This special trip to Basque Country was prepared a long time ago. Actually we wanted a family reunion of my parents and my sister ́s family in one place. We were looking into different destinations, but all wanted to stay in Spain.
Basque country was on my bucket list from last year, but I wanted to discover it with Asturias in one road trip. So, at the end, we chose to go only Basque country, as we were out of time, we had only 4 days at our disposal.
It is strange that this place is not widely promoted within instagrammers, or it can be that this gem is not known within foreigners. Most of the people who want to come to Spain, choose Barcelona or Andalusia. But if you only knew, that Northern coast of Spain offers something different for the intrepid explorer looking for a unique experience.
I would say that many explorers come here as a casual visitor and not as a place where they would plan their initial trip.
On my main job, Bilbao is one of the destinations I manage, but as far as you know, when is a job destination, things are quite different, than when you come as a tourist. From the bustling art and culture scene of Bilbao to stunning views of San Sebastian, travelers will be spoiled with choices.
About Basque Country.
The Basque Country is a province in the northwest of Spain. The province starts in the northeast near the French border and continues until just past Bilbao in the west. In the north you will find the coast and the Bay of Biscay. There’s also a piece of the Basque Country in France, but that’s the French Basque Country, of course.
If you speak Spanish, you might be shocked as soon as you get to the Basque Country. That’s because it is bilingual. Many street names and menus are also in Basque (Euskara language). It is a matter of being proud of your own culture (just like the Catalans). Not surprisingly, both the region and the Basque language are among the oldest in Europe.
How to get to Basque Country. We took a plane from Barcelona to Bilbao, and our way back from San Sebastian to Barcelona. Both airports are very small, but have frequent flights. Each flight cost us around 70EUR return flight per person. Of course, I was looking for the most economic options.
How to get around Basque Country. We rented a car for 9 people, even if we were only 8. Picking it on the Bilbao airport and leaving at San Sebastian airport. When you leave the car on another airport than you take it, they charge you additional money for it. As well, we took a full cover insurance and car seats for kids. All these additional charges made that our rent grew in price. If we didn’t plan so many places to visit, I think it would be cheaper to go on public transport. But, of course, renting a car, gives you a total freedom to go wherever you want.
Where to stay in Basque Country. As a travel agent, I would totally recommend Ilunion Bilbao, Melia Bilbao for your stay in Bilbao, they are centric and gives a great service for the customers. In our case, we stayed in Ibis Barakaldo, as we stayed there for only 1 night, and we headed next to other villages. And another 2 nights we stayed in a beautiful airbnb in Hendaya, town in France, only 500m from Spanish border, and only 1,1km from San Sebastian Airport.
Food in Basque Country. Basque country is very famous for its Pintxos, it is like tapas in Andalusia. The local pintxos is a work of art. Often a slice of French stick topped with anything from a simple tuna mayo or slice of tortilla, through to carefully balanced works of art, finding the best pintxos in town can become an obsession. The price for each is around 2 to 2.50 EUR.
Our family trip to Pais Vasco. Our car route.
First day in Basque Country. Our first day was long and short, we woke up at 5am, to be on time at the airport. Then, once there, we spent a lot of time on taking our car, and move on. The best of this time, is that it was so sunny, as we were happy to have good weather. We went directly to Bilbao Old Town, we wanted to walk all around. But the good weather didn’t last too long, and by the end, the visit of Bilbao city was a short one. We enjoyed it mostly from the car.
Bilbao is much smaller than Barcelona or Valencia, and you can walk it around in only 1 day. You can eat fantastic food here and see some amazing architecture. The most famous highlight of Bilbao is of course the Guggenheim Museum. The smooth lines of the building draw the skyline of the city. We enjoyed it from the car.
What we really did, and had time for it, was strolling around the river and discovered the Old Town with 700-year-old buildings. The best part of it, was enjoying some pintxos on the streets of the open bars, and listening to locals, enjoying their Sunday.
We were so tired as at 20.00 we already made our check ins at the hotel and went to sleep.
Second day in Basque Country. Our second day was much more promising. The sun shined brightly, and the weather was simply amazing. It was feeling like it was spring and not winter. On my list for the second day was Bilbao -> Getxo -> San Juan de Gaztelugatxe -> Puerto Viejo -> Bermeo -> Castillo de Butrón. But, with 3 kids, we visited only Getxo and San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. Both places are just breathtaking.
Getxo is that kind of rich village, with beautiful mansions overlooking the seaside and streets from fairytale. Here we had our breakfast, in a very fancy bar overlooking the yachts. It was for the first time, this winter, we saw surfers catching the waves. It was lovely to look on their adventure.
Next stop, and it was midday, was San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. This fortress and walkway has become a postcard image of the Basque region. San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is a small island that is connected to the mainland by a bridge. On this Basque island is a recluse that dates back to the 9th or 10th century. Fans of Game of Thrones will recognize this rocky outcrop in the sea as, well, I don’t watch GOT but apparently it was featured quite prominently.
We walked all the way down and then up to the church, and then back. So proud of all 3 kids, I couldn’t wish for more from them.
Even if we could visit one or 2 more villages, we had to go to our airbnb in Hendaya, and it was almost 2h of ride till the place, and we still had to have our dinner. Our last stop for the second day was Hendaya, our marvelous airbnb, with splendid views of the French countryside.
Third day in Basque Country. San Sebastian was on our top list for the third day of our Basque Country roadtrip list. And if we have some extra time, we go anywhere else. When I was planning our trip to Basque Country, many people told me, you just don ́t have to miss San Sebastian.
San Sebastian is full of beautiful sights that are bursting with history. As well, it is well known for beautiful beach, La Concha, Surfers paradise. Apart of the beautiful sights, it is one of the cities who have more michelin restaurants per square meter than any other city. We also wanted to take a typical picture from the top. So, the place, if you go by car is 2.30EUR per person, and if you take teleferic, then it is 3.75 round trip. The price it is worth to be paid, as the views are magical.
Our next stop was San Telmo in Zumaia. Ocho apellidos vascos, Spanish movie, was filmed there. It took us a while to get there, but all the effort was worth it. The scenic views of cliffs, beaches and the church, made us feel very special to get to such an amazing place. On our way back to the car, we enjoyed local celebration of Christmas, a very different one, that is in Barcelona. I took some videos, follow us on socials to see more of those.
Our way back home to the airbnb, was through Getaria and Zarautz, another 2 beautiful villages, that we will visit for sure on our next time, as those seem special as well.
Fourth day in Basque Country, and the last day of our adventure. Hendaya and Hondarribia. Hendaya, because our airbnb was there, and from it opens very beautiful views, that call you to visit the town. Hendaye is a town on the French-Spanish border, which means that everyone fluently speaks here three languages. Charming French country side, picturesque promenade. Our morning began with a walk along the coast to the western edge of the city to the harbor. Needless to say that it’s not possible to spend less than an hour. Unlike the Mediterranean, the Atlantic coast is never hot and dry.
So many surfers in only one place, and people enjoying the waves.
Hondarribia, Basque country on the Spanish side, and is where the airport of San Sebastian located. I read that this place is beautiful and is a gem of Basque Country. But, dear readers Hondarribia is a real vacation spot. The city has everything: a pleasant center, a nice beach and a green hilly hinterland with the best views.
The old city center is still surrounded by a city wall, with drawbridge and everything. Towards the water you will find all sorts of colorful wooden houses with balconies. One of the highlights of the town is the church Santa María de la Asunción, a 15th century Gothic church where once a marriage took place that brought peace between Spain and France.
By the end of the day we went back home, and needless to say, that there is no better place than your home.
Final Thoughts of visiting Basque Country.
Every town we went, everything is so perfectly clean. Not a single cigarette butt, not a single paper hanging around. All the houses are freshly painted, everything shines. The Basques still build the houses in their traditional style, even the modern multi storied buildings keep some elements like wooden red balconies and white facades with signs written in their language.
Prices for accommodation are more expensive than in other Spanish cities. So, I advise you to look for the hotels that meets your requirements.
If you’re planning on traveling to Spain in the near future, this is one place you should definitely check out. Traveling to the Basque Country is a must in Spain, as you’ll see a different side of the country!