Gaztelugatxe is a small island, which lies near the coast of the Bay of Biscay in the Basque Country in the municipality of Bermeo, Spain. The island is connected with the mainland by a man-made bridge that goes into a winding staircase that comprises 237 steps. It leads to the top of the island where on a small flat esplanade there is a solitary church San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, the construction of which dates back to 9-10 century.
Not far from the island of Gaztelugatxe there is one more small island Akataxa as it is called on the Basque language. A lot of breeding birds have found their refuge on it. And somewhere in the distance, in the sea, there is an offshore gas production platform which is barely visible because of the haze.
Speaking about the name of the island it can be said that the word Gaztelugatxe comes from the Basque word combination: “Gaztelu” – which means “castle” and “aitz” – which means “rock”, “gaitz” – “difficult”, “tremendous”. So the name can be translated as “the craggy fort” of “the rocky castle”.
The island of Gaztelugatxe has a unique feature. The waves have pierced two through portals in the cliffs in the eastern part of the islet.
The bridge leading to the island is composed of stone. It is high and has massive supports. It is necessary to withstand the rough sea waves and storms which happen here in the winter months. Next, beyond the bridge, you will see the staircase to the top, which has 237 steps. The ascent is not very difficult, occasionally you will come across the places where you can stop and rest, and, maybe sit on the bench. Having overcome all the ascent, you will see the landscape of incredible beauty! Do not forget your camera, because these picturesque rocks and blue waters will make your photos evocative, unforgettable.
Here, at the top, you will find a small church or chapel, as mentioned above. Usually it is closed – permanent worship is not held. It is very old, the very building dates back to the 10th century, and as for the burial places that were found inside, they belong to the 9th century! The legend has it that a traveler who has risen to the top of the island can make a wish, then he needs to strike the bell three times and the wish will come true. Many tourists believe this legend, so the ringing is heard over the island almost constantly.