In the province of Biscay, there is a 12-kilometre stretch of sandbanks that UNESCO has declared a world Biosphere Reserve in 1984: Urdaibai, a natural setting of outstanding beauty and diversity.
The Urdaibai Estuary is one of the most richly diverse natural landscapes in the Basque Country. Low altitude mountains with steep slopes give way to a valley that leads to the Cantabrian Sea, forming a wide estuary. The floodplain of the Oca river turns into marshland, while also shaping cliffs and beaches. This leads to the coexistence of a plethora of biotypes and ecosystems.
The diversity of the area is reflected in the abundance of Cantabrian holm oak forests, bushes, heath, crags and aquatic plants. In the areas where man has intervened, forest plantations, pastures and crop fields can be found, which also form the habitat of other flora and fauna.
Places to See
There are many outdoor activities to enjoy here, as well as nice and picturesque towns to see – like Mundaka, located within the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve. Due to its location, it is the perfect place to stop for a walk during a day on the beach or exploring the reserve. The legend says that in the 10th century a ship arrived from Mundaka that came from Scotland in which an exiled princess was traveling. The Scots found a fountain that caught their attention for the clarity of their water and called it munda aqua, which means in Latin crystal clear water.
At present Mundaka is a small and charming town centered around the fishing port. The port is also the most picturesque corner of the town and is also where locals of all ages meet and spend time, either by the water, in the park, the pelota court or one of the bars in the area. Despite being a fairly small town, Mundaka is internationally famous for its surfing scene as people come from all over the world to ride on one of the longest left waves in the world.
Other towns of the Urdaibai reserve are Bermeo and Guernica. On the coast, Bermeo is a village founded in 1236 and one of the most important fishing ports of the entire Biscay. It is the most populous town in the region and was the capital of the Lordship of Biscay from 1476 until 1602. Guernica, founded in 1366, is the historical seat of the General Assembly of Vizcaya and it is the House of Meetings with Tree of Guernica, a symbol of Basque privileges. It is also famous worldwide for the bombing suffered in the Spanish Civil War of 1936, the subject of Picasso’s painting ‘Guernica’.