Ea Astei

Near Guernica, The Basque Country, Spain Book from Book from £136 per night

A little bit of heaven in the hills above the coast, with a shimmering pool and a clutch of gorgeous self-catering boltholes for 2-6
OK, let’s do away with objective reporting and frankly declare our hand: we had the most marvellous time at Ea Astei. There were two reasons for this. First, the country here is gob-smackingly lovely, with forested hills zooming off for miles and sun-kissed beaches peppering the coast. Then there is Mertxe and Peio, the loveliest people you could ever hope to meet, who welcome you into their small patch of heaven with open arms.

This land is theirs. Peio works above the main house in his project of passion: an innovative design company, making beautiful ecological houses out of glass and wood. They’re exported worldwide, but two stand in the garden for lucky people like us to stay in. Mertxe used to restore antiques, but now potters about making sure everything is ready for your arrival. You either stay in the main traditional Basque-style house (2 enormous apartments, each utterly gorgeous) or immerse yourself in forest and garden (tiny rustic cabin or super-cool grand design). It really doesn’t matter where you end up as long as you end up here. It's ideal for groups of friends, and even better for families. Ea Astei loves kids and kids love Ea Astei. Bilbao and Guernica (Gernika) are close, but you may just spurn them for all those lovely beaches.

Highs

  • The beautiful, peaceful, elevated countryside location; take lovely walks amid vivid green hills and fragrant eucalyptus forests
  • Half a dozen sandy beaches within 10km - some for surfing, some for families, all very rural
  • Cool apartments: choose from gorgeous traditional retreats or slick, modern spaces
  • The swimming pool has a terrace, sauna, hot tub and lovely views
  • Good self-catering kitchens, simple restaurants a short drive away and wonderful local produce at Guernica's market

Lows

  • You’re lost in the hills, so you’ll need a car
  • Entire bathrooms behind walls of glass in Vita and Okana won’t be to everyone’s taste
  • The swimming pool gets rather busy in high season, and children always need supervision
  • This is a seriously peaceful spot, but you’ll be aware of other guests during busy periods

Best time to go

The Basque Country has a mild year-round climate, but it is the cloudiest region of Spain and prone to rainfall. The upside of this, though, is its lush green landscape. Spring, from March onwards, is the nicest time to visit - sunny days and less chance of rain. Summer is hot and lovely, though the towns can get very busy with tourists during July and August. Autumn and winter are wetter but not cold: September is still pleasant.

Our top tips

Discover why Basque food is world renowned. Head to seaside bars to taste freshly caught fish. At working ports like Getaria, you can watch the catch come in and then see it grilled over a wood fire. Pintxos is everywhere, from Bermeo's string of port-side bars to the Laida beach cafe. Expect cured hams, Idiazabal sheep cheese, or cod in piquant sauce piled up on sliced bread. Don't forget to sample the Txakoli wine and be sure to ask Mertxe about local food producers: the area is known for its cheese, cider and honey.

Great for...

Eco
Family
Great Outdoors
  • Boutique Apartments
  • 6 apartments (for 2-6)
  • Self-catering (restaurants nearby)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Heated Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
Room:

Rooms

In the traditional main house, you'll find stone walls, wooden ceilings, terracotta tiles and fine antique furniture - parts are 500 years old. Choose from Etxeaundi or Sabai (both sleep 2-4). Nearby, tiny stilted chalet Garaixe (sleeps 2) shares a similar style.

Lovers of eco-design must stay in Peio's stunning modern passivhaus, the first of its kind in Spain. It's split in to two huge apartments: ground-floor Okana (sleeps 2-4) and first-floor Vita (sleeps 4-6). Constructed almost entirely from glass and wood (including local oak floors), the white-washed walls are accented by bold hues and state-of-the-art kitchens. There’s also a small standalone modern cabin, Etxola (sleeps 2-4).

At 170sq.m, Etxeaundi is the larger main house apartment (spread over two floors). Doors open onto a private garden, where tame rabbits hop about. The pergola and bbq are perfect for evening wine and grilled fish suppers. Upstairs, the wide sitting room has a traditional Basque fireplace. Carved headboards add elegance to the two double bedrooms. First-floor open-plan Sabai is 95sq.m. Attractive cross-beams add rustic charm to the vast sloped wood ceiling. A sofa sits in front of the wood-burner and a little kitchen nestles in the corner. On a raised platform, the first double bed awaits; the second is in a separate bedroom. We can attest to the apartment’s comfortable beds, powerful shower and overall gorgeousness.

Out in the garden, Garaixe, is a romantic stilted 16th-century-style chalet. At 35sq.m, it’s cosy but the ground-floor open-air sitting room adds space in summer (sofas and sweet-pea walls). Upstairs, flowers drip from the balcony window boxes, creating a hidden away feel.

In the passivehaus, 2-bedroom Okana has a wall of glass doors opening on to a wide dining terrace and garden, with eucalyptus forest beyond. Inside, expect sleek lines, a wood-burner and chic Italian seating. Two bedrooms each smart minimalist bedroom has a glass-walled ensuite shower. The first-floor 3-bedroom Vita apartment (sleeps 4-6), benefits from better views and a wraparound balcony, but lacks a private garden. One bedroom has a round bed; two have bathrooms behind glass.

Finally, 2-bedroom Etxola, is a modern cube outside and a cute pine cabin inside. You get a double bedroom and a kids’ bunk room, plus a small but cosy kitchen and a tiny balcony (but no lounge).

Features include:

  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Fridge
  • Hob stove
  • Kitchenette
  • Microwave
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • Tv
  • WiFi

Eating

All the apartments have kitchens, plus access to a large stone barbecue by the pool (or a portable Weber barbecue). Sabai, Etxeaundi, Okana and Vita have built-in ovens and large fridge/freezers. Etxola and Garaixe have hobs, microwaves and fridges. All have everything else you need, including china and tea towels.

Several good local restaurants serve traditional Basque food. Arita Berri grills fish and meat served with chips and peppers (1km away, open Friday-Sunday). Elantxobe has one very expensive restaurant, and some cheaper bars (15-minute drive). Pretty Lekeitio has a lovely beach and many port-side pintxos bars (20 minutes). Bermeo’s busy harbour is also great for pintxos bar-hopping (30 minutes’ drive).

For food shopping, the nearest town is Guernica (15 minutes’ drive). There's a good supermarket on the way out of town and the busy Monday market has lots of stalls - but parking takes patience! The market has always been considered a holiday in the town, where locals catch up with friends and lunch out. From June to December it is also held on Saturday. Guernica has several smart restaurants, too. Zallo Barri offers modern Basque cooking (steak with walnut sauce) while Rementxe has great wines.

Features include:

  • Fridge
  • Hob stove
  • Kitchenette
  • Microwave
  • Restaurants nearby
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Kick back, relax and enjoy the lovely hill-top heated pool, sauna and hot tub
  • Head to a nearby beach: hire kayaks at pretty Laida or wonder at wide and wild Laga, where big hills drop dramatically into the sea. Surfers will love Mundaka’s serious waves. On weekends locals fill the beaches, but they are much quieter on weekdays
  • Take a picnic to Elantxobe, hike around Cape Ogoño for huge watery views, then head down to the painted forest at Kortezubi
  • Peio designed the Reserva de la Biosfera Urdaibai museum, where you can view colourful displays, changing exhibitions, and spectacular estuary views, with telescopes
  • Visit historic Guernica, a hugely symbolic Basque town. It was bombed in April 1937 by the Luftwaffe on Franco’s request - the first use of saturation bombing on a civilian population. Picasso’s famous Guernica painting, was his response
  • Bermeo is interesting even on a rainy day, with a busy port, waterfront sculptures and lots of pintxos bars (30 minutes)
  • Drive to Bilbao is (less than 40 minutes): explore the Guggenheim museum, get a bite to eat in the Old Town and head up to Getxo’s lovely beach. If you have time, take a gondola across Vizcaya Bridge, the oldest transport bridge in the world
  • Head east to Getaria, an atmospheric working port, for grilled sardines overlooking the beach, then explore the sleek Cristóbal Balenciaga Museum
  • Don’t miss San Sebastián, the loveliest city in the north, and a foodie mecca

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Kayaking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Shopping / markets
  • Surfing
  • Swimming

Kids

Children are very welcome at Ea Astei. They will feel right at home in the hill-top gardens, with lots to explore. Quite apart from the heated pool and swings, there are two pergolas, hammocks, rabbits hopping around, and the gentlest dog in the world: Tin Tin, who is blind and deaf.

An airy barn houses foosball and table tennis, and little ones can zoom around on the tractor and scooters. Baby cots and extra beds are available, and there are laundry facilities. There are superb beaches for children nearby - we loved Laga and Lekeitio - and Mertxe knows all the best local attractions for families.

Best for:

Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

Traditional, spacious Etxeaundi has 2 double bedrooms, plus space for a rollaway bed and cot. Also in the main house, an extra bed can be squeezed into Sabai's bedroom. Stilted one-bedroom Garaixe only has space for a baby cot.

For ample space and style, go for passivehaus apartment Vita (sleeping 6), best for older children, or Okana (sleeping 4), with its private garden. The compact Etxola cabin has a double bedroom and a bunk room with 2 beds, but no lounge.

Baby equipment:

Baby cots are available for a small additional cost

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kids Activities on site:

  • Heated pool
  • Basketball hoop
  • Foosball
  • Swings and slide
  • Table tennis
  • Feeding the rabbits

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Ea - a tiny narrow beach in a quaint village - is good for children at low tide (10 minutes away)
  • The painted forest at Kortezubi
  • Surfing lessons
  • Kayak lessons
  • Kitesurfing

Families Should Know:

Supervision is required around the swimming pool. In Vita and Okana, Peio’s beautiful wooden stools are very wobbly for little ones. If your small children can’t be trusted with glass and fine china, you may prefer to bring plastic cups and plates...

Distances:

  • Airport: 40 minutes
  • Shops: 10 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 7 independent reviews from i-escape guests

9/10
Room
9/10
Food
10/10
Service
9/10
Value
9/10
Overall

Es Astei is a real haven - we had a fantastic first holiday as a family of four and there was plenty to keep my toddler entertained and plenty of space in Okana for the baby and toddler to not wake each other! Okana was very well equipped and an amazing space - open plan living with huge glass walls to the forest outside. The only downside of our whole holiday was the wooden floorboards between Okana and the house above. We could hear their every footstep. The family upstairs were really nice about keeping their toddler out of kitchen at night but it was still tricky. Having said that though Okana was amazing and I would still highly recommend that flat as the best one. The Basque Country is spectacular - mountains, beaches, lush forests, lovely towns and the Pinxtos (tapas) are laid out everywhere and refreshed all day long - perfect as Spanish meal times aren't very toddler friendly. We did lots of trips and our favourite was Laida beach and the beach bar that is by the car park exit.

10/10,

Stay was excellent, only problem was Sauna & hot tub weren't working during our stay, otherwise was perfect. Liked the scenery, and beaches are superb.
Be advised that the area doesn’t have any local shops We travelled down by car stopping off at Bordeaux for a week – came back via Brittany Ferries, great way to get back UK relaxed!

9/10,

Mertxe was wonderful - really helpful, showed us round, complimentary local wine was a really lovely welcome and delicious and she gave us some tea and milk on arrival - a very nice woman.There were three of us, me and my three daughters and Mertxe had very kindly added a spare bed into my daughters room so they could sleep together without my requesting it at no extra cost, and as our flight was at 1pm the cleaner started at 11.30 , half an hour later so we could finish breakfast - so really helpful and accommodating service. Apartment very spacious, location and accommodation really beautiful and the comfort welcome - great beds, kitchen, showers all very tasteful and working, swimming pool heated, great lounge and playroom with table tennis etc. Great for little kids as swimming pool is fenced, with a dog and rabbits in the garden, climbing frame, no cars and lots of space- this is a family home and great place to recuperate.

9/10,

Beautiful setting and friendly owners. We felt really relaxed and at home here.

10/10,

A beautiful, spacious, peaceful and comfortable holiday retreat with excellent facilities, attentive and extremely kind and considerate host (as I discovered when it became clear I had made a date mistake on my booking, and then later when I sprained my ankle!)

10/10,

Mertxe our host was excellent, and very helpful. The accommodation was wonderful with all the amenities and the location beautiful. My children really enjoyed their stay, they loved the rabbits in the garden, the pet dog and found heaps to do.

9/10,

Rooms were lovely and clean with very comfy beds. However, bathroom (including toilet) behind a wall of glass was weird. No food was served at this property. However, the kitchen was well equiped and there were plenty of places to eat nearby. Lovely and helpful owners. The place is lovely but not cheap given that you have to share a pool. A welcome pack of 'basics' would also be appreciated given that the nearest supermarket is some way away (might contain bread, wine, cheese). Stuff like coffee/tea, herbs and olive oil should be supplied as standard. Loved the design and the peacefulness of the place. Also, liked being so close to beaches. Disliked bathrooms and the fact that the properties are basically part of a large saw mill complex (which should be made more clear in the description). This was a bit of a disappointment for us to be honest. It would have been nice just to be set in the hills without a large business nearby. Day trip to San Sebastian and even the Rioja region is doable and worth it! Lovely beaches nearby.

9/10,

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Rates for Ea Astei