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Monday, 27 November 2017 14:10

From Lili to the Spa, touring La Gran Zestoa

When I visited Zestoa a few months ago, I was captivated by the history of this town. From the hand of Vicente Dávila I discovered many things, visiting sites that took me from the Paleolithic to today's stories. But I was sorry to not be able to visit the Lili Palace inside because it only opens on weekends and I have wanted to live one of his theatrical visits since then. But not only that. As most people will know I also know that Zestoa got international fame thanks to his spa and as I also stayed if I visit him, I will keep my word, I have ridden in the car and taken the road towards Zestoa.

The first thing I will do is go visit Lili. I knew the path that will take me there when I visited Ekainberri because I passed by them. Therefore, after leaving the car in the center, I went through the tourist office to make the reservation and I went to the palace. Like the previous time, I went down the hill that leads to the river, I went through the old bridge and after leaving Lauiturri behind in a short time I arrived in Lili. I will take part in the first visit.


oficina turismo zestoa


Like the previous time, I went down the hill that leads to the river, I went through the old bridge and after leaving Lauiturri behind in a short time I arrived in Lili. I will take part in the first visit.


lili senales


The palace of Lili is one of the most important points of the valley. The Lili were owners of many farmlands, forests and surrounding rivers and the hamlets of their property used to pay good rents.


lili exterior


Its wealth was based on wood and iron and the palace showed its social class. But as soon as they opened the door, they asked me for the "coin" (entrance) to get through and they told me that I was going to be the butler! Me, I'm not able to carry a tray from the living room to the kitchen without dropping it! But what is this!


entrada lili


Also, they left me in the stables. Then I realized that the passage is also part of the play that I will live. And is that through a monologue the last inhabitant of the palace "Andre Madalen" will take us to the year 1678, taking us around the palace and showing us how to live in Gipuzkoa at that time.


carro lili



It's a hard story about this family. If you have everything, it goes into a great decline and the actress introduces you in an extraordinary way into that sad story. I followed everything he said, stunned, like servants to his masters. It has guided us to the second floor where I have been able to see the great hall, an envy of many Italians and flamencos. But since Andre Madalen's husband was arrested, the decline of the family is plausible and the palace enters a black cloud of dishonour, shame and sadness from which I will see this Basque woman escape with her willpower.



Once the visit is over, I am still not sure if we are in our time or four centuries ago. The palace is brilliantly restored. The utensils and furniture used to move you to that time without any doubt.


lili teatro


The decline of the Lili, apparently, coincided in time with another phenomenon in the town: precisely with the discovery of the hot springs of Gesalaga. Therefore, Zestoa is linked to these waters for a long time, and as one of those who can know more about this phenomenon and the boom that it attracted the people is Vicente Dávila, I have stayed with him. And where better than in the same spa? Anyway, I still have some time and as the roar of my guts have returned me to today and I have been reminded that I have to satisfy my stomach, I have approached the Mollergi bar to eat something.


pincho mollergi


I've devoured a zucchini sandwich stuffed with ham and peppers. If the pint he had was brutal, the taste is not far behind!


entrada balneario zestoa


Vicente has received me just as smiling and in a good mood as the last time. Always willing to show you something, with the ability to leave one's mouth open. First of all, it took me to the covered bridge, so I could see from there the first built building: "La Casa Baños".


pasillo puente balneario


A name full of logic. It is a construction of 1806 although it is known that before the spa was built people used to come here to bathe and drink from these waters. Jovellanos must have been one of the first to announce that in Zestoa, in wells near the river, people took these waters to cure their illnesses.

The spa has two springs and the water comes out through one of them at 31 degrees and the other at 29. It is said that some time ago when it snowed on these lands here it never finished curdling. Normal, if the water came out at that temperature! The waters here not only have different temperatures but also have different compositions and apparently one of them is good for curing the liver and the other for the kidney. The waters, in themselves, flowed from the grass, but to make it easier for people to arrive, they created some species of caves, simulating Lourdes, as if to say that the waters here are also miraculous. People used to drink a glass of water here and I used to walk around later, socializing.


enbotellado agua zestoa


Of course, everyone used to go to the bathroom before, because these waters cleaned the entire interior of the body and ... well, like the cola drinks of today! They also had to sell it bottled in Spain and South America. And, in addition, thanks to the train of the Urola arrived at many houses.

The second house that was built was that of the "Entrada", in 1852. It must have been where the pelota court is nowadays.


balneario zestoa pasado


And between the spa and this building, they built a great walk, so that people could walk beside bathing. The Hotel or "Gran Hotel" is later, from 1895. And then came the Alameda and Etxeberri hotels. In addition, they filled stores with the lower part of the first of them, thus building a kind of microcosm, so that visitors did not have to leave here because they would have everything they needed. Come on, as a town within another town, including the different social classes that money usually creates. Those who had most were used to staying at the Gran Hotel, with its elevators, games rooms, large dining rooms, musicians, chapel or telephone operators among other things.


piano balneario zestoa


Zestoa was already on the map of Europe thanks to the thermal movement of the time and the spa was a great reflection of it. Even in the times of Alfonso XIII ministers' councils were made here. And under the protection of the spa, the town was filled with hotels, until 13 were opened, giving a lot of life to the population. The spa experienced many critical moments, but above all, it was at the beginning of the 20th century and also in the 50s, after the Civil War.

So much was the fame that caught at the time, they had to find different formulas to make the spring was greater because in the spa were afraid that the water they had was not enough for the number of visitors they had. Today there are about 200 people who take their baths per day, but there is enough water for all.


comedor balneario zestoa


Vicente told me a lot of stories, like for example that Baroja or Azorín did not like the spa at all because of the aristocratic and boring atmosphere that was lived there. Minister Aureliano Guerra and Orbe, on the other hand, found it wonderful and apparently ended up in love with Zestoa and its surroundings. Also, how the play "Ama begira zazu" was pre-released here or part of the film "Handiya" was filmed. Or how the bridge they built took a lot of importance so that bathers could get close to the spa. Or how in the town there was a curious custom of reaching the spa in small barges by the river ... He would be listening for hours. I think that if history had been taught in this way in the school, there would be more historians in this world at this time.


comedor otro balneario zestoa


In 1983, the floods that devastated the Basque Country destroyed the spa, but they rebuilt it and it has already begun to recover the strength it had in its time. In addition, every day there are more young people who want to live and know spa life. And what the hell! There is no better way to know what the visitors of yesterday and today have lived here than to experience it myself.


exterior balneario zestoa


So today I say goodbye taking a relaxing bath and "wellness" treatment of those who leave you as new both physically and mentally.


piscina balneario zestoa


Now I understand why they used to come from many parts of Europe to this small town in the Urola valley.


termal balneario zestoa


Before leaving, like forgetting to thank Vicente Davila, (626 036 990 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) for helping me, again, in this new discovery. A fellow traveller who I think I can call a friend, with whom I could spend hours and hours listening to all the stories and details he has. My most sincere thanks to Mayte Rodriguez "Spa Director", for opening the doors of her "house" "Wide open and let me discover all the hidden places that this wonderful building hides.




Iñaki Sare




Published in Experiences

I have a friend named Ekain, and I always thought the reason behind that was the month of June (Ekaina in Basque), but in a talk about names we had a few days ago we commented that his was connected to a cave of the Paleolithic located at one kilometer from Zestoa. That same night I started looking for information on the internet and discovered that in 2008 UNESCO named Ekain World Heritage Site. It was clear, I had to arrange a visit to Zestoa.


ciudad zestoa


I approached the tourist office of the village for information, but before entering I found a large house made of stone and wood. I believe that in Zestoa I will find more than mere information about prehistory.


oficina turismo


casa portalekoa


In the office, I was treated by a very nice girl named Nerea. She explained to me that Ekain cannot be visited but that I will feel the same feelings in a replica. Consequently, she sent me to Ekainberri.

Downhill, I passed an old bridge (Zubizarra) above the river Urola.


puente zestoa


There I found the old laundry room called Lauiturri (four fountains). The posters indicate the way to go, so I've kept the map in my pocket. 


lau iturri 


señales camino zestoa


Suddenly I found myself in front of a great palace. It has to be Lili's palace. Here they usually show the theatrical life that was taken centuries ago in these lands, but it is only open on the weekends so I will have to leave your visit for another day.


palacio lili


Leaving Lili behind, the road drives you among trees, where I have stopped, and take a good breath of fresh air. Moreover, I have taken a 360 degree turn to see the mountains and hear the rustle of the stream.


paseo ekainberri


paseo tranquilo zestoa


I do not know why, the movie "The Sound of Music" came to my mind and I started to sing the song "Edelweiss", but it is better not to tempt the rain, so I'd better go my way. I have found Ekainberri in 500 meters.


ekainberri edificio 


ekainberri senales


It is a spectacular concrete building that stands on the slopes of the mountain Sastarrain. Architecturally it is very special, and it is divided into two: the replica of the cave and the museum. I have been able to visit the cave next to Jon, who has demonstrated an infinite patience with me. I do not know how many times he had to say that I could not take pictures inside. As soon as you pass through the iron-gate you have the feeling of entering a cave; coldness, the noise of every drop of water, darkness ... the paintings that look like those made 14,000 years ago. Jon has explained to us that what is seen is not the replica of the whole cave but one of the most important parts. 


pinturas ekain


The paintings are preserved so well because it seems that some 12,000 years ago there was a landslide that buried the cave. You cannot see many places in the world with paintings of this period so well preserved and one of them is right here. I have known that humans did not live here and only used this place to come and paint. We can say that Ekain was the San Telmo or Guggenheim of today. With the music and sounds, I have felt a great inner peace, the peace that brings relaxation; I guess artists feel something like this when they start looking for their muses. Anyway, it's a good thing I do not have to paint anything ... my paintings are worse than those of three-year-olds.


museo ekainberri


With that sense of peace I have entered the museum and found an exhibition on bears with skulls and tools of that time. 


esqueletos oso


esqueletos oso femur


That has led me to think how humans of that time would do to hunt such animals and I found the answer immediately: Ekain Abentura! In this park I have joined a group that has come to spend a few days at the spa (with the hustle that I take I need to rest, so do not be surprised if I finish talking about this site) and showed us how they made fire, painted and hunted. 


ekainberri caza practica



I have imagined myself with a spear and a loincloth of skin and a YABADABADOOOOO! came out of my mouth! The general laughter has been great and my face has taken the color of a cherry tomato.



inaki sare firma


Nevertheless, I could not leave the place without seeing the real Ekain, even the smallest part! I walked the 600 meters that separate me from the real Ekain with pleasure, and I set the camera on fire taking pictures until I started to hear noises: my stomach.


cueva ekain


I returned to the tourist office to ask for a place to eat something and asking for a guide that would show me the village. They gave me the telephone number of Vicente Dabila, but he had another visit and I will not be able to be with him in two hours. Therefore, I am preparing to fill the gut. I approached the bar Fati and see the poster of "Urola Gustagarri", so I have not thought twice and I have entered inside. 


fati taberna


Arantzazu have attended me and explained that Urola Gustagarri is a project in which different bars of the valley participate with the intention of using different pintxos or food dishes, thinking of all tastes and pockets, giving importance to seasonal and local products (that's why it is also named Udaberriko Zaporeak or Sabores de Primavera). And of course, I could not resist eating the "Lumagorri (farm chicken) in its nest" along with a good beer. In a small casserole, forming a nest with the potatoes, I have eaten the wings of the lumagorri in the blink of an eye. Juicy and delicious. 


pintxo gustagarri


I liked the idea and I went in search of another bar enrolled in the project. I have arrived at the bar Mollergi and I have swallowed the pintxo "Euskal Kebab". The product is really worthy, in the form of Kebab but with native flavors. Lumagorri, lettuce, tomato, onion ... all washed down with a special sauce: it makes you want to lick your fingers!


mollergi taberna


euskal kebab



Once I have recovered my strength, I am ready to join Vicente and visit the village. Following his advice we have begun the visit in the Cross of Zestoa



cruz zestoa


We arrived in just three minutes. This cross is of the 17th century and apparently after the Medieval age this type of crosses were placed to mark the beginning of the town. It is a special place for the native ones, because they usually do the tamborrada here. In addition, it has a peculiar history, because they had to renew it in the decade of the 50s, but some "enlightened" bricklayer thought that it would be better turning the capital around and thus we can see it today. We started with the visit and have seen many houses and monuments:


casa licenciado


pio baroja casa


The house of Pio Baroja, house in which he lived when he was the doctor of the town; the town square that becomes a bullring at parties, as wide as it is full of charm (the views that look over its buildings are beautiful), there recorded the movie "Arriya", for example, and there we will find the building called "Toriles ", designed by Ignacio Ibero in 1767 to see the bulls.


zestoa pueblo


The Town Hall, apparently the oldest building in Gipuzkoa fulfilling this task, because in Euskal Herria normally people used to gather under the oak trees to discuss the issues, but in Zestoa this house was built for these works in 1601; the hamlet "Lizarritz", perhaps the oldest building of the town since it appears already documented in 1469, although its present aspect took it in the 18th century; 


lizarritz baserria


The "Casa Torre", made by municipal commission to host the knights who arrived at the General Boards of Gipuzkoa; or the church of the Nativity of Mary, built in isolation from the rest of houses to avoid the risk of fire.


torrea etxea iglesia zestoa


There had been a lot of things in a short time and I ended up busted, but glad to have the opportunity to know more about this town. I'm going home, with the notebook full of notes. I do not think I will have trouble sleeping today. Will I dream that I have become Peter Flintstone?


mano inaki sare


Before saying goodbye, I would like to thank Nerea from the tourist office, Jon and Aintzane from Ekainberri, for the incredible experience they have made me live and, of course, Vicente Davila (626 036 990 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) for showing me all the incredible corners that Zestoa hides.




Iñaki Sare





Published in Experiences
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