Overview for Camino del Norte: San Sebastian to Bilbao
The Camino del Norte (a.k.a. The Northern Way) offers a truly authentic pilgrim experience. Compared to the Camino Frances, the route is quieter, much more challenging but also a lot more rewarding. The Camino del Norte goes along the green northern coast of Spain from San Sebastián in the Basque Country, through Cantabria and the Asturias and reaches Ribadeo in Galicia. From Ribadeo, the Northern Camino heads inland, taking pilgrims across the forests and farmlands of rural Galicia on its way to Santiago de Compostela.
On this itinerary you will walk the first stage of the Camino del Norte from San Sebastian to Bilbao, passing through charming seaside villages and then into the mountains. Starting in the charming San Sebastian, you will walk along the beautiful coastline of northern Spain before heading inland to the green mountains of the Basque Country. Stop in the historic town of Guernica, made famous by Picasso, and continue through historic towns and villages before finishing in Bilbao.
The Basque Country is renowned for its cuisine, its pintxos and some of the country’s best chefs so this Camino walk will be an unforgettable gastronomic experience.
Itinerary for Camino del Norte: San Sebastian to BilbaoGo to top of page
Day 1: Arrive in San Sebastian
San Sebastián is known for its beautiful beaches and stunning architecture. It is a stunning and chic seaside city, as well as a paradise for foodies. Stroll down the Playa de la Concha and treat yourself to one of the city’s many Michelin-starred restaurants.
- Overnight San Sebastian
Day 2: Walk to Zarautz
After your overnight in San Sebastian, you will follow the Camino route as it leaves the Bay of Biscay and winds along the coastline through beautiful pastures and gentle hills. You will see the Roman Church of San Martín de Tours before passing charming coastal villages. You will finish today in the beautiful seaside town of Zarautz. Make sure that you try the local Txakolí wine!
- Walking for the day: 20 km
- Overnight Zarautz
Day 3: Walk to Deba
After your night in Zarautz, you will move inland along a quiet rural road before arriving in Getaria with its lovely harbour. After Getaria, the path enters farmlands and passes the harbour town of Zumaia. Today’s section finishes in the lovely seaside village of Deba.
- Walking for the day: 23 km
- Overnight Deba
Day 4: Walk to Markina
After spending the night in Deba, your Camino trail leaves the coastline (you will reach it again in Bilbao) as you will head for the mountains. After crossing a river, the path climbs quickly into an area of thick vegetation before it reaches the chapel of El Calvario. The narrow footpath (GR-121) passes through a number of charming villages on the way before reaching today’s destination: Markina.
- Walking for the day: 23 km
- Overnight Markina
Day 5: Walk to Guernica
Today the trail follows a quiet country lane, crossing the river in Bolibar before rising to the medieval monastery at Zenarruza. From here, the trail keeps climbing through sheltered woodland to the top of Gontzegarai and on to the hamlet of Gerrikaitz. After passing the Hermitage of Santiago, a sharp descent leads to a small river and the historic town of Guernica, made famous by Picasso’s masterpiece.
- Walking for the day: 23 km
- Overnight Guernica
Day 6: Walk to Lezama
You will leave the town of Guernica and soon pass the hermitage of Santa Luzia Zallo, shortly before climbing towards a road. From here, a cobbled path continues climbing to the village of Morga where you will begin a sharp descent through the hamlets of Goikoletxea and Larrabetzu and once again enter woodland before reaching today’s destination: Lezama.
- Walking for the day: 21 km
- Overnight Lezama
Day 7: Walk to Bilbao
Today the path will take you through farmland to the town of Zamudio, the Roman church of San Martin and the Tower of Malpica. From here, there is a gradual climb to the top of Mount Avril, where your efforts will be rewarded with stunning views of Bilbao and the valley below. As you enter the suburbs of Bilbao you should visit the delightful Basilica of Our Lady of Begoña. Your walk reaches its final point in the Plaza de Unamuno, in the old quarter of Bilbao. Bilbao (or Bilbo in Basque) has reinvented itself in the past 30 years, becoming host to some of the best art exhibitions in the country at the impressive Guggenheim Museum. Explore Bilbao’s old town with its quaint taverns and taste a few of the amazing pintxos!
- Walking for the day: 15 km
- Overnight Bilbao
Day 8: Departure
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast before heading back to the airport. We also highly recommend that you book an extra night in Bilbao to fully experience this vibrant city.
Hotels for Camino del Norte: San Sebastian to BilbaoGo to top of page
Accommodations on this tour include a mix of welcoming country inns and comfortable 3-star hotels, located close to the route of the Camino. You will always have a private room and en-suite (attached) bathroom. In the larger cities, you will stay in larger 3-star hotels; the other nights will be in a mixture of rural hotels and inns, all with private rooms and en-suite bathrooms. They have been carefully selected for their location, atmosphere and/or unique services. Extra nights can be booked at any of the accommodations along the way.
Breakfast is included (usually a simple buffet breakfast/coffee and toast/bread/croissant) on all days. When no restaurant location is available on the route, lunches and snacks should either be bought from local shops, or packed lunch can be pre-ordered from your hotel the night before. Where no dinner is included, most places serve hearty pilgrim menus – you can get a 3-course dinner including wine and water for about GBP 10-15 pp.
Travel for Camino del Norte: San Sebastian to BilbaoGo to top of page
The best place to fly into to get to San Sebastian is Bilbao airport, or the smaller San Sebastian airport.
Please note that flight information can change rapidly, and not all flights run daily. Please do check directly with the airlines’ websites or Skyscanner before finalising any booking with us. Please do not book your flights before we have confirmed your booking.
Transfers to/from Airports
From Bilbao, you can easily take the bus along to San Sebastian with ALSA.
All hotel to hotel luggage transfers on walking days are included (maximum one piece of 20 kg per person). When arriving at hotels, usually your luggage would have been taken to your room awaiting your arrival. However don’t be surprised if at some places your luggage is waiting for you at the reception desk – just politely ask someone from the staff if you need assistance to bring it to your room.
A comprehensive and reputable travel insurance policy is essential to your enjoyment and peace of mind while on an active holiday. It is highly recommended when booking with us that all group members have valid travel insurance which includes cover for all activities included in your trip. We have teamed up with to offer you adequate cover at a great value from a reputable insurer, and it takes only a few minutes to buy online.
Up-to-date travel advice on Spain is available here
Trip Info for Camino del Norte: San Sebastian to BilbaoGo to top of page
Difficulty Grade: Moderate
This walk is graded moderate and includes walks of up to 21 km (5-6 hours) a day with some steeper ascents/descents. The Camino Del Norte follows a mixture of farm/dirt tracks, minor roads and footpaths (read more about difficulty grades).
The route is marked with yellow painted arrows but please take care at intersections. There are sections on the route where you will divert to follow the red and white stripes of the GR routes. There will always be other walkers around in-case you are looking for help. We strongly advise you to follow only marked trails and never try to shorten the path through the unknown and unmarked terrain. We will provide you with detailed road notes and maps, and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime. More detailed info on route navigation will be included in your holiday information pack.
When to Go
This trip is available all year round, but the best months to visit are April – October. The weather in Northern Spain is very varied. In general you can expect pleasant temperatures for walking of between 19 degrees and up to about 26 degrees in the summer months. As you will be walking near the coast for much of this walk, you can expect some rainy days, particularly in spring and autumn. The flexibility of self-guided walking holidays means that there are no fixed dates and you can start your trip on any date during the season.
What to Bring
We recommend that you travel as light as possible – airlines might charge you an extra fee, and during ground transfers, the place might be limited. Ideally, you should bring one piece of luggage weighing no more than 15 kg (to be checked in) and a daily pack (15 – 20 l rucksack) for your everyday essentials (snacks, drinking water, camera, etc.). Below is a non-exclusive list of what you should bring to this trip. More detailed info will be included in your holiday information pack.
- Good hiking boots or trail running shoes
- Hiking socks
- Several T-shirts (preferably breathable/fast drying)
- Packable waterproof and windproof jacket with hood
- Synthetic mid layer or warm fleece
- Trainers and/or sandals – to relax and wear inside the accommodation
- Sunglasses, sunscreen and lip salve
- Hat/Baseball cap
- Personal First Aid kit (wet wipes, flu remedies, stomach remedies)
Included for Camino del Norte: San Sebastian to BilbaoGo to top of page
- 7 nights in private en-suite rooms (country inns and 3-star hotels)
- 7 breakfasts
- Detailed journey documentation and practical information
- Luggage transfers from hotel to hotel on all walking days (up to 20 kg per person)
- Transfers from the trail to the hotels and back to the trailhead as detailed in the itinerary
- 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative
- Single room supplement applies to members of a group who require a single room
- This holiday is available for solo travellers; as costs are not shared, there is a solo traveller supplement to the standard price. As a solo traveller, you will be accommodated in a single room on all nights.
To see the price of the holiday for your desired dates, including the cost of different options and supplements, please click the CHECK AVAILABILITY button above.
Other Trip-Related Costs
- Entrance fees for attractions and museums
- Flights and airport transfers
- Travel insurance
- All lunches and dinners
- Personal expenses such as snacks, drinks, phone calls, extra transfers, tips, etc.
- Any items not specifically mentioned as ‘included’ in the programme
Extensions and Optional Extras
- Extra nights along the trail are bookable upon request
- Airport transfers