The enchanted forest of Oma, a painting in the countryside
Have you ever been to a forest where the trees and rocks are painted in bright colours? Probably not. Here we suggest a trip to Oma, in the Basque Country, in the heart of the Green Spain region. It is home to the “Bosque Animado” (Enchanted Forest), created by the famous artist Agustín Ibarrola in 1984. It is a fantasy world where nature and art go hand in hand. When you arrive, you will find that the landscape has become a huge canvass. Come and explore this magical forest.
There are many amazing places to discover throughout Spain. Oma Forest (in the province of Vizcaya, the Basque Country) is definitely one of them. Why? Because it is a unique setting within the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve. There, the painter and sculptor Ibarrola wanted to bring together the technique used to paint on rocks in the Palaeolithic period with a modern trend known as “land art”, which consists of producing art on nature herself. The result: spots and lines of colour that form figures, eyes and rainbows throughout the forest, appearing before you like the spirits and fairies of ancient legend.
When you walk through this pine forest you will understand why people call it “enchanted”. Depending on the path you take and the direction you look, you will see that if you join together the figures appearing on different trees, they come to form specific shapes. In a peaceful setting, hidden in inland Vizcaya, here you will find the tranquillity you long for and a place where your imagination can run free. Although there are signs pointing out the most interesting groups of trees, remember that the magical thing about this forest is that different places appear according to the path you take. Take as long as you like and discover your own.
Once you have seen the wonders of this forest, don’t miss the chance to discover the rest of the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve in more detail. Very close to Oma Forest (you can go on foot), is Santimamiñe Cave, which has wonderful examples of prehistoric rock art with a hundred or so animal figures. Although it is currently closed to the public for major restoration work, you can see the wonders of its interior with the 3D virtual tours available at the Visitor Centre. Furthermore, you can also visit the archaeological site at the entrance to the cave, which forms part of the Cave Art of the Cantabrian Coast, UNESCO-designated World Heritage.
If you feel like a refreshing dip in the sea, there are also landscapes of cliffs and beaches in the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve, such as those at Laga and Laida, ideal for surfing. If you continue inland, don’t miss the sandy beaches of the Mundaka Estuary either. A look at the region’s old farmsteads and a taste of its delicious gastronomy are ideal ways to finish off a perfect day.
If you come to Oma Forest by car (it is in the village of Kortezubi, Vizcaya province), then the best thing is to leave it in the car park just 300 metres from Santimamiñe Cave. From here there is a forest track that runs to the Enchanted Forest, some three kilometres away. If you prefer to travel by bus, there are services from Bilbao and Gernika to Kortezubi. Choose how you want to come and visit, but remember that some parts of the route are steep, so it is advisable to wear comfortable clothing and footwear. Thousands of people have already enjoyed this dreamscape that Ibarrola created amidst the vegetation. Come and combine art and nature. Let yourself be surrounded by colour.