Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageThe witches cave of Zugarramurdi, Spain (Video)

By Anne Sewell     Aug 8, 2014 in Travel
Zugarramurdi - You missed the ceremony during this year's summer solstice, but it would be worthwhile planning to visit Zugarramurdi in 2015. Home of witchcraft and other pagan practices, the past is brought back to life in this town every year.
A small town with a fascinating and eerie past, Zugarramurdi is located in the Navarrese Pyrenees of the Basque region of northern Spain. The town is surrounded by the Baztán Valley, is close to the Spanish-French border, and is around an hour's drive from the city of San Sebastián.
While it’s still a sleepy little town of around 225 people, its past was a tad more lively, it seems. According to local legend, prior to the 18th century, the caves near the town were used for wild pagan festivities, including parties and bonfires, a past that is continuing to this day.
Locals used to believe that the caves had been carved out by a stream that originates in hell, called the Olabidea stream, and while the caves do not have the normal attractions, like stalagmites and stalactites and cave paintings, they do emit an intense and eerie atmosphere.
Whether the legends are true or not, in the past the town attracted the attention of the Spanish Inquisition’s witch hunters. They apparently investigated the area and identified several witches, all of whom were tried in the largest witch trial in history.
Apparently the number of suspects found was over 7,000 and many of these were put to death. Their crimes reportedly ranged from casting spells on crops, animals and people, all the way through to shape-shifting and the worship of Satan. One young girl is even said to have been able to fly.
Since those days, the town and its large and mysterious caves have forever been associated with the dark arts. Even in modern times, this legacy lives on and the town has established a Witch Museum with many interesting exhibits relating to the town's past.
The cave of Zugarramurdi
The cave of Zugarramurdi
On top of this, each year on the summer solstice, residents hold a raucous feast in the famous cave to celebrate this legacy, where several lambs are roasted on spits in the traditional way and bonfires are lit in and around the cave. Known as "El Día de la Bruja" (The Day of the Witch), hundreds of people flock to the event, but these days, luckily, no one is burned at the stake for participating.
During the festival, the whole town transforms to resemble something straight out of a "Harry Potter" movie. With fabulous costumes, vintage hats and medieval games in the streets, it is a fun event indeed.
People wanting to have their fortune told can visit psychics, sitting at folding tables in the streets, and naturopaths are on hand to prepare herbal remedies to break spells or cure illness.
The highlight of the festival happens in the main cave that night. Around a roaring bonfire, villagers perform a ceremony, which depicts the village’s diabolical past, lasting around 30 minutes. Around 1,000 people can fit into the cave to enjoy the ceremony.
On a regular basis, it is possible to enjoy a live concert at Zugarramurdi, a real treat due to the cave’s excellent acoustics. An example is included here of the band Crystal Fighters and their "Basque Cave Rave" held in August 2013:
A video showing scenes of the actual area is included above. While the commentary is in the Spanish language, the video does give an excellent view of Zugarramurdi, the caves, museum and surroundings.
Of interest is the 2013 movie Witching and Bitching, originally named "Las brujas de Zugarramurdi," a comedy/horror film made in the area, the trailer of which can be seen here.
As for the area surrounding Zugarramurdi, the scenery is lush and green with several small and quaint villages and towns to visit. Many small and rural hotels are available for overnight stays including the quaint small town of Baztán, or it would be convenient to stay over in the historic city of San Sebastián and tour the area from there.
Zugarramurdi in the Navarrese Pyrenees of Spain
Zugarramurdi in the Navarrese Pyrenees of Spain
Spanish sources:
The Witches of Zugarramurdi
Turismo Zugarramurdi (Witches Museum)
More about Spain, Witches, Navarre, Zugarramurdi, Baztan Valley
More news from
Latest News
Top News