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Duranguesado: A land of legends

They are not the same, but one could not be understood without the other. The smells of the Duranguesado regions have that special contrast that makes them unmistakable. Within just a few kilometres we pass from the industrial smell coming from the Paper Factory, which very often turns out rough and unpleasant, to the wooded mountains where we can breathe the freshest, healthiest aroma. The contrast wins our heart immediately. Paradoxical but true.

The old Durango county, the Duranguesado, is located in a beautiful natural region bordered by two great massifs: Mount Oiz to the north and Mount Amboto and its foothills to the South. One could say that this area is one of Bizkaia's most beautiful mountain sceneries.

To get to this region, through which flows the Ibaizabal river, we must take the N-634 road towards Donostia-San Sebastian to Galdakao, where we can visit Andra Mari de Santa Maria church, in the neighbourhood of Elejalde, built in the gothic style and considered a National Monument.

Our journey continues towards Amorebieta-Etxano, where Santa Maria church is also worth a visit. From Amorebieta we proceed on to Durango, a historical crossroads which has kept its level of progress thanks to a sound industrialisation process.

In Durango, the capital of the region, we can visit some interesting monuments, like Santa Maria de Ulibarri church, the Town Hall, the Cross at Kurutziaga, Santa Ana Gate (the only one still standing of the five gates which were the access to the town), and Ezkurdi square. Durango preserves an undeniable stately appearance, with its magnificent palaces, the gothic design of the streets, and its works of art.

On our way to Elorrio, we stop at Abadiño - Abadiano, with Muntsaratz Tower, a house which is representative of this type of buildings. Soon after, at Apatamonasterio, we take the turnoff for Axpe and Arrazola, two typically Basque hamlets located in the middle of extraordinary mountain landscapes and the bucolic Atxondo Valley, dotted with country houses more than four centuries old.

We return back to Apatamonasterio and take the road to Elorrio, the most monumental of Bizkaia's towns, surrounded by an impressive natural wall of varied, capricious mountains. It is worth noting in particular the Conception Church, the Town Hall and the numerous Palaces and Noble Houses. In the outskirst are the hermitage and Argiñeta paleochristian necropolis, with twenty tombs and funerary monuments dating from the 11th century.

From Elorrio we continue our tour towards Berriz, from where we will go up the mountain to the hamlet of Garay, a truly beautiful group of popular houses on the slopes of Mt. Oiz. The so-called "Lookout of the Duranguesado" is next to the hermitage of San Juan de Momoito.

We leave Garay and continue to the hamlet of Goiuria, famous for its grill houses and restaurants. A little bit further on we come across Iurreta, with its elegant San Miguel Tower. We take Durango ring road towards Vitoria-Gasteiz and arrive at Mañaria, from which we can go up to the mountain pass of Urkiola, which offers excellent panoramic views of the Duranguesado Rocks. On the top of the pass is San Antonio Shrine, which houses what is popularly known as the "meteorite", a rock around which there are several legends.

From Urkiola we return to Bilbao, going down back to Duranto and then taking the A-8 highway.

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