The town of Durango in the Duranguesado Valley is located on the left bank of the Ibaizabal River and is spanned from south to north by the Mañaria River, a tributary of the Ibaizabal. It is just ten kilometers from one of the Basque Country’s most unique ecosystems, Urkiola Natural Park. Therefore, many of the main tourist attractions are linked to nature and outdoor activities such as hiking, climbing, and spelunking, among others.
Despite the devastating 1937 bombing, the town conserves a wealth of history and art in its interesting historical quarter. Spanning the area between Santa María de Uribarri Church and Santa Ana Church, it maintains its egg-shaped medieval form with four parallel streets (Barrenkale, Artekale, Goienkale, and Kalebarria) and one intersecting street (Zeharkale).
Begin your tour in Ezkurdi Plaza, next to the railroad station. From there, go down Calle Andra Mari to arrive at Santa María de Uribarri Basilica, the city’s main church which has been designated a Bien de Interés Cultural (Asset of Cultural Interest). Built in the 14th century, the structure is fundamentally Gothic with some Renaissance elements and Baroque refurbishments. The church has a notable bell tower, which sits atop the long-standing Arandoño Tower. Its portico is emblematic of the city. This enormous structure is supported by oak beams and has a capacity of 2,000 people. Flea markets used to be held inside. Inside, note the main altarpiece, the work of the sculptor Martín Ruíz de Zubiaute.
Nearby on Calle Kurutziaga you can find the Cross of Kurutziaga, also known as the Calvary of Durango, which was supposedly erected as an expiatory monument after the heresy of Alonso de Mella. The Gothic-style cross features an impressive column of more than four meters high with detailed decoration depicting the story of humanity’s redemption, from original sin to the Passion of Christ. The serpent of the Garden of Eden, with the head of a woman, coils around the shaft of the column, and it also features the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil along with other symbolic elements. The cross itself represents the Crucifixion. The Cross has been moved to Veracruz Chapel, which currently houses the Kurutzesantu Museum.
Taking Calle Barrenkalea, we come upon Lariz Tower, a Renaissance mansion built in the late 15th century where it is believed that Queen Isabella may have spent the night in 1483. It is the only one of Durango’s five mansions that is still preserved today, and it currently houses the office of tourism.
Continuing along Calle Barrenkalea or Calle Artekalea, you’ll come to the town hall, a unique 16th-century Renaissance building in the Classical style with Neapolitan influences. The rectangular building is divided into two floors and an attic. Its façade, which features an arcade with seven arches and a large balcony on the first floor, was covered with bright polychrome in 1772 with Rococo motifs of legendary architectural works, love stories, hunting scenes, etc. On the ground in front of town hall there is a plaque that depicts the 1857 city plan, where you can see the town’s oval-shaped configuration with the four main streets mentioned earlier.
Take either Calle Barrenkalea, Calle Artekalea, or Calle Goienkalea to get to Santa Ana Plaza, where you’ll find the church and the gate of the same name. In medieval times, Durango was surrounded by a defensive wall with a total of six gates, but the only one that still stands is Santa Ana Gate (Market Gate) which served as an exit for the old road to Castile. Built in 1566 according to Renaissance design, it was renovated in the Baroque style in 1743. The gate is a large two-floor triumphal arch with a walkway in the semicircular arch. Next to it is Santa Ana Parish Church, an 18th-century Baroque construction that replaced a building from the Renaissance.
Crossing under the arch and over the river, you’ll arrive in the Tabira neighborhood where San Pedro de Tabira Church is located. The city of Durango originally developed around this 16th-century church built on top of a 12th-century chapel. The rectangular-shaped Gothic construction, notable for its choir, consists of two floors and features Mudéjar-style latticework. In the bottom of the church are two medieval sarcophagi which, according to legend, belong to the mythical count and countess of Durango, Sancho Esteguiz and Doña Toda, who were part of the legendary Battle of Padura. Rosario Chapel completes the church and is adjoined to it on its north side.