San Sebastian, a very special city and a true delight for all five senses: excellent cuisine, Basque culture, summer beaches and a grand film festival. Let yourself be drawn to its many unique sites, from the old port district to fancy shopping lanes and renowned tapas bars. Follow the Camino del Norte and sections of the GR-121, discovering the Basque provinces of Guipuzcoa and Vizcaya. Stunning cliffs, coastal paths and impressive views of the Cantabrian Sea. Peaceful forests, green pastures dotted with traditional Basque farms or caserios. All of this will accompany you along the Camino del Norte and Basque Coast on an adventure in gorgeous Green Spain.
What makes San Sebastian so special? ...
This refined city focusses on enjoying life to the fullest, with all five senses. Let 'Donostia' entice you with its excellent cuisine, summer beaches, Basque culture and grand film festival. The city’s ‘Old Port’ district is a must-see, along with the requisite paddle in the sea and stroll through the 19th-century shopping district.
San Sebastian is well-connected and easily reached from Bilbao airport (BIO).
Make your way out of the city trekking directly from the hotel. Or skip the urban section and get dropped off at Ermita Guadalupe just above Fuenterrabia (Hondarribia in Basque). Hiking up toward Jazkibel Peak, the Bay of Biscay spreads out below you and San Sebastian shrinks off into the distance. A 1900 military fort, one of at least five built here, requires no explanation from its perch on the border with France. Pause at the Jaizkibel cantina – last chance for coffee or beer - then veer down off the ridge through open meadows and heaths to the fjord-like port of Pasaia. Jump on the ferry and, once across, return to the city by bus or walk another 9 km back to your hotel. The final section on foot explores a surprisingly rugged coastline, ending abruptly above Zurriola beach and the Urumea estuary, and ends with a short stretch past the beach and Kursaal modern art centre to the harbour, the city’s oldest sector.
Today you walk 16 km or shorten the hike by taking a bus from the city to Monte Ezquiel (elevation 150m) to pick up the Camino del Norte pilgrimage path. The route follows surfaced sections and unsurfaced tracks, maintaining height while the coast path surges constantly up and down below you. Both routes come together in the village of Orio. This typical fishing village, situated just where the sea, mountains and mouth of the Oria River meet, has witnessed the passing of pilgrims throughout the centuries. Take time to amble through the old quarter and ‘get lost’ on its narrow, cobbled lanes.
The Camino ‘lies low’ today, following mainly paved roads from village to village passing the port of Guetaria. Stop off in Zarautz, a real city, and stroll along the seafront, pause at a café or select a restaurant such as the one owned by Arguiñano, Spain's most famous television chef. Your final stop is a town which gained instant stardom following the release of box-office hit 8 Apellidos Vascos and some local spots have suddenly become popular selfie decors. Make sure to snap a few pics at the port of Zumaia and San Telmo chapel, both of which appear in the film. When your stomach starts to rumble, head for the welcoming town centre a proper Basque port with its own beach, where several good (fish) restaurants await.
Take the Camino out of town then hop over to the GR-121 to enjoy unique and bizarre rock formations along the coastal Flysch Geopark. Here you can inspect intriguing sequences of sedimentary rock layers of marine origin created 60 million years ago, veritable works of art sculpted by Mother Nature. The Camino del Norte leads the way at both the beginning and end of this hike, and the last section stops at the station in Deba, where you get a slow train back to Zumaia (hourly departures, travel time 15 minutes). Once there, it’s a 20-minute walk to your hotel.
Set off with a morning transfer then gradually leave the sea behind as you embark on an inland exploration of Basque territory, known for its dense woodlands, rounded hills and sparse population. Venture along wide forest paths and gravel tracks passing remote farms and, perhaps, the occasional pilgrim. Revel in the tranquillity and soothing sounds of the forest then look around the lively town of Marquina-Jeméin and San Mikel chapel, a strange cult place beneath a huge menhir 'packaged up' in an 18th-century hexagonal building and clock tower. Take a break at a 'taberna' in the town centre then take a footpath along the river to Bizkaia’s oldest standing water-powered forge, complete with water wheel still intact. In the early 90s the 500-square-metre forge was converted into a pleasant, comfortable hotel with a spacious lounge and open fire, as well as a large terrace for warm evenings.
You may feel reluctant to leave the Camino del Norte, but the lure of a peak just might make up for it. Choose your ascent and hike up to Pico Kalamua or Alto de Urregarai. Both summits are splendid vista points, looking out over high pastures and immense forests across the perfect Basque countryside to the Cantabrian Sea beyond. A morning transfer takes you to the start of your route in either Barrinaga or Marquina-Jeméin, and you return to your hotel on foot in the afternoon.
Your programme comes to an end today after breakfast. A one-hour direct bus connects Marquina-Jeméin to Bilbao city centre, where you get the 30-minute shuttle to the airport.
The hotels on this trip have been carefully selected for their location, atmosphere and/or unique services. All rooms are en-suite. Some of the hotels we work with appear here. If a certain hotel is unable to confirm due to lack of availability, we will request a similar one and inform you about the alternative booked.
Extra nights can be booked at any of the accommodations along the way.
Hotel Niza in San Sebastian is an emblematic family run hotel in an idyllic location just a stones throw from La Concha beach, offering you everything you could want. The rooms offer sea views to La Concha beach.
Hostal Xaloa is one of the most emblematic establishments in all of Orio. In our tavern you can enjoy the famous Guipúzcoan pintxos as well as a menu with local products capable of satisfying the most demanding palate. In the hostel you can find the ideal complement to your stay with us. Welcome to your house!
A newly built construction, only 3 years old, designed to ensure that visitors enjoy a restful and comfortable experience. Directly above the famous Flysch - a privileged spot - and only a moment’s walk from the San Telmo hermitage. The hotel has a unique decoration, made by the Basque artist Anton Eguiguren, giving a unique personality to each room. The hotel staff pays great attention to details to ensure that guests leave with the memory of a unique and friendly experience.
A charming family run hotel that was a former Medieval forge, closed in the early 19th century. With 15 rooms, all different and unique. They kept the structure and main elements of the original building in the restoration and the small mill that was part of the property and had been working until the 1950´s. With thier own restaurant that offers homemade traditional cuisine using mainly local products.
Arrival in San Sebastian
It is easy to travel from Bilbao airport (Loiu) to San Sebastian, since there is a direct connection with San Sebastian. Check at Bilbao airport website: www.aena.es
A bus leaves every hour from 6.45 hrs from the exit of the “Arrivals” hall. It has a possible stopover in Zarautz, on the way to San Sebastian, about 1,15h from Bilbao. In the summer months (July and August) the bus even leaves every half hour from 7.15 hrs.
The bus (line DO50B) only stops in San Sebastian on Pius XII Square. From here, there are 1.7 km to the hotel; most convenient by taxi. Check bus time schedule at www.pesa.net. Buy tickets in advance via their internet website!
Return from Marquina-Jeméin
From Marquina-Jeméin to Bilbao centre there are direct buses (about 1 h approx. duration). Once you arrive in Bilbao, you can take a shuttle bus to the airport from the central bus station (30 min extra).