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Donostialdea and the Bidasoa region: The Txingudi jewel

Rocky coves, hidden amongst the undergrowth, tell us, when the height of Jaizkibel comes into view from the sea, that we are close to a unique location. The Higuer lighthouse greets us as Hondarribia starts showing to the prow, and to starboard we see the port of Pasaia disappear. From this point, Pasaia is unmistakable: an endless series of large boats awaiting their turn to dock. Looking straight ahead, from amongst a multitude of low houses, the parish church of the Asuncion and the Manzano emerges with a haughty attitude; this is the Bidasoa region.

But it is not always possible to arrive at Txingudi bay by sea, one is not always so lucky. If we are to arrive by land, there is a road which shows all the beauty of the area. Taking Gipuzkoa's capital as our starting point, we must exit going through the neighbourhood of Gros toward the N-1 road in the direction of Irun. A few metres ahead we take the turnoff to the left towards Pasai San Pedro. Then we continue until we come across the mouth of the harbour, where we can admire a beautiful view of Pasai Donibane, on the other side of the entry cannal. A boat can take us there.

To continue our journey we must get back to the N-1 road until the turnoff for Lezo, where we can visit the San Juan Bautista church, and contemplate its wonderful high altarpiece. From here we can continue on to the centre of Pasai Donibane. If we take a walk along San Juan street or around Santiago square we can enjoy one of the best groups of traditional fishermen's houses preserved in Euskadi. We also find another church of San Juan Bautista, the house where the French writer Victor Hugo lived, the Villaviciosa Palace and the Palace House of Admiral Arizabalo.

From Pasai Donibane we return to Lezo (going back the way we came) for the climb to Mt. Jaizkibel, a mythical mountain which had an enormous defensive importance due to its privileged views of the ocean, and today it is famous for the hard, steep climb to the top for any cycling race. On the descent we can visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Ama Guadalupekoa), a beautiful sailor's style temple which arouses the devotion of Hondarribia "arrantzales", who are also known as "Vikings".

Continuing along the road, and only a few kilometres away, we come across Hondarribia, a tourist fishing town. The most interesting place is the Old Town, with its still standing wall. In the highest part, the Plaza de Armas, a stone castle houses the Parador Carlos V. Every 8th of September, the traditional Alarde or Parade is still held at its gates, to commemorate the victory over the French troops in the 17th century.

Nearby is the Parish Church of the Asuncion and the Manzano, several stately houses and palaces, the Town Hall and the Santa Maria Gate, with the town's coat of arms. The neighbourhood of La Marina is also very colourful and has a more popular atmosphere. In San Pedro street we can have an aperitif at one of its countless terraces or buy fish just brought in from the sea.

Only three kilometres separate Irun and Hondarribia. In Irun we can visit the Church of Santa Maria del Juncal, which dates baçk to the 16th century, and the Town Hall, from the 18th century, as well as the Museum at the hermitage of Ama Xantalen. From the nearby border with France we can continue our excursion of the Basque Coast along the French towns of Hendaya, Sokoa, San Juan de Luz, Biarritz or Baiona, interesting places to visit and easily accessible.

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