The Gipuzkoa is an attractive Basque province. Its coasts (with those of Biscay) are among the most beautiful in Europe. Set with opulent villa, which rival each other with the colorful and picturesque small town houses, you have to rush into the small ports, alleys, bars to feel the heart of this region beat. It is also necessary to go to meet its inhabitants, the Basques who are cheerful, whole and always ready to party.
Hondarribia is the neighbor of Hendaye, on the other side of the Bidassoa river which flows into the bay of Chingoudy (Txingudi). It is a beautiful seaside resort, with the attractions of a mountainous area, legs in the water. The ancient city center and its fortifications remind us that it is the entrance door (the Santa Maria door near the church of the same name) of the Kingdom of Spain since Charles V. It is a place that is very visited by the French who love to come and have a day at the beach and taste the delicious Basque cuisine that flourishes in the many qualityPintxos bars and restaurants in the city. Near the coast, it is the harbor atmosphere (it is one of the largest fishing ports in the region) in the Marina district (the marina) which is pleasant. Take a walk taking the Butrón Passage which leads to the banks. You face the mouth of the Bidassoa and Hendaye opposite (French side). Besides, if you want to go there by doing a nice walk, follow the path of the bay, which leaves from Hondarribia, to Irun, then Hendaye (14 km one way). There is an authentic atmosphere in Hondarribia, even if it is a tourist destination, it has nonetheless kept its charm. Take a stroll to see the fortified ramparts , the town center and its colorful houses with charming balconies. The town hall is majestic, as are the palaces and charming town houses. On the Place des Armes, look up at the hotel which took place in the former Charles V castle. Visit the Interpretation Center of the city, which is held in the old powder magazine.
The colorful streets of Hondarribia
Hondarribia Square of Arm
The Charles V Castle Hotel
View of the harbor of Hendaye from Hondarribia
Further south, you go to Irun, which is also a border town with France. It seems quite recent, but it actually contains 2000 years of history. First of all, there is the Oiasso Roman museum, which is an archaeological museum, exposing all the Roman activity that the city has known. Objects, customs, lifestyle, food, work tools, this is a fabulous museum teeming with cultural activities. In Irun, a pretty beach on the estuary will satisfy your desires for sunbathing and the market as well as the shopping streets will satisfy your desires for shopping. In the center, visit the town hall, an emblematic building of the city. There is also the Santa Maria del Juncal church and more outside the city, a hermitage (Ama Xantalen) which houses a small museum. Outside of Irun, there are several large shopping centers, popular with the French, because some things like alcohol are much cheaper there... Be careful not to exceed customs limits !!!
Irun, a city full of life and very nice for shoppping
Further south of Irun, you will go to Errenteria at the entrance to Pasaia Bay to stroll through its old town, vast and offering a beautiful view from the fort of San Marcos which protected the nearby town of San Sebastian. It is a city with multiple faces, on one side the old medieval district has retained its charm, then a more modern district full of Basque houses, there is finally a clearly industrial district. Errenteria is a happy and festiveplace in summer and on weekends. To recover from the frenzied evenings, why not take a ride to Oiartzun, further south, gateway to the Aiako Harria Natural Park (for hikes and an astonishing visit to the Arditurri mines in a very old geological formation unique to Pays Basque). You can even go there by bike or on foot from Errenteria by taking the Green Way from Arditurri. The more athletic will go to San Sebastian. Two small municipal museums are to be seen in Oiartzun: a geological interpretation center and one on popular music.
Aiako Harria Natural Park
We arrive at the superb bay of Passaia (Ria de Passaia), which shelters charming little nooks and crannies, ports of fishermen and ancestral trade, all around the waters of the sea which rush into this place. To the east of the bay is Pasaia Donibane, from where La Fayette left for America on board from his ship La Victoire. It is also a famous favorite of Victor Hugo, who described it as a "radiant little Eden". It makes you want to go for a walk along the bay, the coast is unspoiled and shelters a multitude of birds. At the foot of the mountains, the houses are beautiful and seem to hang on the cliff. Taxi boat trips allow you to reach the other side of the Ria for a small fee. The small fishing villages have kept their charm, as well as the old village of Pasaia where you can see the Casa de Victor Hugo where he stayed in 1843. It is a pleasure to eat on the terrace, on a beautiful day, before or after a walk along the bay. To the east, go through Lezo, crossed by the Oiartzun river which flows into the bay before reaching the sea. The Gothic Basilica of Santo Cristo is the jewel of the city, the historic center is organized around a mountainous background. Mount Jaizkibel promises pretty hikes with interesting views.
We are getting closer to San Sebastian, still a little patience there are nice things to see and drink on the road ! Astigarraga is the quintessential region of cider. The real Basque cider, one that is acidic and fairly alcoholic. The one we consume accompanied by Txotx (traditionally a small meal to go with, bread, eggs, dried cod). There are lots of apple orchards all around the city and real cider houses are places where growers tend their orchards for a good part of the year and make cider a few months a year in winter (mid- January / end of March). This is when you can taste the cider, directly at the cultivator / producer, like the Basques. From Astigarraga to Hernani, there are plenty of apple orchards to visit and where to feast. Please note, most of them are not open all year round, like the cider houses that we know which are in fact rather specialized breweries. July 26 is the big cider festival in Astigarraga and it is an event not to be missed. Besides apples, in Astiagarraga, you will find, if you are interested in local lifestyles, the Ethnographic Park of Santiagomendi. There is also a pretty garden, the Murgia Public Park and of course, the Cider Museum, the Sagardo Etxea with an apple orchard visit, tastings and explanations of the manufacturing processes. Hernani is an industrialized city which has kept a part of its charm, the visit of the old city is interesting. For lovers of swimming pools and water games, a very large 25,000 m² water park is open during the summer "Jolas igerilekuak". The city has set up nice walking routes throughout the town (to see here, use a translation tool from your browser if necessary). More to the south there is Urnieta, a small country with a rich heritage, in the middle of the green hills, little frequented by tourists. The way to Santiago passes there, there are many historic buildings as well as an archaeological area. The Marizulo cave is close to many megalithic elements dating from the Bronze and Iron Age, you will reach it after a hike. Still to the south, Andoain in the Leitzaran valley is also surrounded by parks and beautiful mountains. Note the presence of a dynamic cultural center, the Bastero.
San Sebastian seen from the ramparts
The port of San Sebastian
The pedestrian streets and the traveling shows of the city
Surfing at the end of the day in San Sebastian
View of the funicular of San Sebastian
Arrival on the ramparts
Christ protecting the city
Shopping in San Sebastian
The Good Shepherd Cathedral
The Basilica of Santa Maria del Coro
the Del Kursaal bridge over the Urumea river
We continue west towards Orio a pretty fishing village and the seaside resort near Zarautz. Very dynamic in summer, Orio is at the mouth of the Oria river. It is a stage on the way to Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle, you will enjoy visiting the old districts (Goiko Kale) of the 12th century, which are easily done on foot since everything is quite close. Approaching the Cantabrian Sea, you will see beautiful cliffs and the beaches of Antilla (near the mouth of the river) and Oribazar (on the other side). In Orio, don't forget to taste the sea bream which is a specialty, deliciously cooked in restaurants near the port, as well as the Eel. Like many coastal towns, Orio has its mountains, the Talaimendi. A little further south, there is the urban municipality of Lasarte-Oria, which is cheerful and well populated. It is crossed by the Oria river and enjoys the proximity of Orio for the seaside side. But on its own, Lasarte-Oria has many attractions: it is well provided with hotels, restaurants and an interesting concept of "open air museum". It is a guided tour of the city, in the form of a brochure available for download or at the tourist office, to see the main cultural, historical and artistic attractions of the city.
A little to the west is the pretty little town of Usurbil, where it is pleasant to walk to enjoy the heritage, such as the San Salvador church, the Casa Saroe house and also a baroque palace : Atxega and that of Sarobe. Walk behind the pediment to see a pretty fresco of imposing size. A little outside the city there is the hermitage San Esteban. If you like small eels, which are called eels, this is the place to taste them. It is a highlyregulatedfishery, for a luxury and delicious product, which unfortunately is under too much pressure on its populations. Appreciate it sparingly, in this picturesque place where it is conscientiously fished. At Usurbil, we also like to drink cider ! From January to May (and by extension, all year now), it is the peak season and you should not miss it, because it is delicious !
Eels or elvers, fishing is highly regulated
You arrive in the town of Aia, which is at the heart of the Pagoeta Natural Park. A haven of nature and beauty. If you like hiking, this is the place to put your suitcases for several days. It is a family place where the paths are designed for everyone, with good directions and distances to please everyone. A chain of small hamlets makes up the town. To take advantage of the park, head to the Visitors Center, in a Basque farmhouse, which will offer you an ethnological exhibition as well as all the information to enjoy the fun and educational side of the park. Dolmens, ancient deposits, caves and domestic fauna (native cows and Pottoka ponies) greet you (from afar anyway…). Do not miss the forges of Agorregi, a large complex with 4 mills and everything you need to explain to visitors the transformation of ore into iron. For lovers of crafts and old crafts, this is a treat. There is also a botanical garden for plant lovers : The Botanical Garden of Iturrarán.
Pagoeta natural park
We go up to the coast at Zestoa, a real spa known since the 18th century. Besides its sources, the city center is pleasant, like the Lili Palace which can be visited. The surroundings of the town are rich in prehistoric artifacts, discovered during excavations, there are also decorated caves, including that of Ekainberri, which can be visited and offers workshops for children (this is a facsimile of the cave which is closed to the public).
On the coast, Zarautz is a popular tourist destination. The city has understood its attractions and offers numerous accommodation and at all prices, interesting activities in season, to take advantage of the natural, historical and cultural interest of these places. It is in the Urola Costa region and its beach is the most extensive in the Basque Country on the Spanish side. It is bordered by a very pleasant long promenade and dotted with places to stop on the terrace while observing the beautiful surrounding palaces. It is a very appreciated coast, as well by the surfers who take advantage of its known and respected waves (there are also famous competitions organized in Zarautz) as for the bathers and the amateurs of sunbathing (you will appreciate the soft and fine sand). An idea for a pleasant walk : go to the dunes and take a footbridge which offers you a pleasant path to observe the flora and fauna. In the city, do cultural tourism in the old districts : the parish church of Santa María La Real, the very beautiful bourgeois houses, the great tower and the palace of Narros. There is a museum of Basque photography to discover. In Zarautz, it's party time all summer long, the atmosphere is welcoming, multicultural and good-natured.
Just a little further west only 3 km and reachable by a nice coastal path, you get to Getaria . It is a pretty fishing village which has carried within it 2 important figures : the 1st man to have toured the world, Juan Sebastián Elcano (3 monuments are dedicated to him) as well as, in a completely different register, the couturier Cristobal Balenciaga. A museum is dedicated to the latter. When you get to Getaria, it is impossible to miss the "flysch”, a surprising geological phenomenon, gigantic folds of earth that stand in front of you. Another phenomenon, the mountain of San Anton, which is also called the mouse because of its characteristic shape. If you like diving, this is an opportunity to try out in Getaria, as there is a good diving school. Stroll through the medieval old town, but don't forget the sneakers because everything is sloping ! Discover beautiful perspectives on the parish church of San Salvador. Take a stroll to the picturesque fishing port and know that it was made famous by whaling years ago. Today it is a place to taste fresh fish, a treat with a good glass of txakoli, the local wine. If you still have your sneakers on, go to the side of the mountain and climb to the top to see a magnificent panorama from "the mouse". You will notice that the tour of the village is covered with vineyards, so it is a good opportunity to go for a roadtrip and visit the local cellars.
The port of Getaria
The fishing village of Getaria
It is then easy to reach Zumaia, a singular and quite breathtaking place ! Two beautiful and wide beaches are available to you : Santiago beach at the mouth of the Urola river (where birdwatchers will be happy to see a multitude of birds) and the second Itzurun, you will also like for the walk that it invites you to take as far as Deba (neighboring coastal town) where you will see the Flysch (as in Getaria), cliffs of sandstone and limestone in astonishing verticalstrata which advance towards the sea. Note that you can, it is exceptional and very rare, go to and near the Flysch to observe, contemplate and marvel... In the city, you will see beautiful houses, palaces and the church of San Pedro. There is a museum dedicated to the works of the painter Ignacio Zuloaga.
We continue the hill, towards Deba. As in Zumaia, there are beautiful geological formations, cliffs near very beautiful beaches (Santiago and Lapari), populated by thousands of birds. Deba is the name of the river that flows into the pretty marina. On the banks, there are nice walks. If you like small coves, where you will feel alone in the world to appreciate the clarity of the water and the sweetness of Basque life, this is the ideal place. Mendata, Aitzuri, Sakoneta are intimate and peaceful places. Deba is also a region where there are many prehistoric deposits, such as the Ekain cave (which cannot be visited, but you can go and see the facsimile in Zestoa) there is also a monolith.
Mutriku is the last coastal town of Gipuzkoa, it is a 13th century fishing village (one of the oldest in the province), which successfully mixes the fishing and medieval side. Go for a walk at the Bentalekua Museum to understand the city's relationship with the sea and whaling. Today, no more cetacean fishing, but fish (and notably Mackerel) remains a strong economy of the city, with tourism. Take a stroll to see the oldest church in the province : San Andrès and the caves in the Olatz district. Mutriku is a little gem that is not yet very polite... Take advantage of it !! At low tide, go for a walk on the coast, it's the "7 beaches walk ".