Deba and Urola Valleys

You leave Donostia – San Sebastian by taking the motorway A-8 until you reach the way out indicating Elgoibar, or also, you can take the national road N-634 until you reach Deba (this last way is much longer).

Right away you will come to Elgoibar, where some historical houses are well preserved and interesting to have a look at, like the Church of Saint Bartolomé with its Baroque Tower, the Tower House of Alzola and the Town Hall. It is also to mentioned that Elgoibar is called “The machine tool capital” and has created a museum in recognition of its industrial tradition which dates back to ancient times and the leading position it holds today in the machine-manufacturing world. It contains a machining workshop, document archives, an exhibition room and a smithy. It also holds a collection of more than 50 machines, 25 of which can be seen in operation, just as they were used in the 19th century.

From Elgoibar you will arrive until the crossing of Malzaga, where from this point you will take the road GI-627 direction Bergara. In Soraluze – Placencia de las Armas you can visit the Church of Saint María La Real with its Gothic / Renaissances styles and a curious atrium.

From Soraluze you will come to the next historical village called Bergara. Bergara is an aristocratic town in Gipuzkoa for its monumental ensemble of mansions and palaces dating from the 16th and 17th centuries. In the 18th century, Bergara became well known all over Europe for the great cultural and educational transformation brought to fruition by the Count of Peñaflorida who conceived the society called the “Royal Basque Patriotic Seminary” in 1776. The town´s historical and monumental heritage includes the Tower of Gabiria, the Palace of Ozaeta and the Parish Churches of San Pedro de Ariznoa and Santa Marina de Oxinondo. The former preserves the Suffering Christ, a masterpiece by the Baroque sculptor Juan de Mesa (1622) and the latter contains an impressive altarpiece which dates back to the 18th century and has been declared a National Monument.

You leave Bergara to continue our route until you come to the crossing of San Prudencio and here, you take the road GI-632 direction Arrasate-Mondragón. One of the most important industrial towns where the cooperative movement arose in the fifties, greatly stimulating social economy and converting this place into an internationally renowned centre thanks to the high degree of specialisation of existing companies. This permanent industrial exhibition called “Debagoiena, a human adventure combining tradition and innovation” and located in the former Unión Cerrajera factory, takes visitors on a journey through time from the craftwork society to the technological world. Nowadays, there is a museum which contains all the history about this great movement.

Once you have visited Arrasate-Mondragón, you go back again the same route GI-632 until the crossing of San Prudencio and then, you follow by taking the road GI-2630 direction Oñati. Oñati is the most aristocratic and monumental town in Gipuzkoa for the artistic grandeur and architectural wealth of its buildings. The town is a real jewel set at the foot of Mount Aloña (1,298 m) in the foothills of Aizkorri Massif. Its many buildings include the 16th century Parish Church of San Miguel with its Flamboyant Gothic cloister, Plateresque altarpiece and mausoleum by Rodrigo Mercado de Zuazola, founder of the first university. The “Sancti Spiritu” University (1540) is one of the most important Renaissance buildings in the Basque Country with a very interesting doorway, chapel and cloister. It was the first university centre and as early as the 18th-19th centuries already had various faculties such as Philosophy, Theology, Economic Sciences and Medicine. Also, the Bidaurreta Monastery, the Town Hall, ancestral homes and palaces such as the 15th century Lazarraga Palace are scattered around the town centre and its various quarters. These buildings compete with the natural beauty of the town´s surroundings which are an ideal place for walking and offer privileged panoramic views of Gipuzkoa.

Just 9 kilometres away from Oñati, up a steep slope between gullies and crests, lies Arantzazu Sanctuary. A compendium of the best contemporary Basque art, this unique geographical area has been a place of attraction since the Virgin appeared on a hawthorn tree (Arantza-zu) in 1468, which was believed to be a miracle and converted the site into a place of pilgrimage.

You turn back to Oñati, and you follow your route GI-2630 direction Legazpi also known as the Iron Valley which is an essential element in understanding and enjoying an important part of Basque history: the iron culture. A number of well-organised and connected descriptive routes help visitors to discover the different areas:

  1. The Ironworks Route: The Ironworks route follows the path of the river Urola. It is a pleasant walk with magnificent views through the world of the ironworks and past dams, canals, tower houses, palaces, mills and country houses which show visitors how men and women used to live in the Iron Valley between the 11th and 18th centuries. This way of life is most clearly show at MIRANDAOLA Ironworks.
  2. A day in the fifties: A day in the fifties the Worker’s Route, takes visitors on a journey back through time to discover working-class life in the fifties and covers fifteen places related to the age of industrialisation.

Very closed to Legazpi, you will find the next village called Zumarraga. At the top of a hill, surrounded by nature, stands La Antigua Chapel, a small and plain building which is unique in stryle and a real jewel of 13th century Basque religious architecture. Its austere, defensive exterior with a Romanesque doorway, contrasts with its extraordinary rustic interior with a coffered oak ceiling replete with beams, crosspieces and parapets forming a perfect harmony. A Statue of Santa María presides the chapel. Its acoustics make it an attractive venue for sacred music concerts. Zumarraga is also the birthplace of the illustrious conqueror of the Philippines, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, whose statue presides the main square. The Neoclassical Town Hall is situated in the town centre near one of the few tower houses in Gipuzkoa, Legazpi House. The Parish Church of Santa María de la Asunción preserves an interesting churrigueresque altarpiece.

A few kilometres ahead, you will come to the village Urretxu, where you can visit the Church of Saint Martin de Tours from the 16th century and the Monument of Jose Maria Iparraguirre who was a poet and folksinger, as well as bohemian, romantic figure and a hardened traveller. His musical legacy of traditional songs still forms part of the Basque culture.

From Urretxu you will arrive to the next village of Azkoitia, place of birth of the pelota players, with its Church of Santa María la Real, known for its latest big romantics organ of Cavaillé Coll (1898). Some of its most interesting buildings include the Santa Cruz Convent and the oldest tower houses in Gipuzkoa, such as Insausti House, Idiakez House, Tower of Balda, the Town Hall and the Palace of Floreaga.

In the nearby of Azkoitia direction Azpeitia, you will find the Loiola Sanctuary where you can visit the Baroque Basilica with a Baroque altarpiece, a circular layout, a majestic dome rising 65 metres high and a magnificent organ, and the Tower House birth place of San Ignacio de Loiola, where its shows aspects of daily life in San Ignacio’s family. Various rooms can be visited inside this fortress-like building beside the Basilica, as well as the Museum and an animated slide show.

Closed from Loiola, you will arrive to Azpeitia set at the foot of Mount Erlo (1026 m). The Parish Church of San Sebastián is located in the historical centre with a main square and interesting houses such as the Mudejar style Antxieta House or Enparan Tower House. Here, you can also visit the interesting Basque Railway Museum.

You follow along the same road GI-631 direction Zestoa and its famous Great Spa Hotel, and where also can be visited the Church of Natividad, and in the outskirts the Palace of Lili.

You keep driving along this road GI-631 direction Zumaia and from here, you can take the motorway A-8 direction Donostia / San Sebastian