Isla de Santa Clara en San Sebastián

Santa Clara Island in San Sebastian

The Bay of La Concha in San Sebastián is known throughout the world. People know its beaches, its mountains, the Miramar palace, and of course, the island of Santa Clara.

The island is located in the center of the bay, flanked by the Igeldo and Urgull mountains, it is difficult to ignore, although it depends on where in the bay we are, more than an island it looks like a mountain attached to Igeldo. Nothing is further from reality.

How to get to Santa Clara Island

The island, which is not very large, can be visited without problem, the Island Motors have a continuous service that takes tourists and locals to Santa Clara, either to spend the day there, to tour it and observe another perspective of the island. city, or to visit the Hondalea work located in the lighthouse.

Of course, the motorboats only operate from Easter to October, the rest of the year, if we want to get to the island we will have to do it on our own, either by swimming or renting a canoe or similar (unless we are lucky enough to have our own own vessel).

Going down some stairs next to the lighthouse, we find this viewpoint.

What is the name of the island in the bay of San Sebastián?

Despite the small size of the island, it contains a lot of history, in fact the island is called Santa Clara, after an old hermitage located at the top. Behind the hermitage there was a convent of Poor Clares and there was also a cemetery, where non-Catholics, sinners and suicides were buried.

It was also used as a quarantine place, especially for the plague and sailors who returned home after months traveling through exotic countries. Until 1813 it was fortified with cannons and was part of the city’s defenses. It even contained a rabbit farm that took over the island.

Today the only two buildings there, the bar and the lighthouse, are relatively modern. The lighthouse was placed in 1864 and for 100 years it was the home of different lighthouse keepers and their families. In 1964 the lighthouse was automated, so there was no longer a need for a lighthouse keeper, and the island became a place of recreation, hence the bar, the showers and the paths that run through the island today.

Santa Clara Island, a protected natural environment

In any case, of all the previous uses there is no remains visible to the naked eye, nor have archaeological surveys been carried out to search for them. If we know about these uses it is from chronicles from different periods, old maps, etc. The reason for not searching for archaeological remains is not for lack of desire, but to protect the island’s inhabitants.

The island is a protected environment, which is why you cannot make a fire, bring animals, or camp. The flora, but especially the fauna, are very special. On the island there is an important colony of 100 pairs of yellow-legged gulls. They have their nests on the cliffs on the north face and at the beginning of summer the island is full of baby seagulls, which it is better not to approach if we do not want to be attacked by the mothers.

The Iberian lizard of San Sebastián

But without a doubt, the most special inhabitant is the lizard. A subspecies of the common Iberian lizard that we can find throughout Spain lives on the island: the San Sebastián Iberian lizard or Santa Clara Island lizard, whose scientific name is Podarcis hispanicus sebastiani . This lizard is the only vertebrate exclusive to the entire Basque Country and we can also find it in Urgull, where it lives with other species of lizards. Our lizard is somewhat larger than the common lizard and has more intense colors as it has evolved without competitors and in an isolated environment. So, if you go to the island on a sunny day, we invite you to look for these small lizards, in the lighthouse area it is easy to find them in the sun.

A pair of island lizards in the sun.

The Santa Clara viewpoint: views of the city

You can also go to the island, as we have already mentioned, to see a different perspective of Donosti, from the pier you can see the Miramar Palace and the beaches perfectly. At the viewpoint just above the bar you will see Mount Igeldo and Eduardo Chillida’s Peine del Viento.

From the lighthouse you have a spectacular view of Mount Urgull and the port, and from the north side you will have the sea and the infinite horizon in front of you. As you can see, it can be a good option to go to the island and see San Sebastián from a different angle.