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Basque base — Zumaia or Deba?

My husband and I will be visiting the Basque region in late April - early May for 10 days. We want to base ourselves somewhere near and west of San Sebastián and make day excursions from there. We hope to visit Bilboa, Gernika, San Sebastián, the Rioja wine region, Pamplona, and the French Basque area. I have identified apartments in Deba and Zamaia that appeal to us and fit our budget and would like to get comments from forum members on both towns. We like art, food, wine, history, and pretty scenery, but prefer to base ourselves in a smaller town with access to cultural attraction, restaurants, and markets in the region. That’s why I have avoided San Sebastián as a base. All comments and suggestions are welcome.

Posted by
2664 posts

I haven’t been to Deba, but it appears both towns are about the same size. What I liked about Zumaia is the beach, the Hermitage of San Telmo, and the unique Flysch rock formations (by the beach). From the hermitage one can walk out onto the point to the overlook. From where we parked on Julio Beobide Ibilbidea, it was a pleasant walk (mostly uphill) to the beach and rock formations, and hermitage. The fishing village of Getaria is only a few kilometers away via the back road and very much worth visiting.

Posted by
74 posts

I would think that Zumaia makes a better base, although parking is quite complicated (in both towns). The highway is not far from Zumaia and it has an easy access on the coastal road to San Sebastian and Bilbao (not Bilboa). Zumaia has great restaurants (Bedua, for example) and it´s close to Getaria, if you want to visit the Balenciaga Dress Museum, the txakoli wineries and have a great fish meal (I´d say it´s foodie mecca for really good seafood). Roads, are curvy, in very good condition, and it´s a very rainy area, so be prepared for any kind of weather (except snow at that time of the year).

Posted by
8 posts

Thanks for your responses -- sorry about misspelling Bilbao (I know better).

We are leaning to Zumaia because it is a larger town, which I hope will mean more options for markets and restaurants. The apartment we are looking at provides a reserved parking place, so that should mitigate the parking issue.

Posted by
344 posts

OP, I visited all the places you mentioned in the Fall of 2018, except the French Basque.

I stayed at Zamaia for some hikes in the Geopark. Once away from town, the beach trails were deserted and "untouched by man". The inland trail passed a few manicured farmland. But the town itself was not memorable, with no attractions and very few eateries. Without a car, I did not visit Deba.

https://geoparkea.eus/en/what-see/quick-tour-through-geopark
https://geoparkea.eus/site_media/pdf/Geoparkea_mapa_anverso.pdf

Gernika was a delight, with a Monday market.

Pamplona was a foodie surprise. I had the best tapas and meals there during my three week trip, at rock bottom prices.

Posted by
74 posts

There are restaurants, but not many "markets" if thinking of street markets...in fact, none that I know. There are supermarkets, that´s true.

Posted by
8 posts

Thanks for your responses. We booked an apartment in Zumaia. I'm now working on our daily itinerary, and will likely be posting other requests for comments and suggestions. It is our first time in the Basque Country and we want to make the most of our visit.

Posted by
1510 posts

I see you have decided, and good choice! I stayed in Deba several years back because I wanted convenient access to the coastal hike, which I highly recommend for lovely views and amazing rock formations. Zumaia seemed much more lively in late May. In hindsight, we wished we had just stayed in San Sebastian (I get your trepidation, as it is now suffering from over-popularity now but back then it was marvelous), as the train and bus service was much better than we had been led to believe (we do hope to return one day with a car). I do love to stay in a small village--it was just that Deba felt a little dreary and did not have the greatest restaurants (in summer it is probably a lot of fun). Do stop in tiny Elantxobe if you get a chance, though it is likely to be a ghost town in April (we literally were the only guests in the hotel and thought for sure we'd actually see a ghost). The drive from there to Bermeo is nice. I did not get all the fuss about Lekeitio but only passed through. Enjoy--this area easily equals Andalucia and I loved it so!