Urkulu: A nature reserve and lake in the heart of the Basque Country


Urkulu from above.

This nature reserve with a huge lake is a little gem in the province of Gipuzkoa. It is a really easy walk for all abilities and ages. Even if you don’t fancy a walk there are many benches, toilets and fountains at the entrance and dotted around for you to enjoy. In the summer it gets very busy full of families having barbeques, teenagers going fishing and many people walking, running and cycling. There is a 7km circuit that goes round the lake that has its own tarmacked bike lane, making it very easy on the feet and tyres. The nearest mountain to Urkulu is Kurtzeberri  and you can see Muru, Udalaitz, Anboto, hiruaitz, aizkorri and all the other mountains of this amazing valley, the backdrop is simply wonderful full of lovely views.

Urkulu is a man made lake and it was built in the 70’s. It was a town before that but it kept on getting flooded out so they turned it into nature reserve. There was a big draught last year andyou could see the foundations of the old houses as there was no water in Urkulu. After the wet and cold winter we have had the lake is now full bursting!

I have started my wikiloc from the town of Aretxabaleta, but there is also parking at the entrance of the lake. I have flagged on my wikiloc where the parking is, there is also a water fountain here of mountain filtered water full of minerals! The link to my wikilocs is here.

It is a really easy walk, especially if you cut out the walk from Aretxabaleta and back.  https://www.wikiloc.com/walking-trails/aretxabaleta-to-urkulu-and-around-the-lake-25136455

I begin the journey from Aretxabaleta on a track that follows the river up to the lake. It is a very agricultural track but is very busy with bikers, runners, dog walkers and people from town. It is a few kilometres up to the top and is very pleasant walking.

This is the track up to Urkulu, this photo was taken on the way down, hence why Dusty is covered in mud!!!

After a few kilometres you arrive at the car park at the entrance, which is a good place to fill up on water from the fountain as its the only fountain around the 7km walk around the lake. It is just a question of enjoying the area and following the cycle track around the lake now. There is also another route (up the Northern side of the mountain) to Kurtzeberri from here, it is up a muddy farm track which then leads through woods and fields to the cross at the top. This route is a lot colder, muddier, steeper and generally more dangerous than the route I blogged from Mendiola.

The entrance of Urkulu, the northern route to Kurtzeberri is up that track on the right.
There is lots of fun to be had here with children!
Its a perfect track for cycling.
This field has been full of sheep until now.
There is a doggy I hear in here sometimes.

You will arrive at this water collection area, if you want to explore the mountains there is a track going to the Sierra de  Zaraia from here. There are many tracks leading off from around Urkulu going to nearby mountains, hermits and tracks.

This is where you can take a route to the Sierra de Zaraia.
The magical lake of Urkulu.
Kurtzeberri.  https://hikeotherapy.blog/2018/05/15/mountain-kurtzeberri/
A photo of Joey with a farm cat. He is more interested in chasing sticks than chasing cats thankfully.
I don’t exactly know what this is for but I’m presuming its a tribute to the people who have been killed or taken away over the years.

You will arrive back at the entrance in no time at all. It takes me just over an hour to walk around the lake but you can loose a whole day in this wonderful reserve easily. Then its just a question of getting back to town for a vino and a pintxo! If you want to know more about Aretxabaleta please feel free to contact me (there is a link to do this on the homepage) as it is my hometown.






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