Basque Fact of the Week: Mount Oiz, the Balcony of Bizkaia

The day after celebrating Madalenas, we went to Munitibar, the home town of my dad, where we met up with my friend and distant cousin Jon Zuazo. He and his cuadrilla made lunch for us at the txoko in Gerrikaitz and it was fabulous! Fried peppers, tomato salad, merluza, and home made cheesecake! After, we found my aunts Rosario and Begoña, and Begoña’s husband Javier in the plaza, where we ate and drank even more. But, before all of that, Jon took us to the peak of Mount Oiz, the dominating mountain visible from town. The view from the top was simply spectacular! We took a different road back down and passed by my dad’s childhood baserri, Goikoetxebarri.

My daughter, me, and my wife Lisa on top of Mount Oiz. Photo by one of our friends.
  • The mountain, the peak of which is part of the municipality of Munitibar, rises to a height of 1026 meters (or 3366 feet). Its sides are covered in oak and beech trees, but near the summit, the landscape opens to large pastures where sheep, horses, and cows graze.
  • In past times, Oiz, known as the “balcony of Bizkaia,” was one of the deiadar mountains. Bonfires were lit on its peak and horns blown to signal the gathering of the General Assembly in Gernika.
  • Multiple dolmens have been discovered on the mountain. Barandiaran discovered three: Iturzurigaña near the Iturzuri spring to the SE of the Oiz peak; Probazelaiburu located 200 meters to the NE of Iturzurigaña, and Estrakinburu on the hill of the same name. In 1976 Sarachaga found another two new dolmens. These dolmens attest to the ancient human populations that settled on the mountains of the Basque Country.
  • The hermitage of San Cristóbal lies next to the Arreseburu spring on the mountain. Ecclesiastically, it belongs to the parish of Our Lady of Gerrikaitz – one of the two villages that now form Munitibar. San Cristóbal celebrates its fiesta the Sunday following July 10, the day of San Cristóbal.
  • In ancient times, it was believed that Oiz was one of the homes of Mari. Every seven years, she would move between Oiz and Anboto and whichever she called home tended to have better weather and healthier crops.
  • Today, Oiz is home to the largest, and first, wind park in Bizkaia. 40 turbines, built between 2003 and 2007, sprout from the mountain near its summit. The combined power generating capacity of the wind park, owned by the company Eólicas Euskadi, is 34 MW, able to power some 85,000 homes each year.
  • On February 19, 1985, Oiz was the scene of a terrible accident. A plane flying from Madrid to Bilbao crashed into an antenna on top of the peak. 148 people died.

Lasalle, Xabier. OIZ. Auñamendi Encyclopedia. Available at:; Oiz (mendia), Wikipedia; Oiz, Wikipedia; Oiz, Wikipedia

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