Gipuzkoa Province (Basque Country - Spain)

March 17 - 19, 2017

Despite the city's small size, San Sebastian (Donostia) is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Spain.

photo
San Sebastian

The Basque cuisine is famous within Spain and many believe it is the Basque Country where you can find the best food.

photo
Urumea River - San Sebastian

Much of this fame comes from San Sebastian and its bars and restaurants.

photo
San Sebastian

The city specialises in seafood. Just make sure you know not to expect dinner at 6 or 7 p.m.—that’s much too early in Spain.

photo
10:00 PM Everybody is out for dinner - San Sebastian

Instead, tide yourself over with tapas, and enjoy eating and drinking late into the night.

photo
Boquerones con tomate trituarado (Anchoas -anchovies- de San Lucas)

A clarification though: in the Basque country tapas are called "pintxos" ("pinchos" in the rest of northern Spain, same pronunciation).

photo
Rape (monkfish) Asado

In and around the harbour you can have the freshest seafood and if you don’t enjoy the simple harbour taverns go and enjoy San Sebastian restaurants with Michelin stars if you have some money to spare.

photo
Alcachofas Fritas (Fried Artichokes)

Actually San Sebastian is the city with the highest density of Michelin stars in the world. (As in stars per square meter/foot.)

photo
Calamares (Calamari) Fritos de la Mijollonera con Salsa Brava

Don't attempt to eat pintxos if you're starving; you'll treat it like a buffet and prices will easily rack up as everything seems more appealing.

photo
Mini hamburguesa de carne de Kobe de Fuego Negro

When you are done eating your tapas and have finished your drink you ask the barman for the bill, and you have to tell him what you have eaten. 

photo
Anchoas (anchovies) en Salazon

Be honest, like anywhere in the world you will piss people off if they find you are eating and not paying. Normally you don't eat many pintxos at one bar but move from bar to bar.

After only 4 kilometers of leaving San Sebastian and going towards France, is the town of Pasaia, the birthplace of the admiral Blas de Lezo.

photo
Pasaia

Pasaia is formed by four centres of population: Donibane and San Pedro, areas with sea flavour, and Pasai Antxo and Trintxerpe, both with more urban atmosphere. 

photo
Pasaia

They are on both sides of the Bay of Pasaia.  

photo
Pasaia - Victor Hugo's House

Its economy is based on its port, which is Gipuzkoa's most important commercial port. 

photo
Pasai Donibane

The most interesting buildings are located in Pasai Donibane and San Pedro.

photo
Pasaia

Both of them divided by the bay, they are connected with a small motorboat and a road that surrounds the bay passing by Lezo. 

photo
Pasaia

Most of the buildings are placed in a unique street along the eastern bank of the bay, and this street sometimes forms passages under the houses.

photo
Pasaia

This singular urban area is home to numerous buildings of architectural and historical interest such as the church of San Juan Bautista, the Arizabalo palace, the hermitage of Santa Ana, the basilica of Santo Cristo de Bonanza and the house where the French writer Victor Hugo spent one year of his life.

photo
Pasaia

Pasaia was also the main whaling port in Europe.

photo
Pasaia - Fresh Fish

For centuries, the great Basque expeditions set sail from Pasaia toward Newfoundland.

photo
Bay of Pasaia

Following the signs towards France will take you to Jaizkibel.

photo
Jaizkibel Area

Jaizkibel (Back of the rock in Basque) does have a symbolic value: it's the very first summit of the Pyrenees when you go eastwards from the atlantic shore.

photo

It's a small summit and a road does take you almost to the very summit, but those 547 meters are a pure climb, beginning at the sea level and leading across green fields to a summit overlooking a good part of the Gipuzkoa province.

photo
Happy Cow at Jaizkibel Area

The area is a relevant landmark on the grounds of its strategic position close to the border with France.

photo

As a result, the military has always showed an interest in the place since the 16th century when the Spanish-French border started to be drafted

photo

This is why you see defence facilities, such as the towers dotting the ridge (dating from the Carlist Wars) or the Fortress of Guadalupe going back to 1890, nowadays out of use.

photo

The Jaizikbel is often a decisive climb in the Clásica de San Sebastián. Before the 2010 race, the Jaizkibel was climbed only once in the race, but the organisation of the race wanted a harder final because each year a larger group sprinted for the victory. 

photo

To make the final more selective the organisation changed the parcours so that the Jaizkibel and Arkale needed to be climbed twice in the final.

photo
Hondarribia (Spain) and Hendaye (France)

On the way to Hondarribia a stop was made for lunch (2:00 p.m.)

photo

The restaurant is called Laia Erretegia, hidden in the hills facing the airport. Be prepared for hairpin bends, single-lane tracks without passing places, and a scary absence of signage.

photo

We were offered fish caught the same day.

photo
Rodaballo (turbot), Lenguado (sole) and Lubina (seabass)

Once again the opportunity was given to taste Basque regional dishes such as fried artichokes.

photo
Alcachofas Fritas (Fried Artichoke)

I found the squid to be extremely tasty, a dish that I am afraid to order when I am at home because of how often local restaurants mess it up.

photo
Pulpo (Squid) a la Brasa con Pimenton y Patata

Many cooks don't know to expose the squid to enough heat that it browns yet not so much that it overcooks and becomes rubbery.

photo
Pimientos Asados (Grilled Pepper)

Txuleta (T-bone steak) represents a long Basque culinary tradition of using the products and animals found in their local landscape to make hearty dishes. 

photo
Txuleta (T-bone steak)

Instead of continuing towards France, the trip returned and passed San Sebastian towards the small town of Mutriku.

photo
On the way to Mutriku

It is the site of the world's first multi-turbine breakwater wave power station

photo
Mutriku

The 296kW plant is sufficient to power 250 households.

photo
Mutriku

Oceanic wave energy remains largely untapped globally, with potential for an estimated 1.8TW of capacity.

photo
Mutriku

From Mutriku you can sail the coastline of the Geopark in the Basque Coast on route to Zumaia

photo
The Flysch Cliffs

Flysch is a sedimentary rock formed by the alternate deposition of thin layers of silt and sandstone, found near shorelines that were rapidly experiencing changes in sea level

photo
The Flysch Cliffs

The flysch in this area were formed over a period of 100 million years. The collision between the Iberian and European tectonic plates exposed these sediments about 50 million years ago

photoThe Flysch Cliff in Zumaia

Zumaia during the Middle Ages endured the continuous attacks of pirates and pillagers forced the villagers to fortified the city. The church today retains the relic of its defensive appearance.

photoBasque-style Gothic Church of San Pedro (Zumaia)

The inside is formed by one single space with Gothic features. Elements include the groin vault and the polygonal apse covered with a 16th-century star-shaped ribbed vault.

photo

Only 7 km west of Zumaia is the town of Getaria.

photo
Getaria

You have an old town, a mountain that is an islet, a port, beaches (Gaztetape and Malkorbe), the ocean, and the rolling green hills of the getariako txakoli wine region.

photo
Getaria

Getaria is known for being Juan Sebastián Elcano’s hometown, a seaman well-known for being the first man to circumnavigate the earth.

photo

He was captain of the Nao Victoria, the one ship in Magellan's ill-fated fleet which completed the voyage.

photo
Getaria

The visit continue by walking through the main street of Nagusia Kalea where you can buy some local products or stop for a pintxo.

photo
Main Street of Nagusia Kalea (Getaria)

Further down the street you will find the 15th century gothic church of San Salvador

photo
Church of San Salvador

An interesting fact about this church is that its floor is inclined due to the rocky terrain on which it stands.

photo
Church of San Salvador

The street continues through a tunnel that is bored underneath the church.

photo
Inside the Church

This was used for defensive purposes in the times when the church belonged to the wall that surrounded the town.

Getaria has an important fishing port. This explains the quality of the fish which is served in the local restaurants.

photo

Down at the port, there are various restaurants offering grilled fish and the local txakoli white wine.

If you are looking for something a little more up-scale, check out Elkano or Kaia-Kaipe. They are known for being the best of the best in Getaria.

photo
Grilling Fish

This time I had the opportunity to try the food at Elkano Restaurant. In November 2014 Elkano was awarded a Michelin star in the 2015 Spain and Portugal guide

photo
Rodaballo (Turbot)

The Turbot served here is caught wild, grilled in a basket and smothered with olive oil.

In April/May wild Atlantic turbot is at the peak of its season. The water is at the right temperature and the turbots can feed on an abundance of anchovies and other small fish.

photo
Pescado Berdel (mackerel)

Kokotxas is the part of the fish head just under the mouth, it is something, like the double chin of the fish.

They are hard to find outside the basque country, so if you are planning a visit here, I would definitely recommend you, to try them.

photo
Kokotxas Papada de la Merluza (Hake) al Pil Pil

The Pil-Pil sauce is something typical from the Basque Country, and it´s a combination of garlic, dry chillies, olive oil, some water or fish stock and the gelatin that it is released from the fish while it cooks.

This combination of ingredients cooked at  low heat will turned out into a thick, delicious sauce.

photo
Postre Cuajada

Cuajada is ewe's milk curd served with honey.

Raw warmed milk is mixed with rennet or with plant extracts and left to curdle. Cuajada means 'curdled' in Spanish. In Basque, it is called mamia

photo
Helado Idiazabal

The milk used to produce Idiazabal must be whole unpasteurized, with a minimum of 6% fat.

photo
Bizcochos y Trufas de Chocolate

And this is just a small sample of why Getaria is famous for the quality of its gastronomy.

Driving Map