Laudio-Llodio is the most northern municipality of the region and one of the smallest in surface area (37.6 Km2)). On the other hand, it is by far the most populated municipality of the valley with over 20,000 inhabitants. In fact, demographically, it is the second largest town/city in the province of Alava after its capital Vitoria-Gasteiz.
It is a small town with a marked industrial and tertiary background. As a result, it is extremely well communicated with the main cities of its surroundings; it is 20 kms from Bilbao and 47 kms from Vitoria-Gasteiz on the Bilbao-Zaragoza motorway (A-68), and it can also be reached using the Bilbao-Miranda railway.
River Nervión is the "spine" of this town, as it crosses the urban area and outlines a closed valley with considerable altitudes (Elorritxugana, 718 m; Pagolar, 721 m; Goikogane, 698 m). It also features one of the most emblematic mountains in the Basque country (Ganekogorta, 998 m).
Laudio-Llodio is a small centre of services and facilities and is a reference for the entire region in commercial, cultural and leisure terms, amongst others. It also offers a wide range of restaurants, shops, bars and accommodation. In this sense, despite its location in a natural-mountain environment, it has all the amenities present in any city.
Walking amongst the pleasant locals, we can still witness the rural and calm nature of yesteryear of this valley, which belonged to the Lordship of Biscay until it became part of the Lordship of Alava in 1491. It is a rural environment full of extensive coniferous forests, pasture areas and country houses that are "grouped" into seven neighbourhoods: the centre, Larrazabal-landaluze, Areta, Lateorro, Larraño, Ugarte and Gardea (some of them are already fully integrated in the urban environment).
As mentioned earlier, Laudio is the second biggest town/city in Alava as far as population is concerned. The industrial development produced in the second half of the 20th century gave place to an accelerated growth of population that turned a village based on agriculture and country houses into the industrial and commercial centre of the region.
As a consequence of the great transformation suffered in the municipality, several workers from other regions, especially Galicia, Andalusia and Castile and Leon, settled in this village, thus increasing from the 400 country houses in 1830 to the nearly 7,000 houses Llodio has nowadays.
Laudio did not stand out because of its industry and commerce before the 20th century, as it had always been based on agriculture.
With the arrival of industry, the vegetable and cereal crops, amongst others, started disappearing and the production of oak and chestnut trees where replaced by an extensive reforestation of pine trees.
Grain mills and the manufacture of roof-tiles and bricks were the first activities that led to its industrial development. However, it is in the year 1900 when the industry and commerce blossoms due to the opening of several large companies such as Vidrieras de Llodio, S.A., amongst others.
Under the wing of these large industries, many others are born (with more or less production), which, in addition to the countless businesses, turn a fully agricultural town into a fully industrialized complex.
Leisure and Culture
One of the aspects of Laudio-Llodio that stands out is its extensive cultural offer throughout the year: theatre, concerts, literature, exhibitions, lectures, and a great number of activities that can be enjoyed in its streets and areas reserved for these activities.
Most of the activities are carried out in the Cultural Centres. These places do not only host activities organized directly by the City Hall, but also by different cultural groups from the municipality, as these installations have their doors open to all these groups so they can carry out their activities.
The same as in other parts of the region, Laudio-Llodio also has buildings of great monumental value represented by tower houses and palaces. The following buildings are worth mentioning:
This palace was built in the second half of the 18th century over the remains of a tower house that was destroyed by a fire in 1779. Commissioned by Pedro Antonio de Ugarte, its main façade in ashlar, of baroque style, and its arcade with two semi-circular arches stand out. On the façade, we can see the Ugarte family shield. It was declared of cultural interest by the Basque Government in 2005.
Tower House of Ugarte
The tower house of Ugarte, in the neighbourhood of the same name, is the only tower house standing today from the ten that were erected in Llodio. It was built with a defensive purpose in the 15th century.
Known as "The Palace", it is a masonry based construction with ashlars in the corners, and is comprised of two attached bodies. The tower has a square ground plan and four floors reaching a height of over 12 metres. Attached to it, there is a building with two floors built in masonry and brick.
It was the noble house of a family belonging to the "Ospina" of Ugarte, the most powerful in Llodio together with their rivals the "Anuncibay" family.
The Anuncibay Palace and Bridge
This palace was built in 1941 and is now a restaurant. Nearby is the famous renaissance style bridge that was built with the purpose of connecting the marquis' tower house, forge and mill, located on the right riverbank, with the San Miguel hermitage on the left riverbank. It is 28 metres long and has a maximum width of 4.80 metres. It was mainly built with limestone ashlars. The bridge span reaches a height of 10.50 metres.
Its arch is made with ashlars and topped with a Calvary. On the right riverbank, there are two podiums topped with fantastic animals; while on the left riverbank, in Alava, there is a triumph arc flanked by family shields and topped with a pediment. This, at the same time, is crowned by a Calvary, as well as the Virgin and Saint John on the sides.
Commissioned by the Marquis of Falces in 1741, it is a work created by the architect Martín de Larrea y Leguerzama. Ten years earlier, the stonemason, Antonio de la Vega y Sarabia, had designed the bridge.
Located in the neighbourhood of the same name, and next to the forge, it has a semi-circular span through which passes river Nervión. This baroque style bridge was thought to be of Roman origin before specialists confirmed that it dates back to the 17th century, thus disregarding the initial theory.
Hermitages and churches
Church of San Pedro de Lamuza
It was finished in the 18th century despite its construction beginning in 1565. It was built over an ancient Romanesque church of the same advocacy; its known existence dates back to the 11th century. The ancient large lighting suspended on its top and that illuminated the square is worth mentioning. It was placed in November 1894, which was the date permission was given for public lighting in the valley. One of its peculiar aspects is that the portico is made of iron.
Sanctuary of Santa Maria del Yermo
This Sanctuary is commonly known as Santa Lucia, as it is devoted to the saint who owned the hermitage attached to the sanctuary. It is a 15th century construction of advanced Basque-Gothic style and features a Plateresque main altarpiece from the 16th century. Its floor plan consists of a single nave crowned with an octagonal apse. Its portico, and the main altarpiece's engravings and paintings stand out.
The Hermitage of Santa Águeda
This hermitage can be found within the neighbourhood of Goienuri and dates back to the 15th or early 16th century. On the left of its entrance, a piece of a tombstone featuring an ancient inscription was embedded in the wall, which can be currently found in the Archaeological Museum of Vitoria-Gasteiz.
The hermitages of San Bartolomé, Santa Cruz or San Miguel de Galmaka are also part of the religious heritage still present to this date.
Lamuza Park is an extensive park of over 8.5 hectares that stands out due to its great value and variety of trees. Amongst these varieties, we find cedars, cypresses, araucarias, tilias, magnolias, firs, taxus, sequoias, etc. They were all part of the ancient gardens belonging to the Marquis of Urquijo. In addition to the 79 different species that can be found here, the 130-year-old Monterey Cypress, which has a perimeter of over 4 metres, the Japanese red plum trees and the Lebanese cedar stand out.
The Palace buildings and other premises house the Culture Centre. The casino building, the pond and the ashlar fronton complete this park.
Located in the town centre, it is open to all visitors and has become an extraordinary public park, which was carefully designed and looked after by its former owners.
Flatlands of Santa Lucía and Santa María del Yermo
The flatlands of Santa Lucía and Santa María del Yermo are a privileged spot. In addition, before reaching the flatland of El Yermo, we encounter the hermitages of San Antonia and Santa Apolonia, which are humble but fully restored.
In this location, there is a large recreational area from which several mountain routes lead to the different peaks in the area (Kamaraka, Mugarriluze, Goikogane, Ganekogorta, Galarraga).
This location has been famous for over 200 years due to its pilgrimage, celebrated by Miguel de Unamuno —who had roots in this city. It became so popular in the 40s and 50s that special trains departed from Bilbao to attend the event.