A Brief Introduction to Pelota, Bilbao's Sport You've Never Heard Of

Basque Pelota
Basque Pelota | ©Pierre-Yves Beaudouin / Wikimedia Commons
Esme Fox

Pelota is one of the most popular sports in the Basque Country, it’s the common name for a variety of ball games played against a wall, called a fronton. Similar to a combination of squash and handball, it can be played using your hand, racket or wooden bat. Pelota is a fast-moving game that you can play one-on-one, in partners or in a team.

Types of Pelota

Some of the main types of pelota include hand, pala, zesta punta and remote. Each involves a different number of people, size of court or piece of equipment to hit the ball with.
Zesta punta means ‘edged or pointed basket’, and in this version of the game, rubber balls are caught inside the basket and then hurled back into the court at the wall. The Basques apparently claim that this version is ‘the fastest game on Earth’.

Pelota racquets

Hand Pelota, like the name suggests, is played with bare hands and balls are made from wool covered in leather. The rules are similar to squash in that balls are hit against the wall, whilst trying to get them out of your opponent’s reach.
Pala on the other hand, refers to the pelota games played with a racket. They can vary from long bats to short ones, ones made from rubber and others made from leather.
Remote is played with a short, flat basket glove, like in zesta punta, and can be played one-on-one or by teams of two.

Pelota player

Origins of Pelota

Pelota sports are thought to have originated in Ancient Greece, and while it is most popular today in the Basque Country, it is also played in other parts of Spain and France, much of South America, the Philippines and some places in the United States.
Basque pelota was an official Olympic sport for the 1900 Paris Games. During these Olympics there were only two teams competing in the pelota competition – France and Spain. Spain eventually won and this may have increased its popularity in the region.

Pelota sport

Pelota Courts

Most Basque villages have a pelota court or fronton, where locals can practice and play, it is often attached to the village church. The largest fronton is located in the city of Bilbao, called the Bizkaia Frontoia. It was opened in 2011 and holds around 3,000 spectators.

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.