The beach in Zarautz, which is not on the marked camino, is the longest beach in the Basque country. This Queen of Beaches as it is known is the largest tourism draw to the town and every Summer the city fills with thousands of surfers who come to compete. The palaces that once lined the beach have all been replaced by apartment blocks but the fort-like Iglesia de Santa Maria la Real still stands. Adjacent to it is the Torre de los Zarautz which is both the bell tower and Museum of Art and History. Inside the church is a tomb to an unknown pilgrim who, realizing his condition was not well enough to get to Santiago, requested an anonymous burial here.
Zarautz is a popular event town and plays host to several surfing competitions and bike races throughout the summer. Both can put a crunch on the number of beds available.
January: San Sebastián on the 20th, as well as a few wine celebrations throughout the month.
February: Santa Águeda, patroness of the Basque Country, on the 4th. The town also celebrates Carnaval.
May: Santa Marina is celebrated on the 21st.
June: San Pelayo from the 25th to the 27th.
July: Santiago on the 25th.
August: Santa Clara on the 12th, and the Virgen from the 14th to the 16th.
September: Semana Vasca, or Basque Week, from the 1st to the 9th.
The marked way through Zarautz is along the Nafarroa Kalea, about two blocks from the waterfront and parallel to it. As an alternative, you can turn right towards the beach and follow it to the end of town.
Leaving Zarautz can be a confusing affair and the local information office doesn’t do much to clarify matters.
There are two options out of town:
Option 1: The Official Camino to upper Getaria - 5.2
The official camino through the hillside; this option also splits so read ahead to find out more. At the end of the beach or road turn left (south, away from the sea) onto San Inazio Kalea. Keep to the right-hand side and continue a short distance, keeping an eye out for the small road that ramps up to the right and nearly parallel to San Inazio. That road is the one you want, and it will take you upwards.
Near the top, there are signs for the Ermita de Santa Barbara (and an excellent view back east). Not far from the Ermita the camino leaves the road along a path to the right which offers views of the sea. A short distance down this trail the camino joins a different paved road and quickly arrives at a junction. At this point, you have the option of bypassing Getaria entirely. Keep straight for Getaria, or turn sharply left to follow the GR-121. This second option rejoins the first slightly past Askizu.
Option 2: The road to lower Getaria - 4.1
The alternate road route along the N-634 coastal road to Getaria. At the end of the Nafarroa Kalea or the end of the beach, turn right and follow the pedestrian path adjacent to the road as it hugs the coastline all the way to Getaria. Simple and straightforward.
Very little of Zarautz’s famed fishing past remains. The men here were the dominant whalers of their time until the whales disappeared from the Bay of Biscay. During the 19th century, when seaside palaces were the rage, the bourgeoisie built them here along the promenade.