Zarautz, some 20 kilometres [12 miles] west of San Sebastian, is a sought after holiday resort with a magnificent beach that is popular with surfers. Founded in 1237 by Fernando III its existence revolved around the sea and fishing until the 16th century when industrial activities such as like iron smelting, textiles and furniture moved in. These industries dominated the environment until the mid 19th century when, with its decline, Zarautz began to rebuild itself with a grander style by constructing great houses and mansions to complement the mostly religious ones of earlier centuries, so as to create a desirable, high-class holiday resort.
The sea and the 2 kilometre beach with clean, fine sand; the mountains behind; stylish shops, a market and restaurants with good Basque food and the local Chacoli [Txakoli] white wines from Getaria, or Rioja reds plus an active nightlife for the younger element have all combined to make Zarautz a most attractive destination. Indeed it is at the western extremity of what one might call the Basque Riviera that reaches to Biarritz including San Sebastian, Hondarribia, Hendaye, St. Jean de Luz and Bidart. At Zarautz there is the Royal Golf Club, tennis and good opportunities for walkers heading inland a little way to Aia or Azpeitia in mountains that reach over 1,000 metres [3,000 feet].
On this north side of the Sierras along the Bay of Biscay coast, the landscapes are lusciously green, and the houses often Villa style with shallow, wide overhanging rooftops to protect them from the snow. Not surprisingly the climate is agreeable but rather wet for all but the most intense sun worshipers, some might say benign except in high summer. Communications are good with the France to Madrid motorway nearby that goes via Bilbao [75 kilometres away], where there are international airport and ferry terminals.