The Faro is Calling: Gorliz Lighthouse

22/12/2021

Enjoy a nice hike up to the tallest lighthouse in Basque Country. This semi-gradual hike can be done in about an hour and a half. It starts at the Bay of Plentzia, in Gorliz and rises above the Bizkaia bluffs to the lighthouse. If that wasn't enough reason for taking this hike, there is a labyrinth of tunnels, wildlife, and a WWII era cannon facing out towards the sea.

The hike to the faro (lighthouse) is a relatively easy one. A large part of this is due to the fact that it's paved. It rises from the beach parking lot, past a governmental nature conservatory, alongside the Bizkaia cliffs till you reach the lighthouse. The hillside and cliffs are a quintessential Basque experience.

Getting There

There are multiple ways to get to the trail head for the Gorliz Faro. If you are going to take a car, simply google Gorliz Hospital. There is public parking available next to the hospital. This area is paid parking in peak season (June-Septempber).

If you want to get there by public transit you can take the Metro Bilbao Line 1 to its terminus station Plentzia. From there you walk the two kilometers from the metro to the trail head. This walk along the Plentzia Riverwalk and the Gorliz Promenade is a sight to be seen.

There is a bus option from the Plentzia Metro station. The bus stop is out front of the metro station. You will need to take Bizkaibus A3499.

Trail

From the promenade in Gorliz there is an easy to moderate hike to the Gorliz Faro (Lighthouse). There are three different routes to get there. The easiest route is the most direct and is paved. When walking the Gorliz Promenade towards Astondo you will want to leave the promenade at the first exit once you pass the Gorliz hospital.

The trailhead/road will be the first left, near the end of the parking lot. There should be a map near the entrance showing different Nordic walking trails in the area.

The road will make a gradual climb up the hillside. The hillside is mainly operated by The Center for the Recovery of Wild Fauna of the Provincial Council of Bizkaia. It is common to see sheep and cows next to the road. Somedays, you might even see a deer or two roaming the protected area.

There is a small section that winds on the hill. This winding section is the steepest of the journey. In this section of the trail there are often horses grazing the pastures. Once you are past the steeper section you will round a corner and get your first glimpse at the faro. Cape Billano, where the lighthouse is built, is a sight to be seen.

The road continues up to the faro, winding along the bluffs. This area is known for rapid erosion and rockslides so use caution. Just before the final ascent to the lighthouse there is a small trestle that spans a cliff.

Faro

The inauguration of the lighthouse was in 1990. It stands at the height of 21 meters (68 feet) and is considered one of the more modern lighthouses in Basque Country. At an elevation of 165 meters ( 541 feet), due to the hill side it is built on, the shining light can be seen at a whopping distance of 47 kilometers (29 miles) from land.

At the base of the faro is a fenced lookout area with a few benches. This is a good place to look out into the Bay of Biscay. The furthest point of land you can see to the left is the province of Cantabria.

Billano Island is visible from the right side of the lookout. It is a small and jagged piece of rock that stands bravely against the waves of the Cantabrian Sea. Billano Island is said to look like a dragon.

Tunnels

There is a multistory lookout built into the hillside above the lighthouse. This can be accessed by taking the trail marked for Armintza. The tunnels and bunkers are worth exploring. They are underground and don't have many points for light to get in. So it is important to bring a flashlight or a headlamp.

There are multiple access points to the tunnels. The easiest way to reach them however is a trail on the left, about 100 meters before you reach the lighthouse. The trail is a little overgrown with sections of shrubbery making their own short tunnel.

Once you get to the tunnels, you'll see a bunker on the right of the entrance. When you enter you'll be able to go up and down. At the top of the tunnel there is another bunker and a cut out to the ground level, where the lighthouse is.

There are three cutouts along the tunnels where cannons used to be. Today, only the lowest battery has a cannon remaining. It still points out to the sea, waiting for the Allied forces to arrive.

The tunnels and batteries were built in 1940 by prisoners of war. The Francoistas were victorious in the civil war against the Spanish Republicans. Franco, who won the war with the help of Hitler and Mussolini, was worried that the allied forces, after World War II, would declare war on the Fracoistas. This never happened and these military defenses were never used.

Once you've enjoyed your time in the tunnels and the lighthouse, head back down towards Gorliz. The other option would be to continue on the path marked for Armintza. 

The hike to the faro isn't the most strenuous but it is fascinating. The views are great, and history is on full display. Whether you're pushing a stroller, exercising your dog, or simply exploring, the faro hike in Gorliz should be on your bucket list.

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