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Basque Cultural Explorer Reverse

Spain's gastronomic heartland by car | View photos »

Explore the layers of history and the myriad flavours of the unique Basque Country, as you make your way through the ancient landscapes which produce an incredible variety of food and drink. With coastline, mountains and vineyards; bustling markets, medieval cathedrals and cutting edge art, this journey connects you to the people, flavours and culture of what is perhaps Spain's most idiosyncratic region.

11 day trip described, guide price £2,215pp i

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"Fabulous"

"Fabulous"

Hotels – ideal. Excursions – fascinating. Gastronomy – truly wide ranging. Wineries – great variety. Walking – fabulous. Philip J

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Sample itinerary

Enter the pintxos

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.

Guggenheim & Basque culture

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.

Gernika market and layers of history

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.

The art of winemaking in La Rioja

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.

Bottle your own vintage

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.

Create your own pintxos in historic Pamplona

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.

Walk in the hills or visit a local sidrería

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.

Delve into the market on the way to San Sebastian

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.

Explore fishing villages or relax in San Sebastian

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.

Basque art

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.

Drive along the coast back to Bilbao

Return to Bilbao today to drop off your hire car and fly home.

About this trip

Summary

New for 2016! A self-guided cultural exploration of the gastronomic heartland of Spain. Discover the incredible flavours, cultures and landscapes of the Basque country: coast, mountains, forests and vineyards are home to centuries-old monuments, cutting edge art and artisan food producers. Experience them all on this tailor-made holiday.

How adventurous?

Activity
1 2 3 4 5
Comfort
1 2 3 4 5
Culture
1 2 3 4 5

Best time to go i

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

Level of activity

This holiday is focused on the exceptional history and culture of the Basque Country; as such it need not involve any particular physical activity, other than some short walking around the cities and vineyards. That said, it is a tailored, independent holiday, and opportunities to be more active are there for the taking. While staying in the highlands, you have some lovely walking on hand, in the mountain and forests of Aralar Natural Park for example. Horse riding, climbing and mountain biking are all available.

Some good walking can also be enjoyed along the coast from San Sebastian if you decide to head that way. Within San Sebastian itself, you have a range of activities based around the water: swimming and surfing, kayaking and paddle boarding are all possible.

Level of comfort

This holiday is based on a carefully chosen collection of very comfortable hotels, but most importantly we believe they offer variety and character, making 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 a list of the hotels we use, please ask us for a detailed pdf itinerary for this trip.

In terms of weather the best months tend to be spring and autumn. July and August will likely be a bit too hot to really enjoy some parts. This is particularly true of San Sebastian, as much because of the crowds as anything (and hotel space can be very difficult because of this)May and June tend to be showery, but this is also one of the most beautiful times to visit. The driest month is usually 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.

Level of culture

Any trip which immerses you in the Basque Country is, by definition, culturally rich. Aside from being a relatively unknown quarter of Spain, the Basques of course have their own, very strong, identity and culture.

The Basques are fiercely proud of their heritage and culture, and traditional activities such as folk dances are carried out with some gusto. Over 10 days or so in the Basque Country, you are likely to come across some or all of various of these. Perhaps you'll catch a game of jai alai (Basque handball), 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.

Any trip to the Basque Country is, at least in part, a foodie trip, and 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.

Practicalities

This is a tailor made holiday which can leave on any day to suit you, though works best if departing on a Saturday, to coincide with Gernika's Monday market among others. The best time of year for the trip is from March to June and September to November.

As described, the holiday price is based on two people travelling and sharing a room. Included is accommodation as described, meals as listed in the summary, car hire, guided activities and excursions as described. Where provided, lunches and dinners include wine with your food. Naturally, on each and every one of our holidays, we include Pura's expertise, local contacts, support and advice throughout, along with the reassurance of our financial protection and safety auditing.

Flights are quoted separately for this trip. We generally assume flights to and from Bilbao. Though booking of travel to and from Spain is invariably best done directly by you, we will always help you with this process and offer our advice and expertise.

Departs

Departs on a day to suit you, March through June, and September through November.

Next steps...

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The described itinerary is just a taster of what this trip could involve. We would work with you to tailor your personal trip.

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  • Day 1 - These are a few of my favourite views
  • Day 2 - Our dream day of tapas
  • Day 3 - Clichés to avoid, clichés to embrace
  • Day 4 - The story of Guernica
  • Day 5 - Walking the Camino de Santiago - 15 favourite moments
  • Day 6 - Know your Rioja wines
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Book Send me exclusive content » Inspecting the autumnal haul of mushrooms in the market Bustling pintxo bar in the heart of Bilbao's Old Town Detail of Frank Gehry's startling Guggenheim museum in Bilbao The sacred oak tree of the basque in Guernica Baigorri's finest: tasting at one of our favourite Basque Rioja wineries Freshly grilled octopus at the wonderful Akebaso restaurant Locals enjoy the sun at Pamplona´s main square. Txotx! Basque cider, fresh from the barrel Inspecting the autumnal haul of mushrooms in the market Panoramic view of San Sebastian from Ulia The Wind comb, sculpture in San Sebastian by the famous basque artist Chillida The rough Cantabrian coast just outside San Sebastian