Hotel Iturregi is a family-owned hotel perched among the vineyards on a steep hillside overlooking Getaria, a smallish fishing town about 30 minutes down the coast from San Sebastian. It was built in the grounds of the family’s old farm and, while the building is relatively new, the style clearly takes its inspiration from the classic Basque farmhouses strewn across the surrounding hillsides.
The interior design—all done by the family—makes the most of the building’s modern layout, playing on a rustic theme without being kitsch. The lines are clean, the space is bright and the place is full of character. The furniture is a mix of heavy wood and stone—the sort of stuff that just feels expensive.
Outside, there’s plenty of space to relax, including a covered area with sprawling sofas, a wind-sheltered terrace, and a swimming pool framed by a half-crumbled wall, a relic from the original farm. And they clearly pay attention to the immaculately landscaped gardens, buoyed by the region’s fertile mix of sun and rain.
You know that sense of functionality you feel when staying in a big hotel, however plush it is? That nagging feeling that you’re just one of many, many people that will pass through its doors. A fleeting marauder making the most of its riches. You don’t get that at Hotel Iturregi.
All eight bedrooms have a unique layout and distinct theme so it feels more like you’re staying at a really well-kept private house. The rooms are all flooded by natural light and enjoy panoramic views across the sea or the hills. That you could see France from my (very comfy) bed—30-something miles away—gives you an idea of the expanse of the view.
My bathroom was like an Alpine sauna, clad in dark, slatted wood with a huge bath taking centre stage. I loved it. Naroa, one of the hotel’s very helpful staff, explained that the bathrooms were a priority in the original design. They got mine bang on.
There is no official restaurant but the hotel serves an excellent non-buffet breakfast. The continental option includes the usual things like fruit, pastries, cheese and ham, and some not-so-usual things like carrot and cinnamon cake, made-to-order juices and decent coffee. The eggs and bacon were also very good, if you’re longing for a taste of home.
It’s a five-minute taxi or 20-minute walk to the centre of Getaria, where you’ll find a few Michelin-starred restaurants and some slightly less polished but still great options. Seafood is the local specialty, with stock replaced every day from the local boats. Unusually, most of the restaurants have their grill on the street, so you wander through alleyways filled with unctuous smoke pouring off butterflied fish and giant hunks of marbled beef. Whether it’s to keep the heat out the kitchen or show off the restaurant’s wares, the result is intoxicating.
If you’re unsure where to go, just ask the Iturregi staff; they’re well-versed in local restaurant recommendations, whatever the mood.
It was also recently announced that Hélène Darroze’s pop-up kitchen will return to the hotel this summer (1 July—15 Oct), following the acclaim the two-Michelin-starred chef’s interpretation of Basque cuisine received at last year’s pop-up. One to look out for.
Who goes there?
Apart from well-heeled Spaniards, guests typically come from the UK and France. Apparently, there are more Brits in summer because they’re more proactive about booking before the seasonal rush. I shared the hotel with some middle-aged couples and a few young families, so don’t come expecting a wild one with fellow guests.
Out & about:
San Sebastián may hog the limelight in travel features on the Basque Country, but Getaria shows there’s much more to the region than the 2016 European Capital of Culture.
There are loads of walking options along the coast and through the hills, for a start. The Camino Del Norte route of the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage trail runs along the crest of the hill just a few hundred metres behind the hotel. It’s a keen walker’s paradise, but also suitable for those who just want to clear the haze of an indulgent night.
Tours of the local txakoli vineyards are another interesting option. Txakoli—a specialty of the Basque region—is a lightly sparkling, dry white wine that’s a tiny bit salty from the cloak of sea spray the vines wear throughout the year. The tours are probably more understated than you’d experience at the bigger Spanish vineyards but there’s a charm in knowing you’re seeing the genuine article.
The worst thing:
The Basque Country’s changeable weather. More so perhaps than other hotels, Iturregi really comes into its own when the sun’s shining. It would still be a great place to stay in the rain but much of its allure hinges on half-decent weather.
The best thing(s):
The relaxed charm, attention to detail and huge views. It’s boutique chic at its zenith.