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Posted by on Jan 4, 2016 | 71 comments

San Sebastian seen from Mount Igueldo

I debated a lot while trying to decide what to write about this week.

After all, it is the first week of a new year. I wanted to open the posting with something special.

After putting some thinking into it, I decided to write about the highlight of my 2015 travels.

There are places that you add to your travel schedule because you have read and heard great things about it.  However, after hours of research, you do not really know what to expect.

That is exactly what happened when I visited Spain last year.  I added the last destination of the journey into the plan without plenty of conviction.  I just needed one more city in the itinerary.

Then, after almost two weeks of travel I started to get weary and groggy.  I was decided to let the last days of the trip “pass.”

But, something magical happened instead.  A new desire to explore resurged when I set foot in San Sebastian.  In a matter of hours, the beauty and gastronomy of this coastal city boosted my mood.  Oh, and did I mention that we had the place almost to ourselves?

San Sebastian, Basque Country, Spain

San Sebastian (or Donostia), is the capital of the Basque province of Gipuzkoa.  This province with Alava and Biscay comprise the Basque Autonomous Community. Even though in a political sense this is Spain’s Basque Country, traditionally (or in a historical sense), the Basque Country also includes the Community of Navarra and three provinces that are part of France.

San Sebastian, Basque Country, Spain

 

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San Sebastian has been a food lover’s paradise for several years.  It is said it has the highest number of Michelin stars, per capita, in the world.  The thing is that the city is getting a boost this year since it was declared European Capital of Culture.

In there, I had the best food of the trip.  If you have an idea of how good Spanish food is, you know I am making a serious statement in here.  Also, I was so happy to walk along the city’s promenade without having to bump into hundreds of visitors.  Madrid and Barcelona are wonderful but there is no denying on how the crowds can drive you a little mad.

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I love food and I love places that have not been overtaken by mass tourism.  Nevertheless, I think San Sebastian natural beauty is what got my heart.

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But, there was a small problem.  It rains a lot in Basque Country.  Your chances of seeing the city under glorious sun rays are low (chances increase during summer).

Have you seen photos of San Sebastian?  If so, you would know that the photo that characterizes the city is an aerial view of the Concha Bay and Catalina Island.  Photos like that are taken from Mount Igueldo.  But, guess what?  You want to go to the viewpoint when the sun is shining.

After three days in Basque Country, I lost hope.  We had to deal with the cold and fog most of the time.  There was only a small period of sun around sunset.  But, that was not enough time to make it to the viewpoint.

For my last day in San Sebastian, the weather forecast looked encouraging.   Putting things on perspective, my hopes where feeble since forecasts failed me the entire trip.

I woke up with fingers crossed. It is not easy to take a look at the sky from an apartment in the old part of town (buildings were built very close).   So, I had to wait until we were down in the street.

Bingo! The sun was shining in its entire splendor.  We were more than ready to walk the entire promenade and take the funicular to the top of Mount Igueldo.

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The views were worth the wait.  In some sense, there were more than what I was expecting.  Using my camera’s zoom, I was able to inspect every little corner of the bay.  I made it to one of the most beautiful places in the entire European continent!

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I didn’t know that there is actually a park around the viewpoint area.

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The views along the coast were spectacular too.  There should be a way to see more of the Basque Country by boat.

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After more than an hour at the top pf Mount Igueldo, it was time to go back to the heart of the city.  We did one final stroll before picking up the luggage and walking to the train station.

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You have no idea how obsessed I am with the Basque Country now.  All things Basque keep popping in front of me.  Do you know that the original city of Durango is Basque?  A conquistador named the city in Mexico after his birthplace.  Or, do you know the word Arizona has Basque origins?

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Love all these little things that I keep learning about the Basque Country.  It fuels my hopes of returning one day.

Other Viewpoints in the City

  • Santa Clara Island – it is possible to reach it via boat
  • Mount Urgull – located at the other end of Concha Bay
  • Mount Ulia – located in the east side of the city

Have you thought of visiting San Sebastian?

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71 Comments

  1. WOW! Those are such beautiful views!! Have a fantastic 2016!!

    Shantana

    • Thanks Shantana! Wish a you a wonderful year too!

  2. The sea and sky are so blue! Looks like a lovely place to visit.
    Debz recently posted..HAPPY CHRISTMASMy Profile

    • It is a wonderful place! I wasn’t expecting to like it that much. I have to go back one day.

  3. Wow those views – what great memories xx

    • I know! A lot of things make me think about the Basque Country now. I am thinking about doing a roadtrip along the coast.

  4. The island looks pretty, but again, you’d need a sunny day. Perhaps the food’s so good to take your mind off the weather 🙂 I have to admit, it’s a place that appeals to me. Thanks for sharing, Ruth.
    Johanna Bradley recently posted..Jo’s Monday walk : Newstead AbbeyMy Profile

    • I agree with your too observations. Sunny, warm weather will be ideal because the place’s natural beauty is breathtaking. But, if the weather is bad, the food is enough reason to visit. That food is beyond amazing.

  5. That’s an interesting way to build along the shore in a hilly area. Our town rises from the sea, but in a more gradual manner. The good part is that many people have ocean views even farther inland. – Margy
    Margy recently posted..Cable Airport: Fun in the California SunMy Profile

    • I guess the area is so pretty that a lot of people wanted to live around the bay. What is the name of your town?

  6. I hear such good things about San Sebastian, especially the food, but haven’t made it there yet. Your photos especially are really tempting me… Thanks for linking to #citytripping
    Cathy (MummyTravels) recently posted..City Tripping #8My Profile

    • Cathy, you will love it. Believe all the hype you hear about the food. It is amazing how good these people cook.

    • I want to be there too. it doesn’t matter if it is cold or windy. I will hopping from restaurant to restaurant.

  7. Your photos are amazing, you have swept me away for a few short moments to a beautiful place, and I thank you for sharing on the Oh My Heartsie Girls Wonderful Wednesday!!

    Wishing you a Happy New Year!!

    • Thanks Karen. We all need a daily dose of beautiful places. Believe me I a take a look at travel and adventure pictures every day.

  8. Gorgeous view, I can totally see why you liked it so much! I haven’t explored this part of Spain before, but now I’m definitely interested.
    Vlad recently posted..2016 Travel Plans And DreamsMy Profile

    • This will be a great place to add to your travel list. It can be combined with other parts of Northern Spain or the French Atlantic Coast.

    • Thanks Becky. It was difficult not to take good pictures from the viewpoint.

  9. I love Spain but have not been to San Sebastian. It is firmly on the list now. The weather could be a problem though. I’ll look at historical rainfall before I plan a visit.
    budget jan recently posted..The Church on the hill in Trebinje BiHMy Profile

    • I think summer is the dry season, so, there are better chances of nice weather. To be honest, I prefer sunny and warm days but you only have certain control over that.

  10. Sensational! I have heard how beautiful San Sebastian is from well-travelled friends. The coastline is exquisite. No wonder it was your favourite travel spot in 2015!
    Kathy Marris recently posted..Tassie: Part 4 Freycinet PeninsulaMy Profile

    • Oh yea! That coast is beautiful. Too bad it was very cloudy the day I went to the French side.

  11. That was a wonderful blog post Ruth and accompanied by really lovely photo’s….now I want to go there and not just satisfied with travelling in my arm chair!
    Cath recently posted..Fun Friday Favourites (10)My Profile

    • I know what you mean! I get the same feeling when I am visiting other blogs. The truth is that I got a lot of ideas from other bloggers before going on this trip.

  12. Lovely views on the top of the mountain! Will take note of it when I get to visit Spain 🙂

    • Oh yes! Keep it in your notes. There will be a lot of activities this year in San Sebastian since it is one of the European Capitals of Culture. It cannot imagine how fun it will be to attend the events.

    • Believe me, I was happy to have a lot of space to walk and move. The trains weren’t clogged with people and you didn’t have to make a line to eat.

    • Great to know I put it in your radar. I am sure you will enjoy everything the city and region has to offer.

  13. Wow, this place has never even been on my radar until now. It seems to have everything that I love about a travel destination – natural beauty, few tourists, and awesome food.

    I imagine that it gets pretty busy at certain times of the year. Were you there in what you would consider the off season?
    Tara recently posted..Woodford State Park: Four Seasons in VermontMy Profile

    • I was there during the shoulder season. The entire Basque Coast gets crowded during summer (June, July and August). Late spring and early fall are good times to visit.

  14. Ruth, yours is the first story I can recall reading about Basque country. How beautiful it is – I had no idea!

    We’ve been talking about returning to Costa Brava, in Spain’s northeastern corner, but perhaps we should consider the other end of the Pyrenees and see what Basque country has to offer. I know we won’t be disappointed by the photos we get.
    Linda Bibb recently posted..The Complete Travel Blog Link-up List – 2016My Profile

    • Linda, that would be a great idea. I have seen a lot of people starting a trip in Barcelona and then renting a car to travel to San Sebastian and other areas of Northern Spain. I want to visit Costa Brava. Didn’t have time to do any day trips from Barcelona during this trip.

  15. What a beautiful place! Even better that y’all had it to yourselves! I’ve not been to Basque Country but I do know that many Basque people settled in northern NV – the aspects of the culture were still pretty strong across the northern mountain west. I think it’s beginning to fade now, though.

    Thank you for sharing with us at Photo Friday!
    Jen recently posted..Photo Friday – Where Christmas GoesMy Profile

    • Jen, I have heard about the Basque in Nevada too. Another place to find restaurants is Bakersfield. I would like to visit one of these areas to see how the food compares.

  16. I’m glad you got a day to enjoy and get great pictures of San Sebastian and it didn’t rain your entire visit. I’ve never been or heard of it, but I’d love to go after reading your post!
    Brooke of Passport Couture recently posted..Fashion and Pantone 2016My Profile

    • Everything speaks Basque Country to me nowadays. I have had the official Basque Country Tourism webpage opened in one of my tablets since we came back from the trip.

  17. Yes I am thinking about visiting Spain, so going to add this to the list. It looks amazing! I am also thinking about doing some wine country tours. Did you visit any wineries that you would recommend during your trip?

    • No, I didn’t do any trips from the Basque Country. I looked into it because part of La Rioja region is Basque (Rioja Alavesa). However, the tours were crazy expensive (at least for me) and it was difficult to do it on your own (you have to make reservations to visit the wineries). Plus, looks like everything is open during the weekend. I think it is easier to book something from Madrid or Barcelona.

  18. Look at that amazing blue sky….I feel like I have not seen blue sky in weeks and weeks

    Mollyxxx
    Molly recently posted..Day 9 – Immortal beautyMy Profile

    • The day was perfect. I didn’t even have to use my jacket.

  19. San Sebastian is breathtakingly beautiful! We were there about 20 years ago. Each time I read your posts on Spain, I remember how much I want to go back. I wanted to stay for the food – it’s fabulous!
    I didn’t know that Durango and Arizona have Basque origins. It’s an interesting language.
    Marcia recently posted..A Photo Review of 2015My Profile

    • I would like you to go back so we can discuss how the place is different nowadays. Basques have been very influential in different areas.

  20. Fantastic photos!! I adored San Sebastián – and I went in the summer so had no rain. It really does tick SO many boxes and the whole Basque region is fascinating. We didn’t go to Mount Igueldo – no idea why – views are stunning!! Thanks for sharing on #citytripping

    • I would like to go back in late spring (before the summer crowds hit town). I would love to drive around the Basque Coast and extend the trip to other parts of Northern Spain.

  21. Looks like you got beautiful weather in San Sebastian! That’s hard to come by! I agree that this city is just amazing! Other than Madrid, it’s up there for my favorite city in Spain. It’s just so beautiful and has an endless supply of new things to taste 😀
    Lauren recently posted..15 Travel Photos from 2015My Profile

    • Lauren, I am with you. I would say Madrid is my favorite city in Spain. After Madrid, I would chose San Sebastian. I have never clicked with Barcelona. I think I would skip it next time. I would prefer to go back to the Basque Coast.

  22. I can tell from your pictures that San Sebastian is really blessed by nature. What a beauty! I haven’t been in this area of Spain, but your post surely made me want to explore it. I am sure this was quite a highlight for your travels in 2015. Happy New Year, Ruth and happy trails!
    Anda recently posted..The Weekly Postcard: Jerome, America’s Largest Ghost TownMy Profile

    • Anda, I am sure you will like this area. I consider it very unique. It is just different from the rest of Spain.

    • Thanks Betty! I had to share San Sebastian for sure. I cannot keep this beautiful place just to myself.

    • Check it out! I think you will be amazed at the big list of things to do in here. And, if you are a food lover, this is the place for you. I am still dreaming about what I ate there.

  23. I’m so glad that the weather cooperated for you. What a great view from the top of Mount Igueldo. I think you enjoy food as much as I do, so I shall trust you when you rave about what you ate in San Sebastian. It looks like kismet delivered a nice little vacation to you those last few days in Spain.
    Michele {Malaysian Meanders} recently posted..The Future of TravelMy Profile

    • I am going to post about San Sebastian’s food later. After reading the post and seeing the photos, you have to tell me what you think.

  24. Wow, that place is captivating. Its clean and the sunshine is pleasant. I hope you also included some pictures of food. ha ha. I love food!
    Lia recently posted..123My Profile

    • Lia, I will post tons of food photos later. I love food too. I wish a can a meet up with all the food lovers in the blogosphere.

    • I know Barcelona is great but I have never clicked with the city. We visited last October, during low season, and it was packed. I do not want to think how it is in summer.

    • The coast is beyond beautiful. And, I thing the same applies to most of Spain’s northern coast. I feel the urge to explore more of it.

  25. Bring back lovely memories – we loved the view from the top – my son loved riding the funiculur up there although he was sad the fun fair was closed! Thanks for linking up with #MondayEscapes
    Ting at My Travel Monkey recently posted..Holiday Snapshots #43 PeruMy Profile

  26. Gorgeous photos! I spent a day in San Sebastian last May and really enjoyed it. If you get the opportunity to go back one day, explore some of the French part of Basque too. We stayed in Saint-Jean-de-Luz and drove around the area exploring some of the tiny towns in the area. It’s such a beautiful place with those beaches and mountains – and the food! Basque has it all 🙂
    Sara @ Simply Sara Travel recently posted..2015: A Year of WanderMy Profile

  27. Looks so very amazing! Thanks you for you post.

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