The Camino del Norte: in the basque country
A small and compact town with a large beach, and one of the few towns along the way built on terrain so steep that elevators have been installed to help people get up and down. The Ermita de San Roque, on the hillside, is along the camino as you descend into Deba.
There are a lot of architectural gems here, more than you would expect from a town this size. The Iglesia de parroquial de Santa María and the Santuario de Icíar are the obvious ones, but some municipal buildings and even the bridge out of town are deserving of a second...
Not many ships come to Deba these days, but that has not always been the case. Because of the Ermita de San Roque, it was once a popular starting point for pilgrims arriving at the peninsula by sea.
Wave goodbye to the sea. It will be exactly 80km before it returns into view in Bilbao. Between here and there are several mountainous stretches.
San Roque is celebrated from the 14th to the 18th of August.
The camino and the GR-121 alternate route meet in Deba near the ermita. The camino crosses the river along a footbridge near the train station and on the opposite bank turns right. A short distance later it crosses the road and just beyond that it turns left, going upwards once again...
The bar is in the albergue, and opens at 12:30.
Just beyond the Albergue and bar turn left at the fork to follow a trail instead of the road. You will rejoin the asphalt road shortly before Olatz.
The distance from Olatz to Markina is without services of any kind. Be sure to re-fill your water here.
Follow the road past the bar and small park, and when it forks keep to your right uphill on the narrower option. From here to Markina the camino twists and turns quite a bit. It is countryside walking all the way to Markina, where a steep descent brings you into the city from...
Having left the province of Gipuzkoa behind, Markina-Xemein is the first city of note in Viscaya.
There are a number of monuments in town, thanks in large part to the pilgrimage route.
They are the Convento e Iglesia de la Merced, Santa María de la Asunción de Jeméin, and San Miguel de Arretxinaga. If you are only going to visit one make it San Miguel, the hexagonal church was built around a megalithic rock formation which dominates the interior and it satisfies the very definition of unique.
Equally revered (by the Basques...
Market day is Thursday, in the Plaza del Mercado.
June: San Juan is celebrated on the 24th and San Pedro the 29th.
July: San Martín on the 7th, San Cristóbal on the 10th, and San Ignacio de Loyola the 31st.
August: Goerria on the 1st, Nuestra Señora de las Nieves on the 5th, and San Jacinto on the 17th.
September: Nuestra Señora de Erdotza on the 8th and San Miguel Arcángel on the 29th.
October: Santa Teresa de Jesús on the 15th.
The marked camino passes the church and convent and turns right at the first street past them. Follow the road across a small river and turn left at the first road, keeping close to the nearby building to follow a park trail as is wiggles its way along the river. The camino will take you back...
Accommodation in Markina-Xemein
Barrio Atxondo 10
Albergue de peregrinos Convento del Carmen Markina
You will enter town from a back road. There is a car park on your right when you get to the main road. Turn left here (facing east) to get to the bridge over the river. Cross the river and then turn right again, quickly followed by another right to leave the road and the town. More mountain...
Simón Bolívar, leader of many South American independence movements and namesake to both Bolivia and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, was not born in this town which carries his name and a monument and a museum dedicated to him. Neither were any of his relatives, but as things go...
At the roundabout at the start of town, follow the road sign to Urua (the only option which crosses the river). This is only to get you off of the main road, which you could just as easily follow to the end of town. The camino passes the Simon Bolivar Museum and arrives at the church...
Where the camino meets the road in Ziortza, it is 50m to your left to the bar and albergue, or less than 300 to your right to get to the Monastery.
On the west gate of the Monastery is a relief carving of an eagle carrying a skull, not a traditional motif for any building but one that illustrates the story of the monastery’s early days. On the day of the Assumption in 968, residents of a nearby Munitibar (the next town on the camino) were...
Beyond the monastery the camino turns right and into the forest again.
If you ask the locals, or don’t since they will none-the-less volunteer their opinion, Munitibar is the very heart of the Basque country. It kind of feels that way too.
The old trading routes once passed through here, sending wool and wine from Logroño up to the sea while hauling back fish on the return trip.
January: San Vicente on the 22nd.
June: San Pedro on the 29th.
July: San Cristobal on the 10th.
September: Nuestra Señora de Gerrikaitz on the 8th.
After crossing the main square in Munitibar, the camino turns left at the church to follow the main road out of town, though only for a short distance. Less than 50m beyond the river it turns left up a side road, climbing up to and beyond the Ermita de Santiago. From the ermita...
There are several points along this stretch of the road where you may see an errant arrow or two pointing in a direction which doesn’t feel like the camino. This is because in years past the camino followed a different route into Gernika. Follow the freshest arrows and the wooden post...
Located 1km off the camino on a marked trail to the left. It is not necessary to return to the camino, as the road from here re-joins it in Marmiz. If you go that way, pay close attention to the turn to the right in town, see below for a description.
In town the camino crosses the main road to cut through the square and around the church. It will make its way back to the road and follow it all the way down into Gernika, passing a small park just before arriving at the main road.
Upon reaching the main road, the city of ...
The tragedies of war have created in Gernika something of an anomalous urban layout; a great many buildings were destroyed, nearly three-quarters of them, and new buildings were shoehorned into their place. It remains pedestrian friendly and is large enough to take up your afternoon.
On your way into town, stop into the Iglesia de Santa María, a Basque Gothic church, and on the way out you’ll pass the Casa de Juntas which can be toured; otherwise just take a pause near the Tree of Gernika, which for centuries served as the meeting places...
The names of Gernika and Picasso are inseparable, bound together since the talented artist was commissioned by the Second Spanish Republic to commemorate the horrific events that took place here on an April market day in 1936; it was propaganda at its most artistic level. The massive painting,...
Beyond Gernika the camino is without any services for 15km, pack accordingly.
Andra Mari y San Roque from the 9th to 18th of August.
Monday remains the Market day, as it has for centuries.
Keep going straight after crossing the bridge into Gernika, following the road to where it ends at a large mural recreating Picasso’s famous painting depicting the city under bombardment. Turn left there, uphill and against traffic, passing the Iglesia de Santa María de la Antigua...
Mind the traffic at the Alto, which comes faster than expected.
You will arrive at the Alto at a large and fairly dangerous highway crossing. The way ahead is marked, and you are heading towards the signs marked Larrabetzu. After crossing the highway, turn left at the first junction, uphill. You will pass the small Ermita de San Esteban...
If you stayed at the albergue here, remember to return to the camino by going uphill. Otherwise follow the arrows through this place, eventually descending to Goikolexea and the Iglesia de San Hemeterius and Celedonius at the entrance to town.
The Iglesia de San Emeterio and San Celedonio is the most massive building for miles. It, like the Tree in Gernika, was a meeting point for the Lords of Viscaya.
After passing the church and bar at the start of town the camino comes to the main road where it turns left and follows the road all the way to nearby Larrabetzu.