San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

Top choice in The Central Basque Coast

One of the most photographed features of the Basque coast, 10km to Bermeo's northwest, is the small, rocky isle of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. Accessed from the mainland by climbing 241 steps via a stone footbridge, it's topped by a hermitage, Ermita de San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, which was built by the Knights Templar in the 10th century. Between Easter and September, island entry is only guaranteed by reserving an allocated time slot ahead of time online.

Local tradition holds that it was named after St John the Baptist, who allegedly visited the island. Game of Thrones fans will recognise the setting, which starred as Dragonstone in season seven.

The island is the goal of pilgrimages on 24 June, 31 July and 29 August. Legend has it that by ringing the bell outside the hermitage three times, you will be granted a wish and banish bad spirits. And if you don’t believe in such things, the spectacular views along the coast should prove reward enough for the walk out here. Keep in mind that this place gets very crowded in the summer. If coming then, go very early in the morning to beat the worst of the bell-ringing hordes.

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