Rick Steves Basque Country of Spain & France in 9 Days Tour, Day by Day
Straddling the modern-day borders of Spain and France is one of Europe's most ancient, independent-thinking regions. Starting in Bayonne and ending in Bilbao, Rick Steves' Basque Country tour happily immerses you in the rich art, history, and culture of the Basque region, with lots of gourmet cooking, full-bodied wines, and a time-tripping hike along the centuries-old Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail. Stoke your travel dreams with this day-by-day slideshow preview of our Basque Country of Spain & France in 9 Days tour. Let's go!
Days 1 & 2: Welcome to Basque Bayonne
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.
The next 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 minutes) to the seaside towns of St-Jean-de-Luz or Biarritz.
Days 3 & 4: 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. After a short orientation walk, our guide will introduce us to the unique culture of eating tapas.
The next morning, we'll get up and run with the bulls — 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 the capital of Spain's Navarra region and as a key stop along the Camino. We'll also learn about Pamplona's association with author Ernest Hemingway — who hailed from Illinois but is celebrated here as a native son. Tonight we'll dine like the locals at a traditional sociedad private dining club.
Day 5: All Day on the Camino de Santiago
Today, we'll board our bus and drive deeper into El País Vasco — the Spanish Basque Country. But we'll 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, before arriving in San Sebastián in time to get oriented to our new neighborhood. The evening is all yours to simply soak in the sights of the beautiful Bay of Biscay surrounding you.
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 and at the beach, ride the funicular up to Monte Igueldo's viewpoint, or hike around Monte Urgull. Tonight, you'll be ready to make your own San Sebastián dining discoveries.
Day 7: Guernica and Basque History
We'll start our day driving along the rugged coastline of the Bay of Biscay as we make our way to a family-run sheep farm. After learning firsthand the importance of sheep to the Basque culture, we'll make our own yogurt before continuing on to the town of Guernica (Gernika). We'll dive further into 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 current political issues as we tour the Assembly House and its symbolic Oak Tree, where Basque leaders have met since medieval times. Then we'll make a beeline for our final destination — bustling Bilbao.
Days 8 & 9: 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 Bilbao's Old Town maze, Fine Arts Museum, and other sights. Tonight we'll rendezvous for a farewell dinner together, where we'll share travel memories and toast new friends. Topa!
Breakfast is provided the next morning, but there are no group activities. 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!
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(Itinerary specifics subject to change.)