Mount Igueldo in San Sebastian

San Sebastian is surrounded by mountains, a green belt that has protected the city for centuries. Mountains that have shaped the surrounding villages and our neighbourhoods. Mountains that even reach the sea, embracing the bay of La Concha. One of these mountains is Igueldo, perhaps the best known of them all.

Mount Igueldo is the mountain to the west of La Concha, part of Mendizorrotz, the massif that separates San Sebastian from Orio, the next town on the coast. Igueldo is also called Hiru Txubillo or Txubillo, after the three “txubillos” (peaks) that can be seen from the bay of La Concha. The one on the left is Millabier and the one on the right is our Igueldo or Txubillo. Igueldo also means “place of frogs” in Basque, and refers to the mediterranean tree frog, which inhabits the mountain and its surroundings and has become the symbol of the city’s urban buses.

History of Mount Igueldo

Mount Igueldo is mostly a natural area, with some farms and rural houses (one of them breeds alpacas, among other animals), some cider houses, a campsite, the Akelarre (Pedro Subijana’s 3 Michelin-star restaurant)… It is also crossed from one end to the other by the Northern Pilgrim’s Way to Santiago de Compostela, a fairly easy excursion to follow, as the yellow arrows follow us all the way.

Here we can also find the district of Igueldo, an old village, where we can find the oldest built elements of the whole city. The church of Igueldo dates back to the 12th century, much earlier than the church of San Vicente, in the Old Town, which dates back to the 16th century.

And older than the church is the group of megalithic monuments that can be seen along the mountain. From San Sebastian to Orio there are 9 monuments built at least 3,500 years ago. The state of conservation of some of them leaves something to be desired, but if you like prehistoric art, a visit to Igueldo is a must. And because of this, we could say that the first settlement in the San Sebastian area dates back to these ancient times.

Mount Igueldo

One of the megalithic monuments of Igueldo. Photo by Donosti City.

Mount Igueldo Amusement Park

Despite all the interesting elements that can be found on Mount Igueldo, the most famous is undoubtedly the amusement park located at the peak called Igueldo. Built in 1912 as a casino and restaurant, with the prohibition of gambling in 1924 it was decided to convert it into an amusement park and it has been delighting young and old alike ever since.

The park is not very big, it takes only 5 minutes to walk from one corner to the other, but there are attractions that have been open for many years. The Mysterious River with its incredible views of the bay of La Concha, the boats, easy to drive for children of any age, the maze, the bumper cars…

And the jewel in the crown, the Swiss Mountain. This small roller coaster was inaugurated in 1928, being the first attraction to be installed after the prohibition of gambling. It is the oldest steel roller coaster in the world still in operation. Moreover, unlike other roller coasters, which can be dismantled and moved, the Igueldo roller coaster was built for the space in which it is located, so it will continue to operate for many years to come. And don’t be afraid of its age, the Swiss Mountain works perfectly and has spectacular views, so we encourage you to ride it at least once, if possible in the first row.

Mount Igueldo Funicular

The best way to get to the amusement park is to take the Mount Igueldo funicular. This little train, also inaugurated in 1912, is one of the locals’ favourite things to do. We have all taken the funicular as children and we remember the thrill of hearing the doors of the compartments close because the ascent is about to begin. Riding the funicular is, for the people of San Sebastian, like going back to childhood. The funicular is open every day and it takes just 3 minutes to get to the top, where not only the amusement park awaits us, but also the best views of the whole city.

Height of Mount Igueldo

Mount Igueldo is 181 metres high, which means that it has spectacular views of the whole city. From the terrace overlooking the bay of La Concha you can see the French coast, and from the Swiss Mountain you can see the entire coast of Gipuzkoa as far as Cape Machichaco, in Bizkaia. But if you want to have a panoramic view of all this, the best thing to do is to climb the park’s tower. Formerly used as a lighthouse, this tower is now a viewpoint from which you can see San Sebastian, the surrounding mountains, the coast and the sea, until the view is lost in the horizon. This alone is worth the climb to Igueldo.