How to get to Irun – Starting point of Camino del Norte




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Pilgrims start their Camino del Norte in various places. San Sebastian, Bilbao, Santander, or Gijon belong to the most popular starting locations, depending on how much time pilgrims have for their Camino, and also whether they want to skip the first hilly week ending in Bilbao. Those who want to cover the entire distance of 850 kilometers will start in Irun, however, a middle-sized touristic city on the border with France, in the province of Gipuzkoa in the Basque Autonomous Community.

Irun is a nice place, you can get your pilgrim credential in the local Cathedral, and in my opinion, the first day of walk from Irun to San Sebastian belongs to top 3 most beautiful days on the entire Camino. Having said that, it is quite hilly, long, and no doubt some people find it hard for the start, for their very first day on the way. If you are in a shape somehow, however, and if a proposition of a 30km day in the steep small hills of Basque country does not scare you, I strongly suggest you to start your Camino in Irun. Let’s have a look at how you can get there, from various points and directions.

– One of many magnificent views you’ll enjoy on your way from Irun to San Sebastian.

Getting to Irun from Bilbao – the most common way

Before we look at this and other options, I want you to realize one thing: Irun is a relatively small city, and no major tourist attraction. Hence a very straightforward option–such as one flight and one bus, or something of that sort, doesn’t really exist. You’ll always have to combine several connections, and different means of transport. And while I know it may sound tiring, you should also realize that (hopefully) for the next 30 days you will travel everywhere only on your feet, and so you can perhaps bear with some time in local buses and trains.

Bilbao is a relatively easy place to get to. Every day at least four flights depart there from the international airport of Madrid (MAD), which in turn welcomes flights from all around the globe. Hence getting to Bilbao is the easy part, you just buy the ticket and fly with one changeover in Madrid or elsewhere, as you’d fly to any other place. Once in Bilbao, you may be tempted to start Camino from there :), but I hope you can resist this temptation, because the first week from Irun to Bilbao is really breathtaking.

* Do not forget to check: Our free online Camino del Norte Guide – photos, videos, maps, technical details of each stage, places worth seeing, and much more… All stages from Irun to Santiago de Compostela.


Bilbao – San Sebastian – Irun

You have several ways of getting from Bilbao to Irun. The fastest one (and relatively easy one) is catching a bus to San Sebastian, and from there a train to Irun. There are typically at least 10 direct buses from Bilbao to San Sebastian on any day, with the first departing before 6am, and the last leaving at about 8pm in the evening. The ride takes about 90 minutes, and you get off at the very last station, so there isn’t really anything to mess up here :).

You can see the bus station on Google maps here. You buy a ticket in a machine, and then you have to locate the platform (underground) and wait for the bus. In my experience, the place is modern but a bit confusing, but Basque people are really nice and many speak some English, so just ask for a bus to San Sebastian and they will show you the way. It is also better to arrive at least 30 minutes early, just to make sure you are in no stress, and can easily find the ticket machine (it has menu in English), get your ticket, and eventually board the right bus :).

If you find any information on this page incorrect or outdated, or have a suggestion how to improve it for fellow pilgrims, please let us know. Thank you for helping the pilgrim community, and buen Camino 🙂

– The modern bus station of Bilbao. No doubt a nice building, but for a stranger it may be confusing to find the actual platform for the bus underground. Make sure to arrive with time to spare to avoid unnecessary stress…


Taking train from San Sebastian to Irun

The number of trains from San Sebastian to Irun depends on the season. You’ll have more trains in summer, when cities like Irun get new life and tourists start pouring in in quantities. Anyway, on any day you have at least a few trains, and you can check the schedule here. In summer you’ll have a train basically every hour, so there is no way you won’t catch one when arriving to San Sebastian.

Good news is that the train station in San Sebastian is a typical train station, well organized and staffed, so you get your ticket at the counter, and the station is really small and has just a few platforms. So really there is no way you’ll miss your train :). You can see the location here, it is pretty close to bus station as well, just hundred meters away. Again, local people are very nice, so if you struggle, just ask. The train ride takes anything from 18 to 30 minutes, depending on the type of train and number of stops. Once you are in the city of Irun, you can just follow our guide on how to get to the cathedral and get your credential.


Arriving to Irun from France

Probably the second most popular route to Irun leads through Biarritz airport in France. This isn’t a big airport, one that major airlines fly to. On the contrary, it is a small place, with only Air France and a few low-cost carriers operating flights there, such as Ryanair. And that’s exactly the reason why it is so popular. Ryanair flies to Biarritz from Dublin, Bologna, Eindhoven, Birmingham, and many other locations all around Europe. Flights are cheap, and so for those on budget it is a great option.

Needless to say, you can get to Biarritz also from Paris–a major city you can fly to from anywhere in the world. Then you just have to board one of many flight operated by Air France to get there. From Biarritz you need to take a train to Hendaye on the border. You can choose from more than 20 direct trains a day. As soon as you get off the train, you will see the yellow arrows that will take you directly over the border and to the Cathedral of Irun.

– Border crossing from Hendaye to Irun, you cannot really miss it, since there is only one crossing, close to the railway tracks, and you’ll also see yellow arrows already, taking you all the way to the Cathedral in Irun (the starting point of the Camino).

Final thoughts, other alternatives

You can start your Camino anywhere you want--at your doorstep, from Paris, Biarritz, or from any other spot. If you want to get to Irun, however–the “official” starting point of Camino del Norte in Spain, your best bet is to get to Bilbao in Spain, or Biarritz in France, and follow the instructions on this page. I hope you will get there, and wish you a wonderful Camino!


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