You see before you a very unusual medieval Gipuzkoan town, established in 1209 and bordering with the province of Bizkaia along its coastline. Its old quarter has been declared a Monumental Ensemble thanks to the many palaces and tower-houses that remain intact despite having suffered two fires over the course of its long history. Formerly the town was surrounded by a defensive wall, though nowadays only remains of this can be seen around the area of the port.
The town of Mutriku is characterised by its steep, narrow and cobbled streets which, little by little, reveal its fascinating architecture. One such example in Churruca Square is the Parish Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (Our Lady of the Assumption), one of the finest examples of Gipuzkoan neoclassical design and distinctive thanks to its bell-tower, as well as its classic doorway which is reached via a stairwell.
Take a minute to wander up to the Galdona Palace located in the centre of town opposite the Town Hall, the construction of which was ordered by the Sevillano Juan de Galdona y Muñoz; judge for yourself the beauty of its ornamentation and try to spot the coat of arms located in a corner on the first floor.
Now take a look at one of Mutriku's oldest buildings which, thanks to its height, stands out from the other medieval towers in the area: the Beriatua Tower, also known as Suilangoa, which roughly translates to English as “before the fire” (the one in 1953) and which was built as a means to keep watch on the port.
Not long ago, at the beginning of the 20th century, Mutriku was economically buoyant thanks to its famous spa. But those good times were to turn sour with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936. Two years later, it occured to some bright spark that it would be a good idea to turn the spa into a prison for Republican women overlooked by nuns of the Orden de la Merced (Order of Mercy) whose attitude did little to reflect their name. What followed was not very pleasant. There were many deaths due to the terrible conditions in which the prisoners were forced to live... perhaps to avoid questions about the thefts of so many babies which took place there; babies who, once orphaned, were given up for adoption to families sympathetic with the Franco regime. For this reason, it is perhaps not such a bad thing that the old spa, which after such awful events lay devoid of its “Belle Epoque” charm, no longers survives today. The prison was closed in 1944 and after serving for a while as a seminary, was later demolished. Today only one of its building stands and is used as a carpark.
Anyway... Let's have a change of tone and talk about Mutriku's natural heritage which can be divided in equal parts between its coast and the mountains. Mount Arno, with its dark green tones so kindly provided by the woodlands of holm oak that adorn it, can be dated back to the cretaceous era, that is, 100 million years ago! Wow it sure has rained alot! Dare to lose yourself along its numerous trails while not just taking in the scenery, but exploring the caves, the lime kilns and the Chapel of Santa Cruz.
At the foot of Mount Arno is the neighbourhood of Astigarribia, an important stop along the St James' Way. One of the peculiarities of this little district, chock full of farms and tower-houses, is the church of San Andrés (St Andrew), which despite its ordinary appearance, conceals beneath its roof not one church but two: one inside the other, linked together by a passageway. A novel way to extend the original building! Once inside, you can see a gorgeous Mozarabic horseshoe arch window and a burial site dating back to the Middle Ages.
And lastly, something about Mutriku's coastline which, along with those of Deba and Zumaia, belongs to the UNESCO Global Geopark, an old acquaintance among fossil-lovers thanks to its abundance of ammonites and belemnites. Saturraran beach, also known as Eskilantzarri due to its bell-like appearance, is from the creteceous period. Legend has it that the craggy rocks of Saturraran owe their shape to the lovers Satur and Aran. Satur was a fisherman whose lover Aran would anxiously await his return each time he sailed out to sea. One day Satur didn't return and a furious Aran cursed the sea and told it to take her along with her beloved. It's said that that night a huge clap of thunder was heard and Aran disappeared forever. That same night the rocks changed shape, turning forever into the figures of Satur and Aran.