A culinary tour of the Basque Country
Sample itinerary | 6 days/5 nights
The Basque Country is the gourmet epicentre of Spain, with many Michelin starred restaurants such as Arzak, Akelare and Berasetegui, along with “Gastronomic Societies” and famous tapas bars. Foodies from across the planet make their way to this Gourmet Mecca every year, just to dine at San Sebastian’s multitude of Michelin star restaurants and try the tapas or pintxos as they known locally.
From the cutting edge wonder of Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum to the Belle Epoque charm of San Sebastian, the Basque Country offers a wide variety of sights and activities. In addition to exploring these two great cities, we visit the lush green interior, with its delicious, hearty cuisine and age-old traditions. Along the way, we also visit several fishing villages on the picturesque Basque coast.
This tour is designed for the food and wine lover in mind. Highlights include two cooking classes, an unforgettable “pintxos tour” of San Sebastian and a memorable dinner in a Michelin 3 star restaurant, Arzak.
The itinerary shown below is a sample and can be fully customized to suit the needs of your group.
Day 1. Bilbao
Private transfer from the airport to your hotel in Bilbao. Afterwards, visit the internationally acclaimed Guggenheim Museum with a private guide. Frank Gehry’s titanium masterpiece has brought new life to the industrial city of Bilbao, along with Sir Norman Foster’s unique metro system.
Continue with your guide for a walking tour along the Nervion River, passing the new Santiago Calatrava Bridge, and crossing into the old town. Bilbao has a colourful medieval quarter (the Casco Viejo), and we explore the original seven streets where Bilbao was founded some 700 years ago. Enjoy a wonderful dinner in the Old Quarter. Dishes include crab croquettes, spicy green peppers, smoked Idiazabal cheese and an assortment of seafood dishes.
Accommodation | 5-star hotel (2 nights)
This elegant, luxurious hotel is one of the finest and most majestic hotels in Bilbao. First opened in 1926, it is one of the city’s most emblematic buildings. This architectural, historical, artistic and cultural monument has played host to King Alfonso XIII, Federico García Lorca, Albert Einstein and Maria Callas, amongst others.
Day 2. Bilbao
With a private driver-guide, head for the Bay of Biscay, where you’ll visit the tiny island hermitage of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. Ascend the 231 steps that lead to the tiny chapel (dating back to the 10th century) and enjoy stunning views of the Bay of Biscay.
Continue to the small fishing village of Elantxobe, built on a very steep hillside and nestled between a cliff and the sea. The village has a long sea-faring tradition. Even today, both Elantxobe and Bermeo (the village situated on the other side of the river estuary) celebrate festivities in remembrance of centuries-long disputes over the island of Izaro, which is situated halfway between them.
After a delicious lunch including the fresh catch of the day, take a walk in the Oma Valley to visit the curious Painted Forest. Basque modernist artist Agustin Ibarrola has used a thousand trees as a canvas to paint images of eyes, people and abstract shapes that line up and take different forms as you walk through the forest.
Time permitting; you’ll stop in Gernika, the cultural capital of the Basque people and seat of their centuries-old independence and democratic ideals.
Return to Bilbao. Dinner on your own to try the local specialties.
Day 3. Hondarribia
We farewell Bilbao and return to the Basque coast. Our first stop is Getaria, a bustling seaside town and birthplace of both Magellan’s navigator Elcano and the designer Balenciaga. In the surrounding hills we visit a family-run winery, where we are invited to taste the crisp slightly sparkling white wine called Txacoli. Lunch of freshly caught fish grilled over an open fire is served dockside.
After lunch, we travel to the picturesque 13th century fortified village of Hondarribia. Located on the banks of the Bidasoa River, the quaint border town is situated on a little promontory facing Hendaye (France). It’s magnificently preserved medieval quarter contains cobbled plazas and historic palatial homes boasting regal coats of arms. Adjacent to the Old Quarter is La Marina; the Maritime Quarter, with its tall brightly-coloured fisherman’s houses.
Dinner tonight includes exquisite specialities of this beautiful region.
Accommodation | 4-star hotel (1 night)
Founded by the Navarrese king Sancho Abarca in the 10th century, our hotel rises up in a beautiful castle which maintains the structure of a medieval fortress. The terrace and many of the rooms boast stunning views of the French coast and the sea. Located in the heart of picturesque Hondarribia.
Day 4. San Sebastian
Enjoy a leisurely morning in Hondarribia.
Private transfer to San Sebastian and check into your beachfront hotel. Located on the Bay of Biscay, San Sebastian is the pearl of the Cantabrian Sea, with its shell-shaped bay, wide tree-lined boulevards and protected fishing harbour. It also happens to have more Michelin restaurants per capita than any other city outside of Paris.
The afternoon is free for lunch and shopping or perhaps a swim in the bay. There is also a nearby spa where massages and other treatments can be scheduled.
In the evening meet your trip leader to explore San Sebastian’s old quarter. We dine as the locals do, on the delicious miniature cuisine known as pintxos. This is a culinary experience like no other. Pintxos range from traditional grilled wild mushrooms, spicy stuffed peppers and Bellota ham to elaborate creations by young chefs who have trained with the greats.
Accommodation | 5-star hotel (2 nights)
Rising majestically above the city center, this luxurious hotel is surrounded by promenades and gardens and close to the beaches of La Concha and La Zurriola. Opened in 1912, the Belle Epoque details are seen in the classic furnishings, beautiful marble, exquisite lighting and extravagant rugs.
Day 5. San Sebastian
Today, we explore Basque cuisine in a venue usually closed to outsiders. Our private cooking class takes place at one of San Sebastian’s unique “Gastronomic Societies”. Traditionally, Basques gather in these cooking clubs to cook, eat, drink, sing and socialize.
Our private class might commence with a visit to the local market to choose the freshest ingredients for our recipies. In this cosy and fun atmosphere, a boisterous lunch accompanied by txakoli or cider will follow your cooking class. Typical Basque dishes include Lubina a la pimienta verde (sea bass with green pepper) and Marmitako (typical soupy dish made of bonito tuna, potatoes, onions, peppers, and tomato).
After lunch, enjoy a well-earned siesta at the hotel or enjoy a walk along the beautiful waterfront. You’ll want to work up an appetite for our celebratory farewell dinner in one of the Michelin 3 star restaurants in San Sebastian.
Day 6. Bilbao
Our basque culinary experience has come to an end.
After breakfast, transfer to Bilbao with private driver. Depending on your onward travel plans, you will be dropped off at the airport or at your hotel in downtown Bilbao.
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This is a sample itinerary, but we can help you design your own personalized itinerary and arrange all your travel needs to fit your schedule. You can contact us here to get a quote based on this sample itinerary, but don’t forget to tell us the proposed tour dates, trip length, number of people travelling with you or anything else that will help us better understand your requirements. We’ll come to you with all the information you need to book your trip.
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