Goierri: En route to the green heart of Gipuzkoa
View of Txindoki and Aralar
This route will take you inland, to the highest spots and towns of Gipuzkoa, barely 30 km from San Sebastián. The River Oria valley is the traditional axis of north-south communication, and the N-1 will be your guide on this adventure. It doesn’t take long to drive to Tolosa, a town of great nobility which was the capital of Gipuzkoa for ten years in the early 19th century. But prior to that time it had already more than proven its importance, as you will see from the Baroque mansions (Idiáquez, Atodo, etc.), the Gothic Iglesia de Santa María and the préciosité porticoed structure of the Tinglado market on the banks of the Oria. The best idea is to visit Tolosa on a Saturday morning when the bustling, colourful market is on. And if you’d like to enjoy a similar experience in Ordizia, the day to visit is Wednesday: The Wednesday market has been running for 500 years in the heart of the old quarter of the town; today it is listed as a Site of Historical & Artistic Interest. Here you can visit the Goierri Interpretation Centre and the D’Elikatuz Centre for a better idea of the region and traditional Basque gastronomy.
The Barrena and Zabala mansions and the same streets walked by the sailor Friar Andrés de Urdaneta in the 16th century will bid you farewell as you leave for Beasain. You are now at the epicentre of the Goierri region, under the influence of the always magical Aralar mountain range and the sharp Txindoki peak. The Igartza ensemble is the greatest local monumental treasure and the perfect key to medieval Gipuzkoa, whether you cross the 12th century bridge and see how the mill works, visit the press or simply enjoy looking at the stone and wood structure of the mansion carrying the same name. Nearby, in Ataun, you can visit the Barandiaran Museum, dedicated to Basque mythology. From here, head for Idiazabal, the area famous for its cheese (an Interpretation Centre shows how it is made) and take the turning towards Segura by the GI-2637. Segura dates back to the 13th century, when some of the finest and most beautiful towns in the area took shape. In Segura you can visit the Medieval Interpretation Centre. Its little mansions (Lardizabal, Guevara, Ardixarra, etc.) and narrow streets are unique in Gipuzkoa, as is the nearby Cultural Landscape of Zerain, a town that has always been closely connected to iron mining and other activities intimately related to Ama Lur, Mother Earth. You can also visit the iron mountain. Making your way through Mutiloa, you will come to Ormaiztegi and the Zumalakarregi Museum. Housed in the birthplace of the Carlist general Tomás Zumalacárregui, here you can take a look at the life of the famous character and see what the Basque Country was like in the 19th century. In Zegama is the “Aizkorriko Ataria” (Threshold of Aizkorri), from which you can climb up to the highest peak in the Basque Country.
Errenteria, Lezo, Oiartzun and Pasaia: Oarsoaldea region
It is possible to feel the essence of the Basque Country, just 5 minutes from San Sebastian, in this region where the sea and the mountain meet. Despite being close from San Sebastian, Errenteria, Lezo, Oiartzun and Pasaia keep their own essence, offering traditional basque landscapes.
You can get from San Sebastian to Pasai San Pedro in 5 minutes, both by car and by bus. Throughout history, the Old Towns of Pasai San Pedro and Pasai Donibane (San Juan) have filled the bay, defining beautiful marine Old Quarters. The port of Pasaia is the most important port in Gipuzkoa, and you could see from every point of the bay its unceasing activity.
You could go for a walk through the Old Town of Pasai San Pedro, as well as through its fishing port, where you can visit the Mater boat-museum. Moreover, in a short walk of 10 minutes, you get to the entrance of the bay, where you could enjoy sea views. In the same way, Albaola – The Basque factory of the sea offers the possibility to immerse in the ship construction world of Basque Country, where they are building a replica of the Galleon San Juan in this moment.
You could cross the bay from Pasai San Pedro to Pasai Donibane, the touristiest district in the town, in a boat, like Victor Hugo did. There, the sailor's houses, painted with thousand of colours, are looking to the sea. It is indispensable to go for a walk through the unique street of the Old Town, as well as to stop to visit the Victor Hugo's house, where the famous writer stayed for a time falling in love with Pasaia.
Close to Pasai Donibane, in Jaizkibel's hillside, is located Lezo. Walking for its Old Quarter it is possible to see buildings with a great artistic and architectonic value. The Saint Christ's basilica is the town's jewel, located in the main Square, which houses one of three beardless Christs of all Europe.
Errenteria is situated near Lezo. It is the biggest village of the region with a great gastronomic and commercial offer. Its Historic Centre is Medieval and has a lot of important monuments, such as the Parish Church of Assumption, Tower Houses and Ancestral Houses. A few kilometres from downtown is located the Fort of San Marko, which was built in XIX century and nowadays is a museum. You can enjoy beautiful views of the coast and of the inland from there.
Finally, Oiartzun is surrounded by nature, because it's located close to Aiako Harria Natural Park. You could do many different routs in its mountains, to visit Megalithic Monuments for example. Starting in the Old Town of Oiartzun, through the greenway you would carry to the Mine Land of Arditurri. Nowadays it is possible to visit this mine that was used since the Roman Age, undoubtedly a great experience. In the way between the Old Town and Arditurri there are two other museums: Soinuenea – Traditional Music Centre and Luberri – Geological Interpretation Centre.
Walking through art and vineyards in the area around Gipuzkoa
Guggenheim Bilbao Musseum
SANTA MARÍA CATHEDRAL
Also known as the Old Cathedral, stands at one end of Vitoria’s medieval ‘almond’, named for its shape. This is the only Gothic church of its kind in the Basque Country. It has been immersed in a complex renovation process for the last 10 years. This hasn’t prevented the cathedral from staying ‘open for work’ so that locals and visitors can visit its foundations and the nooks and crannies of its vaults. Raised in the Late Middle Ages, on the foundations of a Romanesque church, the Catedral Vieja has suffered structural problems almost since it was built. The restoration work didn’t go unnoticed to the successful novelist Ken Follet, who documented himself in situ for his sequel to the hugely popular The Pillars of the Earth.
THE RIOJA ALAVESA
The landscapes of the Rioja Alavesa have their own personality and are like nowhere else in the Basque Country. Here there are neither woods nor green meadows, only endless rows of plants forming an authentic sea of vineyards. The area lying between the Cantabrian mountain range and the River Ebro can almost be described as a wine kingdom. Somewhere around 100 bodegas – some hundreds of years old, others designed by famous architects like Santiago Calatrava - are immersed in the activity. Most are open to the public for visits to their installations, tastings or purchases. The Rioja Alavesa is also dotted throughout with towns of unquestionable historical charm like Laguardia, Elciego and Labastida, natural spaces (the Laguardia lagoons) and archaeological sites like that of La Hoya.
GUGGENHEIM BILBAO MUSSEUM
Standing on the banks of Bilbao’s Nervión Estuary is the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, a colossal architectural structure coated in titanium plaques that launched the city’s rebirth 15 years ago. The building is the work of Frank O. Gehry. Inside, it houses a permanent collection of international contemporary art and various temporary exhibitions running throughout the year. The area around the Museum is also an example of urban renovation thanks to the new spaces created and the large-sized artworks you will find there. The flower-covered Puppy by Jeff Koons and the giant Maman by Louise Bourgeois – which the inhabitants of Bilbao have adopted as icons of the new city.