Spanish Basque Region Back to Spain

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Courtesy Javier Larrea

The look of the Spanish Basque country is a perfect reflection of the region’s fiercely proud, intriguingly complex, and even obdurate, personality. The winsome beauty of its landscapes gives it an alluring softness, while the hopelessly difficult Basque language and the region’s flag flying everywhere convey that the locals are Basque first and Spanish second. The Basque character is family-centered, hard-working and shrewd. Basque fishermen were venturing across the Atlantic to catch cod as early, it seems, as the 13th century, and more recently, the government of Bilbao, the region’s largest city, boldly conceived and executed a plan to navigate the city away from its past as a ship-building-and-steel town to a new identity as a center of the arts by building architect Frank Gehry’s shimmering titanium clad Guggenheim Museum.

Cheat Sheet

  • Sleep…at the Maria Cristina, a Belle Epoque property in the heart of San Sebastián
  • Experience…a sunset stroll along La Concha’s promenade
  • Splurge…on a meal at Arzak, the region’s most famous Michelin-starred restaurant
  • Eat…at the pintxos bars that line the narrow streets of San Sebastián’s old town
  • Drinktxakoli, the Basque white wine poured from large barrels in the local bars
  • Savor…the view from Monte Urgull
  • Visit…the Guggenheim, Frank Gehry’s showstopping museum in Bilbao
  • Know…that as an Indagare member you can contact our Bookings Team for customized recommendations and itineraries

Lay of the Land

The heart-shaped region is comprised of three provinces—Araba, Bizkaia, and Gipuzkoa—and is located in the northeast corner of Spain on the border with France, which also governs a section of the traditional Basque homeland and calls it the Pays Basque. Its three largest cities in Spain’s Basque region are Bilbao, a busy port city that’s emerged as a major cultural destination; San Sebastián, an elegant beach resort known for its superb restaurants, and Vitoria-Gasteiz, a pleasant university town.

Getting Around

It’s a 75-minute drive between Bilbao and San Sebastián, the region’s most popular destinations, and about an hour and a half from either to Vitoria-Gasteiz. The most relaxing way of discovering the Pais Vasco is to divide your stay between the two cities, with a time-out in the charming seaside village of Getaria between the two.

The Pais Vasco is also the jumping off point for a visit to Spain’s greatest wine region, La Rioja, which lies due south. The drive to the vineyards is stunningly beautiful, too, as the rolling green countryside gradually becomes more rugged.

A car is essential for visiting the Pais Vasco, whose largest airport is in Bilbao; they are no direct international flights to the region, so many travelers arrive via London, Paris or Madrid.

When to Go

The weather is much cooler in the north of Spain, and the Basque coast provides a wonderful respite from the heat of the south in the summer. During the winter, however, it is grey, damp and chilly. The best times of the year to visit are April-May and September-October. The summer months are lovely, too, but the area becomes crowded, since it is a major summer vacation destination for the Spanish.

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Beyond… Spanish Basque Region

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