Stage 1: Irun-Donostia San Sebastián (27.6 km)
The Northern Route adventure starts in the Gipuzkoan town of Irun, on the border with France, and specifically from Santiago international bridge over the Bidasoa river estuary.
The fast-paced first part of the Northern Route constitutes a magnificent stage which can be divided into two parts: the longer crossing of Mount Jaizkibel, until coming to Pasajes de San Juan; and the walk over Mount Ulia, ending in San Sebastian. The stage can be covered in two days if desired.
Among the towns in this stage, Irun has a particularly interesting church, Nuestra Señora del Juncal, home to a replica of Our Lady of the Reedbed from whom it takes its name, an important 12th-century Romanesque work considered to be the oldest in Gipuzkoa.
In Hondarribia you can admire the walled area and the Castle of Charles V, which dominates the town. Also worth a visit is the 16th-century Sanctuary of Guadalupe, near the fort of the same name.
In Pasajes de San Juan, the 18th-century Santa Ana hermitage offers a fabulous panoramic view of the bay and its port. Also interesting is its John the Baptist church or the little chapel next to the jetty, where the pilgrims stop to pray. Thanks to the nonstop boat service, pilgrims and visitors can easily cross over to Pasajes San Pedro, start of one of the most spectacular stretches on the Gipuzkoan coast, following a path along the clifftops. Standing on the highest cliff is La Plata Lighthouse, a fantastic vantage point over the entrance to the port. Further along the way, in the middle of Mount Ulia, the path rises until coming to an ancient lookout point, used since medieval times for sighting whales. The path wends its way down into the city of San Sebastian, the end of this first stage, offering unbeatable views en route.
San Sebastian has many places well worth the visit, such as the Santa María and San Vicente churches or the San Telmo museum. After strolling through its old town, walking round the coast and visiting the neo-Gothic Buen Pastor cathedral, in the district of Amara is the little Santiago church, a testimony to the city’s Jacobean tradition.
But above all, pilgrims must not miss the opportunity to taste the food served in the capital of Gipuzkoa. Gastronomy is an art and the internationally famed hallmark of San Sebastián. From the gastronomic temples with their highly coveted Michelin Stars (three of the nine Spanish restaurants with three Michelin Stars are to be found in San Sebastián), to the immense offer of restaurants and bars for all tastes and pockets. And of course, without forgetting the exquisite pintxos waiting to be tasted in the bars of the city, authentic gems of miniature haute cuisine.