I surprisingly didn’t read about this forest in any of the tourist information books I have. A foreign friend I met here told me about this “cool forest with painted trees” they had heard of and I looked in Instagram. The hashtag #paintedforest wasn’t difficult to guess. This forest is worth the effort to see! And it is an effort unless you rent a car and drive to Lezika pub (GPS: 43 20′ 42″ l / 2 38′ 15″ M). There is still a considerable walk ahead of you from there though!
This blog helped me a lot. This one was “underwhelmed” by the forest but makes a good point that it’s well worth being outside in nature even if the paintings aren’t that impressive. What I particularly like is the comment in that same blog that “when I returned home to Bilbao, it was still just as gorgeous.” I couldn’t agree more, and that is how I also felt upon my return to Bilbao from the Camino Del Norte and from Donostia-San Sebastian. I’ll add a few more additional tips about getting to the forest that I think might be useful to someone else too.
Although the photo directions posted in the first blog linked in the above paragraph is useful, it’s good to remember that corn will not be growing all year. I recommend walking from the bus stop in the direction you just came from, so out of town, past the traffic circle and up the hill and turning left at the first paved road that turns left (you will see a small dirt road turning left just before it too, unless you have google maps helping you, stick to the paved road). It has signs directing you to the forest and Santimamine caves, walk straight down the paved road you turned left onto until you get to Lezika bar which is on your left (Lezika is not that first bar on the right that you reach after having turned off, it’s about 2-3km walk, carry on up the hill past the vineyards). You will see a road turning right up a hill directing you to the forest, just across the road from the pub. Alternatively, follow the directions on the blog mentioned.
I went on a public holiday. I was able to foresee that there would be a lot of people so this didn’t bother me. I went with 3 friends and we took the A 3513 Bizkai bus (Bilbao-Elantxobe-Lekeitio). Tip: Be careful not to get onto the fast bus to Lekeitio. We met at the San Mames Metro exit and went up to the termibus. This is the wrong stop. Ask for directions to Calle Capuchinos. The bus stops there. This is pretty much left of San Mames stadium if you’re facing the stadium with your back to Moyua side of town. Ask for directions, if you can’t speak Spanish show an official at the termibus your bus number and mention Kortezubi and they will direct you. keep in mind this was the case in 2017 – It looks like there is construction of some sort going on near the Termibus so the A 3513 may very well move closer to the termibus in the future. If in doubt ask Bilbao tourism at the Guggenheim or Abando a day or two in advance. Remember to get off at Kortezubi (there is a picture at the end). From there you walk. (For general Bilbao travel tips and links to bus schedules and tourism information, click here).
The trees are cool, I have pictures at the end of what to expect – but that’s just a small section of what’s on offer. If you are interested in the reason for this forests existence, read here. For more pictures click here. The artist is Agustín Ibarrola.
I suggest wearing trainers (or if you’re South African or Zimbabwean, wear “takkies”) or hiking boots. The road is wide and relatively smooth (it’s a dirt road, so muddy after the rain) until the last 250m descent into the painted forest. This section gets muddy and slippery and is very steep. If you have bad knees, it will be unpleasant for all 250m. It’s an uphill walk most of the way from the bus stop to the forest. This is not enough reason not to go. Lots of children and older people were on the walk – take your time and enjoy the gorgeous scenery! I recommend taking a water bottle as there is no water point in the forest as far as I am aware. It’s a great place to sit and chat, take some snacks, but take your rubbish home with you too.
On your way back stop for a drink or lunch at Lezika. It’s a real Basque pub. The one you walked past before you turned right, up the path to the painted forest. I ate a “bocadillo” (sandwich) with ham (one of the best things about Northern Spain) and cheese. I paid 5.50 Euros. The “bocadillo” was huge! I wasn’t able to finish it all. I have posted a picture at the bottom. They also had tortilla “pintxos” on offer and I assume other “bocadillo” options if not a menu del dia.
To the left of the pub are the Santimamiñe Caves. I’m going back for this. The caves are only accessible by appointment. I have been assured I can book as a solo traveller and do not need to gather 4 other people to join me. This is good news. General entrance: 5 Euros. Contact: 94 465 16 57 or 94 465 16 60. E-mail: email@example.com.
The bus back (on the public holiday) arrived at 15:30 despite the schedule saying 14:50. That’s not a very big issue though. I would not count on the bus being late every time, so be there at 14:50. A picture of the schedule is also at the bottom of the post.
It gets chilly in the forest but on your way there you are exposed to a lot of sun. Prepare for both!