Tucked between the shores of the Cantabrian Sea and the river from which it derives its name is the tiny town of Deba. This is yet another example of a Gipuzkoan coastal village in which one can delight in the natural world, since one third of its urban surface is taken up with gardens, parks and promenades.
Originally, the people of Deba resided in the village of Itziar, located inland just 4 kilometres away. However, in 1343 those residents decided to move closer to the coast in order to benefit from the opportunities for fishing and whale hunting, thereby establishing the current town of Deba.
In the past, the town was surrounded by a wall in which there were 5 doors, which each took their names from the place to which they provided access; so you can probably guess where the Fountain Portal led to..?! There was also the Passage Portal, which led to the port, the Arenal Portal, which led to the sands, the King's Portal, which only the king's carriage and those of his emissaries could use during their visits to the town, and the Shipyard (Astillero) Portal.. through which, logically, one gained access to the shipyard.
Beyond the walls, close to the shipyard, were the ovens which were used to boil whale blubber in order to extract whale oil. This was highly sought-after in its day, due not only to providing excellent fuel but because it was both odourless and smoke-less. So effective a fuel was it, in fact, that people depended on it to light up their homes, which led to it becoming a profitable business for the whale hunters.
Just next to the central square is the Santa María Church, considered a national monument thanks to the conservation of its chapels, cloister and portico (where one can still appreciate the polychromatic decoration, very rare in a church of this period). Building began 600 years ago on the site of a previous church, at a time when Deba was enjoying huge prosperity. So much so, that much of the money used to fund its construction was provided by the residents themselves, hence why Deba's coat of arms can be found in the church's main façade. For a long time, the cloister was used as a cemetary and a further interesting detail of this building, concealed within its walls, is its golden ratio, also known as “divine proportion”. A proportion which tries to provide a mathematical explanation for beauty, reducing it to a number (known as Phi) which has a value of 1.618...
Another beautiful aspect of Deba, another real treat, is its coastline. Visiting the areas of Mendeta and Sakoneta during low tide allows you to appreciate the fascinating formations of the black flysch cliffs and protected biotope. This is where the famous Deba Septarians were discovered, semi-precious stones most of which now form part of a private collection. Septarian concretions are stones which, during their formation, developed a series of internal cracks which gradually filled up with minerals, creating unusual and distinctive patterns inside each stone. You can listen to our audioguide about the Flysch to gain more information about these unique formations.
Similarly, one can find various beaches and coves all along the coastline, unrivalled settings for those seeking a peaceful and secluded spot. And don't miss out on the views of the sea from the Atalaya de Santa Catalina (St Catherine's Watchtower) previously the site from where, during the month of October, the first whales of the season could be spotted.
Finally, due to the rocky formations of limestone throughout the whole area, this coastline is filled with caves and grottos, in many of which archeological remains of huge historical value have been discovered. It is also said that they were once hideouts for smugglers, so keep an eye out! Rumour has it they still contain hidden treasures...