On the west of Bizkaia there exists the land known as Encartaciones, “The Chartered Towns”, a succession of green and mountainous valleys that hide beautiful places with a long mediaeval tradition, and that have always been a “different” part of Bizkaia. They had their own Casa de Juntas de Avellaneda, an ancient way of ruling themselves, parallel to the one in Gernika, and still there. But, once again, you will see no tourists at all on this area, probably the least visited in Bizkaia, despite its enormous offer of interesting attractions for those that seek the “untouched” areas. Basque is hardly spoken on this area.
Among its several attractions, the town of Balmaseda, with its mediaeval bridge and the amazing church of Saint Severino. They hold a magnificent live recreation of the Passion of Christ on Easter (Holy Week). Not far, the best and biggest Rolls Royce museum in the world, already mentioned on this blog. Also, the Ferrería del Pobal, a faithful recreation of how ironworks were made in the past centuries, using just the force of watermills and fire. This land used to be full of iron mines and has a long tradition of ironworks, as most of the Basque Country. In Karrantza you have the Pozalagua Caves, the biggest cave in the world in its part known as Torca del Carlista (500 mt long, 240mt wide and 135mt high), with the highest concentration on earth of unique excentric stalactites and stalagmites of all shapes, even the weirdest ones.
For fun, Karpin Abentura, www.karpinabentura.com, a place where wild animals are treated from injuries and live in its spacious areas and also where kids will enjoy the “live” dinosaurs. Also, a great place for families is Sopuerta Abentura, http://www.sopuerta-abentura.com/, fun in the trees…
Regarding food and accommodation, I can recommend Hotel Amalurra (www.amalurra.com), a different experience, it offers a complete Spa service and great food in its nice restaurant. Perfect for relax and to enjoy nature, it has huge gardens and children are most welcome. Also, the very new Hotel Ibaia, luxuriously located on an ancient convent in Gordexola, beautiful town full of palaces and manor houses (and where my grandpa was born, by the way), www.hotelibaia.es. Also, a very special place is www.casavicentepallotti.com, a balneary run by the Palotinos Fathers, Catholic priests, for those that look for relax and meditation in a romantic scenery. And almost any restaurant in the area of good, honest food at unbeatable prices.
You´d never thought that the biggest and most important Rolls Royce collection in the world would be located in much unknown area of Bizkaia province in the Basque Country. 75 unique cars, 43 of them Rolls Royce and then Lamborghini, Ferrari, Hispano-Suiza, Bentley…, all kept in perfect working condition in a beautiful tower castle located in a lush green valley just 35 kms west of Bilbao. For detailed info and pictures, torreloizaga.com, unfortunately only in Spanish, but Google offers a free and decent translation service… Sadly, its owner, founder and keeper (he was alsothe ticket seller…) died recently, so there´s some degree of uncertainty about the future of this museum. I was there last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. Kids are welcome, you can take as many pictures as you want and the fortress and gardens are perfect for a bit of relax.
Not far, in the Karrantza (or Carranza) valley, there are XIX century balnearies, the Pozalagua caves (one of the biggest in the world), El Carpín Zoo and Adventure Park (perfect for kids)…in an unspoilt environment, tourist-free. Two good web pages for this area are karrantza.com, and enkartur.net, luckily also in English. I also like to go to this area to enjoy “alubiadas” in a restaurant, consisting of slow cooked beans with black pudding, chorizo, bacon…as much as you can eat, followed by a huge grilled (rare, as we like it over here) T-bone steak…all for around 25 euros per person, wine included (as an example, www.enkartur.net/servicio-restaurante-la-bodeguilla-sopuerta-40.html, in Sopuerta).
I can´t help to think that if this museum were located in, say, the UK or the US, it would be a much visited attraction and known worldwide by car lovers. But for some reason it seems we want to hide these little gems from our visitors.