Why Basque Country Needs to Be on Your Itinerary

Playa La Concha in San Sebastián, Basque Country

I often get e-mails from readers asking for my Spain travel advice. They give me a run-down of their itinerary and it always looks something like this: Madrid, Barcelona and somewhere in Andalucía (usually Sevilla or Granada). Once in awhile I might see a trip planned around a famous festival—like San Fermínes (The Running of the Bulls) in Pamplona or Tomatina in tiny Buñol, but usually they just stick to this tried-and-true sun and sangria trail.

Plaza Nueva, Bilbao, Basque Country

Sounds like a pretty solid travel itinerary, right? Barcelona is a city I could never tire of and Andalucía is a must for a glimpse of the romantic Spain we dream of. But, I can’t help but add my two cents and tell them they should really try to make it up north during their time in Spain. And by “really try” I actually mean if you don’t include it you’re making a big mistake.

Yup, I said it.

San Sebastián

The mysterious north of Spain seems to be the country’s best-kept secret. From the wild coast and fresh seafood of Galicia, to the crisp cider and snow-capped mountains of Asturias and the rolling green hills and Michelin-starred restaurants of Basque Country, the north of Spain is by no means untouched by tourism. But, it offers a completely different Spain than the one you’ve envisioned.

And Basque Country, a region special to me, will be worth every penny it takes you to include it in your travel plans. Different people feel differently about well, different, places but—I’ve yet to meet a person who has been to Basque Country and didn’t love the place. I’m not a gambler, but I’d be willing to bet Basque Country will have the same effect on you too.

You’ll eat delicious pintxos, which kick tapas’ a$$ any day:

You’ll wash it down with Txakolí, a crisp, white wine from the region.

You’ll admire how Bilbao balances its industrial past with its modern present.

You’ll walk mouth agape in San Sebastián.

…but most of all you’ll wonder why a place so beautiful is one many seem to have never even heard of. So, I’m feeling generous and I’m letting the secret out. Go to Basque Country, and thank me later.

Comments

  1. says

    I had to smile when I read your comment about the amount of emails you get asking for travel advice, as I had been considering doing the same… the only difference being that my husband and I are planning a week long trip EXCLUSIVELY in the north!

    We will be driving and are coming from Lisbon, Portugal… our plan (so far) is to cross the border on the west coast and start with Vigo, work our way north through Santiago de Compostela, A Coruña and then weave our way along the coast until San Sebastian. I have been working my way though your blog posts and finding heaps of useful info, but if you have any other recommendations for the north coast, I would love to hear them!

    xxx Kerry

  2. Sanja says

    Hi. I like your blog including your writing and your photos, but I can’t but ask a thing: why is it that almost everyone writing a blog about travel destinations first writes about food that you can find at the destination/s? Not to say that a decent choice of food for me is not important, on the contrary, but that is not the first thing a I am going to worry about when traveling. I am rather interested in geography, cultural events, social life in general, public transportation, accommodation, and then food. Is it that bloggers think that food is what attracts people the most? :)

    • says

      Hi Sanja,

      I write about food because it’s one of the most important cultural experiences a traveler can have, in my opinion. It’s also something I love learning about and writing about it is very enjoyable for me. I don’t tend to write about things like public transportation because frankly, that kind of information is all over the web already. I’m guessing you haven’t read much of my blog, because I do write about Basque and Spanish culture frequently. Take a peek in the archives.

  3. says

    NIce pics about Basque Country. As you said, it´s a shame foreign tourists don´t come off the beaten track, and visit places like basque country, famous only for the Running of the Bulls festival, and St Jacques Way, but with much more to offer.

  4. says

    Kaixo! I lived in Spain for a couple of years and one of those years I lived in the Basque Country. I have to agree with you. There is just something about the place that makes you like it, but it is hard to describe why.

    This is a great idea for an article because I see the same thing so often. So many people want to go to the cities in Spain that they grew up hearing about, but don’t realize that every region in Spain is interesting and has tons of culture.

    I have a few articles about San Sebastian as well. You can check them out if you would like. http://www.fromtourist2local.com/san-sebastian.html

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