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Explore Spain's gastronomic heartland by car, switching between bustling markets and pristine vineyards, lively cities and medieval cathedrals. Create your own pintxos, bottle your own vintage and taste cider fresh from the barrel, as you make your way through the ancient landscapes which produce an incredible variety of food and drink.
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Arrive in Bilbao, where we suggest you dive straight into your first taste of Basque Cuisine, with the elaborate pintxos in the bars of the old town. Explore the 19th Century sector, full of wide pedestrianised avenues, before crossing the river to the historic quarter, with its narrow, cobbled streets and the Plaza Nueva, the hub of the pintxo world in Bilbao.
The morning is yours to explore the extraordinary hulk which is the Guggenheim, a must-see for anyone visiting Bilbao for the first time. This afternoon you could visit the Euskal Museoa, to explore some of the Basque Country's archaeology and ethnography, or for something more contemporary, pay a visit to the Azkuna Cultural Centre.
Meet your guide this morning in Gernika for an insight into one of the most historically significant towns in 20th Century Spain. Monday is market day - and Gernika's is one of the best. Continue south to visit millennia-old salt pans, revered by Basque Michelin-starred chefs, as well as the medieval cathedral of Vitoria, before driving into La Rioja, the cradle of Spain's finest wines.
Immerse yourself in Spain's most famous wine region today as you explore the ancient and the modern art of winemaking. This morning you visit one of the most cutting edge wineries, before lunch looking out over the wines. This afternoon, wander up to the edge of the village to visit a traditional bodega, one of Pura's favourites.
Another very different side of winemaking today, as your friendly local guide will help you bottle your own wine at their family vineyard. This evening you are treated to a multi course tasting menu of innovative Basque cuisine, paired with local wines, sure to be one of the dining highlights of your trip.
Drive east to Pamplona this morning, where your local guide takes you through the historic streets of the old town before you join them in a hands-on pintxos workshop. Taste olive oil and wine to accompany the fruits of your labours, before you continue to your elegant hotel in the highlands to the north.
Today is yours to relax in the grounds of your hotel, or walk in the pretty Aralar Natural Park. Near to your hotel is one of the best sidrerias, the Basque cider houses, where you taste ciders fresh from the barrel, a great accompaniment to a hearty steak and txistorra, the Basque paprika-spiced sausage.
Tolosa market is another of the great weekly markets in the Basque Country, with abundant fresh produce. Continue to San Sebastian later, the belle époque jewel of Spain, where your guide leads you on a walking tour into the Old Town, the de facto capital of pintxos bars.
A little way west along the coast from the city, there are some delightful fishing villages, where you can enjoy some of the best of northern Spain's rich seas. There's also plenty to detain you within the town itself, from the funicular up Mount Idelgo for stunning views over the bay, to boat trips or a swim if the weather's warm.
For your final day, meet your guide once more for a walking tour through the city to see how its love of art is manifested. Continue out of town to examine the extraordinary sculptures of perhaps the most famous Basque artist - the footballer-turned-sculptor Eduardo Chillida. Return to town this afternoon to enjoy the beach if it's warm, and a final taste of the superb Basque cuisine.
Return to Bilbao today to drop off your hire car and fly home. If this quick summary has whetted your appetite for a tailor-made trip to La Rioja, we'd love to talk to you about tailoring something that is just right for you. See below for various ways to get in touch or request a full PDF itinerary for more details of this trip.
Note: This is just an itinerary idea and we'll therefore tailor everything to you.
Flexible departures: If you're ready to start travelling again, you can book now secure in the knowledge that we offer you the freedom to defer your trip, until the point your balance is paid, to any available date before the end of 2021.
Financial protection: For complete peace of mind in these uncertain times, your money is fully protected by our membership of ABTOT and the ATOL scheme.
Ensuring your safety: Please rest assured that your safety is always our top priorty. Our partners will all follow the strict guidelines set out by the government to ensure your safety whilst travelling, and we will fully support them to ensure they are able to do so.
This first thing to say is that what you have here is a 10-day itinerary. If you have fewer days then we will adjust the trip accordingly, based on what you most want to do and see. If you have the luxury of additional time, let’s see what else we can bring to the table; this is a region that rewards greater exploration, but which equally slots in nicely alongside time spent in the Pyrenees mountains or the vineyards of La Rioja.
Departs on a day to suit you, March through June, and September through November. May and June tend to be showery, but this is also one of the most beautiful times to visit. July and August will likely be a bit too hot to really enjoy some parts and San Sebastian gets too busy for our liking. The driest month is often September, with harvest usually towards the end of the month. October gradually gets more changeable but benefits from the beautiful colours of the autumnal forests.
The price is per person based on two sharing and includes:
First-class accommodation with breakfast
Compact vehicle hire
Guided excursions, wine tours and food experiences
Basque Country Holiday Guide with personal recommendations
Spain driving guide
Detailed walking notes where appropriate
Pura’s expertise, local contacts, support and advice throughout
International flights are quoted separately for this holiday. Best routings are into and out of Bilbao (BIO).
This holiday is based on a carefully chosen collection of very comfortable hotels, but most importantly we believe they offer variety and character. This makes your accommodation a key part of your holiday. You have a dramatic contrast of hotels formed of historical buildings that have been renovated, alongside some of the modern architectural projects that are so emblematic of the Basque region's creativity and innovation.
For more details, please get in touch to request a full itinerary.
Aside from being a relatively unknown quarter of Spain, the Basques of course have their own, very strong, identity and culture, of which they are fiercely proud. Over 10 days or so in the Basque Country, you are likely to be exposed to a great deal of this; you might catch a game of jai alai, the fastest ball sport in the world, or listen to a couple of people play the txalaparta - an ancient wooden instrument traditionally employed to call the neighbours in when there was a new cider barrel being tapped. Sharing this heritage and way of life helps in part to keep these traditions alive.
Any trip here is, at least in part, a foodie trip. Gastronomy is synonymous with the Basque Country for Spaniards and Basques alike. The wide variety of scenery in a compact area - sea, mountain, plain - means that there's an amazing range of fresh ingredients available, all sourced locally. This means that the money your trip injects into the Basque economy is largely circulated around within it.
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