Situated in the southwest of Gipuzkoa, Oñati, "a place abundant in hills", is located in a wide and beautiful valley, at the foot of the Aizkorri-Aratz Natural Park, and is surrounded by green mountains and hills where the discordant note is set by the limestone mass of Mount Aloña. The municipality of Oñati, in addition to the town centre, is made up of 16 districts: Arantzazu, Araotz, Uribarri, Lezesarri, Urrexola, Murgia, Olabarrieta, Berezao, Garagaltza, Goribar, Zañartu, Torreauzo, Garibai, Santxolopeztegi, Zubillaga and Larraña.
Oñati is a town of medieval origin. The first written historical references date from the mid 12th century and refer to a donation made by a count in favour of his son. Also in a document of first of century XIII one talks about privileges to the church of San Miguel and the feudal rights granted to the Lord of Oñate with the aid of the Castilian and Navarrese monarchs. With the establishment of the passage of the Camino Real between Castilla and Francia, a new population center was created, Kaleberri, which was separated from the primitive nucleus of Kalezahar by a stream and which was physically united with the construction in the 19th century of the Plaza de los Fueros. Oñati has had administrative autonomy until the year 1845 when it was integrated, by its own will, to Guipúzcoa.
The historical center of Oñati is a true architectural museum where Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque can be seen in the numerous buildings and monuments, some of which are classified as national historical monuments. In Oñati, the Basque Toledo according to Zuloaga, we can be impressed by both its civil and religious architecture. In the porticoed Plaza de los Fueros, from the end of the 19th century, we find the City Hall, completed in 1778. Next to the Town Hall is the tower house, from the 15th century, and the later Lazarraga Palace, from the 17th and 18th centuries. If we approach the tourist office we admire in its interior the medieval San Miguel Mill, property of the Counts of Oñate and that conserves original elements. In the first square of Oñati, Santa Marina Square, 12th century, we see the Madinabeitia Palace, the Antia Palace and the Baruenaz Palace. On a hill the tower of Zumeltzegi, 14th century, seems to watch over this stately town. The tower of Urain or Zubiaur, recalls its former defensive activity or the collection of taxes or tolls. The Otaudi-Jausoro house, dating from the end of the 16th century or the beginning of the 17th century, is noteworthy for its beautiful corner balcony. The parish church of San Miguel, built mainly in the fifteenth century or the monastery of Santa Clara de Bidaurreta, founded by Juan Lopez de Lazarraga in 1510 come to swell the variety of beautiful monuments that mark the day to day of Oñati.
Located in one of the main entrances of Oñati, considered a true jewel of the Basque Renaissance, the Sancti Spiritus University, built in the 16th century, was founded in 1540 by Bishop Rodrigo Mercado de Zuazola and operated as such until 1901, being until then the first and only university in the Pais Vasco. Currently, since 1989, the building houses the International Institute of Sociology of Law. (IISL). In a dizzying landscape flanked by deep ravines and gorges, surrounded by the Elguea-Aranzazu mountain range and the Aloña and Aizkorri mountains, the Sanctuary of Aránzazu, one of the most revered spiritual centers in the Pais Vasco, stands out for its artistic vanguard. From Arantzazu several mountain paths will take us to the magnificent limestone crest of Aizkorri. Within this extensive karstic system of Gesaltza-Arikrutz, the cave of Arrikrutzu, the largest cavity in Guipúzcoa, allows us to visit a fossil gallery, an old sinkhole of the Aldaola River, which measures about 500 m. In it, the remains of a multitude of bears, panther skulls and the complete skeleton of a cave lion have been found. From Araotz we can also approach, following the hiking route of the Water Way or PR-GI 3003, to the Ojo de Aitzulo, a grandiose cave open to the cliff it overlooks, or to the Sandaili cave inside which is the hermitage of San Elías, a magical place full of legend and mystery.
Oñati celebrates its patron saint, San Miguel, at the end of September. The Virgin of the Rosario is celebrated on October 7 and the Virgin of Arantzazu, patron saint of Gipuzkoa, is celebrated on September 9.
The quintessential fiestas of Oñati are those of Corpus Christi. This festival has been celebrated in the town for five centuries. During its celebration it has special relevance the traditional procession in which the dantzaris interpret traditional dances like the "Kontrapas", "Makildantza" and "Arkudantza".
Chocolate, the delicacy of the gods. In Oñati, a visit to the Txokolateixia, a chocolate interpretation center, is a must due to its history. The close relationship between Oñati and chocolate is attested to by documents and maps in which the 18th century already marked the passage of the cocoa routes through the town. The chocolate interpretation center is located in the former headquarters of the Orbea Chocolate Factory, in Kalebarria - 29 and displays old chocolate makers, grinders, metates, molds or stones that ground the cocoa, old posters or advertisements for brands once known as Maiztegui, Orbea, Loyola, Onena, Garaicoechea, Guereca...
The Oñatiarras proudly admit their name, txantxikus, as it is intimately linked to their tradition and history. We must not forget that Oñati was the only town that maintained a stately regime in Gipuzkoa until 1837, which was the year in which seigniories were abolished throughout Spain, although Oñati did not join Gipuzkoa until 1845. It is said that the name txantxikus was given to them when, during a cold and snowy winter, several neighbors approached the tower where the Count of Oñate lived to pay the established tax. When they went to enter the room where the Count was waiting for them, a ssardonic , or not, servant warned them that they should be careful not to stain the floor, because the Count would be angry and would order them to be punished, so he advised them to jump from white tile to white tile because that was where the snow on their shoes would be least noticed. The villagers, ready not to upset their lord, did so and the count, upon seeing them approaching with laughter, exclaimed: "Hemen txantxikuak!
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Oñati is connected to the surrounding villages by the GI-2630 which also links it to San Prudencio on one side and to Legazpi, Zumárraga and Beasain on the other, where it joins the N-1 and the AP-1 freeway.
Oñati counts on service of buses that in different routes and schedules connect it with Bilbao, Arrasate-Mondragón and Durango, as well as with other towns of the environs.
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