St. James Way and Basque Whalers

A half-day excursion to walk, among forests and cliffs, to a lighthouse done up like a medieval castle. What else? Some crazy people who are building a 16th century ship with traditional techniques, a fjord that must be crossed by boat and a Venetian town that the writer of Les Miserables fell in love with. More? A toast with cider. Topa! Yeah!

From the center of San Sebastián we’ll head off toward the neighborhood Gros and, from there, begin the ascent to Mount Ulia from Sagües. We’ll travel the Camino de Santiago del Norte (or the Coast) in reverse, so don’t be surprised if you run into pilgrims who have chosen this route, so different and green from that of the Castilian fields of the French Way.

Step by step

This route is known by many names. The most frequent name is “Ruta del Faro de la Plata,” as it ends next to the lighthouse (1855) at the entrance to the port and the fjord (yes, a fjord like those in Norway) of Pasajes. The trail in general isn’t so demanding, though it starts with a decent incline until reaching average elevation. It’ll treat you to a whole repertoire of coves, cliffs, sandstone rock formations, the remains of an old aqueduct and fortresses.

Crazy ship builders

After five kilometers of travel, we’ll arrive in Pasajes San Pedro (located opposite Pasajes San Juan, which has that Venetian air), and Albaola, a traditional shipyard that builds wooden replicas of old Basque boats. The visit to Albaola is optional, but we think it may blow your mind how a handful of engineers and carpenters use antiquated tools to build a 16th century whaling ship!

Independence Port

As we know that Pasajes San Juan is very inviting, we’ll approach this one-street town (we’re not exaggerating!) the fastest way: aboard a small motor boat that serves the locals. In a few minutes we’ll immerse ourselves in the atmosphere of this town with medieval roots, alleys and tunnels that brim with stories of sailors, pirates and whale hunters. Did you know that Victor Hugo, author of Les Miserables, lived in Pasajes San Juan? And that the Marquis de La Fayette embarked in Pasajes, bound for the United States, to participate in the American Revolution?

What’s the meaning of ‘topa’?

Once in Pasajes San Juan, we’ll do what locals do: have a pintxo with a glass of refreshing Basque cider, poured as God intended: from a meter above the glass. Then comes the simplest thing: toasting (we say 'topa!') And drinking it in one gulp to take advantage of the bubbles. We know it’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it ;-)

Price for

  • Price: two people 330€
  • Extra adult +110€
  • Child (10-17 years old) +55€
  • Children under 10 years old free of charge


  • Private tour
  • Time: 09:00 and 15:00
  • Duration: 4-5 hours
  • Places: Mount Ulia, San Pedro, Albaola museum, San Juan


  • Profesional guide
  • Transport 
  • Albaola museum
  • A pintxo
  • A drink

Not included

  • Meals, drinks and tickets not listed above

Tour reviews

Ania and Ernest took us on a couple of fabulous tours of San Sebastien, Biarritz and the surrounding countryside. They were both great fun, extremely knowledgeable about the culture and history of the places we visited and always knew where to find the best Pintxos! Highly recommended.

Chris B. - Febrero 2022
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