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Spain: A Walking Tour of Basque Country

Spanning the border between two nations, framed by the soaring Pyrenees and the Bay of Biscay, the autonomous region of Spain known simply as Basque Country offers spellbinding landscapes, superlative cuisine and warm, welcoming—and intensely proud—people.

  • 10 Days
  • Activity Level: Easy
  • Daily Mileage: 2 - 5 mi
  • Daily Walking: 2 - 5 hr
  • Small Groups: 20
  • Walking Activity
  • Relatively flat terrain. Well-kept paths. Fine for even occasional walkers.
  • Airfare Packages Available

Why You'll Love This Tour

Overview

Spain: A Walking Tour of Basque Country

Part Spanish. Part French. Uniquely Basque. Spanning the border between two nations, framed by the soaring Pyrenees and the Bay of Biscay, the autonomous region of Spain known simply as Basque Country offers spellbinding landscapes, superlative cuisine and warm, welcoming—and intensely proud—people. We’ll delve deeply into Basque culture during scenic walks through rural villages and vibrant cities … spend time with local residents, from pelota-playing villagers to the epicurean members of a txoko (private gastronomic club), and venture into France for a comprehensive view of local life. Experience the singular beauty of Basque Country with VBT today!

Cultural Highlights

• Discover the world-class gastronomy of the Basques.
• Explore Bilbao’s world-famous Guggenheim Museum.
• Stroll San Sebastián’s stunning seaside promenade.
• Hit charming Basque bars for pintxos, wine and good times.
• Learn how to play pelota with the residents of Bidania.
• Stay at a restored 17th-century jauregia (palace).
• Follow in the footsteps of pilgrims on the Way of St. James.
• Visit Hendaye, France for another side of Basque life.
• Dine with the members of a txoko private gastronomic club.
• Enjoy a traditional Basque cooking demonstration.

What To Expect

This tour features a combination of easy terrain and paved roads mixed with moderate hills. We walk primarily in the open countryside and small cities and on a variety of surfaces, including uneven footpaths over grass and soil, and cobbled streets. We plan longer, optional walks for those who wish to spend more time on their own exploring the small towns and surrounding areas. We also provide short and easy options for those who prefer to spend more time relaxing in Basque Country. Our VBT on-tour support vehicle is available at specific meeting points for those who need assistance. This tour is ideal for both enthusiastic beginners and experienced walkers. Several of the walks require a transfer from our hotel to the start of the walk. Our Trip Leaders often use this time in the van for our morning route review, so we can enjoy a more leisurely morning at breakfast.

Average Daily Mileage: 2 – 5 miles (3.2-8 km)
Average Walking Time: 2 – 5 hours

Climate Information

Average High/Low Temperature (°F) – Bilbao
May  68º/50º  Jun  73º/55º   Jul  77º/59º  Aug  78º/59º  Sep 76º/56º  Oct 69º/51º

Average Precipitation (in.) – Bilbao
May 3  Jun 2  Jul 1  Aug 2  Sep  2  Oct 3

What’s Included:

Walking Vacation Only – Without Air

  • 6 nights in historic 3- and 4-star hotels and 1 rural Basque Jauregia (palace)
  • 13 meals – 6 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 4 dinners

Air Package Plus

  • 8 nights in historic 3- and 4-star hotels, 1 rural Basque Jauregia (palace) and a 5-star hotel
  • 15 meals – 8 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 4 dinners
  • Roundtrip international airfare
  • Transfers
  • AND the option to add our Low-Cost Trip Extensions: Pre-trip: Madrid – 2 nights for only $295 • Post-trip: Bilbao – 2 nights for only $245

Both Vacation Options Include

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Air Package Plus Single Supplement: $745 | Land Only Single Supplement: $495

Please note: Web Special savings cannot be combined with any other offer. Standard Terms & Conditions apply when purchasing this trip. Prices include all airline surcharges and Government taxes and fees. Ask our Tour Consultants for details. Every effort has been made to produce this information accurately. We reserve the right to correct errors. Prices are based on preferences selected above, including meals and sightseeing as specified in What’s Included. All prices are subject to change. Departure dates and prices shown may be updated several times daily, and apply to new bookings only.

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Itinerary & Map
Or, Expand All Days
DAY 1: Depart from home / Fly overnight to Bilbao

Depart from home for Bilbao, Spain. The particulars of your arrival overseas are detailed with your flight itinerary.

DAY 2: Arrive in Bilbao / Transfer to San Sebastian

Upon arrival at the Bilbao airport, claim your luggage and clear customs. Please make certain your VBT luggage tags are affixed to your bag so your VBT representative can identify you. As you enter the arrival hall, look for your VBT representative holding a VBT sign. Please wait here while your representative helps make arrangements for your transfer to your hotel in San Sebastián (a drive of approximately 90 minutes).

Take the rest of the day to explore the city and have dinner on your own. Based on the number of Michelin stars per capita, San Sebastian ranks number two among the world’s best dining cities.

Hotel: Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra

DAY 3: San Sebastian

VBT No-Air Package guests: After breakfast on your own, meet your VBT Trip Leaders at the Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra San Sebastián at 9 a.m. (Address: Zubieta 2, San Sebastián, Spain; telephone: +34 943 440 770). To reach the hotel, you can take a taxi from San Sebastián airport to San Sebastián (approximately 40 euros). If your arrival in San Sebastián is scheduled for later than 9 a.m., or if you are delayed, please contact the San Sebastián hotel to advise them of any travel delays or changes so the hotel staff can pass the message on to your VBT Trip Leaders.

VBT Air Package and Pre-Trip Extension guests: Meet your VBT Trip Leaders in the hotel lobby at 9 a.m.

Once we have gathered, we’ll have a short introductory meeting. Afterward, your warm-up walk is an easy stroll along the town’s two-mile-long beachfront promenade, which offers views of beautiful La Concha Bay. You will soon discover why Queen Isabella II and other wealthy aristocrats would spend their summer holidays in this scenic corner of Spain. To help get your bearings, you’ll ride the funicular to the lookout atop Monte Igueldo, which will give us a great perspective on this scenic seaside resort. Continue with your exploration in the Casco Viejo (Old Town), which dates back to the 12th century. Here you’ll enjoy lunch with an introduction to pintxos, the Basque form of tapas. Given the Basque passion for cuisine, these delectable small plate morsels are usually more substantive and complex than their Spanish tapas counterparts.

In the afternoon, return to your seaside hotel for a siesta. Or join an optional afternoon walk to the summit of Monte Urgull, where you’ll visit Castillo de la Mota. The castle was built to defend the city from attackers and allowed San Sebastián to prosper during the Middle Ages. You will find a museum within the castle with exhibits and information about the city’s history.

This evening, get to know your fellow travelers and Trip Leaders during a welcome reception and dinner, hosted in our historic hotel overlooking the sea.

Hotel: Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra
Meals: B,(available for Air Package guests only) L, D
Daily Options: Morning: 2.5 mile (4 km) warm-up on flat, paved paths and cobbled streets; Afternoon: 2 miles ( 3.2 km) on a paved path up gradual climb to hilltop

DAY 4: Train from San Sebastian to Tolosa / Walk through Basque villages / Farm visit

After breakfast, you’ll walk to the San Sebastián train station for your 30-minute train ride inland to the verdant hills of the Basque Country. Our destination is Tolosa, a town located on the Oria River. After a brief tour of Tolosa, you’ll have a short shuttle ride into the surrounding hills to the quaint village of Bidania. Today’s walk immerses you in Basque country life as you meander through a series of hamlets on lesser-traveled (but paved) roads, past peaceful pastures nestled in the valleys. You’ll hear tinkling cowbells and see sheep grazing as you walk beneath the shade of apple trees. A charming stone farmhouse will be the setting for today’s lunch. Our host is Pello Urdapilleta, whose family has raised Euskal txerria—a breed of pig found only in the Basque region—for generations. Pello will introduce us to the rural culinary delights of this region of Spain.

Following lunch, you have the option to continue walking through the lovely countryside to our accommodations—a hotel within a restored, 17th-century jauregia (palace)—or you can travel there by van. Later, you’ll walk to the village to learn from the locals how to play the much-loved Basque game of pelota. This centuries-old sport has served as the basis for similar sports such as racquetball and tennis. However, 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.

This evening, meet the jauregia’s owners and learn about the history of and future plans for this unique property. You will also have a Basque language class to prepare you for dinner on your own, or perhaps for a walk into town to sample the nightlife at the local pub.

Hotel: Iriarte Jauregia Hotel
Meals: B, L
Daily Options: Morning: 1.4 miles (2.25 km) on rolling, paved country roads. Afternoon: 2 miles (3.2 km) on rolling, paved country roads

DAY 5: Basque Country hills and forests

Today, your path will be a mostly steady incline through lovely forested hills and valleys. Stopping for lunch, you’ll have the opportunity to feast on a Basque specialty: alubias de Tolosa, or Tolosa beans—purple-black legumes that turn red when cooked and are celebrated for their rich, buttery flavor. You’ll also have a chance to sample the local sidra (hard apple cider). After an included lunch, you have two options: You can shuttle back to our hotel, or you can return by foot retracing your morning path.

Tonight, enjoy dinner at the jauregia. You will be treated to a delicious dinner prepared by the palace’s creative and renowned chef.

Hotel: Iriarte Jauregia Hotel
Meals: B, L, D
Daily Options: 4.3 miles on flat and gradually ascending dirt paths through forest and paved country roads. Afternoon: 4.3 miles on paved country roads. Flat and gradually descending dirt path through forests.

DAY 6: Walk the pilgrimage path “Way of St. James” / Hondarribia walking tour

After breakfast, you’ll head back to the coast. Your short transfer will take you to the start of today’s historic walk along the “Way of St. James.” The coastal route that you follow today is considered to be the oldest of the paths leading to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, where many believe St. James is buried. Our path dates back more than 1,000 years and is believed to be the first institutionalized route used by religious pilgrims. The natural beauty of today’s walk—featuring vistas of the Bay of Biscay and small rugged coves—will become even more spectacular as you reach the summit of Mount Jaizkibel. You’ll then shuttle five minutes to the Sanctuary of Guadalupe, where a 15th-century Black Madonna is kept. From here, you can shuttle to our next hotel or continue your walk through the quaint fishing town of Hondarribia before ending at our hotel.

After free time for lunch on your own in Hondarribia, you will explore the town with a local guide, who will acquaint you with the history of your home for the next three nights. Hondarribia is a town with two identities: one belonging to the lower port town and the other to the 800-year-old medieval walled town above, with its balcony-lined cobblestone streets and magnificent vistas of the sea, the Bidasoa River and neighboring France.

This evening, you will have the special privilege of being a guest at a members-only, private gastronomic society, or txoko, as it is known in Basque. Txoko members tend to be mostly men who have shared interests in cooking creative meals for their guests. When Basque culture was suppressed under the reign of Francisco Franco, txokos became safe havens where members could share their language and traditions as well as their love of cooking. Women used to be banned from the society; today, however, they are welcome to dine with the men.

Hotel: Hotel Obispo
Meals: B, D
Daily Options: Morning: 5 miles (8 km) on a flat, dirt Way of St. James path along the Atlantic Coast. Afternoon: 1 mile (1.6 km) walking tour on flat, paved and cobblestone streets.

DAY 7: French Basque country / Coastal walk to St. Jean-de-Luz

Today, you’ll take a short walk from our hotel to the pier, then enjoy a five-minute ferry ride across the Bidasoa River to Hendaye, France. This seaside resort with its long stretch of beach will be your starting point for today’s walk. Your narrow dirt path will meander past stunning cliffs, scenic coves and quaint villages before you arrive at St. Jean-de-Luz, one of the most attractive towns on the French Basque coast. You will have ample opportunities during the walk to shuttle to our destination if you would prefer more time exploring St. Jean-de-Luz.

There are many sites to visit in this idyllic town, such as the Maison Louis XIV, a temporary residence of the Sun King, who came here in 1660 for his marriage to Maria Theresa. You can also visit the nearby church where the pair was married, the largest Basque church in France. Or simply enjoy exploring the town’s picturesque harbor and pedestrian-friendly streets. Enjoy lunch on your own in one of the many outdoor cafes. Later in the afternoon, you may take the 12-minute train journey back to Hendaye.

This evening, you will regroup and venture out to a nearby pinxtos bar to compare stories of our adventures in France over delightful appetizers. Later, you can choose from among Hondarribia’s many gourmet restaurants for dinner on your own.

Hotel: Hotel Obispo
Meals: B
Daily Options: 2 to 7 miles (3.21–11.2 km) on rolling dirt paths along coastal cliffs and coves with van support for shorter options.

DAY 8: Plaiaundi Ecological Park / Basque cooking demonstration & Farwell Dinner

For today’s walk, you can choose from among several options, depending upon your interests. After breakfast, walk to Hondarribia’s marina and fishing port to see the many holiday boats and fishing trawlers. You may start a later morning walk from the hotel to the River Bidasoa marshlands, at times treading in the pilgrim’s footsteps on the “Way of St. James.” Later in the afternoon, you have the option to shuttle back into Hondarribia and explore the town’s art galleries, restaurants for lunch, and stores.

Tonight, you’ll learn how to replicate the flavors of Basque Country in our own kitchens during an exclusive cooking demonstration, followed by a farewell dinner in the hotel.

Hotel: Hotel Obispo
Meals: B, D
Daily Options: 2 to 6 miles (3.21–9.6 km) on flat, paved walking paths, as well as urban streets.

DAY 9: Transfer to Bilbao / Guggenheim Bilbao Museum tour / Walking tour ends

VBT No-Air Package guests: This morning, you’ll transfer to Bilbao for a 90-minute guided tour of the world-renowned Guggenheim Museum, designed by acclaimed architect Frank Gehry. Your tour will include information about the building’s architecture and the current works on display. At the end of the tour, you will be given a personal audio guide to further explore the museum’s exhibits at your leisure. Your luggage will be stored for your pick-up at the nearby Melia Bilbao hotel, approximately a ten-minute walk from the museum. Please note: The hotel will help you book a taxi at your own expense to your next hotel, train station or airport.

Please Note: To fully enjoy the Guggenheim Museum tour, which ends at 1 pm, Bilbao departures should be scheduled for after 3:00 pm.

VBT Air Package and Post-Trip Extension guests: This morning, you’ll transfer to Bilbao for a 90-minute guided tour of the world-renowned Guggenheim Museum, designed by acclaimed architect Frank Gehry. Your tour will include information about the building’s architecture and the current works on display. At the end of the tour, you will be given a personal audio guide to further explore the museum’s exhibits at your leisure. After your visit to the museum, walk to the nearby Melia Bilbao hotel and check in for your overnight stay in Bilbao.

The remainder of the day is free for you to explore this vibrant city at leisure. VBT provides you with City Information, which includes recommendations about what to see and do in Bilbao.

Hotel: Melia Bilbao
Meals: B
Daily Options: “Behind the Scenes” walking tour of the Guggenheim Museum

DAY 10: Depart for home

After breakfast, transfer to the Bilbao airport for your flight home.

Please note: For guests with early-morning departures, full breakfast at the hotel may not be available, but a light continental breakfast may be. Please check with the Front Desk to verify the times and locations where breakfast is served.

VBT transfer times and departure points are finalized in advance and cannot be modified for individual guests. If you extend your stay beyond the scheduled program dates, return transportation to the airport is at your own expense.

Meals: B

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Accommodations

NH Paseo del Prado

The 4-star NH Paseo del Prado hotel is ideally located in Madrid’s historic district, well situated in the “Golden Triangle of Art,” which comprises the Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza and Reina Sofia museums, with easy access to many other attractions. Offering a 19th-century feel enhanced by many modern details, the NH Paseo del Prado hotel overlooks the Fountain of Neptune, one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks. The luxurious seven-story building is decorated in marble and Spanish walnut, with elegant carpets produced locally at the Royal Tapestry Factory. The rooms have quality furnishings, with modern amenities such as Bang & Olufsen TVs and in-room stereos. There is Wi-Fi Internet access throughout. The hotel’s Estado Puro Restaurant is a new tapas bar that features the Spanish gastronomy of Chef Paco Roncero.
Free WiFi Included

Melia Bilbao

The Meliá Bilbao is conveniently located in the heart of Bilbao’s cultural and entertainment area, just 330 yards from the Guggenheim Museum and a five-minute walk from the Museo de Bellas Artes. The hotel’s contemporary architecture is warm and inviting. The hotel has a small indoor swimming pool and gym on the sixth floor with views of Bilbao’s Nervion River. The hotel’s award-winning Quatre Restaurant serves a variety of Basque cuisine and features a terrace overlooking Dona Casilda Park. Each luxurious room has a flat-screen TV, as well as a private bathroom with stylish marble floors that have their own adjustable heating system.
Free WiFi Included

Iriarte Jauregia Hotel

This 17th-century palace was built in 1650 and completely restored into a luxury hotel in 2009. The owners live on-site. With only 19 rooms, you’ll feel as if you are in a comfortable home rather than a hotel. The décor features a mixture of antique furniture mixed with modern amenities. A private art collection adorns the walls throughout the manor. There is a small, cozy bar for meeting fellow guests and an elegantly designed library for more quiet get-togethers. On warmer days, you may enjoy breakfast and other meals on the terrace overlooking the garden, scenic valleys and hills surrounding the estate. The onsite restaurant Bailara seves gourmet Basque and international cuisine.
Free WiFi Included

Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra

This 4-star luxury hotel is located directly on the seaside promenade and the beach overlooking La Concha Bay. It is in the center of San Sebastián within easy walking distance of the historic district. The hotel’s grand Belle Epoque style transports you back to an age when San Sebastián was one of Europe’s most glamorous watering holes. Among the hotel’s many famous guests was the spy Mata Hari, for whom a special suite here is named. The Mari Galant Brasserie serves Basque cuisine, and the elegant Swing Bar has a popular beachfront terrace. The 19th-century hotel was completely renovated in 2013. Guest rooms are decorated in classical style and have modern amenities such as flat-screen TVs, free WiFi, and minibars. All VBT rooms are ocean-view rooms.
Free WiFi Included

Hotel Obispo

Housed in a restored 14th-century palace, this charming, 3-star hotel is located in Hondarribia’s historic, hilltop Old Town and overlooks the placid Bidasoa River and tranquil Txingudi Bay. Amenities include a cozy lounge with fireplace, a terraced garden courtyard where meals are served during warmer weather, and complimentary bicycles for guests to use to explore the surrounding areas. Though its 17 rooms vary in size, layout and décor, all feature air-conditioning, a private bath and a minibar. Please note: Free WiFi is available in the lobby, but not in your room.
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VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations, 426 Industrial Ave, Suite 120 Williston, VT 05495
Talk to a VBT Tour Consultant: (800) 245-3868