To really appreciate the Basque Country in all its fine glory, you can’t do better than summer, when the region’s rugged coastlines and beaches are bathed in sunshine and life is lived outdoors in its charming fishing and hilltop villages and vibrant cities. Summer is when you can sit outside and enjoy the Basque Country’s excellent seafood or explore its great outdoors.
There are many festivals that take place in the Basque Country during summer as well, which makes it an exciting time to visit. One of the most famous and popular festivals is, of course, San Fermín, or the Running of the Bulls festival, held each July in the city of Pamplona. If you’re in Bilbao, don’t miss Semana Grande, or Aste Nagusia as it is also known – the biggest party of the year. Held during the month of August, it features traditional Basque music and dancing, giants parading through the streets and rural sports such as woodchopping an stone lifting. Another popular summer festival, held in June, is the Batalla del Vino, or Wine Battle, in the small town of Haro, one of the world’s biggest wine fights.
If you’re a true wine aficionado and want to make La Rioja wine region the base for your Basque Country holiday, then autumn is the time to come. September is the time when the grape harvests occur in La Rioja, along with the Wine Harvest Festival, when the first grape juice of the season is collected and offered up to the Virgen de la Valvanera. September is also time for the San Sebastián Film Festival, a glittering event with the stars and all the latest cinematic hits. Autumn is also a great time to travel around and visit some of the Basque Country’s most famous sights, as many of the tourists have left and the heat of summer has gone.
Springtime is when many pilgrims choose to walk the famous Camino de Santiago – some of which runs through the Basque Country. One of the most popular stops on the Camino through the Basque Country is the city of Pamplona. Spring is also time for Easter and Semana Santa, or Holy Week, which is celebrated all over Spain, as well as in the Basque Country, with religious processions, marches and Easter treats. While some are held in Bilbao, the best parades and religious reenactments can be seen in the small town of Balmaseda.
The Basques are used to the cold, and so they know exactly what to do on a chilly, damp evening – head to a cosy bar to munch on pintxos (Basque-style tapas) and sip glasses of traditional cider. If what you want from your trip is a foodie or city break, then winter could be just as good as any other time of year to visit the Basque Country. This is particularly true in the city of Bilbao, where you can escape the cold by visiting one of the city’s many art museums and galleries, including the famous Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.