Most people who visit San Sebastian know that the city is famous for many things including its food, the vibrant Old Town and surf!
And whilst most could tell you that there are three beaches in Donostia, the majority wouldn’t know that there are also three mountains!
The three montes (hills) are prominent features in the city. They can be seen from most places, usually as a backdrop as you wander the streets.
But discovering the mountains in San Sebastian is also one of the top things to do on a trip here. Each of them offer something a little different. In this article we’ll run through why you should visit them!
The three mountains in San Sebastian
The mountains are spread out over the city. Monte Igueldo is located in the far west, Monte Ulía in the far east and Monte Urgull right in the centre!
You can check out our map of San Sebastian to see exactly where they are located alongside other points of interest nearby!
1. Monte Urgull
In no particular order, we start with Monte Urgull, located right in the heart of San Sebastian.
Monte Urgull provides a stunning backdrop to the Old Town and beautifully frames La Concha Bay. It’s a significant landmark and one of the city’s most important green spaces.
The mountain has a rich military history, with remnants of fortresses and cannons still visible. The Castillo de la Mota (castle at the top), was the first defence of San Sebastian but today is home to the Sagrado Corazón statue and a small museum.
From the Castillo, and the top of Monte Urgull, you’re treated to stunning panoramic views of La Concha Bay and the centre of San Sebastian. Whilst it is possible to reach the peak by road, the best way is to hike!
There are four accessible paths to hike up the mountain, with the route from the San Telmo Museum being particularly impressive. The hike takes about 30-40 minutes.
And don’t worry. At the peak of the mountain, you can enjoy a drink at El Polvorin (one of San Sebastian’s best secrets), an open-air terrace bar and breathtaking views.
2. Monte Igueldo
If Monte Urgull is all about exploring San Sebastian’s past, Monte Igueldo is all about the fun!
A backdrop to the Antiguo district of San Sebastian and Ondarreta beach, Monte Igueldo is home to an amusement park that has been a landmark since 1912.
The amusement park features some classic, traditional roller coaster rides, dodgems, toboggans, and shooting games. There’s even a canopy zip wire experience at the top that weaves through the trees, offering an adventure!
If that wasn’t enough, even the climb up to the top of Monte Igueldo is fun. The best way to reach the summit is taking the funicular which uses the same carriages that date back to 1912!
If you’re not an adrenaline junkie, don’t worry, there’s still plenty on offer! From the top, you can enjoy panoramic views of La Concha Bay, the Island of Santa Clara, and the Antiguo area.
In my opinion, Monte Igueldo should be on everyone’s itinerary when visiting San Sebastian.
3. Monte Ulía
While many visitors to San Sebastian prioritise a trip to Monte Igueldo or Monte Urgull, only a few take the time to reach the summit of Monte Ulía.
However, this is a missed opportunity! Monte Ulía is San Sebastian’s most naturally beautiful mountain and offers some of the most stunning views of the city and surrounding coastline.
The hike to reach the viewpoint on Monte Ulía is fairly challenging, involving a short but steep ascent up Calle Zemoria. Nevertheless, in my opinion, the effort is well worth it. (You can also drive up or get a taxi if you’re not comfortable walking – and once you reach the viewpoint it’s fairly flat).
Not only will you be rewarded with breathtaking views over Gros and La Zurriola, but Ulía is also a valuable natural landscape. In fact, it is designated as a Special Area of Conservation under the European Union’s Habitat Directive.
The mountain’s forests are home to an impressive variety of bird species, diverse mammals, and unique coastal vegetation including indigenous oak groves and cliff heathlands. Walking along the mountain’s footpaths, it’s hard to believe that you’re just 20 minutes away from the city centre!
For those seeking more adventure, the walk from Gros to the neighbouring town of Pasaia (Pasajes) reveals awe-inspiring coastal cliffs, magnificent viewpoints, and picturesque forest trails. This walk typically takes around 2 hours and 30 minutes to complete.