Route 6: Circular walking route to the Ermua mountain range via Saratxaga, Orabille and Fano, climbing the Etzandarri, descending to Armintza and returning via Lemoiz

Route 6

Route published by Pedro Pablo Uriarte ”24 circular walking routes around Gorliz”

See the route map on Wikiloc

Duration: 3 hours 20 min.
Distance: 16.45 km
Cumulative elevation gain: 446 metres
Difficulty: Moderate, due to its length

It is a relatively long route with a cumulative elevation gain of 450 metres, for the climb up to the vicinity of Ermua and the short ascent to Etzandarri. It is a very pretty circular route, especially for mountaineers and walkers who are used to relatively long walks, with spectacular views that are well worth the effort, but its difficulty can be considered to be medium to moderate because it takes more than three hours.

As usual, we set off from Plaza de Ibarreta. From there you go up to the roundabout at the entrance to Gorliz at Andra Mari Bidea, cross it and take Tribiñu Kalea to get to Calle Ageo, which runs perpendicular to the street you are on. Turn right along this street and go up it until you leave the town. Take the wide concrete track and go past the walls of two chalets on your right and, when the track turns to your left, keep going along a flat path through the grass, which, under the branches of the holm oaks and with a wire fence on your right, leads you in a few minutes to the Saratxaga bar/restaurant in the neighbourhood of the same name (15 min.). The views to your right over the farmhouses of Saratxaga are beautiful along this stretch.

Turn left next to a chalet in front of the bar/restaurant onto a wide, slightly ascending, stony track with the constant sound of dogs barking behind fences. Go past the last farm and carry straight on. You will come onto a path that leads into a tunnel through the branches of the holm oak trees. The path soon turns sharply to the right.

At this point, on your left, you will see a very little-used path, almost hidden by the undergrowth, which climbs up from the upper part of the town near the Gorliz roundabout, where the main road to Armintza starts. This is an alternative that we will leave for Route 11.

Let’s carry on with today’s route. Walk for a few minutes along a gently ascending stretch under the trees. It is an enclosed, dense and sometimes muddy path, quite dark, but well-trodden and straight, a very mountainous route, which is particularly attractive and, in my opinion, pleasant to walk.

This entire stretch, from Ageo Bidea, is very suitable for shortcuts from the town centre of Gorliz to the area where the bar/restaurants are located and, even further up, to Larrakoetxea. But you must wear suitable footwear and it is not recommended for people who are not used to walking in the mountains, at least from Saratxaga bar/restaurant onwards.

You will come out onto the road leading from the Orabille district to Andraka. (25 min.). Turn left and a little further on you will come to the fenced gardens of the Larrakoetxea country house and restaurant.

Now you will move onto a road section. Go past the entrance to Larrakoetxea and carry on in the direction of Orabille. Immediately after this, another road leads off to our right, next to some farmhouses. They are part of the Berreaga neighbourhood, part of which belongs to the town of Mungia. You will return to Gorliz along this road, but for now continue along the road that brought you here, which turns a little to your left. Go past the boundary wall of a farmhouse and the fence of a farm on your right, and, on your left, you will see large cattle pastures with a beautiful farmhouse in the background.

In a few minutes, after a short descent, you will reach the Gorliz-Arminza main road (35 min.).

Just opposite where you come out, on the other side, between two walls, is the start of the road that will take you to Fano. The first section of the road runs between a number of farmhouses and chalets, some of which are isolated by high walls obscuring them from view. You are on Fanobidea or the road to Fano.

Follow this road for about two kilometres, which is a very gentle ascent and goes straight to Fano There are turns off to the right that you can ignore. After a while. on your left. you will see a marvellous view: the bay of Gorliz in all its glory.

At this point, I need to clear something up – on this same road, Fanobidea, more or less in the middle and in a clear area called Tiro Zelaia (shooting range), on your right you will see a large, closed gate from which a track leads up to the start of the track down to Armintza from Ermua, next to where the signpost is located. This would be a great way to climb Ermua more directly from here, but the gate, which would be the lower access, is locked and the upper access near Ermua is fenced off (see the official Topographical and Toponymic Map of the municipality of Gorliz and the orthophoto of the area from Bizkaia Provincial Council). In short, it is a real shame. As I said, what’s the point?

Thinking how sad this is, you continue on your way and on the last part of this stretch you will walk under the holm oaks, which in this case are trees of a certain height with sarsaparillae hanging on many of them, typical of Cantabrian holm oak groves. Although it is a road section, it is aesthetically very beautiful.

After a while the road bends to the right where the most direct, traditional and ancient way to climb Ermua ends, the one we used to take fifty-odd years ago. (see Route 1) (55 min.). It is also worth stopping at this point to admire the beautiful view of Gorliz and its bay from a different perspective.

You will now share part of route 1. In about 200 metres, you will come to a turn-off to your right under the trees. Take this shady path. In about ten minutes you will be near the summit. The ascent is gentle and without great effort, although walking is somewhat uncomfortable due to the rocky nature of the path. You will reach a clearer area where there is a signpost (1 hour 5 min.): head towards Armintza (which we have already mentioned in Route 2) and then left towards the summit of Ermua Mendi.

Approximately halfway along this part of the path, under the holm oaks and to your left, there is a “cairn” (or rather there was, because someone has made it disappear) indicating the start of a small path that is barely visible and half covered by the leaves of the holm oaks, which climbs steeply at first and then becomes easier, running parallel to the normal route, leading you to the Ermua hut and bunker, a few metres from the summit. This is another alternative for getting to Ermua Mendi. In my opinion, this short stretch is the wildest and most breathtakingly beautiful of all the routes around Gorliz.

It is worth stopping to admire the wonderful, multi-coloured Cantabrian holm oak forest, which fortunately is quite healthy nowadays. It is our duty to protect it.

Once you have reached the signpost pointing towards Ermua or Armintza, take the path on your left that leads to the summit of Ermua, but be very careful. After a few metres you will see that there is a path that leads straight ahead through the undergrowth, which at first is almost covered by ferns and brambles, leading you gently down towards the coastal cliffs. This path will take you first to Etzandarri and then to Armintza via another descent.

At the start, the path descends gradually, often covered with undergrowth on both sides and sometimes under eucalyptus trees. It is a very clear, clayey path with deep furrows carved out by the water. You will come to a clearer area and be closer to the cliff edge (1 hour 20 min.).

It is worth stopping for a while to admire the scenery. The view is spectacular: the vast Cantabrian Sea and the island of Billano seen from the right side, only a bit of which is visible, and the green cliffs that plunge into the sea from the summit of Ermua. Behind you are the steep cliffs of Etzandarri. It is a breathtaking landscape of incredible beauty. This area is particularly suitable for taking photos and admiring the beauty of our coastal landscapes.

The path, now wider, descends gently and enters the eucalyptus forest. We are going to introduce a variant here: the short ascent of Etzandarri.

A little further on, to your left, under a few twisted pines, is a tiny, almost invisible path through the thick undergrowth which will take you through narrow terrain, almost completely covered by bushes and sometimes under the branches of pine trees, and in about 10 minutes you will reach another coastal peak with a mailbox. As on most of this route, the view from here is also magnificent. Right next to the summit there is a curious solitary pine tree, well pruned by some skilful person, which is just crying out for you to lie down under its canopy. As we have already said, this is the summit of Etzandarri, at an altitude of 215 m, as indicated on a plaque stuck on a small mailbox put up by Lemoizko Mendi Taldea (it is better to say that it used to say that, because the plaque has come off and the letterbox has been left unnamed).

After admiring the scenery for a while, it is time to retrace your steps along the winding path, which has been almost erased or hidden by the vegetation, until you reach the wide path from where you started from. Now turn left.

What used to be a wide track a few years ago is now being hemmed in by the bushes on the sides and has become a path, almost flat at first, which soon starts to descend through a forest of eucalyptus trees (Eucalyptus Globulus). This tree is easy to exploit and has little resistance to cold and frost, which is why it grows very well in coastal areas. There is some controversy over whether its forests impoverish the soil and its biofauna, making it a good fuel for fires. In this regard, I am reminded of the dreadful eucalyptus fires in Galicia and Portugal a few years ago, which cost the lives of four people in Galicia and thirty-six in Portugal. I don’t know whether it is fortunate or unfortunate, but it is clear that our coastal forests are crammed with eucalyptus trees. Personally, and this is just my own personal opinion, I miss our primeval, indigenous forests, which have unfortunately been lost along our coasts.

The path becomes more stony towards the end of this part of the route. A sharp downhill bend to the right leads to a wide open grassy field with a large, well-preserved railing on the left. In a previous route, we have already mentioned that a year ago a very extensive logging operation was carried out in this area, which has completely changed the landscape. Until, that is, the new eucalyptus trees grow.

Follow the path, which starts a little bit further on on the right, joining a gravel track that in another ten minutes will take you to a junction with the path that descends from the Ermua, which leads to the one you are now on.

It should be noted that a little before reaching the previous point, there is an ascending path to the right of the GR 123 Bizkaia Trail (signposted by small posts with the traditional red and white colours of the GR routes), which leads to approximately the lower third of the classic Ermua-Armintza descent.

After meeting the path that comes down from Ermua, the descent to Armintza is the same as for Route 2. You will soon be walking round the rear walls of the Arresi hotel in Armintza (1 hour 55 min.).

Cross the car park at the entrance to the town. Near an electricity pylon, the GR 280 Trail (around Uribe Kosta) continues a little to your right on a lovely little bridge under the trees on the banks of the stream. Follow this GR Trail from here to the district of Berreaga. It is obvious that people who are tired or want to return to Gorliz can always take the Bizkaibus back to Gorliz. After all, you have already done two hours of walking, which is more than enough for many people.

But if you want more, then let’s crack on. From now on the return to Gorliz is the same as for the complete Route 2. As soon as you have crossed the pretty little bridge, the path turns to your right next to a sign that forbids dogs being allowed to run loose. The attractive grassy path leads through vegetable gardens and orchards until, a few minutes later, it reaches a road that comes from the general Gorliz-Armintza road and is used by the farmhouses in the neighbourhood.

Carry on along this road and you will pass a number of farmhouses and chalets with vegetable gardens and orchards. There is a short climb and after a descent the road turns right in the direction of the main road next to a farmhouse.

Where the two roads meet, a yellowish sandstone path leads off to the left, which after about 150 m reaches a wooden bridge over the river. Walk across the bridge and the well-kept path, which has been laid with gravel to avoid mud, leads to another small wooden bridge of a smaller size. Keep going and soon you will walk into an autochthonous forest, that will provide a bit of shade on your route, with small ascents and descents and that is a pleasure to walk through. A burbling brook flows along on the right.

Where this comes to an end, you will meet another road, right next to an abandoned farmhouse (2 hours 15 min.). Carry on along the road that runs between pastures and vegetable gardens and orchards until you reach a junction. Follow the road to the right until you reach the main neighbourhood in Lemoiz, Urizar.

Before reaching the village, you will pass the old but renovated Urizar washing place. After climbing a hill and passing the huge hollow trunk of a very old holm oak tree in the centre of a small square and a few farmhouses, you will come out onto the main road from Armintza to Andraka, right in the middle of the town (2 hours 30 min.). You will see a signpost with GR Trail signs.

In front of it there is another road that will take you through pastures to the Berreaga neighbourhood in about 15 or 20 minutes. (2 hours 50 min.). You know the way from here, going back along the first part of today’s route until you reach Saratxaga and the town centre of Gorliz.

On this stretch of road from Urizar to Berreaga, you will pass a chicken farm next to two farmhouses that you will recognise by the pestilential stench coming from it. The guard dogs will undoubtedly bark as you pass by.

Soon you will reach the Berreaga junction, where you were earlier and now you just turn left, going past the Larrakoetxea country house and its tree-lined gardens. A few metres after the end of the long fence, turn right onto the small path under the trees, which is somewhat confined and which you walked along three hours ago on the way out.

As you already know, this path takes you past the Saratxaga bar/restaurant and, carrying on along the same path as in the morning, you will come to Ageo Bidea and from there the centre of the town. Go back to Plaza Ibarreta (Plaza Iberrebari), your start point, along Tibiñu Kalea (3 hours 20 min.).

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