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  • Writer's pictureSamantha Diaz

The Ultimate Travel Guide to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, Spain

Updated: Aug 11, 2023

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Explore San Juan de Gaztelugatxe with ease! This guide covers all the essentials, including a map of the area, details on the San Juan de Gaztelugatxe hike, parking information, ticket purchasing tips, and suggestions for a perfect day trip from Bilbao or San Sebastián. Discover why San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is one of Spain's most stunning destinations and why it has gained popularity among Game of Thrones fans due to its significance in the series.

Get ready for a magical experience at Spain's San Juan de Gaztelugatxe! This destination is one of the most enchanting places in Europe, and you're in for a treat on your visit

Planning ahead makes your visit to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe seamless and unforgettable. Get tips on transportation from Bilbao or San Sebastian, top things to do at Gaztelugatxe, and suggestions for rounding out your day trip with additional sights and activities along the Basque Coast.

What is Gaztelugatxe, Spain?

Assuming you've stumbled upon this post, you likely already know about San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. Here's a brief overview, but be ready to learn even more about its history once you arrive on the islet. San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is a picturesque islet in the Bay of Biscay along Spain's northern coast, connected to the mainland by a manmade bridge. The islet features a steep hillside with a serpentine staircase of 241 stone steps leading to the summit, where a charming chapel awaits.

Getting to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is near the cities of Bilbao and San Sebastian in Spain and can easily be visited as a day trip from either. The quickest route from Bilbao is a 30-minute drive, best done with personal transportation. The drive begins on the freeway and continues on two-lane roads that run through small towns. The last stretch takes you through the picturesque town of Bakio, which is worth a stop on the way back. However, it's important to note that Google Maps may show a false route leading to the chapel, so it's better to double-check the directions before heading there. Getting to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe from San Sebastian takes about an hour and a half if you take the larger highways. As San Sebastian is a nearby city, visiting Gaztelugatxe can be part of a wider day trip to explore the central Basque coast, as there is much to see and experience in the area.

Things to Do in San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe Chapel

The San Juan de Gaztelugatxe chapel, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, dates back to the 9th century. According to local legend, ringing the chapel's bell three times after your hike and making a wish will make it come true.

Dragonstone and Game of Thrones Fame

Gaztelugatxe's popularity has skyrocketed in recent times due to its appearance as the location of Dragonstone castle in Season 7 of HBO's hit series Game of Thrones. Although the castle replaced the church on top of the islet in the show, San Juan de Gaztelugatxe remains a must-visit destination for fans of the series.

Hiking San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

Here is what you can expect when hiking San Juan de Gaztelugatxe:

The hike has a layout in the shape of a giant "V". You will start by parking at the top, one side of the "V", and then descend to the ocean at the bottom of the "V". Next, you will climb up the 241 steps to the top of the islet on the other side of the "V". The return journey is simply the reverse of this.

Of course, you are not required to hike the entire trail at Gaztelugatxe if you do not wish to or are unable to. After just a 10-minute walk down the trail, you will start to see breathtaking views of the islet and coastline. Before visiting, it can be challenging to understand where to go and park from maps or articles. I personally didn't realize there would be a hike involved, so I've included a map with all the details to help prevent confusion as I experienced.

Best Tips for Visting San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

Here are some important tips to keep in mind for your trip to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, some of which I wish I had known beforehand.

Visit in the morning

Plan to arrive at San Juan de Gaztelugatxe as early as possible, as soon as it opens at 10:00 am. By visiting first thing in the morning, you'll beat the crowds that tend to show up later in the day and have a better chance of capturing unobstructed photos of the stunning islet. Trust me, it can get very busy, so starting early is a must.

What to Bring for A Visit to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

Bring Food and Water for the Trail

If you plan to hike the entire trail at San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, make sure to bring enough water and snacks. Once you arrive, food options are limited, so pack a light lunch or snacks if you think you'll be hungry. The top of the islet is an ideal spot to relax and have a picnic while taking in the stunning views of the Basque coastline.

Wear Comfortable Hiking Shoes

When visiting San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, it is crucial to wear comfortable shoes as you will be hiking a considerable distance that includes a mix of uphill and downhill and a lot of stairs. Make sure to wear sneakers to ensure a comfortable and safe hike.

Where to Eat in San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

At San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, there are limited options for food and drinks. The only restaurant nearby is Enepari, located at the start of the trail near the parking lot. Snacks and drinks are available for purchase at a stand at the summit of the trail, but there are no other places to buy refreshments during the hike. It's recommended to use the restroom and bring enough water and snacks before embarking on the hike, as there are no other restrooms available except at the start of the bridge over the water.


How much does it cost to visit?

Visiting San Juan de Gaztelugatxe won't cost you a penny as it is a free activity, making it an ideal option for budget travelers in Spain. Additionally, parking at the site is also complimentary.

What is the estimated time for a visit to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe?

What are the best spots for taking photos at San Juan de Gaztelugatxe?

Is a visit to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe worth it?

And that's all the information you need to know for a great visit to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. And that concludes your comprehensive guide to visiting San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. Make sure to bring comfortable shoes, snacks, and water, and don't forget to allow time to take in the stunning views and snap a few photos. Happy hiking!


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I'm Samantha! A photographer and I believe that every picture has a story. As a blogger, I share my travel stories with everyone. I think it's important to document my travels and share my experiences with others. I've been to some amazing places and I've seen some incredible things. I want to share my stories and photos with the world.

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