Let's continue the exploration of Gipuzkoa by entering inland. The coasts are beautiful, but the middle mountains and the countryside compete for interest for the traveler in search of authenticity and great discoveries !
Mendaro is south of Deba and the river of the same name crosses it. In the Kilimon Valley, it is a pleasant and gourmet place, since famous for its chocolate (the artisanal chocolate factory of Saint-Gerons)... Namely : Mendaro, it is a place that speleologists appreciate, for its richness from his karst basement.
Azkoitia is a pretty well-preserved village, crossed by the Urola river, take a walk to appreciate the beautiful, typically Basque houses and the civil and religious heritage. The locality has been inhabited for almost 5000 years, as evidenced by the dolmens found in the surrounding countryside. Founded in 1324 on a hill, it was an important city well developed economically thanks to the industry of the iron and the trade of this one. After the economic crises, the city found a new breath thanks to textiles. It is said that the village is the cradle of pelota (Basque), there are pretty pediments with a modern look. Take a stroll on Balda Square to see 3 medieval towers. Go to the Plaza Nueva, which dates from the 19th century where beautiful we see houses like that of the City Hall. You will also see the parish church in the Gothic Basque style and a beautiful portal. Towards the Place du Pays is one of the oldest pedestrian zones in the country : Goiko Losa. The city has other beautiful buildings to visit during a walk, like the Palace of Insausti, the Basilica of Saint Joseph... You will also see many contemporary works of art in the city, made by different sculptors.
Not far from Azkoitia there is the city of Azpeitia , where there are 3 museums :
Dolmen near Azkoitia
The Basque Railway Museum
Bergara (Vergara) is a city of around 15,000 people, which has also prospered with the trade in iron and textiles. It is the second largest municipality in the province, which apart from its industrial past, was the scene of the end of the 1st Carlist War. What do we do in Bergara ? Hiking, because its location is an exceptional spot! In the middle of the green mountains, you will find several routes, one of which follows the route of an old railway track. In Bergara we also like to party, so check the calendar of parties before you go !
Eibar is called the armory city, (visit on this subject the museum of the industry and the weapons) that is to say that it found notoriety in the manufacture of weapons. With the minerals in its basement and its forges, it has become a trading city and this can still be found today in the multitude of stores found there (it's perfect for shopping !). It is a pleasant place for holidays, because well located, at the crossroads of a multitude of nature spots and the city itself is pleasant and interesting. The heritage consists among others of the church of San Andres, the palace of Markeskua and other beautiful palaces (Unzueta, d'Aldatze...) and buildings like the Town Hall and especially the Sanctuary of the Virgen de Arrate, a very beautiful Gothic temple with an adjacent leisure area (hiking, children's area, picnic, etc.). In Eibar, we like football, the team is famous, and there is a stadium where many games are played.
The Legazpi tower house
The Hermitage Cathedral
Tolosa is the ancient capital of Gipuzkoa (it is only 20 minutes from San Sebastian) and it was a famous place of passage and commerce. From this past, we retain magnificent buildings, an architectural and historical richness, which is worth the detour. The city center, which can be easily reached on foot, stands on the banks of the Oria, the river that crosses the city: this is the old quarter. Pretty small narrow streets, small squares, small churches and old buildings: it is a medieval ensemble of high quality. There are also good restaurants there, because Tolosa is a city with a rich culinary tradition (as evidenced by its confectionery museum). By the way, go to the market on Saturday morning to feel the heart of the city beating. The market gardeners (look for the Tolosa bean, the Alubias) and producers (enjoy a prime rib or the Chuleta) in the area offer their most beautiful products to the locals and onlookers who flock there. And by the way, you won't miss the city's famous carnival, will you ? The Tolosako Iñauteriak. Also take a trip to Pastelería Eceiza, to taste the region's traditional pastries, the Cigarrillos de Tolosa. Children will enjoy going to the Topic museum, which is an amazing museum where you see puppets.
The old quarter
Altzo is known in the Basque Country and beyond its borders thanks to the history of the Giant of Altzo. In the 19th century, Migel Joakin Eleizegi was an inhabitant suffering from gigantism and his body did not stop growing until his death. It is said to be 2.42m long and this particularity earned him a life of exhibition throughout Europe. You will see in the city, a statue of this character (which was very real), as well as the farm where he grew up. Altzo is a double city, there is the lower part which is in the valley of Oria, which is a small hamlet, as well as the upper part which is the most populated, at the top of the hill. In the lower part, there is a mill with a dam in the shape of a boat. Altzo is a pretty village where the views are breathtaking, there are great hikes.
Alto Giant Statue
Ataun is at the entrance to the Aralar Natural Park and also on the border with Navarre. It is a long village where the pilgrims of Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle used to pass, which is why we see many palaces there, reflecting the economic importance of this crossroads in the past. Menhirs lovers will see that of Saltarri, which is located in a meadow, it has the distinction of being lying. The outskirts of the city are full of prehistoric and ancient remains, there are caves, tools have been found there, there are traces of an ancient Roman road and old sheepfolds. Ask at the local tourist office, because in season there are interesting visits to the village to understand all this information. Not far away, there is Zaldibia who is also at the foot of the Aralar Natural Park. The town hall and the old quarter with its beautiful houses in this small town are remarkable. Outside the village is the Larraitz meadow which is the starting point for hikes and transhumance, with a picnic area and restaurants. You will taste in particular the "mondejus", a dish made with mutton from the region.
Hiking in the natural park
Pottok in the natural park
In Beasain, there is an interesting place to visit, to understand feudal life in this region of Goierri and throughout the Basque Country in general. The monumental ensemble of Igartza consists of an old palace, a hermitage, blacksmiths, the bridge over the small river, all this on a very informative guided tour. Beyond this ancient ensemble, Beasain is a populated, dynamic and interesting city. We eat well, you can taste all kinds of pintxos and famous sausages. There are many shopping streets with bars and small shops. If you need to fill the shopping basket, go to Ordizia, a few kilometers away, where the weekly Wednesday market is very qualitative (it dates from the 11th century and it is this market which fixes the prices of raw foodstuffs in the whole Basque Country). It is a village with a pretty old quarter, and many listed buildings. Go up to Oianguren municipal park to see a beautiful view of the countryside. Still a few kilometers away, you will go to Ormaiztegi to see the viaduct which dates from 1864. There is also an ethnography museum, the Zumalakarregi Museum, very well documented and very educational (we recommend the guided tour).
The Monumental Ensemble of Igartza
Idiazabal is known for its eponymous cheese which dates back 6000 years ! It is made with sheep's milk, it is an uncooked pressed dough. Huuumm observe its yellow crust, its pale and soft, smooth skin. Its flavor is intense and melting, its texture is fine and sometimes a little lumpy. But to learn more and especially to taste it, you have to go to the Idiazabal Cheese Interpretation and Tasting Center... where you will have a guided tour to understand all the production of this cheese from the region, as well as a moment of tasting and a shop. The town of Idiazabal is surrounded by greenery and surrounded by mountains. There are lovely traditional farms in the surrounding area and the central hamlet has beautiful palaces and noble houses.
A few kilometers away is Segura, a town with a medieval character, which has preserved a beautiful listed monumental complex, pleasant to discover. In the Middle Ages it was one of the most important cities in the whole province of Gipuzkoa (because it was located on a prosperous trade route) ! Visit the Medieval Interpretation Center and go to the tourist office, which organizes tours of the city. To continue your discovery of the Basque lifestyles of yesteryear, why not push up to Zerain, a small but interesting village, which has a cultural educational park. We will show you a prison, an old sawmill, a mining complex (with demonstrations !!)... In short, what to learn a lot of not trivial things.
Zerain and its educational park
When we talk about Zegama, mountain trail enthusiasts raise their fingers ! The Zegama-Aizkorri marathon is 42 km in June (since the year 2000), in the highest mountains of the Basque Country, it is a mythical race with an impressive difference in height… This is also the character wild and beautiful mountain, which also attracts tourism to this small village surrounded by hermitages. At the tourist office, there is the Wood Interpretation Center with tools and more than 170 tree trunks…
Legazpi, returning to Zumarraga, is a small rural village dating from the 16th century, which has made a good living from its forges. You can visit the Mirandaola foundry which once was part of a set of 7 forges. If you come 1st Sunday of every month and every Sunday during the high season, the bellows of the forge are operated by a mill to show you how to work the whole. There is also a museum space to visit Chillida Lantoki, which shows the work of the sculptor Eduardo Chillida.
Aretxabaleta is approaching the border with Biscay. It is a small rural town, surrounded by mountains. Nearby, the Urkulu dam, where a recreational lake is nestled in the mountains. You can go around the lake on foot or by bike. Mountaineers like this region, there is Kurtzebarri mountain, Mont Muru to climb, among others. Not far away, there is the city of Arrasate (or Mondragon), the name of the city would come according to a legend of a dragon who intimidated the inhabitants, from Mount Santa Barbara. Anyway, today Mondragon is known for its exemplary cooperative business management : the Mondragon Corporation being the largest cooperative group of companies in the world. Stop for half a day at Mondragon to stroll through the old districts and eat in its good little restaurants ! Why not continue to Eskoriatza ? There is a small school museum next to the town hall (the town is very small, 2 streets, you will not miss it). There is also a listed pottery oven, because in Eskoriatza, we used to make ceramics.
Oñati is a city not to be missed ! Place one of the largest cities in the province on your itinerary, where in the old quarter, all the facades compete for the favor of your gaze. Palace, church… architectural jewels like San Miguel church, Plaza de los Fueros, Plaza de Santa Marina, Bidaurreta monastery (there are also around fifteen hermitages on the municipal territory)… Sancti Spiritus University is a magnificent Renaissance style building, it is monumental. Cave lovers will be happy to visit the large Onati-Arrikrutz Caves which are suitable for the whole family (children will love wearing a helmet...) and the guides are passionate about their work !
The town of Oñati
San Miguel Church
San Miguel Church in detail
About ten kilometers away, the curious Arantzazu Sanctuary and its works of art are high up. It is in the heart of the mountains and the basilica of the 1950s contrasts with its modernity, with the natural environment. We like it or not! Enjoy the panorama on the road that leads to the sanctuary.
Leintz-Gatzaga is a village adjoining and even surrounded by Alava, completely south-east of Gipuzkoa. There are saltworks in this city and this is what justifies its location since the XIVth century. You will find out more by visiting the Salt Museum and its copper extraction boilers. These are the real production facilities that you will visit. This economic and industrial activity brought prosperity to the city, since before the refrigerators, most of the foodstuffs were preserved with salt! It is also an essential element in life, a mineral that ensures good health. Stroll through the city center, take the steep alleys and Chemin Royal. There are 3 access doors to see (out of the 7 initials) and beautiful buildings to contemplate. Go through the fountain from the Source of the Twelve White people next to the Church of San Millán. The Chemin Royal was built in the 17th century, between the city and the coast. This is how a great trade route was born ! Unfortunately, the city's strategic position and the presence of this communication channel marked its decline. Conflicts broke out in the 18th century, then new lines of communication competed with it and the railway line completed it in the 19th century. Today, the city derives most of its economic activity from tourism.
Leintz-Gatzaga and its fountain