9 Days Best of Basque Country Spain & France Culinary Holiday

  • Bayonne - St-Jean-Pied-de-Port - Pamplona - San Sebastian - Bilbao - Guernica

Spain and France Food and Wine Tour

Immerse yourself in the rich art, history, and culture of Europe's Basque Country. Straddling the modern-day borders of Spain and France, the Basque Country is one of Europe's most ancient, independent-thinking regions. Starting in Bayonne and ending in Bilbao, this tour includes the distinctive towns of St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, Pamplona, San Sebastian, and Guernica. You will also enjoy the region's gourmet cooking, full-bodied wines, and a time-tripping hike along the centuries-old Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail.

Highlights

  • Walking tours through beautiful settings
  • Dine with the locals at a traditional private dining club
  • Professional guides and local experts will guide you and give advise
  • Learn about the pilgrims that have trekked across Spain since the Middle Ages
  • A small, friendly group for a more personal experience
  • Organized group transportation by tour bus
  • 8 nights accommodation
  • 8 days with instruction
  • English
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You will stay 2 nights in each of the 4 different cities, Bayonne, Pamplona, San Sebastian, and Bilbao. The accommodations are charming; often quaint, though sometimes creaky and full of personality; centrally-located; family-run hotels that will become a memorable part of your travel experience.

Be prepared for stairs, maybe hundreds of them, as many of the hotels do not have elevators. Private bathrooms are the norm, but on a couple of tours a small chance exists that for one or two nights your bathroom may be down the hall.

Day 1

You will gather at the hotel in Bayonne, France at 17:00 for an introductory meeting. You will then take a neighborhood orientation stroll and start getting to know one another over a group dinner. Sleeping accommodations will be in or near Bayonne for the next two nights.

Day 2

This morning, you will take a walking tour through half-timbered Bayonne, the capital of the French Basque Country. After getting to know the cobbled-street ambience of the city's old town, you will take a tour of Bayonne's superb Museum of Basque Culture, setting the foundation for all you are about to learn about Basque culture and history. In the afternoon, you will have free time to enjoy Bayonne, or take a short train or bus ride to the seaside towns of St-Jean-de-Luz or Biarritz.

Day 3

On this day you will be leaving France, but not before you make one last stop for a visit to the walled French town of St-Jean-Pied-de-Port, a traditional starting point for hiking the 500-mile Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail. You will learn about the humble pilgrims who have trekked across the north of Spain since the Middle Ages to pay homage to the remains of St. James. In the afternoon, the tour bus will take the scenic route, crossing over the impressive Pyrenees mountains to Pamplona, where you will sleep for the next 2 nights.

Day 4

The day will begin with a walking tour through the historic heart of Pamplona, including its cathedral and ramparts. You will learn about Pamplona's importance as capital of Spain's Navarra region, and as a key stop along the Camino de Santiago trail. You will also learn about Pamplona's association with author Ernest Hemingway, the Illinois native who is celebrated in Pamplona as a native son. In the evening, you will be invited to dine like the locals at a traditional private dining club.

Day 5

You will board the bus and drive deeper into El Pais Vasco, the Spanish Basque Country, but you will also make your way to San Sebastian as a pilgrim, hiking along a stretch of the famous Camino. You will stop for a well-deserved lunch and tasting of Navarre vintages at a local winery, before arriving in San Sebastian in the evening, in time to get accustomed to your new neighborhood and learn the best spots to eat tapas. The evening is yours to create your own tapas crawl or simply soak in the sights of the Bay of Biscay surrounding you. You will spend the next two nights in San Sebastian.

Day 6

You will begin your day with a walking tour of elegant San Sebastian. Your guide will give you a view of Spanish Basque life and culture as you tour the lively old town, step inside the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, and walk the promenade down to the town's beautiful beach. You will be free in the afternoon and evening to spend more time in the old town, at the beach, ride the funicular up to Monte Igueldo's viewpoint, or hike around Monte Urgull. You will not be dining as a group this evening.

Day 7

The day will start with a drive along the rugged coastline of the Bay of Biscay as you make your way to the town of Guernica. This afternoon will be all about the independent Basque spirit as you visit the town made infamous by the 1937 air raid that inspired Picasso's anti-war masterpiece. Nowadays, Guernica is considered the very heart of the Basque nation. You will learn more about the Spanish Civil War and today's political issues as you tour the Assembly House and its symbolic oak tree, where Basque leaders have met since medieval times. Lunch will be enjoyed together with the group and then you will make a beeline for bustling Bilbao, where you will be sleeping for the remaining 2 nights.

Day 8

In the morning, you will be devoting your time to Frank Gehry's dazzling temple of modern art, The Guggenheim Bilbao, as you take a tour of the museum's best architectural and artistic attractions. Afterwards, you will have free time to either enjoy more museum meandering or to explore more of Bilbao's old town maze, the Maritime Museum, and other sights. In the evening, you will reunite with the rest of the group for a farewell dinner together, where everyone will share travel memories and toasts.

Day 9

Breakfast is provided but there are no group activities. Your guide will help you get pointed in the right direction for home, or to continue your travels in Europe.

  • Bayonne walking tour
  • Bilbao walking tour
  • Bus excursion to the walled French town of St-Jean-Pied-de-Port
  • Drive through the Pyrenees
  • Navarre wine region excursion
  • Pamplona walking tour
  • Pilgrimage walk along the Camino de Santiago trail
  • San Sebastian walking tour
  • Visit to Guernica

This tour will take place in the Basque Country, one of Europe's most ancient, independent-thinking regions, straddling the modern-day borders of Spain and France. You will find a region full of natural beauty, architecture, art, history, and warm people that will make your stay pleasant.

Activities
  • Boating nearby
  • Cycling nearby
  • Hiking
  • Hiking trail nearby
  • Mountain walking/trekking
  • Shopping
General
  • Caf nearby
  • Restaurant nearby
Services
  • Convenience / grocery store nearby
  • Local market

Experience the best of two worlds. Meals will focus around traditional Basque dishes, combining elements from both French and Spanish cuisine.

  • Create your own tapas crawl
  • Hike around Monte Urgull
  • Relax at the beach
  • Ride the funicular up to Monte Igueldo's viewpoint
  • Soak in the sights of the Bay of Biscay
  • Visit the seaside towns of St-Jean-de-Luz or Biarritz
  • 8 nights accommodations
  • 4 dinners
  • 50% discount on a consulting appointment with Rick Steves' Europes experts to assist with your tour travel plans
  • 100 USD store credit for your household to use toward guidebooks and other gear for your trip
  • All group transportation from Bayonne, France to Bilbao, Spain
  • All tips for guides and driver
  • All tours and admissions covering at least 12 group sightseeing events
  • Daily breakfast
  • Full-time services of a professional Rick Steves Europes guide and local experts
  • Airfare
  • Drinks
  • Free-time sightseeing and additional activities

Arrival by airplane

Please arrive at Biarritz Airport (BIQ) located at a 20-minute bus ride away from Bayonne.

For information about the booking conditions, please send Rick Steves’ Europe an inquiry.

Testimonials

  • Review by Elizabeth from Wisconsin, USA
    9 out of 10

    "I didn't believe my husband and I were "tour people," but this tour of the Basque regions of France and Spain disproved that theory! From the very start, Francisco was welcoming, gracious, and incredibly fun! Every experience was intriguing and engaging."

    Rick Steeve's Europe website, edited

  • Review by Janet from Baltimore, USA
    9 out of 10

    "While the trip covered a fairly small area of territory and I was afraid that perhaps it would feel repetitive, I thought all the four places we stayed at were varied and memorable on their own merit. While I am not sure that I have a distinct sense of Basqueness, the region felt different to other areas of Spain in appealing ways. The highlight for me was walking the Camino, something that I have heard about for decades. This introduction, I hope, will spur me to walk the whole length. Seeing San Sebastian from the mountain top upon our arrival in the city was the best moment. It is such a breathtaking setting! I liked that it was the introduction to our visit, as it gave me the lay of the land and also gave such a clear signal that I had entered a beautiful place."

    Rick Steves Europe website, edited

  • Review by Anita from New York, USA
    9 out of 10

    "The tour was really great. The only not-so-outstanding experience was the time in Bayonne which does not have that much to offer. The rest of the places were terrific and I see the value of visiting the French side of the Basque country. Although the group had a subgroup of 9 Canadians who were long-time friends, everyone was friendly and the group worked well. I loved the walk on Santiago de Compostela. I also thought that the city tour of Bilbao was great."

    Rick Steves Europe website, edited

  • Review by Rebecca from Bronx, USA

    "I enjoyed the tour very much. Our guide, Francisco, gave us a great insight into the Basque culture. He discussed the running of the bulls, Basque men's social clubs, the rules of inheriting land and personal inspirations from Basque strong religious beliefs. It was great to see so many families out together every night, all generations out in the town plazas playing and enjoying each others' company. Also, the countryside and seaside were beautiful. The best moment for me was when we walked 6 miles of the pilgrimage trail. While walking, I thought about the pilgrims who had a long way to travel before they got to the official starting point. While we may have been slipping a little on the rocks, I realized they did not have sneakers or hiking boots with good tread, no walking poles, backpacks, credit cards, and yet they made the long trip. It made me have a greater appreciation for their sacrifices."

    Rick Steves Europe website, edited

  • Review by Sue from Andover, USA
    9 out of 10

    "It was wonderful and affirming for me. I had no expectations except to know, having been recently widowed, if I still found joy in traveling and if it would be ok to do so alone. Of course, I was not alone. I had a really great group of supportive people along the way. The tour far exceeded my expectations. The windmills lining the tops of the mountains for as far as I could see were the most impressive thing."

    Rick Steves Europe website, edited

  • Review by Deborah from Kalamazoo, USA
    9 out of 10

    "This tour exceeded my expectations, from the history and its influence on the rest of France and Spain to the food which was truly incredible. The beauty of mountains and seaside made this a tour I would recommend without hesitation. I loved the unexpected beauty of the Basque region; the Pyrenees Mountains; village; the gorgeous port city of San Sebastian; St Jean-de-Luz; walking the Camino de Santiago; the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao; the wonderful food, the best food we have ever eaten; and the very nice, friendly, and helpful people"

    Rick Steves Europe website, edited

  • Review by Raylene from Santa Barbara, USA
    9 out of 10

    "The tour was educational, inspirational, with good company and fun! Walking the Camino de Santiago was a wow moment for me. The Camino is what drew me to this trip and it was everything that I hoped for. Another wow moment was the visit to Guernika. Learning about the horrific bombing and listening to our guide, Francisco, explain the history in relation to current events was quite emotional for me."

    Rick Steves Europe website, edited

Washington, United States

Rick Steves´ Europe is America's leading authority on European travel.

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9 days / 8 nights

Availability

This vacation is available from , please select an arrival date below.

 

Low season
  • May 5, 12
  • August 25 - September 1

 

High season
  • May 19 - June 23
  • September 6 - 22

 

Holiday season (Bulls festival)
  • July 5, 7

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