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Irun-Bilbao what's wrong with it? :S

elzi

Active Member
Hi,

My friend is currently on the Portugues route and has met someone (possibly a hospitalera from the frances) who told her to skip the Irun to Bilbao section of the Norte. Apparently it is 'not very nice' whatever that means! Can anyone tell me what is wrong with it? I mean I heard it's hilly but then from reading on here starting in Bilbao is a bit industrial and I don't think my friend will be too keen on that either!

Personally I'm not a big fan of missing out the bad sections, I like to walk the whole way for the whole experience of the walk. Can anyone tell me anything about the Irun-Bilbao section as I was planning (if I go that way) to start at Irun!
 

Barbara

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, Norte (twice)and Primitivo, Sureste, In France From home Tours and Vézelay, also Le Puy.
The problem is that if you follow the waymarking you end up walking on a lot of tarmac.It is possible to find (mostly) nicer paths by asking and seeking, but good maps are hard to get, so you end up either on the road, or going a lot further. That said, the people you meet are incredibly kind and helpful. It can be a bit lonely, but I rather like that. I walked from Le Puy to St Jean, then along the Pyrennees to Irun, which was wonderful, then the Norte and the Primitivo.
 

jl

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances('05, '07), Aragonese ('05), del Norte / Primitivo ('09), Via Tolosana (Toulouse '05), Via Podiensis (Le Puy '07), Via Lemovicensis (Troyes '09), VF ('12), Winter Camino ('13/'14) Cammino d'Assisi ('14) Jakobseweg (Leipzig - Paris '15) San Salvador/Norte ('15) Ignaciano ('16) Invierno ('16)
Hello Barabar, I would be interested to find out how you got from St Jean to the Coast - did you follow the GR10 or did you follow the river? Omar (from the forum) and I are both coming down from Vezelay, although he will be several weeks ahead of me, and we are both trying to figure out how to get to the coast. At the moment I have St Jean to hendaye vias the GR10 and also along the River Nive as my 2 options - will decide when I get there. Omar is contemplating going out at St Palais. I would be really interested in hearing what you did. Thanks, Janet

Hello Barabar
sorry Barbara - typing error.!
 

Paulus

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (May 2005), Norte (May 2006), Vezelay (2007).
elzi said:
Hi,

Can anyone tell me anything about the Irun-Bilbao section as I was planning (if I go that way) to start at Irun!

Elzi,

For an impression take a look at my pictures at the photo's in the section of the North-route:
camino-del-norte-blogs-photo-album/topic5618.html .
I really don't know what's wrong with that section, besides the not-so-good wheather we had.
Some part of the stretch is on asphalt....but if that is a nice small ,meandering walking-path along the sea ...I don't mind!
On the camino frances I've seen more asphalt than on the north-route!

Buen Camino!
 

Barbara

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances, Norte (twice)and Primitivo, Sureste, In France From home Tours and Vézelay, also Le Puy.
Hi Janet
I did a mixture of the GR10, GTC Grande Traversée Cheval, which is the orange waymarks, and local paths and roads. Some of the GR10 is very narrow, as well as very steep, so that is a bit tricky with a donkey with bags. If the weather is bad it can be hard going, it is much more of a mountain trail than any of the Caminos. If you are going early or late in the year you will need a pointy stick and very good clothing, and sleeping bag, though there is accomodation at reasonable distances.I didn't try the river, so can't help with that. The GTC waymarking wasn't very good, I needed a 50 000 scale map (available in St Jean) Stay at Menta Baitu just after La Rhune if you can, it is right on the GR10 and they are very friendly. Enjoy!
 

Dave

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
First: Camino Francés 2002; most recent: Norte/Primitivo 2019
I agree with Paulus. In fact, I'll take it a step farther - that walk is one of my favorite pilgrimage stretches of any that I've done. Can't wait to go back.
 

Paulus

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (May 2005), Norte (May 2006), Vezelay (2007).
Dave said:
that walk is one of my favorite pilgrimage stretches of any that I've done.

Dave,
Fully agreed with this!
The North Route is fabulous, great and....tough but also our favorite above the CF en the Vezelay-route that we walked.
 

elzi

Active Member
Thanks, I think you've reassured me! :) My friend is wavering on it generally so I might be walking alone in June! eek!
 

MermaidLilli

Active Member
After having walked that section (Irun to Bilbao) I would say absolutely do NOT skip it. It was one of the most beautiful parts of the route. Yes going into Bilbao and out of Bilbao is not so nice, but then...it´s past.
Also when you go up the mountain from Irun and you have the choice to go camino or alpinista, go go go the alpinista route! You get to the top and then it is very easy, but the views as you go from one whale watching tower to the next is amazing!
Love
 

viajero

Active Member
I am on the camino del norte now and must admit that I am only as far as santander but I must say that the route between Irun and Bilbao was stunning. THe fact that I had clear blue skies the entire week with sun but not too high temperatures might add to its charm. The views from up high, looking down to the sea are amazing. In fact, between Irun and Lezama (shortly before Bilbao) I don´t recall seeing anything but incredibly beautiful scenery. I can´t speak to this leg if there were bad weather but in good weather it is absolutely gorgeous. I would not have missed it for the world.
 

Bridget and Peter

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Home to Reims 2007
Reims to Limoges 2008
Camino Ingles 2009
Limoges to Gernica 2009
Gernica to San Vicente de la Barquera 2010
San Vicente to La Isla 2012
La Isla to Santiago Sept/Oct 2014
Viajero,
Good to hear your enthusiastic endorsement of the Norte - can you make any comments on the cycling potential of Irun to Santander, please? We will be traversing that part in Sept/Oct.
Thanks
 

viajero

Active Member
I'm not a cyclist so my comments should be taken with a grain of salt. Last year I walked the Camino Frances and thought that it would be so much easier by bike than by foot. This year on the Camino del Norte, I thought just the opposite--I think it is much more difficult for the cyclists than the walkers (again, I'm not a cyclist so I don't really know). It is so much up hill (especially between Irun and Bilbao). I'm guessing there is a lot of riding on the highway too but I'm not really sure. It sure is beautiful though. One thing that I enjoyed on this route was that walkers might see cyclists more than one time. On the Frances, you'd see cyclists once and never again. On this route we saw the same cyclists the first 3 or 4 nights as it was difficult for them to cover a lot of ground due to the hills. I hope some cyclists jump in here and offer some more useful advice. On this trip I had the time only to walk from Irun to Oviedo but the weather was favorable and everyday I felt was a gift--just tremendous views.
 

Bridget and Peter

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Home to Reims 2007
Reims to Limoges 2008
Camino Ingles 2009
Limoges to Gernica 2009
Gernica to San Vicente de la Barquera 2010
San Vicente to La Isla 2012
La Isla to Santiago Sept/Oct 2014
Thanks Viajero.

Is there anyone out there who could say how many days slow cyclists should allow for Irun to Santander?
We will have a ferry to catch. I am assuming that if the worst came to the worst we could shove the bikes on a train to get to Santander (from the east)!?
 

viajero

Active Member
The French "slow cyclists" that I met, took 5 days to get to Bilbao (they started before Irun though so their first day was longer than Irun-San Sebastian). After Bilbao, it is not as hilly so I suspect that you would complete that part more quickly. Some very fast cyclists I met coming the opposite direction (West to East) went from Santillana del Mar to Castro Urdiales in one day which seemed extremely long to me. Again, I hope some cyclists will jump in and offer you something more useful.
 

Javier Martin

Veteran Member
MermaidLilli said:
After having walked that section (Irun to Bilbao) I would say absolutely do NOT skip it. It was one of the most beautiful parts of the route.

ABSOLUTELY agree

Buen Camino,

Javier Martin
Madrid, Spain.
 

Annette

Member
I did the Camino del Norte in 2004 including the stretch Irun-Bilbao...
And through it back then was REALLY bad marked... (I've heard it is much better now)... I would not skip the part... it is beautiful... As I recall there are more hills to climb on this stretch than the rest of the route... but it is not bad at all... Dont miss it...

Just want to tell you one thing though... You are not with a seawiev the whole time... there are days where you cannot see the sea... but it does not matter as the camino is quite beautiful.
 

Bridget and Peter

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Home to Reims 2007
Reims to Limoges 2008
Camino Ingles 2009
Limoges to Gernica 2009
Gernica to San Vicente de la Barquera 2010
San Vicente to La Isla 2012
La Isla to Santiago Sept/Oct 2014
Annette said:
As I recall there are more hills to climb on this stretch than the rest of the route... the camino is quite beautiful.

Amen
 

Javier Martin

Veteran Member
Annette said:
I did the Camino del Norte in 2004 including the stretch Irun-Bilbao...
And through it back then was REALLY bad marked... (I've heard it is much better now)... I would not skip the part... it is beautiful...

At least last year it was perfectlywell marked, and so beautiful than in 2004 ...

Buen Camino,

Javier Martin
Madrid, Spain.
 

Ruby2s

New Member
Hey all,
so it's been a while since anyone has posted here... not sure if I'll get a reply but I figure that it's worth a try... I'm thinking about starting the Camino del Norte from Irún to Bilbao this weekend... that means late December and walking through the holiday. Is that crazy? Weather/safety-wise, and just general recommendations from those who have experience? I have read that it is the toughest route, and it is going to be my first time on the Camino, and it's winter... I'm starting to question my plan...
help??

Thank you!
 

ivar

Administrator
Staff member
Ruby2s said:
Hey all,
so it's been a while since anyone has posted here... not sure if I'll get a reply but I figure that it's worth a try... I'm thinking about starting the Camino del Norte from Irún to Bilbao this weekend... that means late December and walking through the holiday. Is that crazy? Weather/safety-wise, and just general recommendations from those who have experience? I have read that it is the toughest route, and it is going to be my first time on the Camino, and it's winter... I'm starting to question my plan...
help??

Thank you!
In the last few days it has been snowing in pretty much all of Spain... from Cordoba to Madrid and further north.... you should be prepared for snow and temperatures as low as 0c. O Cebreiro had -5c as a minimum last night.

Buen camino,
Ivar
 

Bridget and Peter

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Home to Reims 2007
Reims to Limoges 2008
Camino Ingles 2009
Limoges to Gernica 2009
Gernica to San Vicente de la Barquera 2010
San Vicente to La Isla 2012
La Isla to Santiago Sept/Oct 2014
Steep hills, long stages, short days, rain or snow, cold, mist...not sure I would try it in December. I would want to hear what locals had to say about the weather in the hills.
Rosa runs an alberge in her house in Orio. She is very welcoming and warmly disposed towards pilgrims. She might give you advice; her tel is 617 118 689 - I don't think she speaks much english, though. The other place I would go for advice might be the tourist offices. Probably more english spoken there. Maybe San Sebastian? Gernika?

What about the VDLP instead?
 

Alan Pearce

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Aragones 2008, del Norte 2009, VdlP 2011, Ingles 2014, Camino de Madri 2015, Frances 2017
This section is very tough. When I walked it in September there had not been any rain for several days, but even so there was still a lot of mud along the way. To walk it with rain likeky at any time would not be my idea of fun. It would be even slower than normal as you would have to exercise considerable caution, especially on the steep downhill sections.

Alan.

Be brave. Life is joyous.
 

Ruby2s

New Member
Thank you all so much for your responses and help!! I'll be living in Andalucia for the next 7 months so I think I'll try this or another of the Caminos when the weather warms up again. Even with the difficulties it sounds amazing and a fun challenge.
Thanks again for all of the advice!
 
A

AJ

Guest
Alan Pearce said:
This section is very tough. When I walked it in September there had not been any rain for several days, but even so there was still a lot of mud along the way. To walk it with rain likeky at any time would not be my idea of fun. It would be even slower than normal as you would have to exercise considerable caution, especially on the steep downhill sections.


I was about a week behind Alan and I would agree. Indeed I might go further and say that in wet weather some of the (very) steep downhill sections would be dangerous. I don't usually use poles or a staff, but if I were to do this section again, I would consider using them.
 

Javier Martin

Veteran Member
Ruby2s said:
Hey all,
so it's been a while since anyone has posted here... not sure if I'll get a reply but I figure that it's worth a try... I'm thinking about starting the Camino del Norte from Irún to Bilbao this weekend... that means late December and walking through the holiday. Is that crazy? Weather/safety-wise, and just general recommendations from those who have experience? I have read that it is the toughest route, and it is going to be my first time on the Camino, and it's winter... I'm starting to question my plan...
help??

Thank you!


Hi Ruby,

May be it's crazy, but so am I!! I was walking from Deba to Bilbao in december 2008. All this area was in "orange alert" during the last 45 days for rain, rain and rain. But, lovely, quite different than when I walked Irun-Deba in summer!!.

You should find two problems!! First one, most albergues closed. So, hotels and pensions. Second one, paths plentys of water and darkness quite early.

Buen Camino!!

Javier Martin
Madrid, Spain
 

Limah

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
September 2015
After having walked that section (Irun to Bilbao) I would say absolutely do NOT skip it. It was one of the most beautiful parts of the route. Yes going into Bilbao and out of Bilbao is not so nice, but then...it´s past.
Also when you go up the mountain from Irun and you have the choice to go camino or alpinista, go go go the alpinista route! You get to the top and then it is very easy, but the views as you go from one whale watching tower to the next is amazing!
Love
Hi Lilli,
I will be traveling in the coming week and taking del Norte. Hearing about Alpinista Route is new to me. Will I see a sign while on path for route?? Or is there a map you can direct me to?

Buen Camino!!
Limah
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata, Portuguese, Primitivo
@Limah You leave Irun, walk about 4km up to the Santuario de Guadalupe, which is a church with great views. It is a bit of a tourist spot. After that there is a dirt road almost straight uphill from the church. There is a sign marked "Alpinist pilgrims" pointing straight on (and uphill). The main camino turns left.

We took the alpinist route and loved it, although it was hard going for a while. The weather was fine and the views spectacular. If it was raining I would go the other way.
 

cosmic goddess

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Will be walking the Camino Frances in (May/June 2014)
Hi,

My friend is currently on the Portugues route and has met someone (possibly a hospitalera from the frances) who told her to skip the Irun to Bilbao section of the Norte. Apparently it is 'not very nice' whatever that means! Can anyone tell me what is wrong with it? I mean I heard it's hilly but then from reading on here starting in Bilbao is a bit industrial and I don't think my friend will be too keen on that either!

Personally I'm not a big fan of missing out the bad sections, I like to walk the whole way for the whole experience of the walk. Can anyone tell me anything about the Irun-Bilbao section as I was planning (if I go that way) to start at Irun!


I am starting in late April from Biarritz and plan on walking the Camino del Norte coastal route. Do you know if there are any hotels or pensions in towns near the camino where the distance between the camino is over 20KM? thank you!
 

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