Roadtrips: A Week in Basque Country by van
A 7-day tour of the Basque Country will allow you enough time to stroll on its beach, check out its coastal resorts, experience its natural beauty and get a taste of its culinary and cultural traditions. Sitting pretty between France and Spain, there are many facets to the Basque Country. It’s an ideal destination for an outdoor activity holiday (surfing, rafting, hiking, mountain biking) and for nature lovers who want to explore new ground (parks, forests, wilderness areas and jagged coastlines). History buffs and culture vultures will adore this region and so will foodies. The local cuisine is fantastic!
Sounds good ? Contact your agent who will give you plenty of tips on where to park for the night and what to do during the day throughout your island road trip.
A Week in Basque Country by van
Water city, fortified town, colourful city, Bayonne will know how to seduce you. Don’t miss to discover the colourful houses with coloured steps on either side of the quays of the river Nive, the Sainte Marie cathedral, the visit of the small bayonne (by crossing the river Nive to the east) and the walk at the foot of Vauban’s ramparts.
And if you feel like it, attend a bullfight, taste chocolates at Chocolats Daranatz or a pastry at Lionel Raux’s!
Park at the parking lot of the Spanish Gate, free of charge.
For the night, in high season, avoid the seaside. Opt for the hinterland. From Bayonne, two options: the Adour valley, by the D261, or the pretty little village of Arcangues, above Biarritz / Bidart. Another solution for those who like comfort: the campsite of Etche Zahar (swimming pool, shade) 15kms east of Bayonne, in Urt, by the D261.
Day at the beach and visits to the two most beautiful seaside resorts in the region: Biarritz and Saint Jean de Luz. Capricious relief, extravagant and fanciful architecture, splendid sea.
Do not miss:
In Biarritz: the seafront and the large beach, the fishing port, the rock of the virgin, the view from the lighthouse of Biarritz, on the point Saint Martin.
In Saint Jean de Luz: the beach, the church of Saint-Jean-Baptiste, the beach again, the place Louis XIV in the historical center, another shot at the beach, and to finish, the macaroons of the house Adam !
Tips for the night:
You can opt for a campsite by the sea (Exactly, Camping “Bord de mer”!)
… or you can go up the level in the direction of Ascain to find a quiet spot in the countryside.
… or finally go down by the coast to Hendaye, find less urbanized places to sleep by the sea. Some very nice places above the cliffs.
A day dedicated to the discovery of the hinterland, with the unavoidable ascent of the Rhune, either on foot for the bravest, or by little train for the delight of children.
Ascain, starting point for the ascent of the Rhune on foot, but also for many other hikes. Visit to the village and the Txopinondo artisanal cider factory.
Saint-Pée sur Nivelle, very pretty village, with for the children 2kms away, possibility to have fun in a lake with sandy beaches, zip line…
Sare, another pretty typical village with white houses, and starting point for the ascent of the Rhune river by a small rack train (departure at the Saint Ignace pass, between Ascain and Sare)…
… a little jewel in varnished wood that takes you to the top of the Rhune at a speed of 8km/h: you have all the time you need to observe the vultures and the herds of pottoks.
Espelette, with its colourful half-timbered houses, famous for its chilli peppers. Try to visit its market (on Wednesday), and if not, make your picnic at the mini-farm Ttipia, an essential stop for lovers of good food.
Tips for the night:
Stay in the hinterland, to enjoy the calm and freshness (especially in high season).
…or find a wild spot by the sea, towards Hendaye. There are some very nice places over the cliffs.
Head back to the coast and the resorts. On the way to the Spanish Basque country, take the Basque coast road, along the coast from Guétary to Hendaye.
Cross the border to discover Hondarribia, a fortified town and fishing port, with its historic centre and Charles V castle.
It is high time to discover Donostia. A route not to be missed: the coastal road, which crosses the Jaizkibel hill. Make a stop here and walk down the great rocky slopes to the cliffs – breathtaking scenery.
When you arrive in Donastia, you will fall under the spell of this beautiful shell-shaped bay, bathed by turquoise waters.
Its lively city centre is the temple of tapas bars (pintxos), restaurants and shops.
Taste the tapas of La Cuchara de San Telmo: the pintxos make their entrance in the large kitchen!
Apart from Donostia beach (playa de le concha), visiting the city, shopping (T-shirts and cool accessories at the Kukuxumusu shop), children will love the Monte Igueldo amusement park, with spectacular sea views.
For the night:
Possibility to sleep in the parking lot of Monte Igueldo. It is possible to pay for parking in the summer (check it out…).
On the parking lot on the beach (we have never tested it in high season…)
Go up towards the hills of Jaizkibel, to find a wild and quiet place.
A trip through Bilbao is possible for those who want to see as much as possible, and are not afraid of the miles. If you want to enjoy Donostia and its surroundings more, then prolong your pleasure and then move on to the next day’s programme: the return trip via Pamplona.
For Bilbao, head west along the Biscayan coast, stopping at the port of Getaria, a fishing port in a beautiful bay surrounded by cliffs.
Taste the local drink, Txakoli, a lightly sparkling white wine that is harder to find elsewhere.
Still along the coast, cross the pretty towns of Ondarroa and Lekeitio, before arriving in Bilbao, the most populated city in Biscay, where you won’t miss a visit to the Guggenheim Museum, a stroll through the historic quarter…
…the old port of Getxo, and the view of the Artxanda hill, taking the funicular.
For the night:
Avoid the city centre. Head towards the coast, by which you arrived, to find a quiet place (Gextxo, Gorliz, Plentzia…).
Not many campsites in the area… If you are looking for one, go to Gorliz, at the Arrien campsite.
Famous for the famous San Fermin festivities, the capital of Navarre conceals a fascinating history within its walls.
In addition to the Santa Maria Cathedral and its cloister, you can wander around the city at random, passing through the Plaza del Castillo, Calle San Nicolas, Calle Mayor.
For those who spend from July 6th to 14th, the San Fermin festivities are of course an event you can’t miss, for those who love street shows, crowds, music… and above all madness!
You leave the town on the N135 to plunge, after 40kms, into the superb Roncesvalles valley, an unmissable stopover on the Way of Saint James.
Superb landscapes of forests, and well known monastery Other superb valleys in the region are worth the detour, if you are not yet full of eyes, including the valley of Iraty and Aezkoa.
In this area you will find a peaceful place to spend the night. Otherwise, the Urrobi campsite, 3kms south of Roncesvalles, is waiting for you on the edge of the forest.
The return of this Basque journey is through the superb villages of Saint Jean Pied de Port and Saint Etienne de Baigorry.
A bastide village that has kept its medieval character, Saint Jean Pied de Port is a high place in the Basque country. Take the time to visit the historic centre, with its colourful houses, and to walk along its covered way. Also, there are a number of superb walks in the surrounding area – ask at the tourist office.
Between Saint Jean Pied de Port and Saint Etienne de Baigorry, visit the vineyard of Irouléguy, the only AOC wine in the region, where you can go for some very nice walks…
Less frequented than Saint Jean, Saint Etienne de Baigorry is a very pretty town on the Nive, with its superb Roman bridge.
On these last authentic touches, you start your return trip by going down the D933 in the direction of Orthez. We hope you enjoyed the Basque country!