The Camino del Norte is the coastal camino and a Basque beauty too, covering 800km of Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias and then Galicia before heading south to Santiago. This eight day, self-guided walking holiday covers the first section, from San Sebastián to Bilbao, topping and tailing with two fine cities, but with traditional Basque fishing towns and villages, such as Orio and Deba, and then inland to a landscape of mountains, monasteries and marvels such as Guernica. There is no shortage of great food on this tour, as the Basque Country is renowned for its cuisine. Stay in a mix of mostly small, locally-owned hotels and traditional guesthouses, with luggage transfers.
- San Sebastián
- Monasterio de Zenarruza
- Begoñako Basilika (Basilica of Begoña)
Click to view map
Day 1: Arrive in San Sebastián
San Sebastián (known as Donostia in Basque) is famous for its beaches, architecture and abundance of Michelin-starred restaurants. If time allows, stroll down to Playa de la Concha and go for a dip in the turquoise waters.
- Accommodation: Hotel Silken Amara Plaza or similar in San Sebastián
Day 2: San Sebastián – Zarautz | 22km
Leaving San Sebastián behind, join the Camino del Norte and begin the short ascent up Monte Igueldo, the hill that marks the end of Bahía de La Concha (Bay of La Concha). Follow the coastline, walking through pastures and over gentle hills, before reaching the fishing town of Orio, the perfect place to stop for a refreshment. Explore the Old Town and visit the Renaissance church, Iglesia de San Nikolas de Bari. Descend to the seaside town of Zarautz, marking the end of your first day with a highly-recommended glass of Txakolí, the local wine.
- Walking for the day: 4-5h, 22km
- Accommodation: Pensión Txiki Polit or similar in Zarautz
Day 3: Zarautz – Deba | 22km
From Zarautz, begin your ascent up to the headland and continue following the trail, overlooking the Cantabrian Sea. Today’s route passes the harbour towns of Getaria and Zumaia, before heading further inland and through the town of Itziar. Today’s section finishes with a descent to the coastal town of Deba.
- Walking for the day: 5h, 22km
- Accommodation: Pensión Zumardi or similar in Deba
Day 4: Deba – Markina-Xemein | 24km
Today, the camino trail leaves the coastline and heads for the mountains, making today’s walk more challenging than the previous days. After crossing the Deba River, follow the route uphill to the Chapel of El Calvario. Head further inland, passing through the town of Olatz, as well as several countryside villages and hamlets along the way. The route joins the GR121 trail for part of this section, before reaching today’s destination of Markina-Xemein.
- Walking for the day: 6h, 24km
- Accommodation: Casa Rural Intxauspe or similar in Markina
Day 5: Markina-Xemein – Guernica | 24km
Follow the trail along a quiet country lane, passing through Ziortza-Bolibar, before reaching Monasterio de Zenarruza, a medieval monastery and cloister. From here, the route continues to ascend, leading through woodland to the hamlet of Gerrikaitz. Continue on the trail, before embarking on a steep descent to the historic town of Guernica, made famous by Picasso’s masterpiece. A visit to Gernikako Arbola (Tree of Guernica) and the Casa de Juntas (Assembly House) is recommended.
- Walking for the day: 6h, 24km
- Accommodation: Hotel Gernika or similar in Guernica
Day 6: Guernica – Lezama | 21km
Soon after leaving Guernica, follow the trail past Ermita de Santa Lucía de Zallo, a hermitage located close to the town. Today’s walk involves some challenging ascents as it heads through Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve. Take in the views of this peaceful landscape, before beginning the descent to the town of Larrabetzu. Continue on, walking through woodland, before reaching Lezama, where today’s walk ends.
- Walking for the day: 4-5h, 21km
- Accommodation: Hotel Rural Matsa or similar in Lezama
Day 7: Lezama – Bilbao | 11km
This section of the trail is much shorter than the previous days. Follow the trail for a short while towards Zamudio, taking a break to visit Torre de Malpica and Iglesia de San Martín de Arteaga. From here, begin the gradual climb up Monte Avril, where your efforts will be rewarded with panoramic views of Bilbao and the valley below. Upon your descent, follow the route through the suburbs of Bilbao, passing Begoñako Basilika. Your walk ends in Plaza Miguel De Unamuno, the heart of the city’s medieval quarter. Bilbao is a hub of art and culture, often hosting some of Spain’s most prestigious art exhibitions at the impressive Guggenheim Museum. Explore the Old Town with its rustic taverns and order pintxos, a culinary specialty of the Basque Country.
- Walking for the day: 3h, 11km
- Accommodation: Hotel Ercilla de Bilbao or similar in Bilbao
Day 8: Departure
Departure after breakfast, or extend your stay with an extra night in Bilbao.
What to expect
Accommodation on this tour includes a mix of small, locally-owned hotels, B&Bs and traditional guesthouses. They have been carefully selected based on a variety of criteria including their proximity to the camino, warm hospitality, fine local food or commitment to responsible tourism. All rooms have en-suite or private bathrooms.
Important: We aim to book you into each town listed on the itinerary. However, in case of low availability, we may book you two nights in the same town with provided transfers. Also, on some occasions, your accommodation can be located a few kilometres away from the trail, so we organise transportation to/from your accommodation.
Click to view default hotels
- Hotel Silken Amara Plaza (San Sebastián)
- Pensión Txiki Polit (Zarautz)
- Pensión Zumardi (Deba)
- Casa Rural Intxauspe (Markina)
- Hotel Gernika (Guernica)
- Hotel Rural Matsa (Lezama)
- Hotel Ercilla de Bilbao (Bilbao)
Accommodation is subject to availability. In the event of a particular hotel being fully booked for your chosen dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.
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 lunches 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 three course dinner including wine for about £12-15 per person.
Difficulty and terrain
This tour is graded moderate, with an average daily walking distance of 21km. There are several days with steep ascents and descents, so a reasonable level of fitness is required, and the route could be challenging for those with little walking experience. The route follows a mixture of dirt roads, woodland paths and minor roads. It is well-signed and generally easy to follow, since it is way-marked with yellow painted arrows. Extra attention is required at intersections and there are some sections where the route follows the red and white stripes of the GR routes (read more about difficulty grades).
We strongly advise you to follow only marked trails and never shorten the path through unknown and unmarked terrain. We will provide you with maps, and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime. More detailed information on route navigation will be included in your holiday information pack.
When to go
This trip is available from the beginning of March until mid-November. The flexibility of self-guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates, meaning you can start your trip on any date during the season.
The best months to visit are April to October. In general, you can expect pleasant weather for walking, with temperatures ranging from 19-26C in the summer months. Since part of the route is coastal, you can expect some rainy days, particularly during spring and autumn. Generally, the weather in northern Spain is very varied. For more information, see our blog on the Best time to walk the Camino de Santiago.
Click to view travel options
By train or bus
Arrival in San Sebastián:
- If you are able to travel to Spain without flying, this holiday is reachable by rail with railway stations in San Sebastián and Bilbao. For more details, please visit Renfe or use the Omio planner above
- There are also bus services to San Sebastián from Pamplona and other nearby cities. For more information, please visit ALSA, or use the Omio planner above
Departure from Bilbao:
- There is a regular shuttle bus (line A3247) between Bilbao Airport and Bilbao bus station (stop name: Termibus, every 20mins). See this timetable for more details
- From Bilbao, it is possible to take the bus back to San Sebastián (1h 15mins). For more information visit ALSA and Movelia, or use the Omio planner above
- There are train services connecting Bilbao to Barcelona, Madrid, Zaragoza and many other destinations in Spain. For more information and tickets visit Renfe or use the Omio planner above
- 7 nights accommodation
- 7 breakfasts
- Luggage transfers on all walking days (one piece, up to 20kg per person)
- Pilgrim kit
- 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative
- Airfare and connecting land transfers
- Lunches and dinners, drinks and snacks
- Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
- Personal expenses
- Local tourist taxes and entry fees (payable on the spot)
- Any items not explicitly listed as included
Options, extras and supplements
- If you’re travelling in a group, a supplement applies to group members who would like to have a room of their own
- This holiday is available for solo travellers; a supplement will be charged as accommodation and luggage transfer costs are not shared (we never mix and match – solo travellers will be accommodated in single rooms)
- Extra nights along the trail