Mundaka: surfing, nature and screen tourism

The inhabitants of Mundaka boast about their left wave. And no wonder, because it is considered the best wave in Europe in this category. We are talking about surfing, of course, as this small fishing village offers us a unique image of the sea rising up in front of its picturesque streets. 

It is precisely this unique image that has turned Mundaka into a filming location for some of the films and series that you are sure to remember. From the Goya-nominated “Lullaby” (Alauda Ruiz, 2022), to the intriguing “Presunto culpable” (Atresmedia, 2018), via “El comensal” (Ángeles González Sinde, 2022), Mundaka and the Urdaibai coast are screen tourism territory. In fact, this luxury setting has also attracted a filming that has begun in 2023. This is “Nina”, the second feature film by Andrea Jaurrieta, which takes us into a story of revenge starring Darío Grandinetti and Patricia López. And if you were lacking reasons to travel to this beautiful part of the Basque Country, we would like to remind you that on the coast of Urdaibai there is a place that might ring a bell. It is called San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, and it is said that characters from a cult series were there…

Mundaka and surf

Hundreds of surfers visit year after year this famous left wave we were talking about earlier, which starts at the Mundaka bar and ends at Laida beach. It can reach up to four metres in height and 400 metres in length. The importance of this wave has led Mundaka to organise international competitions and it has hosted the World Circuit on nine occasions. And why are left-hand waves so desirable? Because they allow for very long tubes, and these tubes allow surfers to observe the entire coastline from the inside – a location worthy of a sequel to “They Call Him Bodhi”!

Mundaka: Munda aqua, the town of clear waters

But Mundaka is much more than surfing and this is portrayed in the film “El comensal”, directed in 2022 by Ángeles González Sinde and based on the autobiographical novel by Gabriela Ybarra. In this film, starring Susana Abaitua, Ginés García Millán and Adriana Ozores, there are several places we recommend you visit, so take note. A first stop is its lively port, full of bars and restaurants and the ideal place for the bravest youngsters who dare to jump into the water from its breakwaters. As you wander through its steep streets, you will come across its secluded squares and its best-known buildings. These include the Casino (now a restaurant), the Library (formerly a fish market and even a pilgrims’ hospital), the Ibaialde and Kurutziaga palaces and the church of Santa María (from the 16th century).

The port of Mundaka, the town’s seafaring hub / Bilbao-Vizcaya Film Commission

When it’s time for a drink, the “poteo” area par excellence is the Casco Viejo, with its narrow streets with the aroma of saltpetre and good pintxos. This is an excellent option for recharging your batteries and continuing to explore the town and its surroundings. If you visit in summer, you will want to go for a swim at some point. It is not for nothing that Mundaka gets its name from the Latin (munda aqua), which means transparent water. In the town itself you can enjoy Laidatxu beach, or take a dip in Hondartzape and Txorrokopunta coves. 

After the break, it’s time to go and enjoy the views from the Santa Catalina chapel, as the protagonists of “Lullaby” (Alauda Ruiz, 2022) do. And, to watch the sunset, nothing better than going to the Portuondo viewpoint, another film set, from where you can enjoy an impressive panoramic view of the estuary and its surroundings. Here there is a campsite and a restaurant that are very popular with surfers and holidaymakers. Because Basque gastronomy deserves a separate chapter. Fish and seafood are the stars of the menus of its many good restaurants. And, in the case of Mundaka, many of them are located in places with incomparable views. A two for one that you should make the most of!

The stars of “Lullaby” enjoying the sunset / Bilbao-Vizcaya Film Commission

Urdaibai: Biosphere reserve and bay of Biscay

The beautiful Urdaibai coast, where Mundaka is located, encompasses such well-known towns and villages as Bermeo, Gernika and Lekeitio. If you have seen the series “Presunto culpable” (Atresmedia, 2018), you will surely remember the actor Miguel Ángel Muñoz touring its many corners.

Filming of “Presumed Guilty” in Urdaibai / Bilbao-Vizcaya Film Commission

One of the best ways to get around this area is by boat. There are many options for renting one or using the regular ferry services (especially in summer). Leaving from the port of Mundaka, you can skirt the left bank of the mouth of the Oka estuary, and head for the Cape of Ogoño, at the foot of which is the beautiful village of Elantxobe. On the way, you will pass the island of Izaro, today a refuge for birds and once home to a convent sacked by pirates. Also from the sea you can reach the pretty Ea and its small port at the end of a narrow valley, or stop at the elegant marina of Lekeitio. 

Another attraction of this route is the possibility of spotting some of the cetaceans that inhabit the coast of Biscay: various types of dolphins, pilot whales, fin whales, sperm whales and killer whales.

Rocadragon exists and it is in Urdaibai

But, for a screen tourist, the most iconic place on the Urdaibai coast is in the municipality of Bermeo. We are talking about San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, converted into Dragon Rocks for “Game of Thrones”. Few fans of the series have not already climbed its 241 steps and taken as many selfies as possible in this magical setting. Incidentally, the hermitage itself and its surroundings have been the subject of film episodes. It is said that, at the end of the 16th century, the English corsair Sir Francis Drake burnt the hermitage after raiding it, thinking that it was hiding some valuable treasure. It is not for nothing that this inaccessible islet seems to have been designed as the setting for adventures. From Cape Matxitxako you can see Gaztelugatxe in the distance and, if there is a light mist, it is easy to imagine it as Dragon Rocks…

The now mythical stairs of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe /Bilbao-Vizcaya Film Commission

While you’re in the area, a visit to Bermeo, another of the area’s lively fishing villages, is almost obligatory. With a structure similar to that of Mundaka (port, old quarter, beaches and viewpoints), it will complete your screen getaway to this part of the Cantabrian coast.

Here we have given you clues to locate your favourite scenes from some of the fictions that have already hooked you through the screen, while you enjoy the Basque landscape and gastronomy. But Biscay is a huge film set, thanks to the work of the Bilbao Bizkaia Film Commission, which every year attracts and facilitates the filming of numerous audiovisual productions. So don’t hesitate. Lose yourself in any of its locations on your next trip and live what you see!   

By María Parcero

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