January 04, 2024 — By Megan Turner

BP On The Ground: The Best Of The Basque Country

​​Nestled amid the picturesque landscapes of northern Spain and southern France, the Basque Country proudly flaunts stunning natural beauty and cultural charm. An enchanting region renowned for its exceptional culinary scene, thriving art community and beautiful coastal hikes, the Basque Country beckons travelers seeking unique luxury experiences in one of Spain’s most breathtaking regions.

Blue Parallel recently launched a new luxury tour to Spain’s magnificent Basque Country and so earlier in the year – as part of our rigorous vetting process – two of our Travel Experts embarked on an action-packed research trip to the region.

Here, they share the best of the Basque…

The Highlights Of The Basque Country

After two nights in Madrid, exploring the highlights and insider experiences, including exclusive access to the Prado Museum before opening hours, we traveled to Bilbao to begin our journey in the Basque Country.

View of Bay of Biscay in San Sebastian from hiking adventure

After Bilbao, we spent three nights in San Sebastian. San Sebastian which is located on the Bay of Biscay in the mountainous Basque Country. It is best known for its scenic beauty, culinary excellence and rich cultural heritage.

Cultural Encounters

In Bilbao, we enjoyed a privately guided tour of the Guggenheim Museum, a contemporary art museum designed by the famous Frank Gehry. It is one of the most iconic and celebrated examples of modern architecture and characterized by its distinctive and innovative design.

Aerial view of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao in Spain

During our tour, we explored a diverse collection of contemporary and modern art, including works by Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol, and Yves Klein.

Culinary Experiences: Pintxos Tour

We started our journey in San Sebastian with an authentic pintxos tour, visiting various local bars to sample the delicious and traditional Basque cuisine.

Pintxos are small snacks or tapas typically served on small slices of bread with a toothpick pierced through the middle. Pintxo derives from the Spanish verb “pinchar” which means to poke or stab.

Pintxos are a quintessential part of the gastronomic experience in the Basque Country, particularly in San Sebastian. We recommend trying tortilla de patatas, an omelette of potato and onion; La Gilda, a salty and spicy concoction of pickled peppers, olives and anchovies; and trainera, muffins reminiscent of the shape of the famous Basque ships with cod in ajoarriero sauce.

Delicious pintxos during food tour in the Basque Country in Spain

Outdoor Adventures: Hiking The Northern Route of the Camino de Santiago

The following day, we set off on an exciting outdoor adventure along part of the famous Northern Route of the Camino de Santiago, also known as Camino del Norte. This is one of the several historic pilgrimage routes leading to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain.

Rolling green hills in San Sebastian during Camino de Santiago hike

This section of the route is known for its breathtaking coastal path, boasting beautiful views of picturesque beaches, lush green hills and striking mountainous landscapes. It is also less frequented and therefore has less crowds.

Aerial view of San Sebastian coastline in Spain

Our expert private guide led us along the trail to Monte Ulia. Then, we ascended up the mountain for even more stunning views of the city and beaches below.

Natural Beauty: Playa de la Concha & Playa de la Zurriola

After enjoying views of the Basque Country’s best beaches from above, we spent the afternoon unwinding and relaxing on the golden sands of Playa de la Concha. Framed by the scenic backdrop of Mount Urgull to the east and Mount Igueldo to the west, Playa de la Concha boasts more than just crystal clear waters that are perfect for swimming.

Aerial view of Playa de la Concha in Spain

Located close to Playa de la Concha, Playa de la Zurriola is another prominent beach in San Sebastian that can be enjoyed at leisure. This is a more lively option, with lots of restaurants and bars open along the promenade.

Historical Insights: Chillida Leku Museum

We didn’t spend too long at the beach as we also wanted to visit the Chillida Leku Museum. This is a great option for travelers who want to add in unique cultural experiences over more natural wonders.

The museum is dedicated to the works of Eduardo Chillida, one of Spain’s most renowned sculptors. Chillida was a master of materials, especially iron and steel, and his sculptures often evoke a sense of weight, balance, and harmony. The museum showcases a mix of his powerful and abstract sculptures, drawings, and other artistic creations.

One of the highlights of Chillida Leku is its expansive outdoor sculpture garden which displays a selection of the artist’s work amid the lush greenery, in a natural and serene environment.

Outdoor Adventures: Coastal Walk To Peine del Viento

Armed with everything we needed to know about Eduardo Chillida after our tour of the Chillida Leku, this picturesque walk to one of his most iconic sculptures was very welcomed.

The Peine del Viento is also known as the “Comb of the Wind” or “Wind Comb.” It is a renowned sculpture located on the coastline of San Sebastian, on the western end of Playa de la Concha.

View of Peine de Viento in the Basque Country

The sculpture interacts with the natural elements, particularly the wind and sea. As the wind passed through the steel structure and the waves crashed against its surface, we enjoyed a unique musical masterpiece.

Culinary Experiences: Txakoli Wine Tasting

A tour to the Basque Country would not be complete without tasting Txakoli, a white wine synonymous with the Basque region.

Txakoli dates back several centuries, believed to have been traditionally produced by local families for personal consumption. The primary grape varieties used are indigenous to the Basque Country and create a light, crisp and refreshing profile.

Glass of white wine in private tasting in San Sebastian

While in San Sebastian, we visited a local bodega for a private tour and tasting of the delicious Txakoli wine before continuing our evening at one of the region’s best Michelin–starred restaurants.

This was a delightful end to our tour of the Basque Country before we headed to La Rioja for more spectacular hikes, delicious cuisine, exquisite wine tastings at local bodegas, and a comfortable and luxurious stay at Blue Parallel’s preferred accommodation.

Luxury Accommodation: Hotel María Cristina

During our time in the Basque Country, we stayed at Hotel María Cristina, a luxury hotel boasting enviable views of the Cantabrian Sea and Urumea River. The hotel is surrounded by lush gardens and beautiful promenades and is just a short walk from the town’s beautiful beaches.

Exterior of the luxury Hotel Maria Cristina in San Sebastian in Spain

A firm favorite for movie stars visiting the region for the San Sebastián Film Festival, Hotel María Cristina is closely linked to the cultural life of the town.

Aerial view San Sebastian coastline in Spain's Basque Country

Journey To Spain’s Best Natural Landscapes

The Basque Country is home to some of Spain’s most beautiful natural landscapes and is a wonderful region for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. Its unique culinary scene also makes it a must-visit destination for foodies!

With each research trip we embark upon, we broaden our expertise in the countries we operate. Our research process allows us to keep up-to-date with the latest, unique experiences and allows us to establish and build strong relationships with our team of guides, experts, locals and scholars on the ground.

For more information on our Basque Country tours, contact one of our Travel Experts today.

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