• Bayonne, France
  • St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, France
  • La Concha Beach in 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 8 Days Tour

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, 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 8 Days!

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 • Bus excursion to walled French town of St. Jean-Pied-de-Port • Drive through the Pyrenees • Bayonne Museum of Basque Culture tour • Visit to the French Basque city of St. Jean-de-Luz • San Sebastián Private Dining Society (sociedad) dinner • San Sebastián walking tour • Pilgrimage walk along the Camino de Santiago trail • Navarre wine region excursion • Guernica visit • Bilbao walking tour • Guggenheim Museum tour...and more
  • All group transportation from Bayonne, France to Bilbao, Spain
  • 7 nights accommodations in memorable, centrally-located hotels
  • All breakfasts and half your dinners
  • All tips for guides and driver
  • Free stuff including Rick Steves' Spain guidebook, Spanish phrase book, moneybelt and earplugs
  • 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 2014
  • 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 around 5 p.m. for a Basque Region welcome 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: Bayonne and St. Jean-Pied-de-Port

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 scenic drive into the Pyrenees, stopping for a visit and free time for lunch in 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 your guide will enlighten you with details about the humble pilgrims who have trod across the north of Spain since the Middle Ages to pay homage to the remains of St. James. Later this afternoon we'll return to Bayonne for some time to explore the town and enjoy dinner on your own this evening. Bus: 2 hr. Walking: moderate.

Day 3: Basque Culture and St. Jean-de-Luz

We'll start our morning with a tour of Bayonne’s superb Museum of Basque Culture — setting the foundation for all we'll learn about Basque culture and history. After our visit, we'll board our bus and drive towards El País Vasco — the Spanish Basque Country.  En route, we'll stop and visit one last French Basque town; Idyllic St. Jean-de-Luz. After an orientation, you'll be free to explore the town's picturesque harbor, crescent-shaped beach, and pleasant pedestrian streets on your own.  From St. Jean-de-Luz we’ll follow the sea to San Sebastián.  For fun-loving diners, your guide will be happy to help organize a tasty tapas crawl tonight. Sleep in San Sebastián (3 nights). Bus: 2 hrs. Walking: moderate.

Day 4: Savoring San Sebastián

We'll start our day with a walking tour of elegant, prosperous San Sebastián (Donostia in the Basque language). We'll get a Spanish view of Basque life and culture today 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 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. Tonight we’ve been invited to dine like the locals at a traditional private eating club (sociedad) – where only men are allowed to help prepare our meal. No bus. Walking: moderate.

Day 5: All Day on the Camino de Santiago

We'll spend our day along the camino that leads to Santiago de Compostela, and experience first-hand the historic path trod by a thousand years' worth of pilgrims. This part of the trail is also a popular recreational hiking route, surrounded by vineyards that produce some of Spain's finest wines. We'll walk a level section of the trail, meeting a mix of devoted pilgrims and happy day-hikers. We'll stop for a well-deserved lunch and tasting of Navarre vintages at a local winery, then resume our pilgrimage. We'll return to San Sebastián in time for you to sample more of the region's gourmet cuisine. Bus: 4 hrs. Walking: moderate.

Day 6: Guernica and Bustling Bilbao

We'll drive along the rugged coastline of the Bay of Biscay this morning, stopping at a fishing village or two. This afternoon we'll learn more about the independent Basque spirit with a visit to the town of Guernica (Gernika), site of the infamous 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 then make a beeline for Bilbao, and get acquainted with Spanish Basque's most important city during our walking tour of the Old Town. Sleep in Bilbao (2 nights). Bus: 3 hrs. Walking: moderate.

Day 7: Bilbao's Dazzling Guggenheim Museum

We'll devote our morning 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 the city's Old Town maze, its Maritime Museum, and other sights. Tonight, we'll rendezvous for a last dinner together, where we'll share travel memories and toast new friends. No bus. Walking: moderate.

Day 8: Tour Over After Breakfast

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 8 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

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."

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.""

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."

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."

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."

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!"

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."

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!"

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."

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."

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."

Susan

Bainbridge Island, WA

Tour: 07/13/14

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

The Tour was well organized, and covered many highlights of the Basque country region. The diversity of our activities certainly provided us with a good eduction about the area, as well as being fun along the way. The schedule and selected walks, activities, and dining experiences reflected sound policies on the part of Rick Steves Tours.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The tour included a dinner at a Basque Society "club" in San Sebastian. Not only was the event special (in that we were the main diners in this traditional setting) for all of us on the tour, it was clearly fun for the Basque men who prepared the meal and provided the musical entertainment. The crowning touch was our amazing tour guide, Federico, bursting into song with his Pavoroti-like voice. It was a truly memorable evening."

John

Corvallis, OR

Tour: 07/13/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

It was truly fascinating to explore the Basque Country with all its history, culture, architecture, museums, and landscapes. And the food and fellowship during the tour were wonderful. All-in-all, a well-paced, informative, and enlightening tour!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Seeing the beautiful bay of San Sebastian and the unique architecture of Bilbao (especially the Guggenheim Museum, but other buildings as well) were definite "wow" moments."

TJ

Long Beach, CA

Tour: 07/13/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Federico was a knowledgeable and able guide, very informative, flexible, fun, able to make everything interesting and he shared his many talents, one of which is singing (he sang opera for us in small rural churches). I learned about an area I knew little about and came away with more of an understanding and appreciation of the people and culture. The towns were interesting and the level of activity, with lots of walking, good.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"I'd say, my Wow moment was the men's member-only private dining club in San Sebastian. That was a once in a lifetime experience, which I would have never gotten on my own, and probably not with any other tour group but Europe Through the Backdoor. The atmosphere was warm and informal and the food absolutely fantastic. It was a wonderful and memorable experience!"

Laura

St Louis, MO

Tour: 07/13/14

Overall rating: rating 3 of 5

The group of travelers was great, the local guides were engaging and intelligent. All of the meals were really good; the meal at the winery in Navarra was especially wonderful. It's a good itinerary overall - a mix of free time but many things still included. I wish we had been given more info from the guide about the Basque Region at the beginning, and not much was mentioned about the importance of the trail to Santiago de Compostela.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Loved walking the Camino. San Sebastian was also fabulous - I didn't want to leave."

Cathy

Seattle, WA

Tour: 07/13/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This was my first group tour and I enjoyed it a lot. There was a nice combination of group activities and time on your own. The guide made suggestions about what people could do and where they might like to eat when it was time to turn us loose, so that was helpful. The tour members were not the kind of people who needed to be baby sat all the time. I enjoyed meeting all of them and hope to see them at the tour reunion.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"In Guernica Federico took us to the copy of the Picasso 'Guernica' painting. He explained the painting in such a vivid and moving way that it almost brought tears to my eyes. I have seen pictures of this painting many times, but I never really understood it until Federico basically acted it out. Thank you, Federico."

Joanne

Corvallis, OR

Tour: 07/13/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

It is a demanding tour but one learns so much. Bilboa and the Guggenheim did not disappoint! What interesting cities we saw. Pamplona was a special surprise. That tour guide was so interesting and quite hilarious. Frederico's explanation of the painting "Guernica" was outstanding.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"My "wow" moment was seeing the Guggenheim Museum and Puppy. What a piece of architecture!"

Mary

Syracuse, NY

Tour: 07/13/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Can't say enough about the great hotels, delicious food & wine, wonderful tour guides, & "special" surprises! Loved every minute of every experience!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"As many others before me have written, there were many "wow" moments on this tour. This was my first European vacation in many years so it was some of the little things that made the trip special: walking into our hotel room in Bayonne and realizing that we had a balcony with a table and chairs overlooking the street below; savoring a simple breakfast of cafe au lait and croissant outside; taking in the beauty of San Sebastian from Monte Igueldo and running into a someone I knew on Monte Urgull!"

Elizabeth

San Anselmo, CA

Tour: 06/29/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Good group, good guide, good sights/experiences.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Pamplona, Basque Museum in Bayonne, Guggenheim"

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!"

Elizabeth

Burke, VA

Tour: 06/29/14

Overall rating: rating 3 of 5

I learned a great deal about the Basque culture. There was a wide variety of scenery, from pristine beaches to lush mountains, and it was all beautiful! I enjoyed staying in multiple cities, but I do not feel as though I had enough time at any of the places where we went, except for Bayonne and Bilbao because I was at both locations for an extra day or two before/after the tour.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"I walked up the mountain in San Sebastian one afternoon and it started pouring down rain, which actually made the short hike perfect. It was like I was hiking alone in the mountains, yet there was a city right below me! When I reached the top of the mountain, where the old fortress and the statue is located, the view over the inlet and San Sebastian was beautiful. On my way down, I got to see the lighthouse on the little island. I had to ditch my soaked shoes, but it was totally worth it!"

Timothy

North Bethesda, MD

Tour: 06/29/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This trip was absolutely one of the best vacations I have ever had. We loved our guide and his knowledge of the area and the way his tour was laid out.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Bilbao was a magnificent and the art in the city was incredible we will return someday on our own."

Leslie

Tiburon, CA

Tour: 06/29/14

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

Our overall experience was great (as we have come to expect from RS tours). We enjoyed the sights and activities. Our guides were excellent. We got to know some great people and had a very copacetic group in general. The weather could have cooperated a little more but there is no controlling that!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"My favorite day overall was walking on the Camino followed by lunch at a winery. I love hiking and wine so that was my kind of day! Another fav was the pinchoxs crawl. But, the biggest WOW had to be the Guggenhiem."

Martha

Idaho Falls, ID

Tour: 06/29/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Wonderful! Very educational. I cannot imagine visiting the Basque Region and enjoying it without the enrichment of this learning experience.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Too many to enumerate, but the beauty of the region, the food, the wine and the real sincerity of friendliness from the local people will always stay with me."

Chris

Aurora, IL

Tour: 06/29/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Great variety of activities and visits including a few museums, churches, a hike, a pintxos crawl, several local markets, funicular rides, history talks, a delightful gastronomie club, unannounced visit to Pamplona, public art, and two winery visits. All three hotels were more upscale than we typically see on a ETBD tour.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Never in my lifetime would I ever imagine that I would be so excited about visiting a modern art museum. Our terrific local guide made the Guggenheim explode with fascination."

Paul

Tiburon, CA

Tour: 06/29/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Previously we did the Italy tour. This tour was much different in that the guide, Agus,had to introduce and explain Basque culture. In Italy the structures and history are well known and require less or a different approach. I felt Agus did an outstanding job. He was patient and gave balanced and intelligent insight into his culture. We had a great group, there was only one mishap and Agus handled it well. We stayed ontime and the pace was well balanced. This tour gets my recommendation.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Bilbao was really inspiring, the old and new architecture meeting. Of course the other "wow" was the food and cost of wine!"

Claudia

Waco, TX

Tour: 06/29/14

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

This is my third Rick Steves tour and I will go on another...and another!Every place on our itinerary is someplace I would seek out if traveling on my own. I appreciate the mix of structured activity and free time and the emphasis on the history and culture of the region.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"It came after the tour. My grandfather was Basque, from the fishing village of Lekiotio. My husband and I took a bus from Bilbao to Lekeitio after the tour and walking the streets where he grew up and seeing the harbor he and his father fished from was very meaningful for me. On the tour, walking the Camino was one of many favorite activities. And seeing the Guggenheim for the first time after seeing photos of it was exciting."

Dorothy

Aurora, IL

Tour: 06/29/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Great tour buddies; wonderful food; outstanding guide; beautiful countries.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Our dinner experience at the private eating club (thank you Augus!)"

Ellen

Woodburn, OR

Tour: 06/29/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This is the third Rick Steve's tour we have been on and once again it was fabulous. Because it covered less 'mileage" it was more relaxed and we felt we got to know the area much better than some other tours. I loved the people and the villages were lovely. The cities of Bayonne, San Sebastian, and Bilbao were beautiful and so full of vitality. Agus was an excellent guide and the hotels were the best of any trip we have taken - charming and so comfortable.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Every dinner was a WOW moment. This was the best food of any trip - better even than Paris. San Sebastian and Bilbao are now number two and three on my list of favorite European cities - right behind Prague!"

Marla

Bonita, CA

Tour: 06/22/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Loved, loved , loved our trip!!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Every single day!"

Robert

Pebble Beach, CA

Tour: 06/22/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This was our 4th tour and one of the best. The hotels and meals were very good but the main reason we enjoyed it so much was the outstanding tour leader, Francisco Glaria. He was personable, funny, informative and spoke with passion about the people, culture and history of the Basque region. All of the tour members were friendly and blended well together. Toward the end we had become friends and were enjoying the great two hour Spanish lunches starting at 2 o'clock including wine.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The unexpected day trip to Pamplona was special as the town was getting ready for the "Running of the Bulls" in two weeks and we traced some of that path. We also visited Iruna Café which Hemingway frequented."

Rae

Pebble Beach, CA

Tour: 06/22/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

The tour was grand in every way. There were many unexpected parts of the tour that added much to our knowledge of the area as well as experiencing the culture through participation, i.e. walking the bull run in Pamplona and a small part of the Camino de Santiago. Francisco Glaria's enthusiasm about the area is unsurpassed.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Each day of the tour produced a "wow" moment or two. The ultimate one would be Bilboa's downtown tour including the Guggenheim Museum. The physical presence of being near and in these architecturally dynamic buildings is the "wow" factor."

Nevenka

Emeryville, CA

Tour: 06/22/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Excellent learning experience about the Basque Country. Excellent tour guide Francisco. Excellent driver Fermin.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Visit to the cafe in Pamplona, where Hemingway had frequented."

Laura

Des Moines, WA

Tour: 06/22/14

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

Our trip was great. Francisco is absolutely wonderful. What a nice, enthusiastic, knowledgeable and funny guy. His description of Picasso's Gernica should be taped and shared with others. The trip would not have been as good without our side trip to Pamplona. This is a fun city particularly with the Hemmingway history/cafe and bull running. I am not a bull fight fan,but seeing the street and l earning about it from Francisco was fun. 3 hr in St Jean was too much. Other cities were great

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Walking the Camino. For someone actually planning to do the walk, this only encouraged me more!! I love hearing the history of the area - Gernica, little town where Hitler met Franco, etc."

Tania

El Granada, CA

Tour: 06/22/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Overall tour experience was amazing. This was my first Rick Steves' (RS) tour. The group was a good combination of like-minded individuals, professionals, retirees, and a few youngsters; just a good balance to make the tour enjoyable. The best part of the tour was how Francisco was able to "manage" the group and adapt to possible changes. Francisco's combination of knowledge of Spain's history, of the Basque, and his experience as a tour guide made my experience a great one.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"I had several WOW moments, at the top was the passion Francisco used to describe the Guernica mural. This moment was deep and touching. The meal at the private club in San Sebastian was incredibly amazing. The walk on El Camino was challenging; it made me deeply respect the pilgrims walking all 500 plus miles of El Camino."

Claudia

Bolivar, OH

Tour: 06/22/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Enjoyed the whole tour and other tour members. We had a GREAT guide, Francisco, who had such a sense of fun about him. That rubbed off on all of us. He was very knowledgeable and passionate about the Basque culture. We all loved the side trip to Pamplona and his explanation of the running of the bulls and bullfights. (The matador is not the bad guy, as Francisco would say.) We also thought the tour was a great value. The included meals were sumptuous.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"My Wow moment was Guernica. While I knew Picasso's painting, I did not really know the story behind it. Guernica is the emotional center of the Basque culture. and I really felt the weight of history while standing in the parliament chamber. A highlight for me was the visit to the cave-like air raid shelter that saved some citizens, now used as a storage area in a restaurant. The earthy smell and closeness gave me a sense of what those people went through waiting out the attack."

James

Huntsville, AL

Tour: 06/22/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Thoroughly enjoyed this trip. Francisco was an engaging host. Although we had traveled extensively in France, this trip took us to an area we had never been able to visit. Getting to know something about the Basques and their history was probably the most significant aspect of the trip. Walking on the Camino de San Diego de Campostella was an experience I had never expected to have; I found it very satisfying. Francisco arranged for us to visit Pamplona which we thoroughly enjoyed.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The eating club in San Sebastian was a lot of fun; it may rate a "wow." The Guggenheim museum was a main reason for choosing this trip and we were not disappointed. Bilbao as a city was a pleasant surprise; it is much cleaner and welcoming than I had expected. We could easily have spent another day there. Guernica was a very significant stop on the trip; it helped me understand the attitude of Basques toward Spain."

Thomas

Cambridge, MA

Tour: 06/22/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This was my first guided tour of any kind and it far exceeded expectations because of our excellent tour guide.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"In Bilbao, we took an evening walk from our hotel up the South side river toward the Guggenheim. I found the beauty and power of the museum as it came into view overwhelming."

Anne

Virgina Beach, VA

Tour: 06/22/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This was our third Rick Steves tour. So far, we've thought the last one was by far the best. The point being, we've loved them all. We learned about the people, the culture, the food, the art, the complex history, as explained by a wonderful guide.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"We took a detour into Pamplona and am so glad we did because that became my favorite wow moment. The way Francisco described the meaning of the running of the bulls, standing in the square where it started, what the objective is and how it feels to do it (as told by someone who has done it many times) was fascinating. Never having really understood it, he explained the history as well as the meaning for the young runners, very well. The Guggenheim in Bilbao was a close second."

Elaine

San Mateo, CA

Tour: 05/25/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Beautiful scenery, good food & wine, excellent lead tour guide, and like-minded fun loving travel companions-- all these made the trip very enjoyable. Learned a lot about Basque history, people and culture.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Several "wow" moments: - the spectacular views of San Sebastian from Monte Igueldo - the transformation of Bilbao from an ugly industrial city into a modern city with attractive contemporary buildings and bridges designed by world renowned architects and artists. Guggenheim Museum is amazing! - eating tasty pintxos in San Sebastian and Bilbao. - memorable walk along the Camino de Santiago."

Dana

Seattle, WA

Tour: 05/25/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

(This relates to the Portugal tour - I forgot to mention. I REALLY appreciated the use of the audio system. It worked well, and enabled those of us who like to wander off a bit and take photos to be able to do that without becoming separated from the group) I've wanted to check out the Basque country mainly because I was told they had "Seattle-like weather" - which was true while we were there - my favorite thing about the area! As an artist, I loved the visit to the Guggenheim.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Hard to pick out any ONE moment because the entire tour was wonderful! The "wow" came in, though, with the tiny "single supplement rooms" on air shafts. At the end of the tour, in Bilbao, we paid only 10E each to upgrade to a full-sized double room (each). I can understand getting these tiny rooms if one is not paying a single supplement, but paying it should buy us a regular room, as it seems the single sup. is paying for the "other" person in the room. The walk on the Camino was very special."

Shawn

Chelsea, MI

Tour: 05/25/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

We selected this tour because we had not traveled to Spain before and felt we need an introduction to Spain. This tour would be harder on your own, and we thought we could navigate/explore the easier cities of Barcelona and Madrid afterwards. This theory proved to be true. Beyond that, the tour - with its exploration of the Basque Country -- was even more than we expected. It was fascinating, wonderful, different, and lovely. But it was truly our guide that brought all to life.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The Mens Gastronomy Club. It was so fun to see our guys interact with the Basque hosts. The hosts were gracious, seemingly allowing us to be a part of their world. Good food, good fun. You just don't get this type of experience traveling on your own. It's trademark Rick Steves."

Ellen

Belle Harbor, NY

Tour: 05/25/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

In the past, I have only traveled independently. This was my first tour experience and all I can say is WOW! First off, our tour guide Francisco was wonderful! He was knowledgeable, well organized and created a sense of family among the group. His wonderful personality made the trip a fun experience. The Basque Country is extremely beautiful, and I loved learning about the culture. As a painter, the sights were a visual treat. Bravo Rick Steve's, I will be back for another tour.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Camino de Santiago"

William

Fairfax Station, VA

Tour: 05/25/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Basque culture, all the guides, the sites and food were all fantastic! Even the bus driver was super friendly and loved to chat at lunch and breaks.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Guggenheim Museum was the outstanding wow. Yoko Ono's art exhibition in stunning modern art building was great. The walk on el Camino de Santiago was memorable and the side trip to Pamplona was a special treat. Tapas and the dinner club in San Sebastian were terrific."

Alice

Snyder, TX

Tour: 05/25/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This was my first Rick Steves' tour although I have used his books for years as my "travel guide" in Europe. I was nervous about losing "freedom" or being "constricted" by being with a tour, but this was a wonderful experience. Our group was great, and Francisco,our tour guide, was exceptional!! I loved every minute of this tour!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"There were so many WOWs! To walk on the Camino de Santiago was one of my reasons for choosing this tour. That did not disappoint, but I really think the surprise moments like last minute side trip to Pamplona and special treat of dining with the Itzalpe private dining club top the list! I knew so little about the Basque region and its people before this trip. Now, I want to know more!"

Emily

Perkasie, PA

Tour: 05/25/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

I am 76 and decided to see if I could still do a RS tour. RS is still the best and recommend them to anyone who is physicaly able and open to new adventures and unexpected fun experiences. This Basque tour was one of the best. Beautifl country, intersting and very pretty cities and villages. Francisco a humorous, knowledgeable, helpful fantastic guide, which, incidentally, turned into a Gastronomy trip for those who appreciate a variety of good quality food, wine and unforgatable desserts.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"There were many, San Sebastian from the funicular view, surprise vist to Pamplona, smaller port villages, the Camino de Sandiago Pilgrimage walk and the delicious food and fantastic guide."

Marge

Keizer, OR

Tour: 05/25/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing a part of Spain that was new to me. The Basque country is so beautiful and I enjoyed the people, culture, food and so much more. I think it was timed perfectly. Francisco somehow managed to share his hometown, Pamplona, with us which was a special treat. I would recommend this tour to anyone.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"On a beautiful sunny day we took the funicular up to view San Sebastian. That was my "wow" moment."

Loi Dene

Yuma, AZ

Tour: 05/25/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This was my first Rick Steves' Tour and it exceeded all my expectations from the quality of the hotels and food to the professionalism and warmth of the guides. Just an amazing trip!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"So many "wow" moments that it is difficult to choose! One "wow" moment was when we looked out over the countryside from an winery and were able to see miles and miles of vinyards as well as homes and grazing animals and small vegetable patches."

Julie

Kerrville, TX

Tour: 05/25/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This was my first Rick Steves tour, although my traveling companion and I have used Rick Steves guide books in our travels for many years. I expected an active and informative tour, and it was certainly that. However, what made this tour exceptional were the many opportunities to "experience" the culture, not just learn about it. Our guide's knowledge, passion, and sense of humor stimulated our curiosity, and we felt free to ask questions not only of him but of the city and museum guides too.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"There were a number of "wow" moments, including the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, but the one I would choose as my favorite was the tour of the Basque Museum in Bayonne. I knew very little about the Basque culture until our visit there. Our guide seemed well-informed and passionate about the Basques and their culture. She presented clear and fascinating information that provided meaning and context for the rest of our experiences on the tour."

Carol

Fairfax Station, VA

Tour: 05/25/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

To start, Francisco was top of the line as a guide. He really made the entire trip so memorable. The length of the trip was just right. The cities were varied which kept my interest. We were very fortunate to go to Pamplona, as Francisco was able to share his home town with us. You may want to add Pamplona as a permanent visit on this tour. Lodging was very good. Food was spectacular. History and cultural information given by Francisco and Augustus excellent.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The Camino experience was #1. A real treat to mingle with the Pilgrims after reading several books on The Camino experience. The spiritual time alone was very rewarding. Close 2nd: The Men's Society Club evening was very unique. What a treat spending time with those three chefs. Tons of fun. Great evening."

Kimberly

Columbia, MO

Tour: 05/25/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Walking the Camino."

Linda

Seattle, WA

Tour: 05/18/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Charmed by the intimacy of the tour, our exceptional guide (Augustin), and the relatively untouristy places we visited. The group melded well and our accommodations were excellent. The weather for the Camino was challenging, but we managed to walk the trail without any severe weather hampering our journey. The initial descent from the starting point was easy for me, but it might have been a little challenging for tour members who aren't as agile.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The Guggenheim Museum is so much better than I expected. I was completely awed by the siting, the construction and the collection. Not to mention the Jeff Koons dog at the entry! Wow!!"

Diane

New Bern, NC

Tour: 05/18/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Prior to this tour I had little knowledge about the Basques but this tour was a great learning experience. Our tour guide Agus brought the Basque region and its people to life. Was an amazing experience.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"There were a few. The hike along the Camino de Santiago trail. The beautiful scenery of the Pyrenees, small villages, vineyards the great food and wine."

William

New Bern, NC

Tour: 05/18/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

The Basque region was more beautiful and interesting than I had anticipated from my reading before tour. The land was beautiful full of history, the people were very nice and the food was outstanding.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The day of the pilgrimage walk was a very interesting day. I'm not particularly a religious person but to walk the trail was very moving. Thinking of all the people over hundreds of years that walked the trail really made you think. That day was rainy and heavy wind but it sure was interesting. We then went to lunch at a winery, it was the BEST !"

Gerald

San Jose, CA

Tour: 05/11/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

We had a wonderful time in the Basque country. Francisco, our guide, really took the time and care to provide us with an experience that we will remember. I was especially pleased with the food on the trip. The places and menus were some of the best I've had on a any tour.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"It was the walk on the Camino. It was really why I went on the trip. When we looked down on the hill overlooking Pomplona, I felt very fulfilled."

Gail

Colorado Springs, CO

Tour: 05/11/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

I LOVED seeing Spain and thought our group of travelers was very congenial and Francisco was a GREAT guide. It was nice that we could hear about, and see, his own hometown of Pamplona. His description of the "running of the bulls" was fascinating. I felt very safe with our bus driver and the scenery was FANTASTIC! I still envision the beautiful rolling hills dotted with white stucco homes with red tile roofs. I really enjoyed being on the N coast of Spain and seeing the beautiful ocean.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"On our way to San Sebastian we stopped for a FABULOUS many-course lunch. Every bite was full of delicious flavors. (The WOW moments.) I have never had such an elaborate 5 course meal and had never eaten "beef cheeks" before. Everything was very tasty and I didn't leave a crumb on my plate."

Ellen

San Jose, CA

Tour: 05/11/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

I started the tour with great anxiety as I was having a knee problem. My husband and I had been in France for ten days and it was getting more difficult for me to walk. At the orientation meeting I told our guide Francisco. He told me about what to expect. I took out my fold up cane and was able to do the trip with help of museum elevators.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The beautiful Badque cities which I knew little about Bayonne, San Sebastián and Bilbao."

Judith

Medford, OR

Tour: 05/11/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

The overall tour experience exceeded my expectations. This is my 7th RS tour, and I always find that my last tour was my favorite.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"There were a lot: the arrival in San Sebastian, up the funicular and viewing the spectacular bay and city was WOW; the visit to the village of St. Jean Pied d' Port in the Pyrenees made me feel like a pilgrim--WOW; the Camino Santiago walk itself gave me a new perspective--WOW; discovering the transformation of Bilbao impressed me with the people's ingenuity--WOW. I could go on and on...."

Tom

Colorado Springs, CO

Tour: 05/11/14

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

We had a great time with an excellent guide - Francisco - an enthusiastic and congenial group, fantastic weather - no rain and pleasant temps, and an outstanding agenda of places, people, sights, and experiences.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Seeing a dead ringer of my former college roomate, a Basque from Idaho, "looking" at me from a large photo as I toured the Basque Museum in Bayonne."

Mary

Glen Ellyn, IL

Tour: 09/29/13

Overall rating: rating 3 of 5

I sensed at our first group meeting that we had a good group of people, and everyone enjoyed traveling together. One nice aspect of the Basque tour is that there are no long days in the bus and we were in San Sebastian for three days. It made for a more relaxed experience.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"My favorite "wow" moment of the tour was looking out from the top of a mountain overlooking San Sebastian - what a panorama! the ocean, beautiful beach, town all surrounded by mountains. A view I will not forget. Walking the Camino was a "wow". I could not walk the entire Camino, but I appreciated the chance to walk a bit and be a part of the experience."

Chris

Crescent City, CA

Tour: 09/29/13

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This is my first Rick Steves' tour although I have been a follower for many years. It was exactly what I had hoped for. It was a real joy to be with 24 like minded travelers all discovering the Basque Region together but at the same time having enough free time to discover areas on your own.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"After seeing the movie "The Way" and researching the Camino I was anxious to see St. Jean-Pied-du-Pont. I also thought the view from atop a mountain looking down to San Sebastian was awesome. Another WOW moment was when Francisco announced that we were going to Pamplona for a short visit to see where Hemingway hung out and the streets where the Running of the Bulls takes place."

Jason

San Francisco, CA

Tour: 09/29/13

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

The Basque Country of Spain and France differs from many tours in that it is not about monumental sites, but about the way the Basque Country made me feel! The Tour provides a first hand experience which I will never forget.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Walking four miles on the Way of St. James, "El Camino de Santiago" Walking on the beach at night in San Sebastian"

George

Waynesboro, VA

Tour: 09/29/13

Overall rating: rating 3 of 5

Overall, the experience was very good. My only objection was excessive free time, while we could have been doing specific visit. Otherwise It was a very good experience. Maybe there wasn't things that would have interested the whole group.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"In my experience the visit to Guernica. My LOW moment was the visit to the White winery. The wine was a big let down. How can any body drink it!"

Kristin

Dublin, OH

Tour: 09/29/13

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

It was a really fun trip, with great tour mates. The group gelled quickly. We saw a lot in short period of time. I liked being where it was less touristy. Being places without a lot of Americans was also good.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"I think it was the beauty of the region. Also the building within the building in Bilbao, along with the architecture of the Guggenheim. Lots of memories."

Michael

Galloway, NJ

Tour: 09/29/13

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

The best combination and balance of the five ETTBD tours since 2003: tour members, guide, food, wine, culture, terroir, bus driver, people, sites, weather.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Walking the camino."

Jeff

Crescent City, CA

Tour: 09/29/13

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Francisco made the tour[INVALID]he is most excellent as a tour guide and took the time to address each individual's questions and concerns as they came up. Another big plus was the restarants chosen for the group meals[INVALID]fantastic. Way beyond the quality I was expecting. Thw wine and water were never allowed to go dry either. Overall, a great experience.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Walking a section of the Camino."

Pamela

Glenview, IL

Tour: 09/15/13

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

The Basque seems to be unique and our guide, Francisco, claimed it proudly. It's hard to separate the Basque from Francisco because the whole trip was so personal. I shared a walk with him to the Guggenheim the night after we went to Guernica. He goes there to release all of the emotions that stab at his heart in Guernica. I got to experience that with him and the rest of the Basque culture.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"It's a toss up between The Camino and The Guggenheim. The whole trip seems to build, just like Ravel's Bolero, with the constant cadence and rhythm of the sea and footsteps."

Francie

Sunriver, OR

Tour: 09/15/13

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Everything from Bayonne to the Guggenheim was exhilarating! Even the rainy weather could not dampen our spirits while exploring this beautiful country. The Basque culture is fascinating and no one could have shared it better than Francisco. The tour went well beyond my expectations.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"My "wow" moment came the day I first stepped foot on the Camino de Santiago. Rain was predicted but a no-show. It was a beautiful sunny day, the wind at our backs, exceptional landscape, and a cold beer in the village! Our guide stressed the essence of a pilgrimage, even for those doing a short distance. For me, this meant being in my own zone resolving issues in my own life. The experience was profound, leaving me wanting more yet feeling I had achieved some peace in my life."

Tamio

Portland, OR

Tour: 09/15/13

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Our tour guide, Francisco was outstanding. He was funny, knowledgeable, very meticulous with schedule and care for tour members. Length of the trip was great, except I would have liked to spend another day in Bilbao. Have I known that Bilbao had a lot offer, I would have stayed extra days. As usual, local guides were excellent.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Dinner at local private fisherman's club was great. This is the kind of extra event that we appreciate through Rick Steves' tour."

Lois

Belfast, ME

Tour: 09/15/13

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Overall, I have to say that I gained more knowledge about the Basque country and peoples than i expected. The accommodations were better than expected with the best locations.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"I was amazed and touched by the depth of feeling in Gernika. This was the place where you can really feel the history and tragedy of the Basque culture."

Kate

Portland, OR

Tour: 09/15/13

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Francisco was a very knowledgable guide. He seemed personally familiar with every place we stopped. More importantly, he had a great sense of humor. His conversations with the group were entertaining and informative. The location of the hotels was great, the hotel in San Sebastian had a perfect location. Group dinners were also excellent.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Even in poor weather, San Sebastian was beautiful with the river and the ocean, the harbor. It was just a lovely place to visit."

Jonathan

Sacramento, CA

Tour: 09/15/13

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

The cities and accommodations where beautiful throughout the trip. Our fellow travelers where a joy to explore the Basque country with. Francisco, our tour guide, managed to exceed our expectations of a Rick Steves' Tour, and this is our third trip. We enjoyed wonderful food, culture, art, and company throughout.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Standing above the trait-head where we joined the Campostella Camino. First seeing, and then first entering the Guggenheim. Pretty much every pintxo...can't pick one. Sorry."

Thomas

Glenview, IL

Tour: 09/15/13

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

The tour was great. The towns we visited, the Camino, and the Guggenheim were all fantastic.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Seeing the Guggenheim Museum"

Daren

Olympia, WA

Tour: 09/15/13

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This was the best tour I have ever been on. It was a good mix of group activity and free time.Our group seemed to bond quickly as our guide Francisco, set the stage for success. It was a nice change from tours that emphasize hours of bus travel, a few minutes at a site then being herded into a "shopping" expedition. The emphasis on culture, history and politic gave us an in depth understanding of the lives of the Basque people. I know I came away with a better appreciation. The food was FAB

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Too many to count. Maybe it was viewing a wall mural in an obscure location hiding behind a trash barrel, the mural depicted the Basque historic struggles and pride, brought to life with Francisco's explanation. Or maybe it was the lively tapas crawl, ending with an impromptu traditional Basque dance down a midnight street. Then again it could be the visit to the Camino de Santitiago, a truly spiritual place. Bilbao was a pleasant surprise."

Bruce

Mesilla Park, NM

Tour: 09/01/13

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Thanks to a thunderstorm over Chicago and Air France, we arrived 24 hours late, just as our tour group was finishing its introductory dinner. But aside from that, everything about the tour was just great. We enjoyed all the sights, the hotels, the meals, and especially the good company of our guide, Francisco Glaria, and our fellow travelers.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"This is a tough question, because there were so many. Our hike along the Camino de Santiago was wonderful, combining good exercise and bird spotting (I'm a birder). Another highlight was our "insiders' tour" of Pamplona, Francisco's hometown. Guernica and Bilbao were both unforgettable and "must sees'" for anyone visiting the Basque Country."

Linda

Mesilla Park, NM

Tour: 09/01/13

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This tour doesn't cover a large area but it offers lots of variety and great experiences. I liked the mix of city walks and a walk in the country on the Camino, market day in St. Jean Pied de Port, coffee in Hemingway's bar in Pamplona, wine and chocolate tastings. We learned so much about Basque history and culture and the Spanish Civil War, so a lot is packed into eight days.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The Camino experience: seeing and talking to some pilgrims as they were just starting out in St. Jean Pied de Port, and then walking for a few miles on the route on a beautiful sunny day."

Barbara

San Francisco, CA

Tour: 08/25/13

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

This was an iexcellent and nteresting tour. I had exposure to aspects of Basque culture that I would not have had if I had taken this trip on my own. The tour had a nice mix of activities and locations. Highlights included walking on parts of the Camino, pintxos in San Sebastion, visiting Guernica, seeing the Guggenherim in Bilbao, and of course all the great food and wine!. I had a great guide and a nice group of fellow travelers

Favorite "WOW" moment

"It is hard to name just one! A definite "wow" moment was dinner at the Basque social club in San Sebastian. The food was excellent but more importantly this was an insight into the Basque culture. It was definitely something unique to the tour that I would not have experienced otherwise."

Patricia

Seattle, WA

Tour: 08/25/13

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

The tour was fabulous from the moment we met the group in Bayonne to the night we had our final dinner together in Bilbao!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"All the history we learned from both our RS guide and the local guides."

Weather

Spain / San Sebastián

Spain Weather

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.

Sightseeing On Your Own

If you plan to arrive early into Bayonne, please be advised that the town is extremely quiet on Sunday (all the shops are closed) and we will be visiting all of the city's major sights as a group. Therefore, we recommend the following sightseeing options: Take a day trip to (or spend prior night(s) sleeping in) the nearby town of Biarritz — easily reachable by bus or train. See Rick's Spain guidebook for more details.

If you are planning on flying into or out of Barcelona or Madrid, these are also logical choices for sightseeing before or after your tour. For details about traveling elsewhere in Spain, please see Rick Steves' Spain guidebook.

Transportation

Most 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. We recommend talking to your travel agent about "open jaw" airline tickets (flying into and out of different cities). It's easiest to fly into Biarritz, France, a quick 20-minute bus ride into Bayonne, and out of Bilbao, Spain which has its own airport. We do not recommend flying roundtrip into either Bayonne or Bilbao, as it is a seven-hour train ride (often with multiple connections) to travel between the two cities.

Another option is to fly into/out of Barcelona, Madrid, or Paris and then train or fly to/from Bayonne/Bilbao. If you decide to fly in/out of Barcelona, Madrid, or Paris, you might consider spending a few days before or after the tour in these cities.

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 and decide if your travel plans merit a rail pass.

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.

If you need more information about additional European travel or for specific questions about your tour, contact the Tour Department at 425/608-4217 or email tour@ricksteves.com.

Trip Resources

Learn more about the Basque Country: Check out a collection of Rick's TV shows, radio interviews and articles, plus find a list of recommended books and movies.

Packing

While it is important to pack light, there are a few items we'd like you to consider including when packing for this tour. The Basque Region has many micro-climates; it can be rainier, cooler or warmer than expected in every season. 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 ideas on what to pack, check Rick's Packing List and our Women's Packing List.