• Bayonne, France
  • St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, France
  • pamplona-bullring
    Pamplona’s Bullring
  • San Sebastián, Spain
  • Tapas in Spain's Basque Country
  • Camino de Santiago in Spain
  • Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain

Tour Questions? Call 425-608-4217

Best of Basque Country of Spain & France in 9 Days Tour

from $2,295 + Air

Optional Single Supplement $575

See Tour Dates

Straddling the modern-day borders of Spain and France is one of Europe's most ancient, independent-thinking regions: the Basque Country. Starting in Bayonne and ending in Bilbao, this tour happily immerses you in the rich art, history and culture of Europe's Basque Country — including the distinctive towns of St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, Pamplona, San Sebastián and Guernica. You'll also enjoy the region's gourmet cooking, full-bodied wines, and a time-tripping hike along the centuries-old Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail. Join us for the Basque Country of Spain & France in 9 Days!

Dates & Prices

2015

2016

What's Included

  • A small, friendly group of 24-28 people — half the size of most tour groups
  • Full-time services of a professional Rick Steves guide and local experts who will make the fascinating history, art and culture of the Basque Country come alive for you
  • All tours and admissions — at no extra cost — covering at least 12 group sightseeing events • Bayonne walking tour • Bayonne Museum of Basque Culture tour • Bus excursion to walled French town of St. Jean-Pied-de-Port • Drive through the Pyrenees • Pamplona walking tour • Pamplona Private Dining Society (sociedad) dinner • Pilgrimage walk along the Camino de Santiago trail • Navarre wine region excursion • San Sebastián walking tour • Guernica visit • Bilbao walking tour • Guggenheim Museum tour...and more
  • All group transportation from Bayonne, France to Bilbao, Spain
  • 8 nights accommodations in memorable, centrally-located hotels
  • All breakfasts and half your dinners
  • All tips for guides and driver
  • $100 Shopping Spree (per household) at the Rick Steves Travel Store to get guidebooks and gear for your trip
  • Guaranteed tour price, locked in the moment you make your deposit
  • Optional single supplements — this tour has a limited number of private rooms for solo travelers for an additional fee
  • Tour alum discount of $50 for each tour you've taken prior to 2016
  • 50% discount on a consulting appointment with our in-house experts to assist with your pre- or post-tour travel plans
  • Flexibility should you need to transfer, or cancel/interrupt your tour
  • Fine print: You are responsible for the cost of your drinks and free-time sightseeing. See our Tour Conditions Agreement for important details regarding everything listed above.

Itinerary

Daily Activity Key

  • Light = 2-4 miles of mostly level walking throughout the day.
  • Moderate = 2-6 miles walking throughout the day with some hills and stairs.
  • Strenuous = 2-8 miles walking throughout the day with lots of hills, stairs and uneven terrain.

Day 1: Welcome to Basque Country

We'll gather at our hotel in Bayonne, France at 5 p.m. for an introductory meeting. Then we'll take a neighborhood orientation stroll, and start getting to know one another over dinner together. Sleep in or near Bayonne (2 nights). No bus. Walking: light.

Day 2: Basque Bayonne

This morning we'll take a walking tour through half-timbered Bayonne, the capital of the French Pays Basque. After getting to know the cobbled-street ambience of the city's Old Town, we’ll take a tour of Bayonne’s superb Museum of Basque Culture — setting the foundation for all we'll learn about Basque culture and history. This afternoon you’ll have free time to enjoy Bayonne, or take a short train or bus ride (20 min.) to the seaside towns of St. Jean-de-Luz or Biarritz. No bus. Walking: moderate.

Day 3: St. Jean-Pied-de-Port and Pamplona

Today we’ll say au revoir (agur in Basque) to France, but not before we 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. Here we’ll 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. This afternoon our bus will take the scenic route, crossing over the impressive Pyrenees mountains to Pamplona, where we’ll sleep for the next 2 nights. Bus: 3 hrs. Walking: moderate.

Day 4: Proud Pamplona

Let’s run with the bulls today — figuratively speaking, of course — as we take a walking tour through the historic heart of Pamplona (Iruña in Basque), including its cathedral and ramparts. We’ll learn about Pamplona’s importance as capital of Spain’s Navarra region, and as a key stop along the Camino de Santiago trail. We’ll also learn about Pamplona’s association with author Ernest Hemingway — the Illinois native who is celebrated here as a native son. Tonight we’ve been invited to dine like the locals at a traditional private dining club (sociedad). No bus. Walking: moderate.

Day 5: All Day on the Camino de Santiago

Today, we’ll board our bus and drive deeper into El Pais Vasco – the Spanish Basque Country. But we’ll also make our way to San Sebastián as pilgrims, hiking along a stretch of the famous camino. We’ll stop for a well-deserved lunch and tasting of Navarre vintages at a local winery. We'll arrive in San Sebastián this evening in time to get oriented to our new neighborhood and learn the best spots to eat tapas.  The evening is yours to create your own tapas crawl or simple soak in the sights of the Bay of Biscay surrounding you. Sleep in San Sebastián (2 nights).  Bus: 2 hrs. Walking: strenuous.

Day 6: Savoring San Sebastián

We'll begin our day with a walking tour of elegant San Sebastián (Donostia in Basque). Our guide will give us a view of Spanish Basque life and culture as we 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'll be free this 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. We won't be dining as a group tonight, so if you’ve always dreamed of dining in one of San Sebastian’s renowned restaurants, this is the night. No bus. Walking: moderate.

Day 7: Guernica and Bilbao

We’ll start our day driving along the rugged coastline of the Bay of Biscay as we make our way to the town of Guernica (Gernika). This afternoon we'll learn more about the independent Basque spirit as we visit the town made infamous by the 1937 air raid that inspired Picasso's anti-war masterpiece (now housed in Madrid). Today, Guernica is considered the very heart of the Basque nation. We'll learn more about the Spanish Civil War and today's political issues as we tour the Assembly House and its symbolic Oak Tree, where Basque leaders have met since medieval times. We'll enjoy lunch together and then make a beeline for bustling Bilbao, where we’ll sleep (2 nights). Bus: 3 hrs. Walking: moderate.

Day 8: Bilbao and the Guggenheim

This morning we'll devote our time to Frank Gehry's dazzling temple of modern art: The Guggenheim Bilbao. We'll take a tour of the museum's best architectural and artistic attractions, then set you free for more museum meandering — or to explore more of Bilbao’s Old Town maze, its Maritime Museum, and other sights. Tonight, we'll rendezvous for a farewell dinner together, where we'll share travel memories and toast new friends. Topa! No bus. Walking: moderate.

Day 9: Tour Over After Breakfast

Breakfast is provided, but there are no group activities today. Bilbao's airport provides easy connections to Madrid and all major European airline hubs. Your guide will help you get pointed in the right direction for home, or to continue your travels in Europe. Agur!

Itinerary specifics subject to change.

Activity Level

Our tours are physically active! It's an essential part of the Rick Steves tour experience. On our Basque Country of Spain & France in 9 Days tour — among other things — you'll need to happily...

  1. Carry/roll your luggage over uneven pavement (several blocks possible) and up stairways to reach your hotel; then up several flights of stairs to reach your room.
  2. Be on your feet, walking and standing for up to three hours, indoors and outdoors, in all weather conditions.
  3. Sleep with street noise and no (or weak) air conditioning.
  4. After orientation and transportation lessons, be able to navigate towns and cities on your own.

Reviews

William

Kansas City, MO

Tour: 07/10/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

It was very nice. Beautiful weather, great pacing. San Fermin was a great addition and the atmosphere was exciting.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"I was amazed by how Pamplona could be a complete party on one block, and on the next a beautiful, pretty, and quiet town."

Mary

Kansas City, MO

Tour: 07/10/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

We chose this tour because the Best of Spain tour didn't work with our schedule this summer. We did not have terribly high expectations (especially compared to what we expected, and received, from our Paris & the Heart of France tour). We were blown away! The tour was great, and we have already recommended it to our friends. We loved the chance to learn about Basque culture, the geography and climate were very much to our liking, and the food was great.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Can't choose just one. I dreaded Pamplona during San Fermin, and LOVED it. I would go back. Walking the camino was amazing, and I think our whole family wants to do all or part of it in the future. Our two meals in private clubs were fun and delicious, and a very unique experience."

Doris

Sammamish, WA

Tour: 07/10/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Great experience in Bayonne, Camino hike, San Sebastion and Bilboa!!! Love our tour guide, Agus who was informative, thoughtful, timely and thorough in all his information.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Absolutely oved loved loved the Basque cultural experience w/ their community weekly dances! The indepth knowledge of Agus and the local tour guides were invaluable for understanding the current historial social and cultural ties."

Peter

Sherwood Park, AB

Tour: 07/10/15

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

It was a very good group to be in, and We got a very good overview of the Basques and their unique place in France and Spain. It was interesting to have pointed out that the street names on maps in San Sebastian were in Spanish, but the names on the street signs themselves were in Basque. If you think that they bear any resemblance to one another, think again! Nice to walk briefly on the El Camino. It was a breeze, given the lovely weather.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"I particularly liked the experience of being in Pamplona during the Running of the Bulls. I was impressed by the family festival atmosphere of the city, and how virtually everyone, down to the tiniest tot, was dressed for the occasion. In my experience, events where there is a lot of drinking generally have an ugly underbelly, but this was certainly not a characteristic of any of the festivities that I saw. The nightly 11 p.m. fireworks displays were the most impressive I have ever seen."

John

Houston, TX

Tour: 07/10/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Overall, it was a good trip. I went in with little knowledge of the region and came out with a better appreciation for the Basque people and their culture. Our guide Agustin was a great tour leader, a bit quiet at times, but always helpful and confident. The Pamplona local guide Francisco gave one of the best tours I've ever had.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The running of the bulls from the balcony. The run event itself is a bit anticlimactic due to its brevity, but the pageantry leading up to it with all of the nervous anticipation, pre run rituals and of course the adoration of the San Fermin statue as it passes through the crowd is electrifying. The scenery and the beaches were also nice, but there's a reason Pamplona is the one city in the region I'd ever really heard of."

Randy

Morgan Hill, CA

Tour: 07/10/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

I was a first timer with this tour group and the whole experience exceeded my expectations.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Pamplona and the running of the bulls. The energy and excitement of the people created almost a surreal feeling."

Elizabeth

Houston, TX

Tour: 07/10/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

The tour was great. We spent a few days in Paris and Biarritz pre-trip and made a pilgrimage to Lourdes. I HIGHLY recommend Biarritz - so much fun! Our guides were fabulous, especially our local guide Francisco. I HIGHLY recommend going during The Running of The Bulls - the Festival of San Fermin was AMAZING. It was great having two tour guides and only 21 people in the group - we didn't lose anybody :)

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Hands Down - The Festival of San Fermin. The Running of the Bulls, the people, the dancing, the parades, the fireworks, the sangria - What an amazing experience!!!"

Jill

Las Vegas, NV

Tour: 07/10/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Great tour as a result of our knowledgable tour guide Agustin. Prior to this trip, I was woefully uninformed of this great culture, it's rich history and proud people. Each place had something new to taste, visit and explore. "Agus" was very courteous, well-informed and organized. He taught us about the Basque people, their history, music, and politics. He wove the Basque culture into each town, cathedral, museum and point of interest that we visited. I highly recommend this tour.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"First, I loved watching the Running of the Bulls from the balcony. It was worth the extra cost since looking down on the street provided an great vantage point. A close second was eating at the two gastronomic (men's only) clubs where we were served delicious meals prepared and served by members of the club. Third, was visiting Guernica. The walk through the museum was an touching, and heart breaking experience that I will never forget."

Victoria

Henderson, NV

Tour: 07/10/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

As always, I like knowing the daily activities to plan accordingly my meals, the free time to wander around town or just relax in my hotel room. The schedule that is posted for each day at the hotel lobby was quite helpful. Moreover, both Agus and Michelanne were always very attentive and mindful if I ever needed any type of assistance. The surprise snacks like chocolates in Bayonne, cheese in San Sebastián, energy bars during the Camino walk AND the GELATO in Bilbao were FANTASTIC.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"My WOW moment happened when the bus pulled up in Pamplona and the San Fermin Festival was in full swing. Seeing the crowd wearing white and red everywhere and buzzing with excitement made me buy a couple of t-shirts and bandana and join in the fun around the town. Fellow tour members felt the same way and dressed appropriately. Our hotel was perfectly located in the heart of the city. As a single female traveler I felt safe roaming the streets even at night."

Bill

Atlanta, GA

Tour: 06/26/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

We had a great time. Wonderfully well integrated and great balance between tour time and free and open time......Amanda's short side trips were special!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The sum was greater than the sum of the parts, hard to isolate just one WOW moment.....but...1. very much enjoyed San Sebastian, 2. the short 2-3 side stop at the small fishing village on the coast between San Sebastien and Bilbao, and 3. the Picasso mural in Guernica was extraordinarily moving (we saw the original in Madrid three days later!)."

Sarah

Santa Barbara, CA

Tour: 06/26/15

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

The tour was fantastic. It was an area I know nothing about, so it was literally a thrill to learn so much, experience the Basque country, and eat the food. Amanda was lovely, efficient, organized and helpful. It was great to have an extra person "from the office" there to pitch in too. I did an Ireland trip with Declan and I knew it would be hard to top. It was. But not for lack of trying. I just don't think the other tour members on this trip were as interesting and fun.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Just not possible to pick a single moment. Camino del Santiago was inspiring, Guernica was fascinating, and I loved the hotel in Pamplona, the food at the winery lunch, San Sebastian etc. Never mind...I really loved it all."

Susan

Houston, TX

Tour: 06/26/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

I loved learning about the Basque people and culture and seeing the wonderful sights. I was looking forward to the food and was not disappointed (actually thought the food was better than Paris where I spent the next week). The tour group was amazing. Amanda, I can't say enough about her.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Walking the Camino & walking in the footsteps of millions before me."

Juan

Cumming, GA

Tour: 06/19/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the Basque people and their legacy. Agustin as well as the local guides provided valuable insight into the rich history of the Basque country, traditions, and current state of affairs. I had an awesome time interacting with the locals, dining out, and tasting the local wine. My tour experience was everything I hoped it would be, and then some.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"I loved our brief stop at Roncesvalles because of its historical significance."

Thomas

Altamonte Springs, FL

Tour: 06/19/15

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

My overall rating was very good, but not as amazing as my 3 prior Rick Steves Tours. I think it would have been enhanced if more Basque related performances ie Jai Alai, or dance performances with more flare and excitement than the one we saw in San Sebastian were co-ordinated with the trip dates.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"My "WOW" moment was an encounter with two elderly lady patriots during the walk to our Farewell Dinner in Bilbao. They looked at me fondly on a street corner in my Basque red beret, red neckerchief and red sash, they smiled and said I reminded them of the Requete', the Basque freedom fighters who opposed the Franco years of repression. Made my day! As a hiker the Camino De Santiago Pilgrimage Trail hikes and hiker encounters were a super highlight."

Christine L

Wheat Ridge, CO

Tour: 06/19/15

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

Our trip was organized very well and we had a terrific guide. I appreciated the wireless ear-pieces and the guided orientations. The tour guides were very informative and our lodging was much better than we anticipated.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"I didn't know much about the Basque region (only what I had read from the Rick Steve's information), so it was great to learn about the people and that part of the world."

Martha

Rocky Hill, CT

Tour: 06/19/15

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

Beautiful countries, both France and Spain, delicious foods and unique Basque culture. It was a very enjoyable trip. But the airline lost my luggage , thus put a damp on my trip. By the help of RickSteves travel guard and airline, my luggage showed up the 4 th day at my hotel door! Overall I still enjoyed the trip very much.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"First seeing St. Jean Pied de Port, a walled town, starting point of hiking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail! Early morning start hiking point at San Sebastián pilgrimage way, a stretch of beautiful, beautiful hiking trail, among the farmland and wild flowers, only too short before it's over, wish the hiking is longer. After hiking, the lunch at local winery, the lunch is also a "wow" moment, what a delicious food served here!!"

Stanley

Verona, NJ

Tour: 06/19/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

I always enjoy Rick Steves Tours. This one is no exception. I've been to Spain and France before, with RS and on our own but this is a very different region. The cities were quite unique and interesting. The city guides were very knowledgeable and entertaining. I didn't know what to expect each day and was always pleasantly surprised. Loved the Tapas and Pinxtos.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Overall the trip was excellent. The one wow moment (actually a day) was negative. Almost 24 hrs of only cold water in the hotel was not exactly enjoyable."

Terry

Pleasanton, CA

Tour: 06/19/15

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

We had a very nice time and thoroughly enjoyed the company and learning about the basque country and the towns associated with the Basques. We also enjoyed and didn't expect the pilgrimage portion of the tour. What beautiful country and it was so great to be part of the experience, if only for a little bit.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The tour of Pamplona was really a wow. Francisco was just down right awesome. I felt like I had experienced the running of the bulls even though I wasn't there for the event!"

Megan

Cumming, GA

Tour: 06/19/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

All of the sites were interesting and I think we spent just enough time at each of the stops to get the flavor of the places. We chose this tour specifically because of my husband's Basque heritage and our guide answered lots of questions about the Basque people and how to research further information. I know my husband left with an increased appreciation of his background and what it means to be Basque.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"I can't pick just one! Walking on the Camino- what a beautiful memory- the wheat fields, the blue skies, the wild fennel.... It was awesome! My husband and I also really enjoyed being in San Sebastian- we thought the town was beautiful and hiking to the top of Mount Urgull to see the city from above was wonderful. Bayonne, which I thought was going be sort of dull, turned out to be fascinating and beautiful- a great surprise!"

Laura

Milton, VT

Tour: 05/22/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Though I have traveled internationally fairly extensively, this was my first tour, Rick Steves' or otherwise, and I was very pleasantly surprised. The tour was extremely well organized, from start to finish, and I enjoyed the balance of time with the group and time on our own. I enjoyed the progression of the trip with respect to cultural and historical focus, and our guide was exceptional. As the trip progressed, I found myself connecting with the Basque culture in unexpected ways.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"I have many favorite "wow" moments and memories, so it is impossible to pick just one. Highlights include visiting the Basque Museum in Bayonne and the bull fighting ring in Pamplona. Both of these visits offered critical cultural insights thanks to our guides. I also loved the walk along the Camino de Santiago, arriving at the Iglesia de Santa María de Eunate, and dining afterward at the winery. I really enjoyed exploring spectacular San Sebastien on my own and admiring architecture in Bilbao."

Marilyn

Frederick, MD

Tour: 05/22/15

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

My favorite city was Bayonne, also very much enjoyed the trip to St-Jean-Pied-de-Port and crossing the Pyrenees. San Sebastian was also spectacular. By contrast, Pamplona was a bit disappointing, not as clean and quaint, graffiti everywhere. Perhaps it would be better as a side trip instead of a 2-night stay.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"I never thought I'd make the whole hike on the Camino de Santiago but I did and was pretty proud of myself. Views were spectacular and lunch at the winery was great."

Doralee

Bend, OR

Tour: 05/22/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

It was an exciting, informative, and fun trip with a just right pace. Our guide led us through the Basque experience of culture, food, drink, politics, and beautiful countryside. We felt as though we achieved what we had hoped, a better understanding of a unique culture and thrills to the eyes and mouth.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"It is hard to pick just one as there were so many, but I think my favorite was visiting the men's clubs both in San Sabastion and in Pamplona for wonderful food and drink and companionship."

Shelley

Davis, CA

Tour: 05/22/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Great tour. Really immersed in the culture. Learned an incredible amount. Good balance of free time and structured. The guide was exceptional. Local guides well-versed as well.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Hard to pick from several wow moments - but have to say Francisco's explanation of bull fighting was remarkable. He really introduced us to the subtle aspects of the performance - all without us having to witness an actual bull fight. His description of Picasso's Guernica very moving."

Donald

Happy Valley, OR

Tour: 05/22/15

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

Francisco, our guide, was excellent. He knew the areas and history and was very friendly and very good with the group. It was good to learn about the Basque country and history.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Two things stand out in my mind. The first was walking along the Camino de Santiago. Even though it was only for part of a day, I got a glimpse of what it might be like to do the Pilgrimage. The second highlight was our guide, Francisco, explaining the painting "Guernica." He gave a very clear and meaningful interpretation."

Frank

Atlanta, GA

Tour: 05/22/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This was our 6th Rick Steves tour and Francisco was one of the best if not the best guides we have had. His knowledge of the Basque Country and its culture was excellent and he imparted this knowledge to us with enthusiasm. A highlight of the trip was walking The Camino. Our visit to the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum and our farewell dinner there were also exceptional. We have enjoyed all of our Rick Steves tours but this one ranks at the top.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Being able to complete the over 5 mile trek on the Camino."

Daniel

Morgan Hill, CA

Tour: 05/22/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This was my fifth Rick Steves tour, and again it was an outstanding educational and cultural experience. Having a professional & personable guide, Francisco for this tour, makes for a wonderful, positive experience. Adding Pamplona to this years Basque itinerary was brilliant. Every region and city we explored was unique in its own way, and helped to tie together Pays Basque/Pais Vasco.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The 9K hike on Camino Santiago was very special; an opportunity to experience nature, beautiful scenery, and feel the cultural history. When I saw it on the itinerary, I expected it to be only mildly interesting, but I kept an open mind. Visiting St. Jean-Pied-de-Port and the small villages gave it context, as well as seeing pilgrims on the trail and wishing them "Buon Camino", while receiving a smile and "Merci" or "Gracias" in return. The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao was an amazing "wow" too!"

Linda

Boulder, CO

Tour: 05/22/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This was a great tour. I liked all the tour members and all the places we went (loved San Sebastian; and though I am not supportive of the running of the bulls, I still learned a lot in Pamplona). Francisco was excellent, as were the local guides. Also, I really liked the Whispers (or whatever they're called), even though they didn't always work perfectly. They gave us more freedom to wander a short distance from the guide (e.g.,for photos) without missing out on information.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"More than one: Francisco's heartfelt description of Picasso's Guernica; the Church of San Salvador (Getaria?), with the floor that slopes upward toward the altar, a simple architectural feature that profoundly demonstrated the relationship between the human and divine in the Church. Also, I felt it was important to include the role of the Jewish community in chocolate making, and not to avoid how Jews were treated in Spain during the Inquisition, WWII and in general."

Daniel

Albuquerque, NM

Tour: 05/22/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

I learned a lot about the Basque people and Country, a lot of history, a lot of politics, and a lot about the food and culture. The tour group was very good, a very compatible group, and Francisco facilitated that result with his upbeat attitude and engaging manner. I particularly appreciated that he seemed to be himself and not "just" a tour guide. I think we got to know him a bit.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Walking the Camino was a high point for me. We did it on a blustery day, with rain threatening but not actually occuring. So it was overcast and not too hot. The scenary and the wildflowers and the fields along the short section of trail we did were just wonderful. I kept asking myself "Where in the US would I ever see a sight such as this - just gorgeous". The second best moment was Francisco's explanation and insight into bullfighting. It made sense. And his speech the Picasso Guernica."

Paula

Happy Valley, OR

Tour: 05/22/15

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

I did not know very much about the Basque Country before taking this tour. I found the tour to be very informative and complete and now have a much better idea of the area and respect for the people who live there. So much history! and a beautiful part of the world. Before joining the tour, we had spent a week on our own in Barcelona and another in southern France. It was really nice to next be with a group and have everything arranged for us. We absolutely loved our guide, Francisco.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"What immediately comes to mind is the time we spent in Guernica, a quiet village compared to some of the more touristy areas we visited. It was a beautiful day, calm and peaceful. Specifically, what emotionally moved me as I haven't been before was standing in front of a replica of Picasso's Guernica and listening to Fransisco give us his interpretation of the painting. What he said was truly heartfelt and beautiful, a magical moment."

Judith

Bremerton, WA

Tour: 05/22/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Far exceeded expectations! Francisco's guiding skills, his warmth and humor, created Basque cultural immersion that solo traveler could never experience simply by reading guidebook text. Nuances of culture and history came alive. Curiosity about Guernica, and lure of Pamploma, Camino de Santiago, surreal Guggenheim prompted my taking this journey. Bussing through Pyrenees foothills, countryside and villages, and seaside settings provided perfect context. Eskerrik asko!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Outstanding events - not so much because of the physical places, historically and culturally interesting though they are, but because of the context provided of shared "human emotion and insight" that binds us all together - Guernica, walking slowly on the Camino, standing in the Pamplona bull ring as Francisco related Basque perspectives on matadors and bulls. Then too - late afternoon light reflections on Guggenheim titanium walls."

Joel

West Hartford, CT

Tour: 05/22/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

The Basque Country was fascinating. San Sebastián was a beautiful surprise. Bilbao had a rich array of architecture. I learned a lot about Guernica - all I knew before was the bombing and Picasso's painting. Pamplona and Bayonne had far more than I expected. Francisco was a fabulous guide - knowledgeable and very funny.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"San Sebastian"

Lynne

Bellingham, WA

Tour: 05/15/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Our guide, Augustin, was beyond outstanding! And the group was composed of unusually compatible people with travel experience, good humor and interesting backgrounds. We got along very well with no grumps. Agus was thoughtful, well-prepared, very knowledgeable about the Basque Country and Spain, and the places we visited were unusual and gave me a different look at the Basque Country and industries. I grew up near of Boston/Cape Cod;the whaling/fishing history of SS was fascinating

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Walking the Camino de Santiago. What an experience! At 74, I was hoping all would go well, but it was better than well! Along the 5 miles, I met several people who were making the entire trip. I guess two other WOW moments were San Sebasian's waterfront (see response above) and Pamploma with Agus and Frederico. A special extra: when we visited the bullring itself, Frederico and Agus demonstrated techniques and philosophy using a red cape and paper mache bull mounted on a wheebarrow."

Jacqueline

Cody, WY

Tour: 05/15/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

So much more than I ever expected. The towns, the food, the people, our group, our wonderful guide Augustin and all the city guides, especially Emily at the Basque Museum in Bayonne. Our hotels ranged from the eclectic (hoof prints on the carpet - really) to the elegant (a palacio too) to a corner room on the Atlantic Ocean. All were wonderfully located. Special unexpected events (the private tour of the bull fighting arena in Pamplona - a sweet snack with the morning breaks). Exceptional!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"This trip was one new, fascinating, beautiful thing after the next. Standouts included: The Peace Museum in Gernika - so moving. The gourmet lunch at the Winery Lezaun - not to mention the barrel samples. And there is not a photo in the world that stands up to the Guggenheim in person."

Joan

Loudon, TN

Tour: 05/15/15

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

Extremely interesting. The special touches (like a tour of the bull ring in Pamplona), the walk on the Camino Real, the special care given to dietary restrictions, the smaller, more intimate restaurants whose owners showed how much they appreciated their food and customers, were wonderful! The area is fascinating in itself, and the pacing on the trip was spot on, not too long or too short in any area.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The Irun Cafe in Pamplona where they so admired Hemingway."

Christine

Springfield, VT

Tour: 05/15/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

My experience on tour was superlative. How I appreciated the pampering from the first night's orientation with Agustin. I immediately knew he loved his work and had our best interests in mind. He remembered my food allergies so the attention to detail was quite amazing and he had done his homework. This trip was my first with RS and I have praised the organization and the small nuances like "no grumps" folks! to all the people I know. I would sign up again in a heartbeat.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"This is a difficult question to answer as each day and place provided me with beauty and appreciation for the culture and landscape, places and people. I love scenery and vistas, always inspiring so the walk out on the breakwater in San Sebastian watching the waves crash and seeing the sculpture was amazing. Guggenheim in Bilbao was also a huge WOW."

Beverly

Roswell, GA

Tour: 05/15/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Agus was fabulous!!! I am a history/art history teacher and his knowledge and ability to explain the history of the region was exceptional! He made sure everyone was familiar with dining options and other sites for the free time. The group was most congenial, the hotels comfortable especially in Pamplona! Loved the walk on Camino de Santiago and the vineyard lunch that followed.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Experiencing the Camino!"

Carol

El Macero, CA

Tour: 05/15/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This was our sixth Rick Steves Tour and this one ranks right at the top! Agus was a wonderful tour leader. The people on the tour were so nice and easy going. We made many instant friends in this very nice group!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"I had many WOW moments... the beautiful seaside resort of St. Jean de Luz and Bayonne in France, walking the route that the bulls run in Pamplona, the power and drama of the crashing surf in San Sebastian, the titanium-roofed Guggenheim museum and the Bilboat ride in Bilbao. And... the food! Our group meals were outstanding, plus my husband and I splurged at 3 Michelin starred Arzak Restaurant for a once in a lifetime early anniversary dinner!"

James

El Macero, CA

Tour: 05/15/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This was our 6th RS tour, 2nd to Spain and both rank at the top of our experience. The whole tour might be considered a WOW from the welcoming discovery of Bayonna to the titanium castle of Frank Gehry in Bilbao. It was a step into a fascinating history and resilient culture, lovely people, marvelous food, famous places in literature, both ancient and 20th century, modern pilgrims on the Camino, beautiful varied country, inviting resorts and guides that made it a wonderful lifetime experience.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"There were many WOWs,fabulous high views of San Sebastian and Bilbao, but to pick a single one, it was the visit to the Guggenheim in Bilbao. No picture of great sculptures match the experience of being in the presence of the piece. So it was with this architectural fantasy. Being in and around and experiencing this gigantic sculpture of titanium, steel and glass with the compelling outdoor pieces did make it seem that the Emerald city had met Star Wars and made both all the more beautiful."

Martha

Canton, OH

Tour: 05/15/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

I thoroughly enjoyed this tour to the Basque Country. From the charming and historic streets, beautiful churches, gorgeous countryside and exciting cities, the days were varieid and interesting. There is such contrast to this area, with both old and modern. The cold rainy weather was unfortunate, but did not detract from the tour. These tours are packaged and planned so well, that the group quickly bonds over the shared experience. We became friends very quickly.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The walk on the Camino through the countryside was very special. I also liked the dramatic vistas of both San Sebastian and Bilboa. The Guggenheim in Bilboa was breathtaking in its size and structure. I could have spent more time there."

Louise

San Juan Capistrano, CA

Tour: 05/08/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

I have traveled extensively all of my life alone, with my husband, and with friends. I never expected to be on a tour. I was going to Paris for a wedding and my friend suggested we add a tour to our visit. So we added two. My first one was with another company and more expensive by a few hundred dollars. It was fine but not even close to the Rick Steve's tour. This tour was just fantastic and I have recommended it to others.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"No one moment. I fell in love with this region. I will go again. The entire experience was such a gift. Every destination was joyful. Our hotels were excellent for both location and rooms. My greatest compliments go to all of our guides and the small group experience (20) people."

Susan

Lacey, WA

Tour: 05/08/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

An excellent guide who loves his country and culture, Francisco exudes energy, kindness, concern for each traveler, and a bounty of good humor. He teaches and answers questions honestly, with an admirable openness and care for each traveler's questions and interests. He has expanded my knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of Basque history, and educated me with his love and caring approach to explaining places, people, politics, history, food, sports, etc. Wonderful leader!!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Learning that the matador's job is to show off the bull's skills so well that the bull is saved by the President of the Bullfight!"

Thomas

Port Austin, MI

Tour: 05/08/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

typically outstanding tour. Enjoyed Pamplona most but other places were great as well.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Walking on the running of the bulls route."

Dorothy

Hayden Lake, ID

Tour: 05/08/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This was our first RS tour. We were very happy with our experience. The size of the group was just right. We had lots of room on the bus to spread out, which made it very comfortable. The local guides for each city were knowledgeable and the pace of their narration and tours made each experience very enjoyable. The hotels were very good with two exceptions: The hotel in Pamplona was amazing; the hotel in Bilbao was nicely appointed but the staff were rude.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"My "wow" moment? Lots of them due to our guide, Francisco. If I had to choose one it would be his explanation of "Guernica." His passion and knowledge of the work was most memorable for me. The beauty of the country also wowed me."

RoeJean

Sammamish, WA

Tour: 05/08/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

We have traveled to Europe many times in the last 15 years, always using the Rick Steves guidebooks, but this was our first time to join a tour. We were delighted. The information we received enhanced all that we were seeing and all the travel transfers were easy and on time. The new bluetooth system was great. You were able to listen to the information, but still break away a few feet to take a picture and not miss a word.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"For me, it was the camino. With the historic info given to us on the bus while enroute by Fran, by the time we stepped outside the bus to start our walk it was a very moving moment for me. For my husband, the day in Pamplona was a wow. Most memorable was our visit to the bullfighting arena where we stood in the middle while Francisco explained the art & elements of the bullfight. Also, the running of the bulls. We both were moved by Francisco's interpretation of Picasso's Guernica."

Bernice

Willows, CA

Tour: 05/08/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Francisco was very knowledgeable about the history of Basque Country. He has the ability to notice things and make remarks about Basque life. Some things are obvious to locals and tours don't notice. His comments make the trip very rich.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Gerniko and Francisco's explanation of Picasso's painting."

Joanne

Spokane, WA

Tour: 05/08/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This was another truly wonderful Rick Steves tour with another amazing, phenomenal guide and terrific assistant. I found the history of the Basques fascinating, the story and experience of walking the Camino stunning, touching, and beautiful, the countryside truly lovely--reminding me at times of Switzerland--the special events set up by the company, the gastronomic highlights of the tour, and the Guggenheim, the architectural cherry on top.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"There were two "wow" moments for me. The first was the introduction to and experience of the Camino de Santiago on ALL its levels the historical, the practical, but most profoundly and touchingly, the spiritual, and the second was actually walking the course where the bulls are run in Pamplona and learning all about its history and the dangers/intricacies of the course."

Catherine

Sunset Beach, CA

Tour: 05/08/15

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Best tour ever. Our tour guide,Francisco, made the tour enjoyable and made us all fall in love the the Basque country.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The tapas and Francisco explanation of Pamploma's running of the bulls and the bullfights in the bull ring."

Janetta

Larkspur, CA

Tour: 09/28/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Excellent mix of indoor (art, history, dining) and outdoor (hiking The Way, walking tours), as well as guided time and free time. Agus was a great guide!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Seeing the Guggenheim Museum from the hill above."

Michael

Bellingham, WA

Tour: 09/28/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

We covered a lot of territory in our relatively short tour. A lot of information and a lot of sites were packed into this 8-day Basque sojourn. Wine, beer and tapas helped us to recover from the intense look at this beautiful land called the Basque Country.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Visiting Guernica"

Liz

Oakdale, CA

Tour: 09/28/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

The whole experience was wonderful.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"I especially enjoyed visiting the Basque Country capital city where we were able to see the stained glass ceiling of the assembly building. Learning about the 1937 bombing of the city and the hardship it imposed on theBasque citizens."

Richard

Los Angeles, CA

Tour: 09/28/14

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

tour very complete tour guide excellant group very compatible food terrific local guides very good hotels just fair except legrand was very nice. last hotel just fair breakfasts just fair would not recommend this tour for 85 year olds. although I and my friend,also 85 kept up with the youngster, the turain for 4-5 hours a day was a big challange

Favorite "WOW" moment

"the food"

Jacob

Waynesboro, PA

Tour: 09/28/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

We met the group in Bayonne. Gus was a great tour leader with an in depth knowledge of every element of Basque culture. Everything about the culture and that part of Spain was new to us. The tour brought it alive. We have traveled often to Europe on our own (with the help of a Rick Steve's guide book). We chose the tour this time because of the location of the tour (harder to do logistics on our own) and the need for a local expert. We got it all.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Toss up- the Basque Culture Museum in Bayonne and the Guggenheim in Bilbao."

Ellen

Los Angeles, CA

Tour: 09/28/14

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

The tour overall was great. At 85 years old it was probably too strenuous for me. I skipped the Camino trek, but even the days when we were walking and sightseeing on foot for more that a couple of hours was too much. I think I am ready for cruises!!! I certainly enjoyed what we saw and the included dinners and lunches were exceptional. Our Guide, Agus, was perfect, helpful and caring.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The Guggenheim Museum. It's what I looked forward to seeing and it was more than I could have imagined. I have the Disney Hall in Los Angeles which is great but the Guggenheim excedes all expectations. Of course the ice cream in San Juan de Luz ran a close second! Then there was the Jambon de Bayonne and everywhere superb chocolate!!!"

Joseph

Houston, TX

Tour: 09/28/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Tour more than I expected, more than just sight-seeing, enjoyed historical and cultural information furnished by guide, Augustin. Bus very comfortable and driver was the best. Meals provided by the tour were out of this world! Never expected anything like we had. I know that tour was result of much preparation and previous experience.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"There were many. Eating at gastronomical club in San Sebastian was near the top."

Marie

Waynesboro, PA

Tour: 09/28/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

A thoroughly enjoyable experience exploring a part of the world we would not have ordinarily traveled to on our own. Wonderful itinerary, excellent guide (Agus) and good company. Trip was very well organized and gave us a perfect introduction to Basque country.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The unexpected visit to Hemmingway's favorite bar in Pamploma (something that was not on the itinerary)."

Charlene

Campbell, CA

Tour: 09/28/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

The Basque country,what a wonderful place, so unique and rich in culture and history. The tour was a good mix of small towns and cities. Each of the three overnight spots were so different and fascinating. It was great having time to explore each one. Bayonne had such an "old" feel. San Sebastian was a beautiful beach town with such a fun vibe. Bilbao was a wonderful city with an amazing mix of old city and modern architectural wonders.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"I loved the short trek that we were able to do on the Camino. It was great to get a little feel for what the true trekkers were experiencing. I also loved the gastronomy club experience. Another very fun experience was out Pinxto Crawl. Agus did a great job prepping us for independence on our adventure. It was fun to try out our Spanish and gestures on the bartenders. It led to us being able to go out on our own the next evening and successfully negotiate our own pinxto crawl."

Janice

Fort Wayne, IN

Tour: 09/28/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Camino was very nice and well organized. Breaking it up and having the bus available for those not able to walk all the way was good."

Lucille

Charlotte, NC

Tour: 09/28/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

The tour was even more outstanding than I expected! There were many highlights--great traveling companions, beautiful sights, interesting history, languages to learn, culture to appreciate, an unusual area to visit...

Favorite "WOW" moment

"I am finding it very difficult to name one "wow" moment. How about our seven course lunch! Better yet, Agus' Gastronomy Club dinner in his hometown!"

Noel

Larkspur, CA

Tour: 09/28/14

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

Was a very good trip--in large part to such a great tour leader. Agos was personable, engaging and always had a great background on each place we visited.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Not sure I had a wow moment (such as we have had in previous RS tours) other than the whole experience was positive, informative and enriched my understanding of the Basque people and the their culture. Guggenheim (from the outside) was pretty spectacular."

Gerry

Campbell, CA

Tour: 09/28/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Agus was an extremely personable and attentive guide. His personal insights and experiences while growing up were invaluable for making this tour a rich cultural experience. The pace for the tour was easy going (except for the Camino trail) and the food was delicious. We visited Pamplona on our own after the tour ended and believe that this will be an exciting addition and convenient home base next season.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"My favorite "wow" moment was the grand vistas over the cities of Bilbao and San Sebastian from the top of the funiculars. The views of these modern cities totally destroyed the visual images of Basque country being hillsides and sheep herders. I only wish we could have driven through some of the evolving areas of these cities to view the modern changes to the Basque country as the city reinvents itself for modern times."

Helen

Rockville, MD

Tour: 09/28/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

I thought the tour was excellent. It was well organized, the tour guides were friendly and knowledgeable, and the hotels and meals provided couldn't be better.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The meal at the private eating club. Also, the walk on the Camino and the stop at Pamplona. All of the special little treats that Agus provided. Agus, our Basque tour guide was so friendly and always went out of his way to make our trip special. He was like an old friend. Talking to him really gave you an insight about what it is like to live in Basque country."

Linda

Kensington, CA

Tour: 09/14/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Loved all the tour guides and the info they shared. I know we enjoyed sights we would not have seen on our own. The perfect balance of organized activity and free time. Amanda was superb!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Viewing San Sebastian from the scenic overlook"

Gerry

New Smyrna Beach, FL

Tour: 09/14/14

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

I think the increased size of the tours diminishes the tours--locals are less apt to approach a larger crowd. With additional people, I didn't get the feeling I'd had on other tours that I was in touch with the people in the countries. For some reason, there was a lack of the coziness I'd felt on other tours.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"This tour had the most outstanding food of any of the RS tours I've been on. Each planned meal surpassed the last one. It was incredible! The gastronomical society's unique history added to their awesome talent as chefs and hosts."

Donald

Los Altos, CA

Tour: 09/14/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

The tour was very enjoyable, there was never a dull moment. We learned a lot about that part of the country and will always remmember it.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The TWO major "wows" were San Sebastion and the tour of Paloma, the guide was soooo much fun and a believer."

John

Cedar Rapids, IA

Tour: 09/14/14

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

The tour was very complete, enjoyed the mix of dining and touring experiences.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Walking the El Camino Santiago was an experience.; a chance to get a sense off what the true pilgrims were doing. I had not studied the Civil War for the visit to Guernica also 'opened my eyes'."

Paul

Kirkland, WA

Tour: 09/14/14

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

The Basque area tour was one of the more interesting of the RS tours I have taken. This area of Spain (OOPS! I mean the Iberian peninsula) is much different from what many of us normally think about it. The tour was well guided and coordinated. As usual tour group members was an exceptionally great group of people.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Bayonne was a very pleasant surprise. So was the meal at the local men's cooking group. Walking the Camino de Santiago though not really a 'pilgrimage' in my mind, gave me an insight into what this activity is about. Learning about the Basque people and culture as the biggest WOW for me."

Sherry

Cedar Rapids, IA

Tour: 09/14/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Basque was an "open book" for me. Wanted to experience all my senses and emerge myself in the culture. It happened and enjoyed the beauty and diversity of each area.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Actually a couple: walking along the Camino de Santiago trail and the Bilbao Guggenheim. The video room was awesome as many artists were singing the same song each in various settings. Many people lingered, even sitting on the floor to experience it."

Ann

Bakersfield, CA

Tour: 09/14/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This was my first Rick Steve's tour and I was very pleasantly surprised at how well it was put together. I am looking forward to my second Rick Steve's tour, just as soon as I can get the money to schedule one.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Many "wow" moments, I couldn't possibly narrow it down to one."

Kathleen

Bakersfield, CA

Tour: 09/14/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

My first tour experience with Rick Steves. I chose this particular tour for a variety of reasons: familiarity with the Basque culture due to the strong Basque influence in the Bakersfield area, the length of the tour, the lack of a single supplement and the countries involved (I had never been to that part of France before and this was my first trip to Spain). I had great expectations for my first trip with the Rick Steve's family and this experience didn't disappoint me! (cont. below)

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Expectations were met and greatly exceeded! Amanda was simply a delightful tour guide. Itinerary, meals and hotels were all outstanding. Loved the relaxed pace of this tour - mornings beginning quite a bit later than those on previous tours I had taken. Appreciated being able to stay in each hotel for more than one night. Loved the group time (meals, tours, bus rides), but also the time to explore on my own...or to just sit in a café and watch the world go by! Truly a magical experience!"

Christine

Woodbridge, CA

Tour: 09/07/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

I loved the tour of the Basque region in France and Spain. I felt I was immersed into the Basque culture. Before I went, I had very little knowledge of the Basque people. I felt like I learned about the land, the people, the history and food. The region is beautiful with the lush green hills and quaint villages. I enjoyed the pyrenees mountains and the beaches. We had the perfect mix of museums, history, guided tours and free time to shop and go to restaurants.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"My favorite "wow" moment was walking the Camino De Santiago. After our tour guide explained the history and meaning behind this pilgrimage, walking on it was very meaningful and spiritual. I was floored by the beauty and serenity. I was amazed to have been on a trail that people have walked for thousands of years."

Marge

Alexandria, VA

Tour: 09/07/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Beautifully organized and professionally led by Francisco and all his local guides, this was a wonderful experience across the board. Lovely venues, great hotels centrally located, fabulous food, nice people. Outstanding on all levels.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Difficult to choose. I'd say the food, and that seems so unfair to all the wonderful sights, but we travel outside the U.S. about five months a year, so sights are a large part of our normal traveling life. The food was exceptional."

Jean

Watertown, MA

Tour: 09/07/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This was an exceptionally well-organized and managed tour, with clear expectations for group cooperation and mutual responsibility. The guide was smart, charming and full of interesting information as well as attentive to the needs and individual personalities of the tour members. The scenery, cuisine, and cultural ambiance were all delightful. The two highlights were the walk on the Camino and the visit to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. Local small town and city life were also fascinating

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Walking down the riverside in Bilbao to the Guggenheim Museum."

Dwayne

Stillwater, OK

Tour: 09/07/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Great tour. I appreciate a tour that focuses on a culture and tries to immerse the participants in that culture rather than just seeing lots of "big" sites. I was not a big fan of Bilbao, but I know others enjoyed it. Otherwise, I have no complaints. Thanks so much for a great week!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"My favorite experience was eating at the private men's club in San Sebastian. As a tourist it is often difficult to get a sense of the culture and this event was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be closer to the people. This event should be a top priority for the Basque tour."

Floyd

Woodland, CA

Tour: 09/07/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Very relaxing and informative tour led by the perfect tour guide - Francisco, a local Basque with a nice blend of humor and passion. Learned a great deal about Basque history and culture. Great food and wine!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"My wow moment came on our walking tour of Bilbao and realizing the value to a city of good and creative architecture. Yes, there is the world famous Guggenheim Museum. However, there is a long history of great architecture in Bilbao that precedes the Guggenheim and the Guggenheim has inspired more good architecture since it's building."

Paul

Watertown, MA

Tour: 09/07/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Most enjoyable. The tour was very well planned, with a nice balance of being guided and free time to explore on your own. The variety of cities, towns, and countryside was rich as were the opportunities to explore in more depth certain aspects of the region to which the guides had provided an introduction. (For example, after being introduced to the work of Chillida and the art museum in San Sebastián, we spent some free time checking out the exhibit of his work at the museum.)

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Longer than a moment, but definitely "Wow" was our walking tour of modern Bilbao and the Guggenheim Museum with our excellent guide, Iretxe. Runner-up was the sampling of the Camino de Santiago. And Chillida's "Sea Comb.""

Leslie

Stillwater, OK

Tour: 09/07/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

It was fantastic! There was a great diversity of activities and great balance of group and alone time. This was my third trip to Europe and first with a group. I was concerned about how "herd-like" and cheesy it would feel being with a group. But the group size was great and the people were wonderful--slowly it became more like hanging out with friends.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Hmmm. The Camino de Santiago was much more moving than I expected. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to experience that."

Karen

Roseville, CA

Tour: 09/07/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

The people, food, sights were all wonderful1

Favorite "WOW" moment

"I loved the day on the Camino de Santiago and the meal at the winery after. San Sebastian was a great city and fun to see the sights."

John

Lynnwood, WA

Tour: 08/24/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Our tour guide, Francisco, made the tour the joy that it was. If all tour guides were like him, I'd travel more. Schedule of activities and free time were well balanced. Hotel rooms and locations were great. Meals were great. One suggestion for tour guide. If you tell an American cod is being served, we'll generally expect fresh fish. If you say bacalao, we'll ask, "what is that", and when finding out it's dried and salted cod that's been rehydrated, we'll probably say, "no thanks".

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The tour of the running of the bulls area in Pamplona was interesting because Francisco is from Pamplona and knew so many details of the area and the event. It was a very interesting history, description, and personal perspective on the event and bullfighting. I learned a different point of view."

Lise

Overland Park, KS

Tour: 08/24/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

As this was my second tour with Rick Steves I knew it would be pretty amazing. I was more than pleased with the overall experience. On our first day when Francisco asked us what our expectations would be, I honestly didn't want to have any. I wanted every day to be an adventure. I wanted to be open and just let it happen. I thoroughly enjoyed all of it. Simply outstanding!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"To be honest, I have never appreciated cubist art. And if anyone would have talked to me about bullfights I would have recoiled. But listening to the passion Francisco has for his culture, he completely revealed a new way of seeing Picasso's Guernica, or what the bullfight is all about or the spider sculpture Momma at the Guggenheim. It felt good to be reminded if we just open ourselves for just a minute and consider a different view, the world not only opens up but can move you. Thank you."

Patti

Morgan Hill, CA

Tour: 08/24/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This was my 1st R Steves' Tour, although I have been using his guidebooks religiously for 6 independent European visits. I really enjoyed not having to worry about the details; Francisco took care of everything and if anything unusual would have occurred, he would have handled that as well. I liked traveling with our small group and having other people to talk to besides just my husband. The bus was comfortable, the meals together were fabulous, and Francisco was animated and attentive.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The Guggenheim Museum in Bilboa is truly a remarkable building, true genius in its design. Unlike other European destinations, the Basque area is not a "wow" kind of place, but filled with individual experiences of learning about its culture, tasting its food and meeting the people. This tour is more of a "heart" kind of experience."

Sue

Woodinville, WA

Tour: 08/24/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

It was wonderful! I knew very little about the Basque culture before this tour, and I came away with great respect and admiration for the Basque people, and what they have endured and accomplished in their history. Francisco showed so much that was important to them, and gave us great glimpses into their character and history through his talks, the towns that he took us to, and the sights. I especially loved the parts about the Santiago de Compostela trail, and Pamplona (bull picture). Bravo!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"I had several, but my all-time favorite was Guernica. After hearing about the history and bombing of the town, we went to the replica in tile of Picasso's famous painting. Francisco's explanation of the work, and its symbolism, and how it was hidden in New York and returned after Franco's death, were wonderful and enlightening. But it was when he turned to us (mostly) Americans and personally thanked us for returning the work to Spain, that we were really moved. Thank you for that moment!"

Marion

Ventura, CA

Tour: 08/24/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This was my first Rick Steves tour and it exceeded any expectations I might have had. Francisco, our tour guide, is the best tour guide I've had in the four tours I've taken. His Basque heritage gave him a passion to be unequaled, his knowledge of the area and the people was exceptional, and his sense of humor kept us smiling. Learning about the Basque culture through his eyes was amazing.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Severa "wow" moments [INVALID] learning about the Basque culture and history was number one for me. Other "wows" were standing high up on Monte Igueldo and seeing the Bay of Biscay spread out below, walking the charming streets and seeing the houses on the river in Bayonne, the food [INVALID] oh the food! Every day revealed different "wows" from me."

Valerie

Sherwood Park, AB

Tour: 08/24/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Lots of history and cultural information. Great food. Good balance of organized activity and free time. I'm glad I was in reasonably good physical condition before going on this trip because we did a lot of walking. Francisco made allowances for anyone needing to walk less.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Seeing the Guggenheim Museum from the hilltop overlooking Bilbao. Walking on the Camino de Santiago."

Stephen

Morgan Hill, CA

Tour: 08/24/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Francisco's personality made the trip! His cultural knowledge was great!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"no wow moment, it was the over all experience."

Tim

Olathe, KS

Tour: 08/24/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

We had a wonderful time! Our guide Francisco was knoweledgable and led a very lively tour. The dinners and winery tours he set up were outstanding. We made an unexpected stop in Pamplona the day we walked the camino. That day was fantastic. We thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the tour.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"I loved the night in San Sevastian that we went out for tapas. Eating the pinxtos while elbowing into the bar like the locals was a blast!"

James

Bow, WA

Tour: 08/24/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Perhaps the best trip in decades for Kay and myself.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The entire evening at the the Basque Men's Club where Kay and I sat around the tables with these men and their women guests, arms on shoulders, laughing and singing and being in this magical moment"

William

Oshawa, ON

Tour: 08/24/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Third trip. Have enjoyed them all.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"It actually started before we entered Bilbao and the bus stopped on the hill overlooking the city. Great overview! But the real moment came while walking along the canal in Bilbao, past the Guggenheim and back to the hotel. Great city that I would definitely like to return and visit again."

Karen

Snohomish, WA

Tour: 08/24/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

The Basque Tour was an incredible experience! Our guide, Francisco, was an amazing introduction himself, into the Basque personality and culture. This tour quickly became richly rewarding in living and loving the "Basque" way of life!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"San Sebastián, having dinner at the local private Men's society club and Bilbao- were all breath taking! Interacting with the Locals at the Tapas crawl, is also an unforgettable experience!"

Sherri

Edmond, OK

Tour: 06/29/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Before this tour, I was unaware of the unique nature of the Basque people, their language, their societal structure, their history and current independent nature. I found this to be so interesting as we toured this beautiful region. The group was wonderful as we bonded in a very short time. When I look back on the trip I am amazed at how much we packed into an 8 day tour.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Walking part of the Camino was a "wow" moment. Just thinking about all the pilgrims that make the complete trek was inspiring. St. Jean Pied de Port, one of the starting points of the Camino, provided a beautiful view of the hill town and valley below and a fun picnic venue. Pintxo bar-hopping in San Sebastian was also a "wow" experience. So much fun!"

Weather

Spain / San Sebastián

Pre-Tour

We've put together some specific information on what you should know about this tour before you go. You'll also find more general information about "Getting Ready for Your Tour" on our Tour FAQ.

Trip Resources

Learn more about the Basque Country. Check out a collection of Rick's TV shows, radio interviews and articles.

Transportation

Prior to your tour departure, you will receive detailed directions on how to get from the airport to your first tour hotel, as well as contact information for your first and last hotels in case you wish to book pre- or post-tour hotel accommodations.

Many tour members arrive a day or two before the tour begins — and those who don't, wish they had. This allows you ample time to get over jet lag and make the most of the first few days of the tour.

There is more than one way to get to and from your tour. Most tour members will arrange to fly into Biarritz, France (a 20-minute bus ride from Bayonne, where the tour begins) and out of Bilbao, Spain (“multi-city” on flight booking websites). Booking round-trip to one city will require a connecting flight, train trip, and an additional overnight stay.

Tour members who spend extra time in Europe before or after the tour often fly in to or out of Barcelona, Madrid or Paris, connecting to Bayonne or Bilbao by rail or air.  

For information about flying within Europe, ask your travel agent or check Rick's list of European budget airlines.

Read Rick's train travel and rail pass tips to decide if your travel plans merit a rail pass.

If you have additional European travel or tour questions, contact the Tour Department at 425-608-4217 or email tour@ricksteves.com.

Sightseeing On Your Own

If you arrive a day or two early, note that we'll be visiting all of Bayonne's major sights as a group. Your best independent sightseeing options are day trips to the nearby towns of Biarritz and St. Jean-de-Luz — easily reached by bus or train. See Rick's Snapshot:  Basque Country for more details.

Packing

Clothes that can be easily layered to accommodate all types of weather conditions are recommended. We also recommend a pair of comfortable walking shoes with soles offering good traction. Portions of the Camino walk will be along dirt paths that can turn muddy if it's raining.

For advice on what (and what not!) to pack, see Rick's packing tips.