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The Basque Country is a unique part of Spain. Located in the north of the country, it has its own language, culture and cuisine. It’s also a great region for exploring, home to mountainous natural parks, bustling cities and wild windswept beaches. Here’s how to spend five perfect days in the Basque Country.
Spend your first day in the foodie city of San Sebastián, also known as Donostia in the Basque language. This city provides an excellent introduction to Basque cuisine, particularly to pintxos – snacks consisting of small pieces of bread, topped with a variety of different ingredients. As well as pintxos bars, San Sebastián is filled with Michelin-starred restaurants – it actually has more Michelin-starred restaurants per square kilometre than any other city on the planet, apart from Kyoto in Japan. As well as food, San Sebastián is home to elegant architecture, the stunning sweep of La Concha Beach and the Monte Urgull, topped by the Castillo de la Mota. Another of its top sights is Eduardo Chillida’s Peine del Viento (Wind Comb) sculpture.
Travel along the Basque coastline towards the city of Bilbao, just over 100 kilometres away. This stretch of coast along the Bay of Biscay is lined with charming villages, dramatic coastlines and world-class surfing beaches. Stop at Zarautz if you’re into surfing or carry on to Getaria to the Cristóbal Balenciaga Museoa if fashion is more your thing. Continue along the coastline to the picturesque town of Lekeitio, before making your way to the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve for a spot of bird-watching in the early afternoon. Pass the beautiful beach villages of Mundaka and Bermeo, before visiting the island of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe – the film location for Game of Thrones’ Dragonstone. From here, make your way to Bilbao for day three.
Day three in the Basque Country will be dedicated to art in the city of Bilbao. You’ll begin your day in the world famous Guggenheim Museum, home to huge pieces of contemporary art by the likes of Jeff Koons, Anish Kapoor, Louise Bourgeois and Richard Serra. After the Guggenheim, there are a number of other sights for you to check out, such as the Fine Arts Museum and the Azkuna Zentroa, designed by Philippe Starck. If street art is more your thing, check out our article on a Grafitti Lover’s Tour of Bilbao’s Street Art. In the afternoon, head over the river to Casco Viejo to see the Catedral de Santiago and the Mercado de la Ribera – the largest indoor market in Europe.
South of the city of Bilbao, you’ll find the dramatic interior of the region, studded with natural parks, soaring mountains and dramatic scenery. Two of the best are the Gorbeiako Natural Park and Aizkorri-Aratz Natural Park. Gorbeiako Natural Park is covered in vast mountain ranges, while Aizkorri-Aratz is home to limestone peaks and huge beech tree forests. It is also home to the highest peak in the Basque Country – Aitxuri, standing at 1,551 metres.
Spend your last day in the Basque Country in its elegant, but little-known capital – Vitoria-Gasteiz. The city is filled with fascinating museums and excellent restaurants – what more could you want? Begin your tour at Artium, a fantastic art museum housing works by the likes of Miró, Picasso, Tàpies and Chillida. The city is also home to a charming Old Town and is surrounded by a green ring – perfect for cycling or strolling. Check out our article on The Top 10 Things to Do and See in Vitoria-Gasteiz for more inspiration.