After a taxi transfer skips the climb to Jaizkabel, you join the Camino del Norte (northern pilgrimage route), the oldest and one of the most mountainous pilgrimage routes. As you walk, picture yourself in the footsteps of the countless people who have embarked on this journey for centuries.
True to its hilly reputation, today’s hike climbs over two mountains. Firstly, the path balances precariously atop the ridgeline of Mount Jaizkabel, enjoying endless views to the sea on one side, and mountain and valleys on the other. A string of ancient towers crumble along this ridgeline, having benefitted from its lofty vantage point. Later, the trail climbs across the shoulder of Mount Ulia revealing the dramatic coastline up close and passing a number of towers and lighthouses.
I must briefly mention Pasaia which is a gem in the middle of today’s hike, a fishing port that oozes character. The river washes past houses, where the accumulation of centuries of seaweed denotes the highwater mark on their brickwork. A tiny ferry belches fumes as it shuttles pilgrims and locals (and you!) back and forth across the river, saving an 8.5km trip via the nearest bridge. This historical and cultural insight complements the natural beauty and ensures today’s hike is one of superlatives.
There are some exposed and unfenced edges throughout the walk; be careful and remain on the path.
There are several stretches where you must walk on the road as there is no pavement. Walk on the left side facing the oncoming traffic unless there is a sharp bend, in which case you should cross to the outside edge to allow drivers the maximum time to see you.
Much of the path is along rocky and wooden steps; be careful as these may be slippery, especially when wet.
Some of the fields may have cows and horses in; they are not aggressive but take care not to startle them, and pass around them with a wide berth.
There are hunting hides established near this footpath. They face away from the footpath, so be sure not to deviate from the main trail.
Tips and hints
Points of Interest
Camino del Norte
The Camino del Norte (northern pilgrimage route) is one of the 8 main routes to Santiago de Compostela, and thought to be the oldest – necessitated by Muslim-occupied areas further south. It is also one of the more mountainous and tougher routes, meaning it was largely abandoned as flatter routes to the south became safe.
Before reaching San Sebastian the footpath passes through the woodland of Ulia Park. In the early 20th century, an elegant funfair was built here to entertain the upper classes who would holiday in San Sebastian. Additionally, from this park on the shoulder of Mount Ulia, locals would look out for whales which could be captured for food, and ships that required a tugboat to enter Pasaia.
Pasia’s port remains central to its economy, as it has for hundreds of years. The nearby museum, ‘Albaola, The Sea Factory of the Basques’ showcases a variety of boats including a replica of the Nao San Juan, a 16th century whaling ship, and a number of nearby restaurants offer delightful seafood dishes – though you won’t find whale on the menu today!
Food and Drink
There are a number of restaurants and bars in Pasaia after 8.5 kilometres, and a café on the shoulder of Mount Ulia after 12.5 kilometres.
Book recommendations for this region:
Sturdy hiking boots and a waterproof/wind-break layer are required. Walking poles will be a big advantage on some of the steep ascents and descents.
Ensure your phone is fully charged; if you doubt the battery will last throughout the hike, it might be beneficial to bring a power bank.
Make sure you bring enough water. It is recommended to drink 0.75 litres per 1 hour of hiking in hot weather.
Be sure to bring plenty of sun-cream and a healthy respect for the sun.