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Endowed with color, intensity and depth, Basque Country welcomes travelers with exhilarating adventure, enthralling history and some of Spain‘s most beautiful spots. Studded with strange villages and bewildering vistas, the region hosts medieval towns aplenty. Here, we take a look at some of the finest places to visit.
Zarautz, a 13th century coastal town in the Basque Country, is situated at the center of Gipuzkoa. It is most famous for its beach, the longest in the region and one of the longest on the Cantabrian Cornice as a whole. The city’s ancient waters overlook the Palace of Narros, a true hidden treasure, while plenty of restaurants serving traditional Basque cuisine occupy the streets.
Located on the eastern side of Gipuzkoa, Pasaia is a typical sailors’ town with colorful mansions lined up around the central square overlooking the Bay of Pasaia. Pasaia is an important heritage center too and great for those interested in an authentic cultural experience. Notable landmarks include the church of San Juan Bautista, the Arizabalo Palace, the hermitage of Santa Ana, the house where the French writer Victor Hugo spent his life, and a fine nautical museum.
Situated on the east side of the Bay of Biscay, Saint Jean de Luz belongs to the Labourd Province, firmly in the French part of the Basque Country. It is a major tourist destination known for its sandy beaches and clean blue waters. The town features some imposing monuments too, such as Quai de L’Infante, Rue Mazarin, Rue Gambetta and the Place Louis XI that can be traced back to the 17th and 18th centuries. Travelers can take walking tours around the city’s ancient walls and discover its unforgettable, charming corners.
Bayonne, situated in the French part of the Basque Country, belongs to the cultural region of Gascony. Architecturally, it is an interesting fusion of traditional Basque styles and elegant Gothic buildings that endows the city with a truly unique character. Bull fighting is Bayonne’s most famous tourist attraction, as is its delicious chocolate, which has been produced for almost 500 years.
In Bermeo, peaceful waters stretch along the coastal line of Busturialdea and invite the weary traveler to look upon them in peace. The waters speak of the long past of Bermeo that can be traced back to the Middle Ages when the monastery of San Juan of Crag was built in 1051. Bermeo’s Old Town and Ercilla Tower still reverberate with these ancient tales.
Hondarribia, situated on the west shore of the Bidasoa river mouth in Gipuzkoa, is a border town facing Hendaye in France. The ferry service between the two cities is a perfect opportunity to take a leisurely ride between the two countries. Hondarribia is a medieval fortified city that set the stage for some of Basque Country’s most famous historical battles. Its small winding lanes in the old quarter and medieval charm provides an exceptional atmosphere and cultural context.
Sare’s uniqueness is derived from the fact that it offers a glimpse into a remote past. This enchanting village situated in the province of Labourd near the border with France has a traditional architecture dating back to 15th century. Most of the buildings reflect the archetype of the ancient Basque house, a half-timbered farmhouse with characteristic sloping roofs and entry portals. The most spectacular mountain peak of the Basque Country, La Rhune, is situated only four kilometers to the west of the village.
Biarritz has been connected to the sea since the 12th century, when it was first established as a whaling settlement. At the beginning of the 18th century, Biarritz became a pilgrimage site renowned for its miraculous waters and healing properties. Today, the spirit of its waters attracts surfers from around the world. The annual Biarritz Surf Festival, founded in 1993 at the Côte des Basques, is one of the premier surf events in Europe.
Getxo is a lovely provincial town situated in the district of Biscay. It forms a part of Greater Bilbao and Uribe. It was originally built as a group of luxurious country houses for the industrial bourgeoisie of 19th century Spain and the architecture of the town has retained much of its impressive, original look to this day. The Andra Mari Church, the antique Aixerrota Windmill and La Galea Fort are among the big draws, while the surrounding region is truly beautiful.
Lekeitio is a picturesque port city located in the province of Biscay, 55 kilometers north-east from Bilbao. In September, the city celebrates its most important festival in honor of its patron saint, San Antolin. The main part of the festival, known as the “goose race” involves boat races and holding on to a goose as long as strength allows. Weird and wonderful to say the least!