Basque Country is a region with an incredibly unique personality. Cited as one of Europe’s oldest civilizations, the Basques have valiantly managed to preserve their rich culture over time—listen carefully and you’ll discover that the Basques even speak their own language. Our journey begins deep in the heart of French Basque Country, as we follow quaint country roads and trails offering splendid mountain views. Finish on the idyllic Spanish Basque coast, where we trade mountains for the ocean. Whether it’s the breathtaking scenery, the surreal architecture, the exceptional cuisine, or the incredibly hospitable people, the charm of Basque Country is bound to leave a lasting impression.
Day 1. Biarritz to Bidarray
Your guides will meet you at the pickup hotel this morning. From there, we settle in for a quick 45-minute drive to the start of our first walk in the classic Basque town of Sare. The walk alternates between dirt and paved roads through small farming villages, all of which have a strong Basque identity, making for a lovely introduction to the region. Our walking route follows the famous GR-10 as it comes out of the mountain for a more urban section. The walk offers many opportunities for chance meetings with locals. The approach into Ainhao gives way to the colorful green and red houses typical of this region. Lunch today is at a local bistro in Ainhao. Following lunch, it’s a short drive to the quaint Auberge Ostape, our home for the next two nights. This evening, we are treated to a lovely dinner and our first of many wonderful Basque meals together.
Day 2. Itxassou Loop & the Roland Pass
Today, we head to the stunning countryside surrounding Bidarray for an exciting loop walk in and out of some small Basque villages. We’ll be driven to La Place in Itxassou to begin our hike in Pass de Roland and end back in Itxassou for a delightful lunch. The walk is mainly on single track hiking trail with 360 degree views at the top of the French Basque country. With full bellies, we drive back to the hotel for some time to unwind. This evening, gather for a pelota demonstration by local players in Bidarray’s fronton—this is a great opportunity to witness just how passionate the Basques are about this sport! It’s played a number of ways—barehanded, with a paddle, or with a chistera, a hand-woven straw basket that is attached to the arm like a racquet. Those who are keen can try their hand at the game before we head to dinner at a local favorite spot.
Day 3. Tolosa
Following breakfast this morning, we bid au revoir to the French Basque country and hola to Spain! Following a one-hour drive, we pass the town of Tolosa and head back into the hills to the small village of Santa Marina. We begin our walk from here, heading uphill jumping on and off a segment of the Camino. After a couple of hours, we arrive at a local pig farm where we are greeted by our hosts, Pello and Maite. Before indulging in a hearty local lunch they show us their prized Euskal Txerria pigs, the last of the three Basque breeds. Following lunch, you can either walk all the way down to the hotel (about 1 hour) or drive back. This evening, we are joined by a local expert who will lead an informal discussion about Basque history. Dinner this evening will be at the hotel.
Day 4. San Sebastián
Rise and shine for another beautiful day of hiking in Basque Country. While relatively long, our walk today is not challenging beyond the first 6 kilometers (4 mi.), which have you climbing out of the Bidania Valley but the views are plentiful and grade manageable that you won’t even realize you’re climbing. Enjoy a stop at the typical refuge on top before continuing along the ridge. From the top of the ridge, it’s a steady downhill to our special, traditional lunch in Aizarna. From lunch, we drive to the lovely Maria Cristina in the heart of San Sebastián, our home for the next two nights. After checking in and getting settled, the night is yours to explore San Sebastián on your own.
Day 5. Basque Coast
Leaving directly from Hotel Maria Cristina, take a lovely scenic walk toward the small port town of Pasaia. Our path hugs the coastline for a roller coaster of a walk. The arrival into Pasaia remains something of a surprise until you make the final bend and the port is revealed. As you stroll into town, stop to take a quick peek at the Albaola Museum, where you’ll find a reconstructed 16th century Basque whaling ship on display! We will make our way back to San Sebastián by car, where you’ll have the chance to explore the lunch options in town on your own. Likewise, if the timing is right, feel free to enjoy lunch in Pasaia and head back later. We will meet back up early this evening to begin our final night celebrations at one of the oldest gastronomic societies in San Sebastián.
Day 6. Homeward Bound
After breakfast at the hotel this morning, you may depart at your leisure. Adiós!