Basque Pyrenees to San Sebastian – 6 nights
The true heart of Basque cultureBack to Routes
A little morning mist
Approaching San Sebastian
Mary admiring pretty Pasaia
Meadows and hills
A quiet day in Pasaia
The sheltered bay of San Sebastian
Basque architecture in Elizondo
Aznar is a jewel - he goes above and beyond to make sure that we find our way, have good choices of restaurants and bars, know what awaits us in every town as to dinner, breakfast, and lunch purchase options, and knows the trails backwards and forwards as well.
Chris Proctor, Salt Lake City, USA - September 2023
We were impressed with the detail provided by the walking notes and the range of alternative routes offered. The staff in the office were prompt, clear and knowledgeable in all their communications with us. They were really helpful and thorough in the information they provided.
Benjamin Priestman, London, UK - July 2023
We enjoyed the entire experience. The walking paths were well chosen and the experience thru the mountain villages and views - absolutely stunning. We would rate this walk a 10. The local interactions were all friendly, helpful and made the experience enjoyable. The food everywhere was amazing and, of course, the wine selections outstanding.
Highly recommend this walk for anyone wishing to experience some of the best of Spain and the Basque regions!
John Neumann, Spring Valley, USA - June 2023
Thank you all so much for a wonderful holiday! We had a great time. Beautiful scenery, good weather and accommodation, and the walking was lovely. Everyone who dealt with our booking was well-informed, positive and responded to queries very fast.
Zigako: Really nice people, welcoming and friendly; big charming room. Olgaraia was possibly our favourite hotel; the other contender being Ursua. Jordi is a wonderful host, so welcoming, kindly and helpful. Our room was attractive and comfortable and we fell asleep to the gentle sound of cowbells! Lovely breakfast with beautiful view. Again, would stay longer. Etxalar itself is fascinating too.
Robert and Janet Halliday, Redlynch, UK - June 2023
Challenging walks with options available. Fantastic views. I particularly enjoyed the route to and climb up Mount Ibatelli and the coastal ridge walk, and the ferry crossings! Good to stay in a variety of accommodation. Interesting to experience Basque culture.
Sian and David Morris, Shrewsbury, UK - June 2023
This was the most beautiful of our On Foot Holiday walks. The Basque Pyrenees are stunning, and the walk took us through extraordinary territory. We loved all the towns on the route and were delighted to experience Basque and Spanish cultures. It was a deeply rewarding holiday. In addition, our local contact, Aznar, was exceptionally helpful.
Jim Logan, California, USA - May 2023
Great holiday! The scenery was unexpectedly green and absolutely beautiful, everywhere was so well kept. Wonderful bird life and endless interesting things to look at. All the hotels were fantastic in very different ways, the people were all very friendly and despite our lack of Spanish we managed to muddle through with French and a phrase book.
Travelling there and back by train added to the experience.
Andy Barrett, Skipton, UK - June 2022
This was without question the best walking holiday we've had. The countryside was stunning, the walks demanding, the people friendly and the food and drink - always important - were top notch. A mixture of lush countryside, small villages and then the busier coastal towns all contributed to a delightful holiday.
The local rep was quick to get in touch and there if needed. We did all the walks, no shortcuts, and were very glad that we did. This one will be hard to beat!
Amanda Parker, Clitheroe, UK - September 2019
Honestly, we completely loved the holiday. I am slightly biased as we got engaged and so it will be remembered as the best holiday ever for me, but I can't think of a better place for it to happen. It was perfect.
I loved the fact that we started in such beautiful, quiet villages, untouched by tourists and that as we walked the scenery changed from rural hillsides and tiny villages to beautiful coastlines and bigger cities. The thorough organisation on your part made everything so easy, so that we could just enjoy the beautiful views without worrying about anything else. Thank you so so much!
Heather Stirling, Edinburgh, UK - June 2019
The notes were perfect... probably the best I've ever come across on such a trip. I had to make a couple of deliberate mistakes just to check the GPS was working, as I never veered off course.
James McEvoy, Surbiton, UK - June 2019
At a glance
The Basque Pyrenees and San Sebastian 6 night version - starting with one night in characterful Elizondo, capital of the Baztan valley. See 'Prices' tab for what's included.
Suggested route pairing: Catalonia - El Priorat
How much walking?
Full days: 15½-24 km per day, 4½-6½ hrs walking
Using shortening options: 12-17km per day, 3½-4½ hrs walking
To the Atlantic and San Sebastian
In the heart of the Basque region of northern Spain, this is the true centre of Basque culture – the well-kept villages of the western Pyrenees, for centuries protected by the mountains from incursion.
Furthermore it is a border zone, with French influences strong, particularly between Bera and Hondarribia. Be prepared for an incomprehensible language (though Spanish, French and even English are widely spoken), and an outgoing friendliness resulting from the pride of being born Basque.
You will experience some extraordinary village architecture, unspoilt farming country and wild ridges, great views into both France and Spain, and the satisfaction of arriving at the sea, and taking a small boat across the water to Hondarribia, a town with an incomparable old walled centre. Then, for the hardy, a triumphant long ridge walk to San Sebastian, a city you have to visit, and best approached from our cliff-top walk.
Important note: Our routes assume one night only in San Sebastian, but there is more room/hotel availability if you are able to spend two or three nights in this popular destination, so try and build in extra nights here if you have the flexibility.
Walked by On Foot staff: Simon, Mary and Harriet
REVIEWS: For independent walker reviews of this route submitted to the Association of Independent Tour Operators visit AITO.com.
TRAVEL ADVICE: To find the latest travel advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office for UK citizens travelling to Spain, click here. Citizens of other nations will also find it useful, but should always check their appropriate local agency.
- Authentic Basque culture in gentle countryside
- A generous-hearted people
- Traditional unspoilt village architecture
- Impenetrable language interpreted with laughter but a good mix of French, Spanish and English spoken
- San Sebastian – City of Culture, and La Concha beach (Europe’s best beach according to TripAdvisor)
This route features the following characteristics and interests: Coast, Mountains, Villages and farms, Birdwatching, Drive to route
Things you should know
- The food can be simple; vegans and vegetarians may find there is little choice. Ask us for advice.
- This is a fairly serious walk with some long walking days and big climbs.
Extra nights en route in Bera, extraordinary Hondarribia and of course the City of Culture (and "Pintxos") San Sebastian
Practise your Basque
“Excuse me, could you tell me the way to the bakers’? I need a loaf of bread and a pint of milk” translates as “Barkatu, ezin esan olerkarientzako bidea? Ogi polita eta esne-pintxo bat behar dut.”
But don’t worry – the son or daughter will oblige with some perfect English (or at least French) and invite you for a coffee if you have time?
How much Walking?
Using shortening options: 12-17km per day, 3½-4½ hrs walking
The first day’s walking is largely unsigned so care needs to be taken to follow the route notes and maps carefully. After this the route is mainly on GRs and well signed. Highest point on route: 760m.
Medium-hard/hard: Average cumulative uphill stretches (CUSs) 855m (800m-1030m) per day.
Medium: CUSs 5000m (410m – 550m) per day using shortening options where available, including some taxi transfers (local supplement).
Acrophobia/vertigo warnings: Jaizkibel Ridge on the final day is not suitable for the severely acrophobic, but avoidable on an easier path.
GPX file available for handheld GPS or smartphone App for complete route.
Important note: Times given for each day are walking times for an “average” walker and exclude stops. “CUSs” stands for “Cumulative Uphill Stretches” and measures the aggregated ascents in each day, expressed in metres of climb. See “Walk Grading” for more information.
When to go?
The best months to walk: May, early June, mid-September to mid-October
Other possible months: April, late June, early September, late October
The Basque Pyrenees are at their best in the spring (late April-June) or September. The second half of October can be misty, restricting the views. Summer can be hot and busy, particularly in San Sebastian – July and August are not possible for this reason. Single night stays in San Sebastian at weekends can be problematic so avoid landing there on weekends and holidays if you don’t want an extended stay there. NB: Avoid San Sebastian and Hondarribia from 12 to 22 September 2024 – it’s the Film Festival and hotels are incredibly expensive and demand at least a three night stay.
Rainfall and temperature chart for Elizondo
Day 1 - Arrive in Elizondo
Elizondo is the chief town of the Baztan valley, with many old buildings and a pretty riverside. Your hotel is almost on the bridge over the river, in the historic quarter.
Day 2 - Elizondo to Erratzu
Leaving Elizondo behind, this morning you will climb the hills above the Baztán valley before descending to the remote valley of Iñarbegui, with views across to impressive Mt. Auza. Then follows a pretty gorge (you can take a detour to visit the Xorrokin waterfalls) before the walk takes you into Erratzu, where you will stay. A shorter, easier version follows the same route for 4 km then winds northwards, gently descending through bucolic farmland to pretty Erratzu. On arrival in Erratzu, you can either walk the next 2 km to your accommodation, or you host will come and collect you. (Main route: 5¼ hrs walking (allow 7 hrs), 18½ km (11½ miles), CUSs 725m; Short route: 4¾ hrs walking (allow 5¾ hrs), 14 km (9 miles), CUSs 585m)
Alternative: None, except to ride with the luggage the whole way. Organise this the night before with Aznar.
Day 3 - Erratzu to Etxalar
Following a lift back to the village by your host (if required), today’s walk is lovely and full of contrasts. Climb up to the ridges, visiting pretty Urrasun and Zuaztoi along the way before joining the GR11. Then cross meadows, farms and oak and beech woods, with views to truly savour. Leave the GR to descend gently to Etxalar, probably the most beautiful village of the whole trip! (6¼ hrs walking (allow 7¾ hrs), 24½km (15½ miles), CUSs 820m).
Alternatives: If you prefer a more gentle day, take a taxi lift (paid locally – €10) to Otsondoko pass and join the GR11 after a gentle climb (4¼ hrs (allow 5¾ hrs), 16¾ km (10½ miles), CUSs 550m), or just miss the first 2½ km, to the main road at Arribiltoa (5 hrs (allow 6¾ hrs), 19 km (12 miles), CUSs 820m).
Day 4 - Etxalar to Bera
Start the day with a lung expanding climb out of Etxalar. At first in oak woodland, you will soon be enjoying views across to two valleys before reaching the Lizaieta pass, on the border between Spain and France. Those seeking more of a challenge will choose to bag Ibantelli for its 360 degree views but if you prefer a gentler walk just keep walking along the GR11. The walk ends in Bera, where you will enjoy a very comfortable hotel. (4¾ hrs walking (allow 6¼ hrs), 15 ¾km (10 miles), CUSs 890m, or without Ibantelli just 3½ hrs walking (allow 4¾ hrs), 13¼ km (8½ miles), CUSs 500m)
Day 5 - Bera to Hondarribia
A day of many parts! A long climb up at the start of the day is richly rewarded by some fabulous ridge top walking – don’t shirk the peaks either as, on a clear day, you can see for miles around. For a while you straddle the Spanish/French border – literally having a foot in each country. Then you very definitely enter France for the afternoon and only re-enter Spain when you take a little boat from Hendaye to Hondarribia (one of Spain’s most historic towns) where you will spend the night, having first sampled its restaurants and cafés. (5½ hrs walking (allow 7¼ hrs), 20 km (12½ miles), CUSs 900m)
Alternatives: If you would like to shorten the walk and lose all of the early climbing organise with Aznar the evening before, a taxi to the Ibardin Pass. Pay locally, ~€15. (4hrs walking (allow 5¼hrs), 16½km (10½miles), CUSs 410m)
Day 6 - Hondarribia to San Sebastian
The walk starts with quite a pilgrimage up to the Guadalupe sanctuary (worth a quick visit) before ascending further to the impressive Jaizkibel coastal ridge, with views for miles. Then descend dramatically into Pasaia, an authentic sailing and fishing village from the Middle Ages and the ideal place for a coffee or beer stop. A short boat trip takes you to the other side of the harbour where you will then continue with a gentle coastal walk into beautiful San Sebastian. Congratulations! (6½ hrs walking (allow 8¾ hrs), 24 km (15 miles), CUSs 1030m, or easier off-ridge option 6½ hrs walking (allow 8¾ hrs), 24 km (15 miles), CUS 790m)
Alternatives: Shorten the walk by travelling with the luggage as far as Pasaia – leaving 2¼ hrs walking (allow 3 hrs), 8 km (5 miles), CUSs 415m).
Depart from San Sebastian
…or, better, stay a day or two longer to enjoy this former City of Culture, masquerading as a seaside resort with two great sandy beaches, and self-proclaimed “pintxo capital”.
ARRIVING BY TRAIN
Nearest railway station:
Start: Pamplona or Hendaye/Irun – pre-bookable taxi to first hotel included in price from Hendaye/Irun, supplement from Pamplona
Finish: San Sebastian
Sample journey by rail:
Via Paris: TGV Paris Gare Montparnasse to Hendaye (~5 hrs). Or travel via Lille and Bordeaux to avoid Paris.
Via Madrid: Direct train to Pamplona (~3 hrs).
From San Sebastian to Paris: Take the 37 min Euskotren from Sebastian Amara to Hendaye (every 30 mins), in time for the 9:19 TGV (not Saturdays) to Paris Gare Montparnasse (~5½ hrs).
From San Sebastian to Madrid Chamartin: Some direct trains, most require one change (~6 hrs).
We suggest thetrainline.com for times, ticket booking and other information.
ARRIVING BY CAR
You can park in a quiet side street at any of the three potential start points, then return to your car at the end by taxi (small supplement after netting off saving on initial taxi).
ARRIVING BY AIR
The best airports with European flights are Biarritz (France) and Bilbao (Spain). Intercontinental flights use Madrid, followed by an internal flight to Pamplona (nearest to the start) or San Sebastian (Hondarribia).
Pamplona – 17:00 for local bus (not Sundays) to Elizondo, 19:00 for pre-booked taxi (supplement) the whole way.
Biarritz – 19:00 for pre-booked taxi transfer (supplement) ~1¼ hrs.
Bilbao – 13:30 for local buses (2) via San Sebastian, or 17:00 for pre-booked taxi transfer (supplement) ~2¼ hrs. Also possible to take bus to San Sebastian and then taxi transfer from there to start.
Return flight earliest:
Bilbao – 9:00 am (after regular shuttle from San Sebastian)
Biarritz – 13:00 (after regular shuttle from San Sebastian)
Flight information can change rapidly and not all flights run daily. Please do check directly with the airlines’ websites or Skyscanner (see below) before finalising any booking with us. Do not book your flights until we have confirmed that we have provisionally reserved accommodation for you.
For up-to-date schedules and flights from all airports check Skyscanner.
Getting to the start of the walk
The first hotel is in the village of Ziga (or Elizondo or Erratzu), and the last in San Sebastian.
If coming by train – a pre-booked taxi from Irun/Hendaye is included in the price (supplement for weekend/holiday starts). We can also pre-book a taxi to meet you at Pamplona station (supplement).
Transfer times and methods are suggested for Pamplona, Biarritz and Bilbao airports below.
PAMPLONA AIRPORT (or train station):
Outward: Short taxi to centre then bus (not Sundays, best 13:15 or 19:30, 45 mins), plus taxi to Ziga if required (small supplement), or pre-booked taxi the whole way (supplement)
Return: Best via Bilbao if returning to Madrid
Outward: Taxi only, pre-booked (1¼ hrs)
Return: Airport bus from central San Sebastian 4 times daily, or pre-booked taxi (supplement)
Outward: Hourly shuttle to San Sebastian, then bus to Elizondo (plus short taxi ride if staying at Ziga, pre-booked (small supplement), or pre-booked taxi transfer the whole way (supplement) ~2¼ hrs)
Return: Hourly shuttle from San Sebastian (1¼ hrs), or pre-booked taxi (supplement)
Full transfer advice, including timetables, is provided in your Walkers’ Pack. Contact us if you would like additional pre-booking information. For taxi prices see “Prices”.
Where You'll Stay
The accommodation here is charming – family run, well-kept and often very historic. As you reach the coast the hotels become more sophisticated, and in Hondaribbia you have a real choice between good value rooms and a substantial upgrade to a Parador. The august Hotel Londres in San Sebastian looks directly over the main beach but often asks for a minimum two-night stay.
Important: as this is a very rural area, we need advance warning of any special dietary requests so that we can advise you appropriately. Special diets may be difficult to cater for.
A great location, with views over the town.
A gracious sea-front hotel to finish your holiday.
Elizondo – Hostal Trinkete Antxitonea (B&B)
Simple but spacious accommodation in a restored 19th century house.Website
Erratzu – Casa Juanillo (B&B)
A traditional farmhouse, comfortably renovated, in an idyllic rural setting. Try Edurne's dinner of home produce.Website
Etxalar – Mikelestonea, Aldalurberea or Tompalenea (Dinner, B&B)
Simple but comfortable village houses. Meals in bar/restaurant close by.Website
Hondarribia – Hotel San Nikolas (Accommodation only)
A great location, with views over the town.Website
San Sebastian – Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra (B&B)
A gracious sea-front hotel to finish your holiday.Website
Total 6 nights in double/twin room, 5 breakfasts (room only in San Sebastian) and 1 evening meal, taxi from Irun/Hendaye station to first hotel*, luggage transfers between all hotels on walking route; full Walkers Pack with route directions, maps, transfer and background information; local telephone support.
*Mon – Fri starts, supplement for weekends and holidays
All prices are per person unless otherwise indicated, and are based on a standard booking in May. Prices may vary seasonally and a fixed price will be given to you before you commit.
Single Room Supplement (SRS): From £345
Lone Traveller Additional Supplement (LTAS): From £265
Large Party Saving (LPS): Groups of more than 2 people (on an identical itinerary, on the same booking and booked at the same time) – discount of at least £35 per person
Maximum party size: 12 (some accommodation variation needed for groups of 6+)
Extra nights possible throughout the route: Contact On Foot for ideas and prices
Further nights at end of holiday in San Sebastian: Prices vary with season, hotel/B&B/Pension, room type and length of stay. Contact us
Taxis from/to airports/train stations: Possible (Biarritz, San Sebastian, Pamplona only). Contact On Foot Holidays for prices
Sending Walkers Packs to addresses outside the UK: £20-£60 (per pack, location dependent)
Arrange locally: Local train/bus/taxi as required
Our local team
Aznar Fernandez de Pinedo
Aznar was born and grew up in Bilbao, where he soon developed his love for nature (he is a keen naturalist), hiking and the rural environment in general. He studied Business and has worked for many years in multinational corporations in the IT sector, living in both Barcelona and Madrid. But in 2014 he decided to change his career to work on what he loves most.