or 10% of Bizkaia, it boasts wetlands that contain over 200 species of birds.

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  • Created in 1993, the Reserve includes the towns of Gernika and Bermeo. It also includes famous sites such as the Oma Forest, where artist Augustin Ibarrola painted a series of trees, and the Santimamiñe Caves, an important archeological site with cave paintings dating back 13,000 years (incidentally, the caves were accidentally discovered by a pair of kids). The Reserve extends from the island of Izaro south to Mount Oiz.
  • The Urdaibai Bird Center sits in the heart of the Reserve. The Basque Country is a focus point of bird migrations between northern Europe and northern Africa. As a result, a large number of birds not seen in many other parts of Europe pass through Urdaibai. These include the grey heron, the cormorant, the common tern, and the Eurasian spoonbill.
  • The Reserve is also home to some of the Basque Country’s most spectacular beaches. These include Laga and Laida, both belonging to the town Ibarrangelu. And, of course, there is Mundaka, world-famous for its surfing.
  • The Reserve was created with several objectives. These include
    • Ensure the preservation of the unique ecosystems of the coastline.
    • Maintain biological diversity.
    • Protect valuable landscape resources.
    • Promote environmental research and education of naturalistic and environmental heritage.
    • Encourage recreational use and tourism in an orderly manner.
    • Support rural development, improving the quality of life of the local population and the rational use of natural resources.
    • Maintain hydro-geological cycles and fight erosion.

2 thoughts on “Basque Fact of the Week: Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve”

  1. Spent a few days, staying in Mundaka, then traveling by EuzkoBus, to Ea, Elantxove, Bermeo, Gernika, the greenest of any place in the world, stories from the travelers, old sea merchant men a place where one is at home.

    1. Sounds like a wonderful visit. Bermeo and Gernika are common stops for us as my dad’s family worked there. Our last trip, we also went to Elantxobe. All simply wonderful.

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