We had the pleasure of giving a guided tour to Murray Stewart – travel writer from Bradt guides and winner of the ‘Best Travel Guidebook’ award in 2016, with the first edition of Bradt’s Travel Guide “The Basque Country and Navarre”.
The Sea of Meadows, located in the Gorbeia foothills, is a magical place for nature lovers: green plains with an amazing view, waterfalls and cliffs, offer totally different scenery to what can be observed in the Cantabrian valleys.
It has been a great delight and a moment of pride for us to show Murray around our local environment, taking him for a hike through Urkaherria, to visit one of our most beloved spots: the Gujuli Waterfall.
BRADT’S BASQUE COUNTRY AND NAVARRE GUIDEBOOK
For a travel writer such as Murray Stewart, updating an already successful travel guide, that has been recognized as the Best Travel Guidebook at the 2016 British Guild of Travel Writers Awards, involves travelling to and revisiting the places already mentioned in the first edition. In order to update the previous information and also discover any hidden gems, off the ‘beaten track’ that he didn’t have the chance to visit before, he needs to explore further than ever before and log all of his discoveries.
Murray Stewart has a huge knowledge of the Basque Country and is a true nature lover. The first edition of Bradt’s ‘The Basque Country and Navarre Guidebook’ describes in detail many of the natural beauties found in our land and the uniqueness of our traditions. You can check their guides out for yourself on their website and even contact them with any specific questions .
DISCOVERING THE NATURAL RESERVE OF GORBEIA
Stewart was interested in discovering the Gorbeia Mountain, considered an icon for Basque mountaineers mostly from the Álava and Vizcaya provinces.
Gorbeia mountain and its surroundings form the Natural Reserve of Gorbeia, which has been included in the ‘Nature 2000’ network of protected areas in the European Union.
On this occasion, on a beautiful Sunday morning in May, Stewart came to visit one of the most unknown areas of the Gorbeia foothills – “Urkabustaiz”.
It’s the final step of the Iberian central plateau leading towards the Cantabrian valleys, a territory which has been immensely affected by man. This rich and traditional rural area, is lovingly called the Sea of Meadows.
THE BASQUE SEA OF MEADOWS
These small meadows surrounded by stone walls and forests, offer a spectacular flat landscape, decorated with endless shades of green and panoramic views of the mountains surrounding them.
The predominant untamed nature around the Natural Park of Gorbeia provides stunning images on its slope, some of which have their origin in the continuous erosive action of the Cantabrian rivers.
For thousands of years the water has been carving the plateau, pushing back escarpments to form amazing waterfalls, among which you can find Goiuri/Gujuli and Nervion – the highest waterfall in the Iberian peninsula at 225 meters.
Goiuri/Gujuli waterfall is no less spectacular, at more than a hundred meters high, the waters brought down the river launch into the magnificent Altube Beech Forest, which can easily be reached from Gujuli.
THE PARTICULAR PERSPECTIVE OF A PECULIAR TOUR TRAVEL GUIDE
“Bradt Travel Guides” is a British publisher of travel guides that was founded in 1974. Most of their guides are not written by professionals, but writers who live in the place they are writing about or have traveled there extensively over the years.
At first look, Bradt travel guides may seem quite unconventional compared to regular tourist guides. Yet Bradt guides have entered the spotlight, precisely because of their unique perspective on travel: harnessing the inner nature of the local people, based on the experiences of the author.
Murray Stewart has worked in Northern Spain as a business consultant for years and is a seasoned traveler. A veteran of over 60 countries (he even taught English in a couple of countries for a while), his new career has been benchmarked by publications in national magazines, prizes for online contributions on subjects as diverse as the Camino de Santiago and the Carcassonne Airport.
In 2018 they won the gold Wanderlust Reader Travel award for “top guidebook series”. You can use guides from different places all over the world and even create an account on their webpage if you want to search for more great travel information.
“THE LAND OF THE BASQUES” OUR PRIVATE TOUR GUIDE
Iñaki, our mountain tour guide & Nordic Walking instructor, guided Murray and the rest of the group from Ulle Gorri Rustic Home, through the sea of meadows and up to the Gujuli Waterfall. We showed him our beautiful rural house and also revealed to him our new project “The land of the Basques Experience”, an incoming travel agency that has recently been created.
“The Land of the Basques” aims to introduce travelers to the uniqueness and singularities of the Basque Country, by integrating the Basque experience into their lives for a few days.
It’s a different way to travel with friends, to dicover the culture, traditions, cities, sea & mountains of the region. Taking a Basque tour, with a local expert guide who will show you astonishing landscapes and all the superb basque gastronomy, is the only way to properly visit. We are honored to host visitors in our home-land and hope that despite the short stay with us, we can make you feel right at home.
NATURE IN ITS PUREST STATE
During the beautiful hike, our tour guide Iñaki, explains to the group, the singularity of this part of the Basque Country. Linked to high mountain ranges, with wild animals raised in the open: sheep herds, cows, and horses sometimes hounded, mostly by vultures and sometimes by wolves – it is a true wildlife experience.
Wolves are not so easy to find nowadays as there is fierce competition with the rural area, but there is a huge colony of griffon vultures, with more than 175 couples, nesting in the rough mountain slopes of Delika Canyon.
It’s very easy to find large colonies of griffon vultures during the hikes close to the Delika Canyon. The locals are very used to seeing them, not realizing that vultures are not so easy to see in other areas of Europe.
You can watch them from a very close distance, allowing you to take in the giant dimensions of these birds and leaving most with a sense of admiration and amazement. This is an awesome place for birdwatching, where several endangered species that cannot be easily seen in other areas, such as the Red Kite (Milvus milvus), are regularly spotted.
Stewart Murray also had the chance to visit other interesting places in Gorbeialdea, such as cheesemakers in Idiazabal Basterra, the Basque Pottery Museum and even enjoyed some of our typical gastronomy at Casa del Patron Restaurant in Murgia. We would like to thank Itziar and Rosa from Basque Tours and the local tourist department of Gorbeialdea for letting us be part of the fantastic tour.
It was an honor to meet and get to know Murray in person, and we hope he thoroughly enjoyed the visit to our little Basque paradise. We would love to see him again on his next trip to the Basque Country. There are still many unknown and awesome places to show him around: such as the Nervión Waterfall passing through the ancient and unique wolves traps, Altube beech forest and waterfalls, San Pedro Spanish Civil War Trenches, Itxina’s massive fortress, an incredible and magic karst rock labyrinth in Gorbeia Mountain and many other natural wonders.
We hope to see you soon. ‘Ikusi’ arte!