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The mythology of Durangaldea

Durangaldea is the centre of Basque mythology. Our region was the dwelling place of many very special creatures. Why not take a tour around some of the region’s most magical places?

Mari’s Cave, Urkiola Nature Reserve

Mari of Anboto

Mari is the goddess or figure who represents Mother Earth in the Basque Country. In Durangaldea, she is known as Mari of Anboto, since legend has it that she lives in a cave located on this mountain. When the summit of the mountain is covered in cloud, it means that Mari is at home. Mountaineers brave enough to tackle its steep slopes may come across Mari’s cave on their way up to the summit of Anboto.

Munebe Cave, Atxondo


Lamias are mythological beings, almost always women, who have duck (or chicken) feet. They spend their days on river banks, always close to the water. When not combing their long hair, they spend their time asking passers-by for favours.

Atxarte, Urkiola Nature Reserve


Gentiles are figures from pre-Christian Basque society. They were giants with superhuman strength who were responsible for building the many cromlech and dolmens that exist in the region. They used to amuse themselves by throwing huge rocks, which also served the added purpose of scaring their enemies away. With the arrival of Christianity, the gentiles disappeared from Durangaldea, although some believe that one or two may still be alive today, dwelling in Atxarte cave and the enormous rocks that surround it.

Urkiola Nature Reserve

Urkiola Sanctuary

The place on which Urkiola Sanctuary is built was sacred even in ancient times. It has always been a mystic place with a special energy, and indeed, all the figures of Basque mythology are believed to have lived in the Urkiola Nature Reserve.

San Martín de Mañaria Chapel


There are several chapels in the vicinity of Mañaria. These almost magical neighbourhoods are the setting for many legends from Basque mythology. Many mythological creatures are believed to live or be seen in the mountains, forests and hidden corners of the Urkiola Nature Reserve. For example, there is a cave located next to San Martin Chapel, on the slopes of Mount Untzillatx. According to legend, the rocks lying next to the cave were placed there by creatures known as gentiles, or jentilak in Basque, and the cave itself was their dwelling place. The gentiles or jentilak were beings gifted with supernatural strength. According to Basque mythology, they built the cromlech and dolmens that can be found throughout the region.