San Sebastian, Basque Country (Spain)

Sep 28, 2017 - National Geographic Orion

After a calm night sailing along the Basque Coast, we reached the stunning bay of St.-Jean-de-Luz (or Donibane Lohitzune in Basque language) early in the morning. Located on the French part of the Basque Country, St.-Jean-de-Luz combines traditional Basque architecture found in the interior of the village with stately mansions that have an important French influence. This is due to the fact that in the 17th century the town transitioned from being one of France’s most important fishing ports, from where whale hunting and cod fishing expeditions were departing to Newfoundland and Labrador Peninsula, to become the centre for Basque corsairs. Nowadays, the incredible wealth that they looted and plundered can still be seen.

Following the coast northward, Biarritz is one of the oldest beach resorts in the world, while Bayonne (or Baiona in Basque) has been boasting of its chocolates since the French Revolution guaranteed Jewish people the full rights of citizenship.

At noon, we departed from the French side of the Basque Country back to the Spanish side, entering the natural narrow-entrance to the port of Pasaia. From here, the majestic city of San Sebastian (or Donostia in Basque) hosts one of the most beautiful urban bay and beaches of the world. Luxurious beachside mansions run along La Concha and Ondarreta Beach and its boardwalk is lined by an ornate white railing that has become the symbol of the city. In recent years, Donostia has gained significant important for its spectacular cuisine and the wonderful Basque gastronomy; the city alone has 15 Michelin stars spread across seven restaurants and it famously boasts more stars per capita than anywhere else in the world other than Tokyo. Furthermore, it is also famous for being the origin of the famous Basque “pintxos” (miniature cuisine pieces of food) that are nowadays filling the bar counters of the cute old quarter.

Finally, we did not have a better option than to end the day in a traditional Basque cider house, where a typical Basque-style menu of food was fueled by an unlimited amount of cider, and while the best “trikitixa” (Basque small accordion) player, Kepa Junkera, and his witches offered us a wonderful Basque folk introduction.

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About the Author

Eñaut Izagirre


Originally from Elgoibar near the Basque Coast, Eñaut grew up on the rocky mountains of the Basque Country and the Pyrenees, where his fascination to the landscape and gorgeous mountains led him to study Geography at the University of the Basque Country.  Then, he continued his studies in Punta Arenas, Chilean Patagonia, where he lived from 2013 to 2016 studying a MSc in Glaciology and working as a researcher at the Universidad de Magallanes. He completed his MSc thesis on the neoglacial advances of the Marinelli glacier in the Cordillera Darwin and he participated in numerous sailing, kayaking and climbing expeditions into this remote mountain range and the Patagonian channels and fjords.

About the Photographer

Steve Morello

Naturalist/Certified Photo Instructor

Steve Morello has had a long and colorful career in the natural history world. Born in New Jersey he was lucky to be able to summer on the shores of Cape Cod. Whether it was exploring the tidal pools, snorkeling along the beach, or hiking in the dunes, it all came together to instill in him a deep connection to the natural world. It was no surprise that he would return to the Cape as a whale researcher in his adult years. It was on the Cape that Steve first became involved in guiding, and for 15 years acted as naturalist on whale watching boats in the Gulf of Maine. Steve worked with groups creating environmental education material for school programs and soon found another one of his passions, photography.

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