Gaztelugatxe Or the Stairs Above the Sea

Stairs are constructions designed to cover large vertical distances. Usually, people run away when they see them, as they prefer means much faster, such as elevators. However, there are some stairs, few in the entire world, that just make people to want to step on them. Some of these stairs are in the small Spanish islet of Gaztelugatxe.

The island is on the coast of Biscay, in the Spanish Basque County, and it is connected to mainland through a man-made bridge. The upper part of the islet “hosts” a beautiful monastery, which dates from the tenth century. Both visitors and residents can reach the church via a narrow path that consists of 237 steps. However, there are some sources that say the path has fewer stairs, such as 229 or 231. According to the legend, those who arrive at the church must ring the bell the find at the entrance three times and make a wish.


People who have climbed these huge rocky stairs have said that they felt like they were walking above the sea. Only this feeling is more than enough to make any person decide to visit the island of Gaztelugatxe. Not to mention the amazing sights that are shown in front of your eyes.


The best place to visit both the island and the monastery is spring and autumn. You can also go to Gaztelugatxe during the summer months, but keep in mind that during this hot season the small island get very crowded. The church is closed in winter.

It is believed that the small church belonged to the Templar Knights. In 1053, this holy place was donated to the monastery of San Juan de la PeÒa, by IÒigo LÛpez, who was the first Lord of Biscay.


After a few more decades, in 1593, Sir Francis Drake and his pirates attacked and robbed the monastery. On other several times, the small church was damaged by fires, and in 1978 it was destroyed in such a fire. Two years later, the hermitage was re-built and was open for the public.

Currently, the church belongs to the parish of San Pelayo in Bakio.

Submission by Luka Lisjak.

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