The Coast Road, which follows the Guipuzcoa coastline before heading inland in the Vizcaya region of Lea-Artibai, would appear to be one of the most primitive pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela, dating from before the Inland Route and other more well-known ones. In the 9th and 10th centuries, before better communication routes were established between Guipuzcoa and Castile, this was the preferred route for pilgrims.
Nevertheless, there were still many complaints, such as "the full fury of the Ocean wherever you may find yourself" (Hugo of Oporto, a Portuguese bishop, in 1120). This is due to the coastal roads needing to resolve the differences in height along the coastline and the interruptions presented by the mouths of the Guipozcoa rivers: the Oiartzun, Urumea, Oria, Urola and Deba.
The Coastal Road is nowadays a way to enjoy the view of the marine horizon and to alternate short walks through small hills and urban strolls, whilst getting to know the different areas of the Gipuzkoa coastline step-by-step.
Stage 1: Irun - Donostia-San Sebastian (25 kilometres)
From Santiago bridge, we shall take the road to Hondarribia, which has a beautiful walled old district, a national an historic artistic monument. The Castle of Carlos V (currently a national Parador hotel) looks out on to the Plaza de Armas. As we climb Mount Jaizkibel we will see the fortress and shrine of Guadalupe (15th century).
A path will take us right along the coastal side of Jaizkibel, down to Pasai Donibane, the prettiest district of all those which overlook Pasajes bay, with its typical fishing houses in Plaza de Santiago. We shall take a boat across to Pasai San Pedro and go up another hill, Ulia, which now separates us from the capital. After going past Plata lighthouse, we can continue to enjoy a pleasant stroll with views of the sea as we go down to Donostia-San Sebastian.
Stage 2: Donostia-San Sebastian - Getaria (25 km.)
On the other side of La Concha bay the route heads towards Mount Igeldo and its prolongation, Mendizorrotz. We are now in Orio, where we find the Hermitages of San Martín de Tours and of San Juan next to the beach. Having crossed the mouth of the Oria river and left behind Mount Talaimendi, Zarautz awaits. Apart from its long beach, make sure you visit the church of Santa María la Real, with its "Pilgrim's Tomb".
Up on Alto de Meagas we find the old road which joined Zarautz to Getaria. The trees of the park of Vista Alegre and the Hermitage of Santa Bárbara set out the way. And, going down towards Zumaia, pilgrims would stop at another temple built to honour San Martín de Tours, namely that of Askizu.
Stage 3: Zumaia - Deba (22.7 km)
In Zumaia, the Coastal Road heads inland, passing by the Urola river and then a path between homesteads, taking us to another significant site for pilgrims, the Church of Itziar, with its 13th century representation of the Virgin.
A track which passes by San Roque Hermitage will take us to Deba, with its parish church dedicated to Santa María.
Stage 4: Deba - Markina - Xemein (Vizcaya) (29 Km)
From Deba the road begins by crossing the only bridge over the estuary, which takes us to the district of Laranga in the municipality of Mutriku. From here the road takes us, via Mount Arno (which is part of the Nature 2000 Network of areas of natural interest), to the territory of Vizcaya, finishing in Markina-Xemein. Anybody wishing to know the changing history of the road should not fail to visit the church of San Andrés de Astigarribia, which historically provided the resting point for pilgrims coming from Deba, who would wade across the river and then, the following day, enter the lands of El Señor de Vizcaya, through to Markina-Xemein.