Industrial tourism in the Basque Country

Arditurri Mines, Oiartzun.
Arditurri Mines, Oiartzun.

The Basque Country has been one of the largest industrial concentrations in Europe. The strength, work, ingenuity and energy that were concentrated in the mining and industrial areas for more than a century have a unique value as testimony to a pure but at the same time epic past.

Thus, the industrial and mining heritage that marks the Basque Country has shaped a unique landscape that deserves to be preserved, explained and disseminated to future generations, but also to visitors who want to learn about our history.

Aizpea mining reserve, Zerain.
Aizpea mining reserve, Zerain.

Under the brand name "Industrialdia" or "Industrial Tourism in the Basque Country", in 2018 the Basque Tourism Agency, Basquetour, began to work on the design of a tourism product that would introduce tourists and visitors to this fundamental part of the recent history of the Basque Country, its industrialisation. At present, 34 industrial heritage resources spread throughout the Basque Country make up the Basque Industrial Tourism Network. 34 resources through which it is possible to learn about the industrial history of the municipalities in which they are located. 34 places linked to old mines, factories, railways, shipyards, etc. that have a high historical, cultural, technological, social and even scientific value.

These 34 resources are part of the European ERIH Network, a European cultural route recognised by the Council of Europe and the main industrial tourism network in the world, which brings together more than 2,000 industrial heritage resources spread over 50 European countries.

Of these, a significant part are related to mining. This activity was key to understanding the process of industrialisation that the Basque Country underwent. Without the existence of iron ore deposits such as those found mainly in Bizkaia, it would be impossible to understand the Basque industrialisation process.

Irugurutzeta mining reserve, Irún.
Irugurutzeta mining reserve, Irún.

Mining

The beginning of the exploitation of the mines, after the last Carlist War, led to a rapid expansion of iron production and the development of the communications infrastructure necessary to enable the massive and systematic exploitation of the mineral and its export to other countries on the European continent.

The Basque Country Mining Museum, close to the mining town of La Arboleda and the Larreineta funicular railway, in the heart of the Biscayan mining basin, is one of the main tourist resources linked to our mining DNA, but not the only one. In Gipuzkoa, although mineral exploitation was on a smaller scale, there are still preserved reserves and deposits of great tourist interest.

The Aizpea mining reserve in Zerain, the Mutiloa mining reserve, the Irugurutzeta mining reserve in Irún and the Arditurri mines stand out.

Arditurri Mines, Oiartzun.
Arditurri Mines, Oiartzun.

Finally, in Álava, although it is not a mining site per se, the Añana Salt Valley immerses visitors in the techniques used to mine salt 7,000 years ago. In addition, the Añana Salt Valley has been declared an "Anchor Point", or exceptional site within the ERIH Network.

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