The Urola Tour. A perfect road trip to escape your everyday stress and routine
Friday Azpeitia or Azkoitia? Discover the lively atmosphere on the streets of these two towns.
On a Friday evening, you can join in the “txikiteo” (rounds of small glasses of wine). Just a five-minute drive apart, Azpeitia or Azkoitia both have a great atmosphere and loads to see. Towering above them is the great limestone bulk of Mount Izarraitz, from which the two towns take their names: Ayz-goitia (Upstream from the crags) and Ayz-beitia (Downstream from the crags). In Azpeitia, visit the Basazabal palacio, which houses the tourist office, and just a short distance away, the Basque Rail Museum, where you can take a delightful ride on a steam train along the River Urola. In Azkoitia, don’t miss the pelota courts, an avant-garde work of architecture designed by renowned Basque sculptor Jorge Oteiza and based on the traditional fronton. You’ll find plenty of places to stay in both towns.
All ready for our magnificent Gipuzkoan-style road trip? Our route will take you along narrow, winding roads, up and down, down and up, through beautiful scenery, to unspoilt villages where you’ll always find a warm welcome. Take it at your own pace. Stop off along the way whenever the fancy takes you. Enjoy the landscape and the tranquillity. It’s the perfect way to escape all the stress and routine of everyday life. But before you leave, do drop into the Basilica of St. Ignatius of Loyola. The interior of the church, the surrounding gardens and the imposing scenery are a true delight, where you can feel at ease with the world. So get ready: the adventure is about to begin! First stop: Beizama. This is the green paradise on the sides of Mount Illaun, with its cheese dairies and txakoli wineries... and even an eco-hostel. All in a village with a population of just 166, at the geographical centre of the province of Gipuzkoa. Our next stop is Bidania-Goiatz. At over 500 metres (1650 ft), this is the highest town in the province. It sits amidst farmhouses, forests and mountains — the most prominent of which is Mount Ernio (1,075 m, 3,527 ft), a beautiful summit much favoured by mountaineers. The village itself consists of two small nuclei which have preserved all the essence of rural Gipuzkoa. Breathe in the fresh air and tranquillity! Our next stop is Errezil-Erdoizta. By now, you’re probably feeling a bit peckish. You can get a delicious meal either in the centre of Errezil or in one of the outlying districts. Afterwards, you can head on up to Erdoizta. Drive carefully; it’s sometimes easy to imagine that you’re the only person in these hills and then suddenly you come face to face with another car! Pass with care… Once you get to Erdoizta, you’ll find the Chapel of San Isidro, built at the beginning of the nineteenth century and consecrated to St. Isidore, patron saint of farmers. From there, take the road on to Aizarna. But first, there’s another stop you have to make.
Saturday The Chapel of Santa Engrazi
Turn right at the crossroads and park opposite a farmhouse. From there, it’s a ten minute walk along a stone path to the meadow by the hill after which the chapel is named. The chapel itself is a delightful little building and it commands some truly spectacular views; set at an elevation of 510 metres (1670 ft) in the midst of the Pagoeta Nature Park, from here you can see Izarraitz, Ernio, the coast and the sea. And if you plan to spend the night in the area, there are plenty of rural B&Bs on offer. Everything is close at hand: in Errezil, Aizarna or Aizarnazabal, you’ll find accommodation and a place to get some well-earned rest among the mountains.
Sunday More scenery, prehistory and the Lili Palacio
In Zestoa, combine a visit to the Ekainberri cave and the palacio of Lili. You can spend the morning in Ekainberri, a replica of the Ekain cave (a listed World Heritage Site) with its prehistoric paintings. Then why not join the dramatized tour of the Lili house, under the guidance of Andre Madalen, last member of the Lili dynasty. If you want to relax for a while and recharge your batteries, how about a spot of lunch in any of the restaurants in Zestoa or Zumaia? And to round off an unforgettable weekend, take a detour down to the Itzurun Beach to see the magnificent flysch landscape. With a low tide, the view of the sunset from here is truly stunning!