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Basque Country Travel Guide & The Steam Train Route

Loyola, Azpeitia & Azkoitia

The Urola railway links the towns of Gipuzkoa, Zumaia and Zumarraga. It was the first electric train in Spain inaugurated in 1926. Of the original track, a 5 km stretch of steam train remains and is now part of the Basque Railway Museum.

Located in the former Azpeitia train station, the Railway Museum is a must-see for locomotion lovers boasting a unique collection of old locomotives and other railway related memorabilia. A ride on the steam train you will take you past Azkoitia and Azpeitia where you can visit the impressive Sanctuary of Loyola, a monumental complex built around the birthplace of St. Ignatius of Loyola between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

The main building of the Sanctuary of Loyola was designed by renowned Italian architect Carlo Fontana, a student of Bernini, and built by Basque masters Zaldua, Lecuna and Ignacio Ibero. The basilica is crowned with a majestic dome 65 meters high and surrounded by beautiful gardens.

After visiting Loyola, head to the Olatz Chapel, an eighth century church set in an idyllic location which was also an important meeting spot for local leaders until the beginning of the eighteenth century. From here, take in the spectacular views of the valley, Izarraitz mountain range and the peaks of Erlo, Xoxote and Kakueta. This ancient mountain range guards caves inhabited since prehistoric times, in particular Ekain, whose beautiful cave paintings date back to more than 14,000 years.

Azpeitia has always had close ties to the bullfighting world. The town's bullring hosts important annual events, including the Feast of Saint Ignatius in late July, filling the town with an amazing atmosphere. Worthwhile historical buildings include the Enparan tower-house and the Magdalena chapel.

Azkoitia, the last stop along the route, is only 5 kilometers from Azpetia. This is the cradle of the famous Basque sport pelota or handball; many well-known players come from this area. The Jorge Oteiza Pelota Courts are part modern sculpture, part public space were constructed in tribute to artist.

Start at the town hall and head towards the parish of Santa Maria Real. Inside you will find the Cavaillé-Coll organ from 1898, the last piece built by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. The palaces and towers in Azkotia posses a unique Mudéjar style, a symbiosis of the Muslim and Christian influence in architecture seen in the Floreaga and the Insausti building where the Count of Peñaflorida lived. The nearby chapel of San Martín de Iraurgi is now a museum about the town's history.

Places: Azkoitia, Loiola, Azpeitia.
Travel time: 4.9 km (3.04 miles), 15 min.
Trip Lenght: 1 Day.

Sweat it out on the Ironman Route next.