The Routes of Santiago in the Basque Country

UNESCO World Heritage

Views from Mount Jaizkibel

Taking a break along The Camino by Routes of Santiago de Compostela: Camino Francés and Routes of Northern SpainUNESCO World Heritage

Taking a break along The Camino

Since the Middle Ages, the Caminos de Santiago have been one of the most influential and well-known routes of communication of Europe, joining the different peoples of Europe.

Two of the Jacobean routes which pass through the Basque Country were inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2015. While the Coastal Camino travels along the coast of Gipuzkoa and then heads inland to rural Bizkaia before continuing on its way along the Cantabrian coast, the Inland Camino crosses Gipuzkoan territory and, in its quest to link up with the French Camino, heads into Álava through the legendary San Adrián tunnel. 

The small ferry boat of Pasaia by Routes of Santiago de Compostela: Camino Francés and Routes of Northern SpainUNESCO World Heritage

The small ferry boat of Pasaia

In Pasai Donibane, pilgrims walk along its picturesque “single street” and, after passing alongside Victor Hugo’s house, they must take a small boat across the beautiful mouth of the port of Pasaia.

La Concha Beach by Routes of Santiago de Compostela: Camino Francés and Routes of Northern SpainUNESCO World Heritage

La Concha Beach

When, in the 19th century, the old city walls of San Sebastián were demolished, the city began to grow, paying close attention to the aesthetic reference points of great European cities. It became the headquarters for royal summers and is today a modern city facing the sea, harbouring a rich artistic, cultural and gastronomic heritage which attracts tourists from all around the world.

Zarautz and Getaria by Routes of Santiago de Compostela: Camino Francés and Routes of Northern SpainUNESCO World Heritage

Zarautz and Getaria

Zarautz's sandy beach is the biggest on the Gipuzkoa coast. It is especially appreciated by surfers. A town that gets very busy with summer visitors, its historic town centre has been preserved, maintaining its seafaring character. It hosts a rich heritage and generous supply of hotels and restaurants.

The Flysch of Zumaia by Routes of Santiago de Compostela: Camino Francés and Routes of Northern SpainUNESCO World Heritage

The Flysch of Zumaia

Along the cliffs of the coast of Zumaia, Deba and Mutriku, we find the flysch of the Basque Coast Geopark. Millions of years of geological history written in successive rock strata which, due to the continuous erosion of the sea, have been left visible.

San Miguel de Arretxinaga (Markina-Xemein) by Routes of Santiago de Compostela: Camino Francés and Routes of Northern SpainUNESCO World Heritage

San Miguel de Arretxinaga (Markina-Xemein)

San Miguel de Arretxinaga is a curious hexagonal church located in Markina-Xemein (Bizkaia). The enormous monoliths, located inside it around the altar leave no pilgrim indifferent as they enter Bizkaia after bidding farewell to the Gipuzkoan coast.

The port of Getaria by Routes of Santiago de Compostela: Camino Francés and Routes of Northern SpainUNESCO World Heritage

The port of Getaria

The coastal villages of Orio and Getaria, with their marked seafaring character and carefully looked-after old parts, offer visitors an unbeatable opportunity to try delicious char-grilled fish cooked in their pretty fishing ports.

The Monastery of Zenarruza by Routes of Santiago de Compostela: Camino Francés and Routes of Northern SpainUNESCO World Heritage

The Monastery of Zenarruza

The old collegiate church of Zenarruza, currently Ziortza monastery, is found in the foothills of Mount Oiz, in the historical territory of Bizkaia. It is a religious complex made up of several buildings arranged around a yard.

This building is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List and is one of the landmarks of the Coastal Camino de Santiago. Peace and tranquillity reign over this attractive landscape and its architecture.  

Gernika by Routes of Santiago de Compostela: Camino Francés and Routes of Northern SpainUNESCO World Heritage

Gernika

Gernika attained world fame thanks to the painting of the same name by the cubist painter Pablo Picasso. In the large-scale canvas we can see the suffering caused by the terrible bombardment that levelled the town during the Spanish Civil War. 

The legendary “Tree of Gernika”, symbol of the freedoms of the Basque people since time immemorial, survived that bombardment and today this small town and its tree are considered world symbols of peace.

The Old Town of Bilbao by Routes of Santiago de Compostela: Camino Francés and Routes of Northern SpainUNESCO World Heritage

The Old Town of Bilbao

The Cathedral of Santiago in Bilbao, located in the heart of the Old Part and inscribed in 2015 on the UNESCO World Heritage List and the modern Guggenheim Museum (which has become the new emblem of the city) are the symbols of tradition and innovation of the capital of Bizkaia.

Bilbao jealously guards a rich architectural, cultural and gastronomical heritage, while also being a modern and cosmopolitan city.

Puente Vizcaya (Portugalete) by Routes of Santiago de Compostela: Camino Francés and Routes of Northern SpainUNESCO World Heritage

Puente Vizcaya (Portugalete)

We can climb and descend the steep streets of the old part of Portugalete to spy, across the mouth of the River Nervión, the elegant Vizcaya Bridge, which links the seafaring town with Getxo. It was the first toll transporter bridge in the world and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2006. 
It currently has a lift which allows us to climb to its upper walkway, offering unbeatable views of Bilbao’s tidal river.

It was the first toll transporter bridge in the world and was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2006. 
It currently has a lift which allows us to climb to its upper walkway, offering unbeatable views of Bilbao’s tidal river.

The Itsaslur Greenway by Routes of Santiago de Compostela: Camino Francés and Routes of Northern SpainUNESCO World Heritage

The Itsaslur Greenway

Pilgrims following the Coastal Camino leave the Basque Country following the route of an old mining train, regenerated now as a Green Way running among the spectacular cliffs of Itsaslur.

The Ordizia Market by Routes of Santiago de Compostela: Camino Francés and Routes of Northern SpainUNESCO World Heritage

The Ordizia Market

Pilgrims who take the Inland Basque Camino will cross cider lands in Astigarraga and Hernani, be able to taste some good beans in Tolosa or buy cheese from Idiazabal and fruit and vegetables from farmsteads at traditional markets such as the one at Ordizia.

Progress and industrial development have left their mark in the Oria Valley, which retains historic villas, linked to the old Camino Real (Royal Road) which, for centuries, was the main nexus between the Castilian plateau and Europe.

Igartza by Routes of Santiago de Compostela: Camino Francés and Routes of Northern SpainUNESCO World Heritage

Igartza

At Beasain, the Igartza Monumental Complex welcomes the pilgrims, offering them the privilege of spending the night in a hostel located in a place full of history, with a palace from the 13th century, a stone bridge, a wooden dam, ironworks and a mill.

The San Adrián Tunnel by Routes of Santiago de Compostela: Camino Francés and Routes of Northern SpainUNESCO World Heritage

The San Adrián Tunnel

The San Adrián Tunnel and its idyllic surroundings among beech forests, at the heart of the Aizkorri-Aratz Nature Reserve, is the main milestone on the Inland Basque Camino.

In 2015, it was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The cave, mute witness of times gone by, has received visitors without interruption from the Bronze Age to the present day, as shown by the archaeological studies which have been made over many years. 

The Olbeas of San Juan by Routes of Santiago de Compostela: Camino Francés and Routes of Northern SpainUNESCO World Heritage

The Olbeas of San Juan

The town of Salvatierra-Agurain, in the heart of the Álavan Plain, retains its entire medieval town structure, with interesting monumental buildings and a variety of gastronomical offerings. The sweets made by hand by the nuns of the Covent of the Poor Clare Sisters deserve a special mention. Enough to make you lick your lips!

Wall paintings of Alaitza by Routes of Santiago de Compostela: Camino Francés and Routes of Northern SpainUNESCO World Heritage

Wall paintings of Alaitza

These enigmatic wall paintings were found during restoration works carried out in the Alaitza chapel in 1982. They probably date from the 14th century. They show diverse scenes of daily life in those times, including disturbing war scenes and some curious-looking pilgrims.

The Cathedral of Santa María by Routes of Santiago de Compostela: Camino Francés and Routes of Northern SpainUNESCO World Heritage

The Cathedral of Santa María

The medieval almond shape of Vitoria-Gasteiz hosts the old Cathedral of Santa María, inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2015.

The interesting visit to this building will guide us through the various construction phases undergone by this Gothic temple. In some of them, the visitor will also have the option of discovering the city wall or the tower with one of the best panoramic views of the city.

Walking along the vineyards by Routes of Santiago de Compostela: Camino Francés and Routes of Northern SpainUNESCO World Heritage

Walking along the vineyards

At the end of the Basque Inland Camino, before it leaves Álava in search of the French Camino, pilgrims cross the Rioja Alavesa.  A landscape marked out by rich vineyards whose fruits are turned into world-renowned wines.

In this final area, it is well worth visiting the medieval town of Salinillas de Buradón, which retains a large defensive wall from the 13th century and several buildings which provide evidence of its illustrious past.

Credits: Story

This exhibit was created by Basque Country https://turismo.euskadi.eus/es/ 
More on The Routes of Santiago in the Basque Country and World Heritage: whc.unesco.org/en/list/669
Photos: Quintas (Basque Country); CC BY-3.0-ES 2012/EJ-GV/Irekia-Eusko Jaurlaritza/Mikel Arrazola; Orbela (Basque Country); Gernika Turismo (Basque Country);  Idiazabal Turismo (Basque Country); Quintas/Fundación Catedral de Santa Maria (Basque Country)

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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