2 Essential one day routes from San Sebastian

If there is something beautiful and spectacular about San Sebastian, it is the green mountains that surround it.  This rugged coastline with its cliffs that merge with the blue sea are sporting, cultural and gastronomic attractions for day trips by bicycle. Crossing the coastal villages near the capital or sitting on a terrace with a beer are pleasures that one deserves after an active cycling route.

These routes along the Basque coast through narrow and winding roads will allow us to see incredible landscapes , alternating the green color of the fields with the white farmhouses combined with red roofs.  In this visual context is better understood the strong Basque agricultural traditions with the plowing of the fields, the cutting of the grass, from which were born the popular Basque rural sports, with exhibitions held in many of the squares of the villages, where in addition, huge amounts of money are bet.

The fishing villages along the coast are well worth a visit.  Historical villages with a strong character shaped by the Cantabrian Sea, villages dedicated to fishing for hundreds of years, today are charming and quiet places where you can taste a delicious grilled fish, take a bottle of Txakoli, all with top quality products and surrounded by a great atmosphere of local people. 

The routes that we propose require a degree of commitment to face certain slopes that we find in its route, but it is worth cycling to the top of Mount Igueldo or the mountain pass of Jaizkibel, near the border with France, from where you can take amazing pictures of an environment surrounded by sea and mountains.

Our recommendation is to make the routes by road bike or Touring, however, it is also a very good option to take an electric bike with which the slopes will be more accessible.

The West Coast of San Sebastian – Monte Igueldo – Orio- San Sebastian

The first bike route we propose is an affordable distance of 30kms. Leaving San Sebastian we have the challenge of the ascent to Mount Igueldo (240mts).  We approach it calmly because the first kilometer after leaving Ondarreta beach is the most demanding. We will arrive at the entrance to the amusement park and hotel Monte Igueldo, where from this point we have a more comfortable route, with spectacular views over the Cantabrian Sea. We pass the village of Igueldo and, although we continue gaining altitude, the road becomes more bearable. We will pass in front of the entrance of the restaurant Akelarre, with the 3 *** Michelin that has maintained for years, … and we continue. The road becomes narrower but more charming. With the green landscape of the fields at the roadside and the cattle grazing on both sides of the road, the descent begins by a narrow but well paved road, used in the last Tour de France, to reach the seaside town of Orio.

Orio    This cozy village is famous for its rowing club, the Trainera, which is recognized as one of the traditional Basque sports.  In the past, the town’s boats would leave the port in fierce competition when they spotted a whale in the sea. The first ones to arrive would get the best fish. The village preserves that medieval and maritime aspect with the fishermen’s houses surrounding the main square, which is the nerve center of local life.

A stop in this village, with restaurants displaying their characteristic charcoal stoves where the best of the Cantabrian fish is grilled. A stop at the old tavern “Bordatxo” is enough. located in the pleasant central square of the town where, on a bar full of pintxos, the star dish, the calamari or Rabas, stands out.  A glass of Txakoli and we take the road back to San Sebastian.  If we do not feel like cycling back because of the climb that awaits you, you can take the direct train back to the capital

The East Coast: From San Sebastian to Hondarribia via Mount Jaizkibel

This second one-day bike route also starts in San Sebastian.  We leave the city by the beach of Gros, coastal limit of the city on the east side. We continue along the bicycle route that runs parallel to the slopes of Mount Ulía. The first kilometers are along the well conditioned bike path that will take us to Pasajes de San Pedro, where we will take a small boat that will cross to the other side of the estuary.

Pasajes San Juan It is worth a visit to this medieval village. Walk along its main street, cobbled and narrow, and cross the whole village on foot.  The narrow street, crosses the porches that hold old fishermen’s houses.  The colorful architecture of the houses in the main square is another of the attractions of one of the most charming villages of the Basque Country.

Leaving Pasajes in the direction of Lezo we take the road on our left to climb its 8 kilometers and that will take us to the top of Mount Jaizkibel. This effort has its reward when we get a glimpse of the Cantabrian Sea on our left. The road will take us through this landscape where the sea merges with the mountain. Once the mountain pass is crowned (this mountain was crossed by the Tour de France in 2023) we have ahead of us a spectacular descent to Hondarribia. Mandatory stop at the viewpoint that we have 1km from the start of the descent. Beautiful views over the French coast and the mountains of Peñas de Aia.

Hondarribia I recommend entering the city through the direct access to the old part, completely walled, where through a cobbled street we will access the Plaza de Armas. Here we find the Parador de Turismo, an old defensive fortress from the 16th century.   From this square we can go down to the area of “Marina Street” with its colorful painted fishermen’s houses decorated with flowers on their balconies. Today it is a meeting place in its typical pintxo bars where it is possible to have a glass of Txakoli sitting on the bustling terraces sharing the great atmosphere with local people mixed with curious tourists who alternate the different bars.

To return to San Sebastian we have the option of pedaling to the train station in Irun (5kms totally flat) to take the train back to the capital of Guipuzcoa.

These are the 2 one-day bike routes that we propose for your next visit to the Basque Country and San Sebastian in particular.  After a couple of days in the city, in this article we offer you the best way to know in a healthy and relaxed way those essential places full of tradition, nature, good gastronomy and fraternization with the locals.