Birthplace of the legendary first Lord of Bizkaia, the picturesque fishing village of Mundaka became world famous in the 19th century for the fearlessness of one of its sons, while its waves have made it a benchmark in the world of surfing since the end of the 20th century.
Plan your visit to Mundaka
Mundaka is a historic and beautiful town that can be visited during a morning stroll; the afternoon can be used to see the nearby Interpretation Centre of the Urdaibai Nature Reserve. If you want to get the most out of your day, you can enjoy the waves on the magnificent beach of Laida. To get there, you must take a ferry that in the summer months connects both shores of the estuary of Gernika. Mundaka is a good base for exploring the surrounding region since it has excellent hotels and accomodations. From Mundaka, you can go on an excursion to the south, spending the day in Gernika and seeing its museums– or head north to the fishing village of Bermeo and then go a few kilometres further west to the unique chapel of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. If you want to make reservations, we suggest checking out our page on where to sleep and eat in Mundaka.
Mundaka is a small fishing village situated on the left bank of the mouth of the Oka River. The etymology of its name is uncertain and is occasionally wrapped up in fabulous origins. It is said that centuries ago a Scottish ship docked in Mundaka with an exiled princess. When they reached the coasts of the current town, the Scots were amazed at the cleanliness of its waters and named the place Clean Water, in Latin Munda Aqua. This Scottish princess had a son whom she named Jaun Zuria and who would become, over the years, the first Lord of Biscay. But that’s another Mundaka story. Another interpretation of the name of the locality suggests the possibility of a Viking settlement in the area due to the Nordic origin of the name.
At any rate, in 1071 the name was first written as Mondaka. The town and church were donated that same year to the Monastery of San Juan de la Peña, in Jaca. In spite of such a remote position, he must have enjoyed a certain reputation in the area due to the position of honour he always held in the General Assembly of Biscay.
In 1446, during the conflicts between the Oñacinos and the Gamboínos, the fighter González de Butrón destroyed the tower next to the Parish Church of Santa María.
From the very beginning, Mundaka was dedicated to fishing and maritime trade, although it struggled with the small size of its port and its geographical inability to grow and develop industrially on a par with that of other nearby towns. Mundaka has also been the cradle of famous sailors such as Rodrigo de Portuondo, a friend of Ignacio de Loyola and Charles I, the general of the Spanish Navy. Over the centuries, the town modernised due to the profits of its navigators and, during the 19th and 20th centuries, reoriented its main economic activity towards tourism.
On the Holy Saturday of 1878, a devastating wind-storm was unleashed and the sailor José Ramón Luzárraga made an intrepid rescue that was the object of worldwide attention.
The Biscayan town of Mundaka is located in an incomparable landscape, at the northern end of the Urdaibai Nature Reserve. The most outstanding sight in Mundaka is its small and picturesque port, hidden behind a dam and protected by a cliff. Its shape and size prevent entry to large boats, both recreational and fishing, so it maintains a clean and colorful appearance without any trace of modernity. You can visit the Cruz del Calvario, a 17th century penitential monument located in the street of the same name.
The Parish Church of Santa María stands out from its surroundings due to it being built in the 11th century near a watchtower at a remarkable height. During the 16th century it suffered a fire and was rebuilt in a late Gothic style with Renaissance elements, such as the façade designed in the following century on its west wing, which has Ionic columns. In the 19th century, the neo-Gothic tower and the current portico were added.
A trip to Mundaka is incomplete without a visit to the nineteenth-century Hermitage of Santa Catalina, which rests on the peninsula of the same name and is remarkably far from the town centre. It is the perfect place to admire the beauty of the landscape of Mundaka. The current construction dates back to 1879 and is in a neo-Gothic style, but since antiquity it has been used as a meeting place, a warehouse, a hospital and even a fort.
In the world of surfing, Mundaka is internationally renowned. Its left waves is internationally recognized as the best in Europe. They can reach up to four metres in height and four hundred metres in length, taking on a tubular shape which, as an added value, allows you to admire the coast from the inside. The waves and waters of Mundaka have become a tourist attraction for surf lovers and non-surfers alike. Many international surfing competitions have been held in the town and it has hosted the World Circuit on numerous occasions. A good lookout to admire its beauty is the Mirador de la Atalaya (Atalaya Viewpoint).
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