Perhaps the most iconic vista of La Concha and Donostia is from Mount Igeldo, the peak that rises to the west of the city. A small winding road leads from the city up the slope to an amusement park that hosts this most amazing view. You can also grab a funicular that will take you from the city to the top, something I still need to do.
- Igeldo refers to both a barrio and the Mount that overlooks La Concha; they are distinct entities.
- Rising about 255 meters (836 feet) above sea level to the west of the heart of Donostia, the barrio of Igeldo is officially part of Donostia with about 1000 people. Igeldo was included in the town charter of Donostia way back in 1180 by King Sancho IV the Wise of Nafarroa. While it has always been part of Donostia, it has some independence in terms of the management of the surrounding mountains and the local economy. It even has its own mayor and “city” council. In fact, Igeldo tried to obtain independence from Donostia – and briefly did – but in 2014 that movement was stopped by the courts.
- At the top of the funicular that connects Mount Igeldo with the main city, upon the hill Mendiotz, lies an amusement park. Inaugurated in 1912 by Queen Maria Cristina, the park was designed to look like a military outpost. Originally, it also had a dancehall and casino, attracting a very different crowd than it does today, with its amusement rides and games targeting children. The park was built to take advantage of the growing tourism of the city as well as the funicular that connects the mount to the city. A group of local farmers bought the land and developed what would become the park.
- The funicular itself is over 100 years old, constructed in 1902. It is the oldest funicular in the Basque Country.
- Before the park, a lighthouse stood on the peak, constructed sometime in the sixteenth century. This lighthouse was powered entirely by burning wood. It was damaged during the Carlist Wars and had to be abandoned in 1854. A new lighthouse was built nearby to warn ships of the violent waters. The old one was renovated and today the Torreón, as it is called, has a majestic view of the coast.
- There is also a meteorological observatory on the Mount, created by Juan Miguel Orcolaga y Legarra. In 1900, he alerted Basque authorities to an impending hurricane which he had predicted from his careful measurements and that led to the financing of his observatory a few years later. The station has been collecting data 24 hours a day since 1905, though records from before 1928 were lost. It is one of the oldest observatories manned 24 hours a day.
Primary sources: Arozamena Ayala, Ainhoa; Cendoya Echániz, Ignacio. IGELDO. Auñamendi Encyclopedia. Available at: https://aunamendi.eusko-ikaskuntza.eus/en/igeldo/ar-73055/; Igueldo, Wikipedia; Mount Igeldo, Donostia/San Sebastian Tourismoa; Parque de Atracciones Monte Igueldo, Wikipedia; La Otra Cara de Igueldo, Diario Vasco