The Hemingway Basque Route

Find out about the writer's relationship and experiences in the Basque Country

We propose a tour in 6 stages that recreate Hemingway’s trips to the Basque Country

The aim of the "Hemingway Basque Route" is for you to find out more about the writer and journalist Ernest Hemingway, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize for Literature, and about the person who fell in love with the Basque Country in the nineteen-twenties and retained that love throughout his life.

Stage 1

"The Sun Also Rises"

Donostia-San Sebastián - Txingudi
  • 35 km -
  • 1 h 15

Donostia-San Sebastian is at the heart of Ernest Hemingway’s highly-praised novel "The Sun Also Rises". It is a city in which he found many of the things that he sought throughout his life and which he enjoyed in the company of his friends. In a similar way, the experiences of the characters in the novel take place in the region of Gipuzkoa and include a coast featuring the Bay of Txingudi and the discovery that the borders become blurred between Hondarribia, Hendaia and Irun and come together towards Bayonne and Pamplona-Iruña.

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The stage step by step:
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1 Donostia - San Sebastian
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2 Pasaia (Pasajes)
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3 Hondarribia
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4 Irun
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5 Txingudi
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Other points of interest of the stage
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BIOGRAPHY

Ernest Hemingway and the Basque Country

Hemingway discovered the Basque Country for the first time on 5 July 1923, travelling with his first wife, Hadley Richardson. As a result of that trip his life took a turn that was unexpected even for him.

RELIGION

In search of faith

Ernest Hemingway proclaimed himself a Catholic on more than one occasion. In his celebrated novel 'The Sun Also Rises', his central character, Jake Barnes, considered by critics to be the author's alter ego, goes into Pamplona Cathedral to pray. Likewise, Hemingway never failed to visit the cathedrals which crossed his path on his numerous trips.

CYCLING

Passion for cycling

Hemingway made his interest in cycling known in 'The Sun Also Rises'. In Donostia-San Sebastián, the protagonist chances to meet the riders in the Tour of the Basque Country.

Stage 2

"One of the greats"

Donostia-San Sebastián - Eibar
  • 76 km -
  • 1 h 46

Donostia-San Sebastian remained forever part of the Hemingway story. It is a city in which the writer found many of the things that he sought throughout his life and to which he always returned. From Donostia-San Sebastian, Hemingway travelled to Zumaia with Ignacio Zuloaga. He visited the Basque Coast Geopark and reached the heart of the Basque Country, ascending the River Deba to Eibar. There he continued the re-examination of his faith inspired by the figure of Ignatius of Loyola. And, along the way, he completed his gun collection.

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The stage step by step:
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1 Donostia - San Sebastian
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2 Zumaia
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3 Deba
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4 Eibar
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Other points of interest
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"San Sebastian has a certain early-morning quality ... The streets feel as though they had just been sprinkled. It is always cool and shady on certain streets on the hottest day."

The Sun Also Rises

Stage 3

"The Basques are great people"

Eibar - Bermeo
  • 65 km -
  • 1 h 45

Secondary roads that were once main routes. Always a pleasure for drivers and motorcyclists. Arteries of a Bizkaia that is a vibrant green with a hint of salt in the air; whose forests between Eibar and Gernika, crossing the region of Lea-Artibai, cling to the sky; whose rocks, cliffs and old fishing ports, such as Mundaka and Bermeo, embrace the sea. Arteries that run through its historical and sentimental heart: Gernika. And at the end of the road, the cliffs of Ogoño, Cape Matxitxako and the rock of Gaztelugatxe: a unique magic triangle.

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The stage step by step:
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1 Eibar
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2 Ermua, Etxebarria and Markina
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3 Gernika
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4 Busturia
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5 Mundaka
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6 Bermeo
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Other points of interest
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Where he ate

Gastronomy, wine and cider

Hemingway was passionate about gastronomy, one of the immaterial goods of humanity that reaches its maximum expression in the Basque Country, in both quality and diversity.

Friend of Robert Capa

War and armaments

Hemingway is one of the best-known war reporters ever. He was a great friend of Robert Capa, considered the 20th century's most important war press photographers. Capa is responsible for some of the best-known photographs of Hemingway.

How he travelled

Means of transport

When he reached Bilbao in 1959, Ernest Hemingway wrote to his wife, Mary Walsh, that he looked a bit dishevelled due to the journey. "But we have the most luxurious car in the city," he told her. It was a Lancia, ironically called "the cheap one".

Stage 4

"The Dangerous Summer"

Bermeo - Bilbao
  • 59 km -
  • 1 h 30

To go from Bermeo to Bilbao along the coast following the secondary roads is to discover those hidden corners that hardly appear in the standard guides. Among the towns and villages along the route, full of history and rich in art, cultural and gastronomic heritage, we will find jewels that will make us feel as if we were in other places and other times. From ports that seem to be taken from pirate stories to nudist beaches, not forgetting waves for surfers and places for underwater activities.

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The stage step by step:
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1 Bermeo
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2 Deusto
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3 Bilbao
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Other points of interest
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Bilbao is a rich, solid city of great sportsmen and women in which I have numerous friends.

The Dangerous Summer

Stage 5

"The most civilized thing in the world"

Bilbao - Vitoria-Gasteiz
  • 110 km -
  • 1 h 45

"Mario made it very fast from Burgos to Bilbao... there were times when he reached 160 kilometres per hour. He was a racing driver so it was safe, in theory, but the rev counter could bring the sweat out on my sides when I looked at it." ("The Dangerous Summer") The stretch of road between Bilbao and Vitoria-Gasteiz that Hemingway travelled along so often is almost intact, though the rest of the route is not. Some bends have been made more gentle, the asphalt replaced and the speed limits reduced significantly with respect to the speeds reached by that Lancia. The experience of travelling along that road awaits you.

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The stage step by step:
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1 Bilbao
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2 Urduña-Orduña
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3 Vitoria-Gasteiz
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Other points of interest
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Fashion

Careless elegance

Ernest Hemingway discovered the "txapela", the Basque name for the beret, in the 1920s. How he discovered espadrilles. Hemingway the traveller, hunter, fisherman and writer chose his footwear carefully, according to the activity he was about to take part in.

Basque pelota

The pelotaris

Hemingway discovered Basque pelota in the twenties. At that time there was a pelota court in Chicago: the Rainbow Garden. At that time, as was later revealed by the Mexican magazine 'Cancha', he had seen hand pelota players such as Erdoza, El Fenómeno and Atano, about whom he had been enthusiastic.

In love with...

Surfing and the sea

As far as we know, Hemingway never surfed. However, throughout his life he felt a deep attraction to the sea, fishing and swimming. In 'The Sun Also Rises', he describes the beaches of the Basque Coast and his passion for swimming in La Concha bay.

Stage 6

"Trips by road lead to the best places"

Vitoria-Gasteiz - Donostia / San Sebastián
  • 118 km -
  • 1 h 51

It is a pleasure to drive along the old N-1, the road that Hemingway perhaps used most on his trips after crossing the Bidasoa. Travel fresh and once again clear-headed from the paradise of wine to cider heaven, passing through emblematic places rich in culture and heritage, such as Tolosa, the capital of the world of the beret. Hemingway the traveller almost never took his off. Perhaps it was because of the adage in the Basque language: Adjust your beret and travel the world.

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The stage step by step:
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1 Vitoria-Gasteiz
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2 Tolosa
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3 Donostia-San Sebastián
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Other points of interest
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We sleep in Vitoria; we stop to buy ice, bread, cheese, apples and rosé wine.

The Dangerous Summer