In the Northern most part of Spain lies Pais Vasco, bordered by the Pyrenees Mountain and a close neighbor to France. Pais Vasco AKA Euskadi Aka The Basque Country is mostly overshadowed by other popular tourist destinations in Spain. In this Basque Country Itinerary post, you are going to learn about the culture, food, language and a hidden gem in this region.
Basque cuisine has one of the best gastronomy in the world and is known for its Pintxos (Tapas). If you are a seafood lover, this is your paradise! The region’s close proximity to the Atlantic ocean allows locals and tourists alike to enjoy food, fresh from the sea. Besides the delicious food, the Basque culture is far from the stereotypical image of Spain. Locals have their own distinct dance, attire and even language.
As if this region couldn’t be any cooler; Basque, the language spoken in Pais Vasco is one of the oldest and one of the hardest known languages in the world. The Basque people weren’t always able to freely speak their language. During the times of the Spanish Dictatorship; The Basque culture was suppressed. This affected the language which was banned in schools and other institutions. From 1979, The Basque country gained regional autonomy allowing for the freedom of its culture and customs. See info
Armed with these cool facts, there was no way I could skip The Basque Country. My only worry was that I was visiting during its off-season (October) which usually consists of rain and cloudy skies. Determined but prepared, I stuffed an umbrella in my backpack just in case.
My adventure was for 3 days, with a challenge. I brought only a 100€ in cash for my trip. I was not to spend over-the-budget. Here is an overview of the trip.
Day 1: Bilbao & Getxo
Favorite~ Pintxos, Museum, Super Clean city and Basque Dance
Least Favorite~ Metro Closes Early
Beaches: Plentzia,Arrigunaga, Ereaga, Arriatera-Artxabiribil
Walk around the cute town of Getxo
Shop in Gran Via “literally almost all Spanish cities have a Gran Via”
Go up the Artxanda Cable car to see the mountains
Visit a Museums or Gaze at an attraction: Guggenheim, Flower Puppy, Zubiziri Bridge, Bellas Artes
Basque Country Itinerary- Guggenheim
Go to Parque de los Patos ( Duck Park)
Walk through the Casco Viejo: It’s a classic neighborhood with medieval influences. Its intersection is connected by 7 streets.
Stop by and watch one of their local performance (I’m sure you will!)
Basque Country Itinerary- Basque Dancers
- Breakfast: Cafe Iruña
- Lunch: Plaza Nueva
- Dinner: Restaurante Lasa/ Irrintzi
- San Sebastian– Has the best beaches in the country
- San Juan de Gaztelugatxe– Cathedral in the clouds, one of the locations for the Game of Thrones
- Castro Urdiales– Great for Roman and Medieval history buffs
Day 2: San Sebastian
Favorites~ Pintxos, Beaches and Peine del Viento
Least Favorite~ A bit pricey
Basque beaches are the best in the country. Many locals and tourists come to San Sebastian to enjoy the beaches. There are two main ones here: Zurriola and La Concha (The seashell)
Basque Country Itinerary-Concha Beach
Go to the Anoeta Stadium to watch a match ( If soccer is your thing)
Shop in Plaza de Gipuzkoa
Surf on the Urumea river
Check out La Bretxa Market; where Michelin Star chefs shop
Walk around the old town
Check out the top view of the entire city from Mount Urgull or Monte Igueldo views
See the Basilica of St. Mary of the Chorus
Basilica of Mary of the chorus
Enjoy the view of the Urumea river at night.
Get in on some Marilyn Monroe action in the Peine del Viento
Fun times in Peine del Viento
There are a lot of good places to eat in San Sebastian. I suggest walking around the city to find what’s appealing to you. With that being said, locals recommend the restaurants on 31 de agosto street.
For Sweets I recommend: Argitan
Pulpo Pintxos *Highly Recommend*
- Bilbao– Great for arts, culture, and pintxos
- Biarritz, France– Great for window shopping and stunning scenery
- Getaria– A small fishing town and Foodie heaven
Day 3: San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
Favorite~ San Juan Gatzelugatxe
Least Favorite~ Hiking up to San Juan Gatzelugatxe, Transportation
Hike up to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe.
This AMAZING islet at the tip of the Bay of Biscay is located in the small town of Bermeo just about 54 minutes from Bilbao. It is connected by 237 crooked steps leading to a little church, 262 feet (80 meters) above sea level. It is said that the Game of Thrones’ new season would be shot here! There are no restaurants up top, so you are limited to eating in Bermeo. I advise you to pack something to eat up there, if you please, or just eat in Bilbao.
Warning: Public Transportation to this site is not convenient, at least in the Fall/Winter seasons. Once you have gotten off bus A3527 from Bilbao to Bermeo, you have two options.
- Hike from the bus stop to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
- Take the taxi (2€) to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe: The taxi comes every 2 hours, I had no idea of this prior to my arrival. I was lucky to have met two other French tourists who were as confused as I was about the logistics. So we figured out stuff together in the bitter morning cold. Oh, and the taxi has a max capacity of 4 people in the vehicle (ugh!). So if it’s full, you have to wait another 2 hours hoping for a taxi with enough space to fit you or whoever is with you.
I also forgot to mention that the Bus to and from Bilbao arrives every 1 hour. In total, your round trip to the Islet is 3 hours if everything goes right. But it is all Worth it!
Happy after hiking faces
To save you some hassle: Rent a car.
I spent about 104€ on this trip. A little over the budget. I blame it on gluttony and spending a bit too much on transportation (It could have been avoided with better planning and asking questions). I was financially saved by the 2€ (So valuable) leftover coins from my daily expenditures in Madrid.
Halal Tip: It is hard to find Halal Restaurants in the Basque Country, but you are in luck as Basque cuisine consists mostly of seafood. So you can get to eat like the locals
Best Time to Visit
Between Summer and Early Fall; June – September
I honestly don’t know why The Basque Country is not on the top 5 places visited by tourist maybe it’s the hard to pronounce Basque words or it’s distance from the rest of Spain or it’s cultural distinction. I would never know. However these reasons are what makes me love the Basque Country, which I consider a hidden a gem.
Wanna see what I’m talking about! Check out the beautiful Basque Country in the video below. Enjoy :)
I was just mentioning to a friend that I love Spain but have never been north of Barcelona! I love everything that you’ve laid out here, especially the format in which you did so! I pinned it to help me plan my next trip to Spain (which will certainly include the North of Spain!)
Thank You :)
The landscape is quite dramatic and unlike anywhere else in Spain and the pace of life here seems amazing ! A visit to Basque Country may be the remedy if you’re a stressed out multi-tasking urban dweller in need of some serious rejuvenation in a short time ! Not that you need an excuse to visit this picturesque region of northern Spain :-)
100% agree with you!
I really didn’t know much about this area at all and your article inspired me to research it and hopefully visit it in the future! A gold mine of information.
I’m glad you discovered something new! On this blog, you might be discovering a lot of things ;) Look out for more posts.
I’ve always wanted to go there to check out Bilbao BBK festival :)
Sounds fun! I have never heard of it
This is a part of Spain I still haven’t visited. I love that you added all the expenses, and I see that it’s much cheaper than I expected! Especially the food!!
Yes it is but it’s a bit more expensive than Madrid and the south of Spain
Your photos are so beautiful! I love seeing budget trips like this – it’s how I love to travel too. Looks like you had a fun and successful trip!!
Thank You :)
Basque Country looks really interesting with lots of different types of activities. The pintos looks so good! Is the Basque language similar to Spanish or French or something completely different?
The Pintxos were delicious! Yes I learnt that they are same. There is Basque on the Spanish side and the French side.
Great post, reminds me of a wonderful time I had when I lived there. I used to live in Getxo for a while, many years ago. And the house I used to live in, appears in one of your photos (from very far, but still) :D
That’s amazing! I liked Getxo, very serene and beautiful. Thanks for your comment
I ended up in San Sebastian because my bus had a stopover there and fell in love- both with the city and my fiance who I met there. You made me want to go back 10,000 times more! Pintxos forever!!
I’m in S Sebastian for a month right now. Lovely place. Did a few day trips on the train to surrounding towns in Spain and France. Finished an 8 mile hike yesterday.
I agree it is a nice place! perfect for hiking. You are also there during the best time.