Best Reasons to Walk the Basque Region in Spain and France with VBT
Along the border of Spain and France and framed by the soaring Pyrenees and serene waters of the Bay of Biscay, lies a uniquely autonomous region known as Basque Country. Travelers will find themselves discovering jaw-dropping landscapes, delicious cuisine that draws from a variety of cultures, and friendly and intensely proud Basque people. VBT’s new Spain: A Walking Tour of Basque Country fully immerses you into Basque culture during walks in quaint villages and bustling cities, as well as scenic walking paths in the foothills above the Atlantic Ocean. Keep reading to learn why we think the Basque Country is a must-see destination for any active traveler.
The Basque People
Rather than tell you about the culture on tour, we’ll facilitate interesting encounters with friendly locals so that you may learn about the Basque people in the most authentic way—face to face. During a stop in Hondarribia, we’ll walk the streets with a local guide, who will tell us all about the history of this interesting coastal town and its two identities—one in the port area and the other in the medieval walled town that sits high above. Although most residents speak Spanish or French, 27% of the population is still fluent in Euskara, the traditional language of the Basque population. During this vacation, a local resident will give us an intriguing lesson about the history of this language and its place in society today. Another cultural highlight is the day we learn pelota! This ancient sport—which is similar to racquetball and tennis—was developed when the Basque people decided that rather than playing face-to-face over a net, they’d prefer to use their hands to hit a ball in a three-walled court—oftentimes using the exterior of the town church to play.
From gastronomic clubs to rural, self-sustaining farms, you’ll have a chance to enjoy all the tastes of the Basque Country. One day for lunch, we’ll visit a charming farm where our host, Pello Urdapilleta, will tell us all about his family’s long history of raising Euskal txerria—a breed of pig found only in the Basque region. We’ll also sample rural culinary delights like alubias de Tolosa—purple-black legumes that turn red when cooked—whose rich, buttery flavor is complemented perfectly by sidra, a local apple cider. We’ll also get to attend dinner at a txoko, which are members-only societies that date back to 1870 in some towns. Traditionally made up of men who got together to share their interests in cooking creative meals, drinking and socializing, txokos became safe havens where members could keep their language and traditions alive when Basque culture was suppressed under the reign of Francisco Franco.
We’ll traverse cobbled city streets and rural hillside trails alike on this tour. Perhaps the highlight is the day we walk along the historic “Way of St. James.” This coastal route is thought to be the oldest of all the paths leading to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, where many believe St. James is buried. We’ll trace the 1,000 year old path that was the first institutionalized route used by the holy pilgrims. History aside, the natural beauty of this walk will not disappoint either. On our journey to the summit of Mt. Jaizkibel, we’ll soak in views of Bay of Biscay and its numerous rugged coves that dot the shoreline.
To learn more about how you can visit this region on VBT’s Spain: A Walking Tour of Basque Country tour please click here. If you would like to reserve a vacation or speak with one of our Tour Consultants, please call 800-245-3868 or visit vbt.com. They are available Monday-Friday from 8:30am to 6:30pm EST and Saturdays from 10:00am to 3:00pm EST.