Mountain biking from Hondarribia to San Sebastian ride review
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12 Jun Following the footsteps of Victor Hugo

Many writers of romanticism travelled to Spain looking for bullfighters and Sevillanas, with Madrid and Andalusia being the most popular Spanish destinations at that time. Victor Hugo was one of the few who, during his trip to Spain, visited the Basque Country instead. The French writer fell in love with Pasajes San Juan, the boat-women and the wonderful environment around the town. This is why we have decided to call “Following the footsteps of Victor Hugo” to our mountain bike day trip that goes from Hondarribia to San Sebastian.

HONDARRIBIA

This MTB route starts in Hondarribia, a marvellous fishing village on the Basque Coast. Hondarribia is located on the border with France, halfway between Biarritz and San Sebastian, the main cities in the area. Inside the walled old town there are many medieval buildings. The Carlos V castle and the church are the most important ones, but the whole historical city centre is quaint. Another attraction in Hondarribia is the fishermen’s neighbourhood, with wonderful white houses and colourful balconies. Besides, the main street in this quarter is now a popular bar area where it is possible to try some of the best “pintxos” in the Bidasoa region. 

Basque Country map

Despite being on the coast, Hondarribia’s surroundings are really mountainous. From here, it is possible to do many different mountain bike routes. One of our favourites goes from Hondarribia to San Sebastian through Pasajes San Juan and crossing Jaizkibel and Ulia mountains.

Mountain biking from Hondarribia to San Sebastian

Camino de Santiago (Way of Saint James)

To go from Hondarribia to San Sebastian by mountain bike, the most popular route is to follow El Camino de Santiago (Way of ST James). The itinerary is well marked and is a good option for those who don’t want to take a guide. But, even if there are some interesting places on the route, the first stage of El Camino de Santiago is quite boring in general. This route mostly goes by the east face of mount Jaizkibel and leaves out the stunning cliffs and MTB trails along the coast, which is definitely the main attraction of the mountain and what makes Jaizkibel one of the most beautiful Basque mountains.

Mountain biking in Jaizkibel

In our shuttled enduro MTB version of the Hondarribia to San Sebastian ride we start driving to the top of mount Jaizkibel before pedalling. From here, we descend towards the sea following some of the best trails in the area. Once by the seaside we ride a few kilometres next to the sea hugging mount Jaizkibel until arriving at the fishing port in Hondarribia, passing by the Higer lighthouse. This is probably the most beautiful part of the itinerary because of the outstanding cliffs and the colourful sandstone rocks on the coast. From the fishing port we shuttle up to the top again before continuing with the ride.

 

Once at the top of Jaizkibel again, we descend to Pasajes San Juan riding through amazing scenic trails. There are many options and trails, and depending on the level of the riders we go a different way.

Pasajes San Juan

Pasajes San Juan is a picturesque fishing village on the Basque coast. The houses in this town are built with sandstone from the surrounding mountains and like in Hondarribia the balconies are painted in different colours. This quaint houses and the location of the town, in one of the most impressive natural harbours on the Basque coast, make Pasajes one of the most singular towns in the region. Victor Hugo discovered Pasaia during his trip through the Basque Country and the Pyrenees mountains in 1943. He liked it so much that he decided to stay here for some weeks instead of staying in San Sebastian. The French writer wrote about the beauty of the town and its people in his book The Pyrenees.

 

During the ride, Pasaia is the perfect place to recharge your batteries before crossing Ulia and arriving in San Sebastian. Normally, during our Hondarribia to San Sebastian MTB tour it is here where we stop to have lunch.

Crossing Ulia

After lunch, we cross the bay of Pasajes and we climb until arriving at the “Silver Lighthouse”. Once there, we follow a wonderful path that takes us to the top of Ulia mountain. Some parts of this section of the route are technically quite difficult and requires an advanced skill level. We suggest riding carefully, because most paths in Ulia are narrow, full of rocks and are frequently used for hiking. Like in Jaizkibel, the best option for those who want to follow the easiest itinerary is to take the Camino de Santiago. From the top of Ulia, we descend to Zurriola beach following a mellow singletrack at the beginning and the Way of Saint James path at the end.

 

To finish this memorable ride there is nothing better than having a cold local beer at Zurriola beach.

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