The Tour de France and the Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift on the move for cycling as a means of transport



Provinces: Alava, Vizcaya and Guipuscoa.
Population: 2.2 million
Capital: Vitoria-Gasteiz.
Area: 7 234 km2
Specialities: Biscayan cod, cod al pil-pil, choricero (pepper), Guernica beans, marmitako (a kind of tuna bouillabaisse). Pisto a la bilbaina (ratatouille with egg and ham). Txakoli (wine). Perretxikos (mushrooms). Goxua (custard cake). Vitoria-style beans, fried vegetables, fried peppers, dried beans known as "pochas". The Rioja region of Alava produces wines protected by the Rioja designation of origin. Pintxos (tapas). Kokotxa (hake jowl in green sauce). Idiazabal cheese, guindillas from Ibarra, anchovies à la donostiarra with garlic, fresh fish, Tolosa beans. Txangurros (spider crabs). Idiazabal (cheese). Cider from Astigarraga.
Sports clubs: Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad, Deportivo Alaves (football). Saski-Baskonia (basketball, two-time Euroleague finalist). Bera Bera Rugby.
Competitions : Grand Depart of the Tour de France 2023. Clasica San Sebastian. Tour of the Basque Country. Basque Pelota. Ironman of Vitoria-Gasteiz. Surfing. Behobia - San Sebastian (running race).
Economy: Shipbuilding, services, high technology (Bizkaia Technology Park), port activities (first port on the north coast of Spain), banking (BBVA headquarters), Iberdrola (electricity and gas). Fishing, agriculture, tourism. Automobile industry (Daimler Benz, Michelin, Daewoo). Agriculture. Beach tourism, congresses. Universities, shops. Cooperatives (Mondragon). Domestic appliances (Fagor). Metallurgy.
Culture: Guggenheim Museum, Fine Arts Museum. Aste Nagusia (August), commemoration of the foundation of the city of Bilbao (15 June). Azkena Rock Festival (June), International Games Festival (June), Vitoria Jazz Festival (July), Dia del Blusa (July), Fiestas de la Blanca (August). San Sebastian European Capital of Culture 2016. San Sebastian Film Festival (September), San Sebastian Jazz Festival (mid-July). Tamborrada (January). Feria, Donostikluba (electronic music). International Puppet Centre (Tolosa).
Sights: Bilbao Guggenheim Museum, Gaztelugatxe islet, Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve, Vizcaya Bridge, Bermeo, Guernica, Guernica Tree. 


Population: 1.15 million
Capital city: Bilbao
Area: 2,217 km2
Specialities: Biscayan cod, cod al pil-pil, choricero (pepper), Guernica beans, marmitako (a kind of tuna bouillabaisse). Pisto a la bilbaina (ratatouille with egg and ham). Txakoli (wine).
Major sports clubs: Athletic Bilbao (football). 
Major competitions: Grand Départ of the Tour de France 2023. Tour of the Basque Country. Basque Pelota.
Culture and festivals: Guggenheim Museum, Fine Arts Museum.
Sights: Bilbao Guggenheim Museum, Gaztelugatxe islet, Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve, Vizcaya Bridge, Bermeo, Guernica, Guernica Tree. 
Economy: Bilbao is the 10th largest city in Spain and one of its main economic centres. Shipbuilding, services, high technology (Bizkaia technology park), port activities (first port on the north coast of Spain), banking (BBVA headquarters), Iberdrola (electricity and gas). Fishing, agriculture, tourism.
Websites / social networks:

Km 8.8


This beautiful municipality is surrounded by countryside inviting for long and quiet walks. Its nine districts on the banks of the river Butron contain a vast historical heritage. The most famous monument in Gatika is undoubtedly the Butron Castle. The nearby Magdalena hermitage is also worth a visit. In the centre of Gatika, the 16th-century church of Santa María, with its remarkable bell tower, its pediment and its town hall stand out. The main festivals in Gatika take place at the end of August in honour of Saint Bartholomew. There are tortilla and paella contests and humorous competitions (donkey races, beret throwing).

Butron Castle

Construction: 12th, 16th and 19th centuries.
Style: medieval.
Features and history: The castle overlooks Gatika on a rocky hill surrounded by a hundred-year-old forest. For more than three hundred years, the castle was the scene of cruel factional struggles between the nobles of Bizkaia. In the mid-13th century, the Butron family's residence was a tower house. It was not until a century later that a descendant of the family turned it into a castle. When the factional fighting ended in the early 16th century, the castle was abandoned and deteriorated until the 19th century. It was then restored under the direction of Francisco de Cubas in 1878, following the neo-medieval fashion of the time.
Current destination: after being owned by several companies that tried to turn it into a tourist site, the castle was sold to a rich tycoon at the end of 2021.
Listing: exceptional Basque built heritage

Km 10


Laukiz, a mainly rural municipality, is the birthplace of the Basque poet and writer Esteban Urkiaga "Lauaxeta" (1905-1937), who was murdered by Franco's regime in 1937. The beautiful 18th-century church of San Martín is worth seeing. Nearby is Mount Unbe, known for its sanctuary and the spring from which flows, according to the locals, water with healing properties.

Km 21


Strategically located on the banks of the estuary and between the San Pablo and San Bernabé mountains, Erandio has several interesting elements of historical and artistic heritage, such as the Renaissance-style Martiartu tower house (16th century) and the Gothic-style church of Santa María (12th to 16th centuries). For a long time, the town was part of Bilbao and a metro station was named after it.  Among the city's celebrities, Telmo Zarra (1921-2006) was the top scorer in the Spanish Liga for 59 years with 251 goals for Athletic Bilbao before being dethroned by Lionel Messi in 2014.

Km 25.2


Surrounded by water and bordered by spectacular cliffs, culminating at Galea Point, Getxo is known for its beaches and its marina, lined with drinking establishments and small fish restaurants. However, it is the Vizcaya Bridge (a Unesco World Heritage site) that remains the main symbol of this exclusive seaside resort, located 20 km from Bilbao. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Getxo attracted the jet set of the time, such as Queen Isabel II, philosopher Max Weber or painter Joaquin Sorolla. It was the birthplace of many Basque international footballers in the 1920s and 1930s, and is also a cycling town, where the Getxo circuit has been held every year since 1924 in July, renamed the Otxoa Brothers Memorial in honour of Ricardo and Javier Otxoa, both of whom died after being hit by a car in 2001 while training (Ricardo on the spot, Javier in 2018 after a long illness).  The last winner of the event, in 2022, was young Spanish prodigy Juan Ayuso. Getxo is the hometown of Jonathan Castroviejo, who has competed in eight Tours de France for Movistar and then for Ineos and has been Spanish time trial champion five times. He also wore the leader's jersey twice in the Vuelta. Also from Getxo are Inigo Landaluze, the controversial winner of the Critérium du Dauphiné in 2005 (tested positive for testosterone, cleared by his federation before being caught again and suspended in 2009) and Roberto Laiseka, winner in 2001 of a stage of the Tour de France in Luz-Ardiden and of three stages of the Vuelta.  The Tour of Spain went there for a stage start in 2018.

Vizcaya Bridge

Construction: 1888 to 1893.
Architects: Alberto de Palacio and Ferdinand Arnodin
Style: Transporter bridge
Characteristics: The Vizcaya Bridge (suspension bridge) joins the Areeta district to Portugalete. It is a bridge with an iron structure that carries a gondola suspended by steel cables. This gondola carries pedestrians and cars for a fee. In the upper part of the bridge there is a walkway open to the public, offering panoramic views.
History: In order to cross the Nervion between Portugalete and Las Arenas without preventing boats from going upstream to Bilbao, Alberto de Palacio had the idea of a rolling bridge similar to the one between Saint-Malo and Saint-Servan. Since he could not place a track at the bottom of the river, he imagined placing it above, on the beam of a ferry bridge. The idea was approved in 1888. Palacio then contacted Frenchman Ferdinand Arnodin, the only specialist in this technology, and together they built the bridge. It was inaugurated by Queen Christina. The bridge deck was destroyed in 1937, during the Spanish Civil War. It was put back into service in 1941.
Listing: Unesco World Heritage Site since 2006.

Km 30.7


Berango is worth a visit for its beautiful Santo Domingo de Guzman church and the baroque building of the Santa Ana hermitage. Also worth visiting is the Munarrikolanda megalithic complex, which consists of five sandstone and earthen tombs and a dolmen. The tower-houses of Berango are reminiscent of medieval times: the best preserved is that of Otxandategi. It is the hometown of twin brothers Ricardo and Javier Otxoa, who were both hit by a car while training in 2001. Ricardo was killed on the spot, while Javier was placed in a coma in a state of brain death for over two months. He had to relearn to speak, walk and read and resumed cycling in 2003. In 2004, he was Paralympic time trial champion in Athens and repeated the feat four years later in Beijing. He died in 2018 after a long illness. Before the accident, Javier had won his greatest success in the 2000 Tour de France by winning the Hautacam stage. 

Km 33.4


Sopela is a residential town by the sea, and is notable for the many sculptures installed in the town featuring famous people: the statue of The Guitarist, for example, pays tribute to Angus Young, the guitarist of the band AC/DC, while The Cyclist represents Basque rider Joanne Sommariba, world time trial champion in 2003, three-time winner of the women's Grande Boucle and twice winner of the women's Giro.  It is also a surf spot, like its neighbours Barrika and Plentzia.

Km 42.8


A seaside town with an increasingly popular beach. Gorliz is home to architectural treasures such as the 19th century Iturritxu and Axeo palaces. The church of the Inmaculada Concepcion de Santa María and the town hall are also noteworthy. The promenade along the beach is home to one of the most emblematic and characteristic buildings in the city: the Gorliz Hospital. Built in 1919 as a marine sanatorium, its style prefigures Art Deco. Another example where the heritage aspect joins the coastal character is the hermitage of Nuestra Senora de las Nieves or Andra Mari. Located in a privileged natural site in the Andra Mari district, this 11th-century sanctuary offers views of Gorliz Bay and the Butron estuary.

Km 61.4


The coast around Bakio is a privileged place, surrounded by beaches, cliffs, coves and walks. The San Juan de Gaztelugatxe site, a protected biotope, is also worth mentioning, with its dazzling landscape in the middle of the sea. The Askada and Jata lookouts offer exceptional panoramic views of Bakio. Architectural highlights include the parish church of Santa Maria de la Asuncion de Bakio and the Gothic parish church of Andra Mari, which is located on the slopes of Jata. The hermitages of Santa Ursula, San Cristobal and Santa Catalina are also worth a visit, as are the Baroque palaces of Elexpuru and Ormatza. A visit to Bakio is not to be missed at the Txakoli Museum, which pays tribute to the sweet, young and fruity wine that is typical of the region. 

Km 67.9


It is one of the most visited places in the Basque Country. This small idyllic island, located between Bakio and Bermeo, is linked to the coast by a stone bridge and a 241-step staircase. It is a protected biotope. Unfortunately, the church we see today is not the original. Over the centuries, fires and battles have destroyed the successive buildings. It is believed that the first hermitage on the island was built in the 9th century. In the 12th century, it was replaced by a convent. Two centuries later, the monks left the place, taking with them all the valuables. Gaztelugatxe is the setting for dozens of legends of piracy, mystery and combat and is one of the most popular attractions in Bizkaia. It is said that touching the bell of the hermitage three times will scare away the evil spirits. At the end of the staircase that leads to the island, you can step on the footprint left by Saint John the Baptist, which is said to bring good luck. At the top, a picturesque chapel overlooking the island offers spectacular views of the Cantabrian Sea and the cliffs, tunnels and arches carved out of the rock by the force of the waves.  

Km 74


Bermeo is one of the main fishing ports in the historic territory of Bizkaia. It is located on the slopes of Mount Sollube. The coastal area is full of cliffs and rocks, such as San Juan de Gaztelugatxe and the islands of Aketx and Izaro. The coastline is dotted with small coves, such as the one that gives access to Matxitxako Cape and its two lighthouses. The most visible monument is the one designed by the sculptor Nestor Basterretxea in homage to the painter Benito Barrueta. The Fisherman's Museum, located in the Ercilla Tower, is also worth a visit, as is the Bermeo Casino (1894), inspired by French châteaux. A visit to the magnificent Gothic church of Santa Eufemia is a must. The natural heritage is just as charming, with the beautiful island of Izaro, Cape Matxitxako, and the Tala (a wood located on the heights of the town). Bermeo is the hometown of Bingen Fernandez, who has competed twice in the Tour de France (2002 and 2009) and ten times in the Vuelta between 1998 and 2009. He has since become a respected sports director, first with Jonathan Vaughters and since 2021 with Cofidis.  In 2018, Julian Alaphilippe won a stage in the Tour of the Basque Country.  

Torre Ercilla

Construction: 15th century.
Style: tower house
History: of the 30 towers that defended Bermeo in the Middle Ages, this is the only one that remains standing. It is strategically located on the old port and was built at the end of the 15th century. The Ercilla house is a tower house. The famous Fortun García Ercilla and the poet Alonso Ercilla y Zuniga, author of La Araucana, came from this lineage. For centuries, the tower was neglected and lost its military function. It was used as a market, fishermen's house and fish shop. In 1948 the façade was restored and the Gothic arches were found. In 1984, 1985 and 2015, the tower was restored again, changing the foundations of the façade.
Current destination: it has housed a Fisherman's Museum since 1948.
Listed as an artistic and historical monument in 1947.

Km 77.4


Despite its modest size, Mundaka is known worldwide for its surf culture. The town's atmosphere is particularly pleasant in autumn when surfers from all over the world gather to ride one of the longest waves in the world. Non-surfers can also enjoy the beautiful views of Izaro Island, Mount Ogono and the Urdaibai River estuary, the most iconic area in the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve. According to legend, in the 10th century, a ship from Scotland with an exiled princess on board landed on the shores of Mundaka. The passengers discovered a spring which they called munda aqua, which means 'clean water' in Latin. The princess is said to have had a son whom she named Jaun Zuria and who became the first Lord of Bizkaia. Although this story has little historical value, one thing is certain: Mundaka played an important role in Basque mythology and history.

Km 88.3


The historical and spiritual capital of the Basque Country, Gernika (Guernica in Spanish) is particularly famous for its destruction on 26 April 1937 by the Condor Legion airmen sent by Hitler to support General Franco. This bombing inspired many artists: Guernica is the name of a painting by Pablo Picasso, a sculpture by René Iché and a poem by Paul Éluard (La victoire de Guernica). The town was founded by Count Don Tello on 28 April 1366 at the strategic commercial crossroads formed by the roads from Bermeo to Durango and from Bilbao to Elantxobe and Lekeitio. The port acquired a special importance as it was the end of the navigable part of the river Oka. Guernica soon became the spiritual capital of the Basque Country, when the legislative assemblies of Vizcaya began to be held there and the lords of Vizcaya (and later the kings of Castile and Spain, and nowadays the lehendakariak of the Basque Autonomous Community) came to take the oath of office when they came to power. This ceremony takes place under the Guernica tree, in accordance with the deep-rooted Basque tradition of meeting under a tree, usually an oak, to decide on the interests of the community in a plenary assembly. At the height of the Spanish war, on 26 April 1937, a market day, four squadrons of the German Air Force's Condor Legion bombed the town of Guernica. The attack began at 4.30 p.m. with explosive bombs, then with machine guns for more than three hours, and finally with incendiary bombs. After dropping some fifty tons of incendiary bombs, the last planes left the skies over Guernica at around 7.45 pm. After the bombing, one fifth of the city was in flames and the fire spread to two thirds of the houses. The number of victims (between 300 and 3,000) is controversial, but this air raid, one of the first in the history of military aviation on civilians, became a symbol. Gernika is the birthplace of Roberto Laiseka (see Getxo) and of Joane Sommariba, the greatest Spanish rider of the 1990s: winner of three women's Grandes Boucles (2000, 2001 and 2003) of two Tours of Italy (1999, 2000), she was world time trial champion in 2003. Joane Sommariba is also the wife of Ramon Gonzalez Arrieta, who participated in four Tours de France between 1992 and 1995. Enrique Guerrikagoitia, another native of Gernika, took part in the Tour de France in 1991.  The city also hosted the Vuelta in 1960.  

Picasso's Guernica

Guernica is one of the major works of the Spanish painter Pablo Picasso and one of the most famous paintings in the world. Picasso produced this cubist-style oil on canvas between 1 May and 4 June 1937 in Paris in response to a commission from the Republican government of Francisco Largo Caballero for the Spanish pavilion at the 1937 Paris World Fair. This monumental canvas is a committed denunciation of the bombing of Guernica, which had just occurred on 26 April 1937. Picasso's painting, which was exhibited in many countries between 1937 and 1939, played an important role in the intense propaganda generated by the bombing and the Spanish war, and quickly gained international fame and political significance, becoming a symbol of the denunciation of Franco's and Fascist violence, and then of the horror of the war in general. Kept throughout the Franco dictatorship in the United States at Picasso's request, the work was transferred to Spain in 1981, where it has been kept since 1992 in the Reina Sofía Museum in Madrid.

Km 146.1


It is notable for its Anguleria Palace, a former seventeenth-century stately home that has been listed as an asset of cultural interest, as well as the church of San Emeterio and San Celedonio de Goikolexea, built between the fifteenth and eighteenth centuries. Larrabetzu is the town where one of the first great climbers of Spanish cycling was born and died – Jesus Lorono, winner of the 1957 Tour of Spain and great rival of Federico Bahamontes. The Basque rider, best climber in the 1953 Tour de France, had also won a stage in Cauterets, which the Tour is returning to this year, 70 years later. On that day, the "Lion of Larraberzu" broke away from the peloton on the Aubisque before extending his lead on the descents, his speciality. Lorono took part in the Grande Boucle five times, finishing 5th in 1957. He also finished 7th in the Giro in 1958. He died in 1998 in his hometown. In ten participations in the Vuelta, he finished seven times in the top ten. His victory in the 1957 edition came after a merciless fight with team-mate Federico Bahamontes. The Basque and the Castilian hated each other and that year, the battle was especially fierce. It was Lorono, who was much more popular than the Eagle of Toledo among his team-mates, who had the last word, with Bahamontes finishing in second place. Another rider from the city, Mikel Artetxe, only participated in one Tour de France in 2003.   

Km 152.8


This large suburb of Bilbao is the hometown of Igor Anton, winner of four stages in the Vuelta between 2006 and 2011 and of a stage in the Giro d'Italia (2011). He wore the leader's jersey in the Vuelta for five days in 2010 and twice finished in the Top 10 of the race (8th in 2007 and 9th in 2012). His best finish in three Tour de France appearances was 23rd in 2013. He finished his career in 2018.

Km 164


Zamudio is home to a technology park, sometimes referred to as the Bizkaia Technology Park, which brings together 140 companies in a 205-hectare area to the east of Bilbao in the municipalities of Derio and Zamudio. The park was created in 1985 by the Basque authorities to alleviate the industrial crisis in the region. The park was one of the first of its kind in the country and is now one of the most dynamic. It includes renowned companies such as Oracle Corporation, Accenture, Gamesa, Air Liquide, Vodafone, Siemens AG, Xerox, Cisco, and business incubators, which employ more than 6,400 people. In 2022, Zamudio hosted the finish of a stage of the Tour of the Basque Country won by Colombian Dani Martinez.  

Zamudio Tower House

Construction: 15th century
Style: Gothic.
Characteristics: clearly military in appearance, its four corners are topped with sentry boxes. The coat of arms is repeated in the temple because the Zamudio family was also the patron saint of this church. The tower is almost square in plan and is a cubic volume built of masonry and ashlar. The entrance is quite curious because of one of the most characteristic elements of the tower: a closed external staircase, backed up and fortified with battlements and artillery vents.
History: the Zamudio tower is the reconstruction of a defensive element destroyed in the mid 15th century by the Lords of Butron. In the 18th century, the tower became the property of the Malpica family. Then, until a few years ago, it was used as a farmhouse. Today it houses the municipal library.
Listing: property of cultural interest.

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