Aiako Harria Natural Park

Aiako Harria Natural Park

As we mentioned in a previous post, Gipuzkoa has 4 natural parks, protected spaces of great beauty and historical-cultural interest that should be visited if you like nature or if you want to get to know our region better. Near San Sebastian we find 2 of these natural parks: Pagoeta and Aiako Harria. The latter is the subject of this post.

Aiako Harria Natural Park

The Peñas de Aia or Aiako Harria (in Spanish and Basque respectively) natural park has this name because the Peñas de Aia massif is located there. This massif consists of three consecutive peaks over 800 metres high (Irumugarrieta at 812, Txurrumurru at 829 and Erroibide at 838) from which you can enjoy spectacular views of the whole region. But throughout the park we can find somewhat lower peaks that will delight any good mountaineer.

Views from almost the top, with San Sebastian in the background. Photo by Le guide du Pays Basque.

This massif is considered to be the westernmost limit of the Pyrenees and for millions of years it was the only peak protruding from the sea in the whole area, that is, it is formed by rocks created a long time ago, in fact, it is not unusual to find marine fossils embedded in them.

But this is not the only ancient thing to be found in the park. There are plenty of megalithic monuments in the area, both dolmens and cromlechs. If you are interested in prehistory, Aiako Harria is the ideal place, as all these monuments are in good condition and perfectly signposted.

On the other hand, in the park we can also see local fauna and flora. Griffon vultures, peregrine falcons, mink and salmon, beech, oak and heather await us. Although, of course, always observing with respect and from a distance, remembering that we are in a protected area. And if what we like is waterfalls, we are in luck, as in the Aitzondo ravine there is a waterfall with a 100-metre drop that is well worth seeing.

Location of the Aiako Harria Natural Park

Aiako Harria is located between Gipuzkoa and Navarre, precisely between the Urumea and Bidasoa rivers. It has a surface area of 6,913 hectares spread between different municipalities in Gipuzkoa, especially Oiartzun and Errenteria. A small part of it is even in San Sebastian, so it is very close to the capital of Gipuzkoa and therefore very easy to reach by car. That is why it is a very popular natural park, as it is close to several urban centres and access is very easy.

There are different options for accessing the park. The busiest entrances are:

  • In Hernani: Ereñotzu and Ugaldetxo.
  • In Errenteria: Listorreta-Barrengoloia.
  • In Oiartzun: Karrika and Arditurri.
  • In Irun: Meaka.

There are also areas along the road that crosses Aiako Harria where you can leave your car and enter the park on foot.

Arditurri Mine in Oiartzun

Although everything we have mentioned is interesting, perhaps the most interesting thing to visit in the Aiako Harria natural park are the Arditurri mines. Located in Oiartzun, right at the foot of the Peñas de Aia massif, these mines have been exploited since before Roman times until 1984, for an estimated 2,500 years. They are one of the longest continuously exploited mines in the world, and silver, copper, iron and zinc, among other minerals, have been found in them.

Here you will find the information centre of the natural park, which offers guided tours of the mines, an essential visit to better understand the use of the mines and the natural space in which they are located. Arditurri can be reached on foot or by bicycle, along the old mining railway, which has now been converted into a cycle path. On the way, there are also some pools which, in the middle of summer, will be a refreshing stop along the route.