Bermeoko Turismo Bulegoa



The hermitage of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe (St John) stands on a headland jutting out into the Cantabrian sea, connected to the mainland by a steep, narrow causeway of 231 steps leading up to the hermitage. There is a beautiful view from the top.

This dominant crag resembles a castle in the sea. Its name can be given two different meanings: Gaztelu-aitz (castle crag) y Gaztelu-gache (rugged or difficult castle).

It was named in records dating back to 1053, in a donation by Lady Tota Ortiz y Enneko López to the monk Zianno, of the monastery of San Juan de la Peña (Huesca), one of the most influential monasteries in the middle ages.

In 1071 "el rico home bizcaino Garci González de Argamendi" (rich man from Vizcaya, Garci González de Argamendi) donated "al mismo monasterio de San Juan de la Peña de Aragón, otras tierras y usas y ejidos que pertenecían a San Juan de la Peña de Bizcaya" (to the same monastery of San Juan de la Peña de Aragón, other lands and uses and common lands which pertained to San Juan de la Peña of Vizcaya).

The crag is a strategic spot for controlling the coast. In fact, history states that Gaztelugatxe constituted one of the bastions of resistance against the vanity and rapacious desire of Alfonso XI, the King of Castile: this dangerous enclosure was defended by seven knights from Vizcaya (including  Don Juan Nuñez de Lara, lord of Vizcaya) with their followers (including Juan de Mendoza and Martín de Aróstegi, both from Bermeo) who resisted the attacks of a well organised army for more than a month. Humiliated, the Monarch withdrew, leaving his army on a war footing. In view of the boldness and serenity of the besieged, the troops finally withdrew. The year was 1334, and Gaztelugatxe had written its most brilliant page of war history.


At a later date, at the beginning of September 1596, 14 boats reached the Isle of Izaro carrying heretics from La Rochelle. After causing fire and destruction, they went to Gaztelugatxe where they plundered everything to be found in that sanctuary on the rock, throwing the hermit off the cliff.

Gaztelugatxe has a long and colourful history: of plots and schemes, pirates, battles and shipwrecks caused by storms, including one suffered by a royal ship taking prince Philip from Flanders to Laredo and which was almost completely unrigged between Gaztelugatxe and Aketxe.  Gaztelugatxe is a place immersed in legend, a place in which some charming, lively fiestas are held on the 24th June (the feast day of St John the Baptist) and on the 29th August (the beheading of St John).

Bermeoko udala

Turismo bulegoa

Lamera z/g

48370 Bermeo

Tel 94 617 91 54


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