If you’re driving around the Basque Country, you’re in Bilbao or you’re a Games of Thrones fan, then a visit to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is a must.
On the coast of Bizkaia, surrounded by cliffs and the strength of the Cantabrian Sea, a visit to San Juan Gaztelugatxe is something incredible. The chapel stands on an ancient island, connected to the mainland by a stone staircase.
Below you will find all the information you need to plan your visit to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe and enjoy this beautiful landscape, a place known as the castle of Rocadracon in Game of Thrones.
1. A little history before visit San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
Originally from the 9th century, the present hermitage is not the original, but has been rebuilt over the centuries. Its strategic position on the seashore served as a defensive position against continuous pirate attacks.
It even suffered several fires, until it underwent its last reconstruction in the 1980s, and today it can be seen in a majestic way both up close and from the cliffs.
Its beauty lies in its natural surroundings, the stone staircase with its 241 steps and the immensity of the sea that surrounds it.
📷 If you are in Bilbao and you don’t have a car, book here the excursion to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe with guide and transfers..
2. Opening times and how much it costs to visit the Gaztelugatxe Hermitage
You can visit San Juan de Gaztelugatxe any day of the year, with the exception of 24th June, 31st July, 29th August and 30th December, which are reserved for celebrations.
It is advisable to book your ticket online, which allows you to control the capacity to a maximum of 1,462 people, after the hermitage considerably increases the number of visitors thanks to the Game of Thrones phenomenon.
📷 Are you a fan of Game of Thrones? Then you have to take the Game of Thrones set tour near Bilbao.
If you wish to visit San Juan de Gaztelugatxe any of the days listed below, you must book your ticket in advance through the following website. This is valid for the following days:
- 1 and 2 April and weekends from 22 April to 11 June.
- Easter Week (from 3 to 16 April).
- Summer season (12 June to 10 September).
- Weekends in September and October.
- All Saints’ Day (28 October to 1 November).
- From 2 to 10 December.
Capacity control is strict on these dates, both at the entrance and at the exit, so it is impossible to enter if you have not booked your ticket in advance at the times and on the days detailed.
On the rest of the days of the year, it is not compulsory to book an entrance ticket in advance, and access to the chapel is free.
Whatever day you visit the hermitage of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe (either by booking in advance or directly on site) the entrance fee is free of charge.
The San Juan de Gaztelugatxe hermitage is open from 10 am to 7 pm.
Apart from reaching the top of the island, if you want to see the inside of the hermitage, it is only possible during certain religious events that take place on public holidays, Easter Week or during the high season. If you are lucky enough to visit on any of these days, the chapel is open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 11am to 6pm and Sundays from 11am to 3pm. And if you want to take photos inside you have to pay one euro.
3. How long does it take to go up to the Gaztelugatxe hermitage?
The time it takes to get to Gaztelugatxe hermitage depends on the physical condition of the person. It is not a demanding path, but it is necessary to take into account the unevenness of the terrain, the large number of stone steps and the fact that it is not prepared for access by disabled people and baby carriages.
It usually takes between one and a half to two hours to walk up to the hermitage of Gaztelugatxe, depending on the path you choose from the car park:
- The shortest path, called Urizarreta, leaves from the Eneperi restaurant car park and is 1.2 kilometres long. But be aware that it is steeper and part of the stretch up to the stone stairs is dirt.
- The longer, less steep Ermu path is a 1.6-kilometre walk along a tarmac road for pedestrians only.
The two paths meet at the stone staircase that leads up to the hermitage.
Once you get to the hermitage, don’t forget to ring the bell three times and make a wish, an old custom that is still maintained.
4. How to get to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe from Bilbao
If you are visiting Bilbao, San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is about 35 kilometres away, close to the towns of Bermeo and Mundaca.
Arriving by car for the visit to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
Please note that it is not possible to drive to the area where the stone bridge is located, but you must leave your car in one of the three car parks.
There are two car parks next to the road, at a greater distance from the stone staircase leading to the hermitage. The third is the largest and closest to the stone bridge and is located next to the Eneperi restaurant, where the Urizarreta path comes out.
Arriving by bus for the visit to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
It is possible to reach San Juan de Gaztelugatxe by bus, with the Bizkaibus line A3517, but only in summer from 10 June to 2 September.
Outside this period, you have to go by bus to Bakio and then by taxi or the small Bizkaibus vans.
5. Where to stay in San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
While you can base yourself in Bilbao and visit San Juan de Gaztelugatxe in the day, there are many rural houses in the surrounding area where you can enjoy nature and Basque gastronomy.
🔝 Check out these recommendations for accommodation in rural houses in the Basque Country if you are going with children.
Our recommendations for where to stay near San Juan de Gaztelugatxe are as follows:
- Asitxo: five minutes from Bermeo, it is a rural house with a large green space, modern facilities and very good service.
- Pension Restaurante Arimune: facing the beach in Bakio, it has a terrace with sea views and a restaurant, and its rooms are elegantly decorated.
- Apartamentos Turísticos Rurales Ureta: near Bakio, the beach and the hermitage. The flats are very well equipped and comfortable.
🏨 Do you want to look for other options? Find here the best hotels near San Juan de Gaztelugatxe.
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