The winding road on the approach from Zarautz (or from Zumaia) lets you in on a little prelude to an idyllic weekend on the Cantabrian Sea. The verdant hillocks of the Rat of Getaria, a slight mountain in the shape of a fallen rodent, rises over the fishing village that was the birthplace of explorers (Juan Sebastián Elkano, who sailed with Magellan), fashion icons (Cristóbal Balenciaga), cooks (Pedro y Aitor Arregi), mothers of opera stars (Plácido Domingo’s) and fishermen (all of the townsfolk). The surf crashes against the breakwater.
Getaria is a little town: there are four old villas, a jai-alai fronton, five cobblestone streets, two beaches, some boats, and that’s about it. You won’t need anything else to enjoy the village 25 kilometers from San Sebastian.
The accidental tourist can give in to the famous Basque propensity for gaiety. Taking a walk down the pier. Entering a co-op shop where the delicious preserved Cantabrian anchovies are made. Visiting the Balenciaga Museum. Touring the church of San Salvador and its sloping floor. Crossing the passage of Katrapona, an old vestige of the medieval and walled Getaria. Smelling the aromas that come from the grills, set up in the middle of the street. Taking a dip in the fresh and calm sea. Tasting an outstanding txakolí and some calamari on the terrace of the Itxas-Etxe. Working between collar and belly of a turbot, slowly, or a monkfish or a hake’s neck, in any of the sanctuaries of good food that proliferate here like mushrooms in the forest: Elkano (the temple of turbot), Kaia-Kaipe, Iríbar , The Shipyard.
For centuries, this village was all about the maritime life. Go down the wooden staircase through the viaduct, and take a walk along the marina to find fishermen taking in their catch, or mending the nets. Their catch of the day might go straight to the grill baskets and on to the tables. Then head out to the beach and jump into the calm waters…