If you’re planning a trip to Spain, you’ve probably heard of the Basque Country. This dynamic region is comfortably nestled in northern Spain and has its own colorful language, mouth-watering Basque food, and landscapes that vary from one kilometer to the next.
The Basque Country has so many charming cities, towns, and fairytale villages to explore. If you’ve already seen San Sebastian or are looking for day trips from big Bilbao, our Guide to Basque Country and Beyond is showing you the 10 best towns and smaller villages that you can explore in and around the Basque territory.
Hiking in San Juan de Gaztelugatxe | Photograph: Fernando Paredes
Straddling the French border, Hondarribia is a cozy little fishing town that serves up big gastronomic delights. This is thanks to the influx of fledgling chefs that set up restaurants after studying under Basque cuisine greats such as Martín Berasategui and Pedro Subijana. While traveling to Hondarribia, don’t miss the chance to walk along the old town, which is full of multicolored houses with cheerful balconies jutting out, or on a promenade near the marina. We have to admit it is one of the most beautiful Medieval Basque towns in the Spanish Basque Country.
WHERE TO SLEEP: Parador de Hondarribia, a stoutly hotel that was rebuilt from a 10th century castle. Don’t miss a drink on the terrace overlooking the coast, access restricted to guests only.
Bermeo’s biggest claim to fame is its delicious seafood, which is caught locally every day and served at the dozens of restaurants that are sprinkled throughout the town. In fact, Bermeo is so well known as a fishing town that there’s even a museum dedicated to the fishermen called the Museo del Pescador. Fans of the TV series Game of Thrones shouldn’t miss a visit to the San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, where Jon Snow and Daenerys famously walked across the footbridge — it’s only a 20 minute drive from the center of town.
STAY HERE: Hotel Castillo de Arteaga (Relais & Châteaux), located on the outskirts of the city, can be described in one word: breathtaking. The marble white castle majestically rises and opens up to beautiful views of the surrounding green valleys below. After a long day of exploring the city, enjoy a crisp wine from the ample cellar or a local dish at the hotel’s restaurant.
While the previous towns on our list may have had beautiful streets and colorful houses, Zumaia’s beauty lies in its nature. The biggest attraction in Zumaia is Flysch, a sequence of sedimentary rocks whose formations look like they were chipped millions of years ago. The town is the perfect pitstop for surfers who are planning their Basque vacation, as the waves here can reach several meters in height!
STAY HERE: Hotel Iturregi, a light and airy hotel overlooking the bay. It is an old farmhouse with a special color, located between txakoli vineyards and overlooking the Cantabrian Sea, eight rooms all different and, above all, a swimming pool built on the ruins of the original farmhouse that in itself justifies the “confinement”. It will take your breath away.
Surrounded by some of the best Rioja wineries, Laguardia is a Medieval walled town in the Sierra de Cantabria (Cantabria Hills) filled with cobbled streets, pedestrian only, and five. Along the three main streets to stroll around: Paganos Kalea, Santa Engracia Kalea and Mayor Kalea you will admire interesting palace houses and a beautiful and extraordinary well-kept stoned architecture.
STAY HERE: Hospedería de los Parajes, right in the historic center of Laguardia, it is a lovely family run inn. Our suggestion: have some tapas and wines at their 15th century underground cellar. The product is great, and you will be surrounded by stone and art.
Located on the river Oria, Tolosa’s beautiful waterfront could rival that of Venice. This small town has a grand history: it was the former capital of Gipuzkoa and was an important stopover city for traders who were passing through. Thanks to this mix of culture and regions, Tolosa enjoys a beautiful old quarter and an eclectic hodgepodge of architecture.
Speaking of the center, one of the town’s most important places of interest is TOPIC, a center dedicated exclusively to puppetry. Even if you’re not interested in puppets, we recommend visiting just to look at the stunning and modern design inside. And don’t miss the weekly impressive food market – Mercado el Tinglado- hold every Saturday for centuries.
STAY HERE: Hotel BideBide Tolosa, which is located right in the center and features minimalist decor, tasteful touches of wood, and comfortable quarters.
Travelers who are looking for the utmost in rest and relaxation should look no further than Biarritz. With its fresh and invigorating air and healing waters, it’s no wonder that Biarritz is considered a spa town. One of the oldest golf courses on the continent, Golf Le Phare, can also be found in this town.
STAY HERE: You’ll find pure luxury at the Hôtel du Palais, a seafront hotel that has attracted international elite such as King Edward VII, who loved it so much that he paid several visits. For those looking for a hotel that’s more inland, Beaumanoir, a small luxury boutique hotel, is sure to please.
Photograph: Pierre Chambion Photographie @pierre_chambion_photographie
Bidart, a charming coastal village, is sure to delight any traveler with its warm sea breeze, uncrowded beaches (no matter the season!), and lush hiking trails. However, perhaps the biggest hidden gem in Bidart is Les Frères Ibarboure, a lovely Michelin-starred restaurant run by two brothers who use locally-sourced as well as exotic ingredients to surprise and captivate guests.
STAY HERE: Les Frères Ibarboure, a hotel with hints of geometric design and balconies that open up to the garden where brothers Xabi (chef) and Patrice (pastry chef) Ibarboure present a fine cuisine awarded with a Michelin star. A real heaven of peace.
This small town, located at the foot of the Pyrenees, is the last stop in France on the Saint James Way. It is famed for its walled city and friendly atmosphere. If you’re passing through this town, don’t miss two things: the Monday market, which has delicious produce from around the region, and fromage de brebis, a type of cheese made from sheep’s milk.
STAY HERE: Auberge de l’Ostapé in a 17th century mansion in Bidarray, hosting a Porsche museum and a terrace that opens up to the rolling hills below.
If you’re looking to get away and relax, Arantza is it. This small town is one of the most peaceful places to visit in Spain thanks to its secluded location that’s practically nestled in the mountains. Many locals from neighboring towns visit this small village to eat at Pablo Enea Jatetxea, a hidden gem that serves up traditional homemade Basque cuisine. Navarra is a foodie mecca not to be missed.
STAY HERE: Arantza Hotela, a chic hotel with in-room jacuzzis and floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows that open up to the surrounding mountains. You’ll love waking up to the sun gently shining through and beckoning you to jumpstart your day.
Ezcaray is a fairytale village that exudes old-world charm with its wood-panelled houses, windows overflowing with flowers, and cafes poking out of every corner. Ezcaray is one of those towns where you could spend an entire week exploring all that it has to offer, from skiing (it’s near Valdezcaray ski resort, one of the only in the region), shopping for wool from local artisans, or trying all of the delicious restaurants. Do not confuse La Rioja (small independent autonomous community) with Rioja Alavesa (part of the region of Alava in the Basque Country).
STAY HERE: Hotel Echaurren (Relais & Châteaux), a stylish hotel with a welcoming staff and delicious local flavors hosting a 2-Michelin starred restaurant by chef Francis Paniego.
If you were charmed by these fascinating towns as much as we were, we would love to plan your perfect journey to the Basque Country. Whether you’re looking to try famous gastronomic delights, explore cobblestone streets, or simply plan a relaxing Basque Country getaway, reach us out and we’ll do the rest! If you prefer to join some of our small group culinary journeys, check our collection of trips at CÚRATE Trips.