Basque country – an autonomous region located in northwest Spain and south west France – is filled with breathtaking coastal vistas, colorful villages and cities scattered throughout the green countryside.
Spain’s Basque country stretches from the popular beachfront city of San Sebastian (seen above) to Bilbao in the west and Vitoria-Gasteiz and the Rioja region in the south.
Basque country is often added as an extension to Spain and France trips, and I’m seeing cruise lines adding port stops here too. Vibrant, lively, spicy and diverse are just a few ways to describe the top 4 reasons to visit this beautiful region.
FOOD IS KING
A first-class culinary destination, the Basques are passionate about their cuisine. As of this writing, the region boasts almost 40 Michelin-starred restaurants. San Sebastian, Spain’s culinary capital, has more Michelin stars in all of Europe.
With it’s location on the Bay of Biscay, fresh fish and seafood play a big part in the cuisine. The interior of the region provides pork, beef, lamb and game. High quality dairy products and produce are also used extensively. Basques love their mushrooms too, and the region is also known for their tomatoes, potatoes, many types of beans and long green peppers.
Pintxos, the Basque version of tapas, are particularly popular. The best way to experience them is with a poteo, a civilized pub crawl where you wander from one bar to another, enjoying a glass of local wine and tasting the pub’s pintxo specialties.
Needless to say, there is no shortage of food experiences in the region.
The Basque region has two primary wine growing areas. Txakoli, a lightly effervescent white wine is grown on the hills overlooking the Cantabrian Sea, the southern part of the Bay of Biscay. Most of the vineyards have beautiful ocean views. Nice!
Txakoli (or txakolina) is a dry white often served with seafood, local cheeses and pintxos. Because of it’s local popularity, very little is exported, so to try it, you’ll need to make a trip to the region.
On the southern tip of Basque country you’ll find Rioja Alavesa, a sub-area of the famous Rioja wine region. The Cantabrian mountains tower over the area, creating an excellent microclimate for wine growing. Besides great wines, the area offers a wonderful combination of rustic Bodegas and wineries that are architectural showpieces.
Basque country is a region with a distinct culture, language and traditions. Throughout the year you’ll find a large number of festivals and cultural events, including the International Film Festival held every September in San Sebastian and Aste Nagusia, a 9 day event celebrating Basque culture held in Bilbao each August.
Perhaps the most famous is festival of San Fermin. Each July a million visitors come for music, fireworks, merrymaking and running with the bulls. San Fermin was originally a religious celebration honoring Saint Fermin, patron saint of the festival who died in battle in year 303 fighting the French army. The running of the bulls is thought to have been part of the festival since its inception. History states that it was originally a way to get the bulls from city center corrals to the bullfighting rings. Today, runners dressed in the traditional white pants, white shirts and a red bandana, run along a half mile route with the bulls – a scramble that lasts just under 3 minutes!
The festival is held July 6 – 14, with the first bull running at 8am July 7, followed by one running each day of the entire festival.
The Basque region is home to amazing examples of architecture, especially in Bilbao. The most famous is the Guggenheim Museum of modern and contemporary art. A 43 foot flower covered West Highland terrier “guards” the outside of the building.
Other interesting sites include the Campos Eliseos Theater, an example of Art Nouveau architecture, the Abando train station, home to a beautiful stained glass window and La Ribera Market, Europe’s largest indoor market.
Basque country is a special place and offers a wide variety of amazing experiences.
For more details, connect with Lakama Luxury Travel
602.540.7338 or email Laurie@lakamatravel.com
Laurie Marschall - Owner and Founder