Aralar Nature Park and the Txindoki, Idiazabal cheese and the traditional Tolosa and Ordizia markets
In the heart of Gipuzkoa, a huge maze of grass and green mountains is the setting for the purest essence of Basque culture, its customs and its language, Euskera. Amid its narrow captivating valleys we find countless singular nooks with a genuine rural aroma where you can caress sheep, exchange your impressions with people at their farmsteads, and get your hands messy making bread or cheese.
“Ongi etorri”, or Welcome, to this little green paradise. En route from Tolosa to the Nature Park, we can enjoy the essence of the Gipuzkoa hinterland at its purest. Beginning with Tolosa, the capital of Gipuzkoa in the 19th century, where its palaces and ancestral homes are on view up to the famous Plaza del Tinglado. This is the venue for a bustling market of local produce every Saturday, where farmstead folk sell their seasonal jewels, one of the secrets of Gipuzkoa’s gastronomy. Because, in addition to its cultural agenda (the maximum exponent of which is the Carnival), Tolosa has some magnificent gastronomic fare: beans (its star product), “txuleta” beef chops (grill restaurants were “invented” here), its peppers (known as “Ibarra langostinos”), and its desserts (including the famous “Tejas and Cigarrillos” crunches) delight the palates of visitors and, of course, of the locals.
Moreover, if we allow ourselves to be guided by gastronomic passion, on a Wednesday in the Goierri district, we will find ourselves at the Ordizia Market, the origins of which go back to the 11th and 12th centuries, bringing in agricultural produce and livestock farmers from all over the region. And during our visit we can take a look at D’elikatuz, the gastronomy interpretation centre, for a full conversion to this religion so typical of Gipuzkoa that is gastronomy.
Also, if you have heard of Idiazabal cheese or you adore this variety, you could not be in a better place. In 2015 the European Union declared the Goierri district one of its EDENs (European Destinations of Excellence) for the ‘Territorio Idiazabal’ project, a tourist offer based on local gastronomy. You can find this gastronomic gem in its local markets and shops but, if you wish to delve deeper, the Idiazabal Cheese Interpretation Centre awaits you where, on a beginners’ cheese-tasting course, you will learn the secrets of this emblematic product. Here and at several local cheesemaking plants, you can even make the cheese with your own hands. You may never want to leave.
If, amid all the wonderful gastronomy, you still need greater proximity to nature, the Aralar Nature Park and its peak, the Txindoki, are only a stone’s throw away. Going through the park, we will mingle with horses, sheep, mountain walkers and ramblers greeting us as the clouds slide past. We will be astounded by the light which brings out the Txindoki peak at a height of 1,331 metres, the most salient feature of Gipuzkoa’s mountains. Behind it run some enormous meadows, supported by rock buttresses in all directions. Dozens of paths rise up from the valleys to cross this megalithic grazing plateau. From the summit, taking deep breaths with the “Basque highlands” on the horizon, you will get the sensation that time has stopped.