Why should I go to the Basque Coast?
Here are few reasons why we love the Basque Coast: Spectacular landscape. Enthralling history and culture. Exquisite ingredients and delicious food. Vineyards with stunning views with unexpected freshness of Txakoli. Best surf waves of the Atlantic. Quaint fishing villages.
Spectacular Landscape and Bewildering Vistas
For us, a drive through the Basque Country is a rare form of meditation: You go along a lush cliff-lined coast overlooking the breathtaking views of the Bay of Biscay and between each cliff you suddenly come across a wild beach or a colorful fishing village. Everything so mesmerizing and unexpected! Stretching about 160 kilometers from Bilbao in Spain to all the way to Bayonne in France, the dark blue waters of the Atlantic meet with the green hills of Pyrenees Mountains. And in this long stretch, sandy beaches, rivers, mountains and luscious green fields blend with each other in great harmony. Thus, the Basque landscape offers great diversity in a relatively small region; you can easily travel between the beaches and mountains in the same day.
Enthralling History and Culture
Feisty and free-spirited Basques are proud of their ancient culture and their land, Euskal Herria. According to historical records, Basques have been living in this region for more than 5000 years, long before Indo-Europeans arrived. In return for a certain level of autonomy, Basques have agreed to become part of Spain in 1516. Euskera, the only non Indo-European language in Western Europe, is spoken widely here (lucky enough, Spanish and French are also spoken). Basques cherish their culture through unique types of rural sports, and of course folk music and dancing! If you want to see all of this in action, you should visit the Basque country in August, during Semana Grande, known as Aste Nagusia in Euskera. Do not forget to try pelota (a game of squash played with bare hands), stone lifting and log-chopping!
Exquisite Ingredients and Delicious Food
Enjoying good food is an indispensible part of the Basque way of living. Basques take gastronomy very seriously, which is probably why there are so many Michelin-starred restaurants in this region. At the same time, here you can easily source local products of great quality, especially when it comes to seafood. Based on the season, hake, turbot, sea bream, sole, cod, red mullets come to your plate as fresh as possible. Barnacles, langoustines, crabs, oysters, squids, red and white shrimps are also very abundant. Thus, the combination of delicious and fresh ingredients with immaculate cooking techniques makes food in this area very special. In cities such as San Sebastian, Bilbao and Biarritz, and in fishing villages such as Getaria, St Jean-de-Luz and Hondaribbia you will find unforgettable food in endless options of restaurants and pintxo (pinchos, tapas) bars. While in Basque country, you should also try the delicious idiazabal cheese and the Bonito del Norte!
Vineyards with Stunning Views. Unexpected Freshness of Txakoli
The hills facing the Cantabrian Sea and the Bay of Biscay are dotted with numerous vineyards famous for their Txakoli, the young and slightly fruity white wine made from local green grapes. The Basque coast has been a grape producing region since the 16th century, however Txakoli wine has only recently acclaimed an international fame. The best examples of Txakoli are found around the fishing village of Getaria and the resort town of Zarautz. Some vineyard and txakolindegi (txakoli house in Basque language) visits and tastings can be arranged in advance. While in Pays Basque, please do not forget to enjoy a fresh glass of Txakoli along with your seafood. This wine can also accompany your pinchos hopping nights and will surely make them even more memorable!
Best Surf Waves of the Atlantic and Exhilarating Outdoor Adventures.
The Basque coast is a globally famous center of surfing, thanks to its excellent high waves. There are around fifty surfing championship every year and most Basques learn to surf at childhood. The two most important surfing hubs are Mundaka, famous for its left-hand wave and Zarautz, loved by many for its 2.5 kilometer soft sand beach. You can also find many other perfect and less crowded spots scattered around the two coastal territories of Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa.
Apart from surfing, the Basque coast is ideal for all kinds of outdoor sports and other nature related activities. Cycling is very popular among the Basques and you will find bike rental stores in all main town and cities. Golfers will also be satisfied as there are a number of good courses around the region. Sailing, diving, horse riding and hiking are other options for active holiday seekers.
Quaint Fishing Villages.
The Basque coast is scattered along with picturesque and colorful fishing villages, where you can really enjoy the gifts of slow life. Here is a list of our favorite places to forget the pressures of everyday life:
Getaria: This charming town has some of the best restaurants on the Basque Coast along with San Sebastian. Cristóbal Balenciaga Museum is another reason why you should visit this place. For a more detailed overview of the wonders of Getaria, have a look at our Getaria page.
Zumaia: The famous rock formations, known as flysch, dating back some 100 million years and the stunning views from the slate cliffs make this town a must-see. If you are a Game of Thrones fan, you will surely recognize the beach where Khalisi and John Snow spend most of their time in Season 7!
Lekeitio: Lekeitio is a busy and vibrant port town. It has a picturesque harbour lined by colorful half-wooden buildings and fine seafood restaurants. There is a charming square filled with pintxo bars and a late-Gothic church, Basílica Asunción de Nuestra Señora. The town hosts many sporting events such as the rowing races of Eusko Label Liga. In September, you can join the celebrations for the patron Saint of Lekeitio, San Antolin. During this festival, it is customary to attend famous ‘goose races,’ holding onto a goose as long as you can to win the gold medal! Also during this time, there are boat races that you can watch from the beautiful lighthouse located on a cliff overlooking the Bay of Biscay. This port town has two beautiful beaches, where you can enjoy a peaceful day under the sun.
Hondarribia: Hondarribia is an alluring border town facing Hendaye in France. The town is endowed with color, intensity and depth. The architectural form of Hondarribia is very captivating: Bright green, blue or white facades are adorned with wooden windows and balconies that are full of flowers. There are two parts of Hondarribia: The medieval fortified city, that was once a stage for historical battles, is situated on top a hill. This old city (casco antiguo) has small winding cobblestone streets filled with small boutiques and coffee houses. Plaza de Gipuzkoa is a small pretty square where you can have a relaxing afternoon reading a book while sipping your wine. The marina part has a highly entertaining street, Calle San Pedro, which is full of lively seafood taverns, bars and fishermen’s houses. The beach is about 1 km away from the marina. It is not the most enticing beach, however it has the calmest sea around this region. There is also a small boat service that you can use to take a short leisurely cruise to go to France (Hendaye) that costs only 1.90 Euro!