11 Must-Sees in the Basque Country

21 01 2010

The routes below are, in my opinion, those places that you should visit when coming to visit this so unknown country. Most are easily accessible on public transport and, except in high season, you shouldn´t worry too much about crowds.

1) DONOSTIA-SAN SEBASTIÁN, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe (in the world?), views from Igeldo mountain, pintxos in the Old Town, Chillida-Leku open air museum (www.museochillidaleku.com), the picturesque fishing town of Hondarribia.

2) ZARAUTZ, GETARIA (wonderful promenade almost touching the sea linking both towns), grilled fish at any of the restaurants in Getaria, ZUMAIA and its beautiful church, LEKEITIO, its port, its island and the incredible retable inside its church.

3) ARANTZAZU Sanctuary (www.arantzazu.org) and OÑATI and its University(www.oinati.org).

4) SAINT JEAN DE LUZ, BIARRITZ, BAYONNE-BAIONA, in the French Basque Country (also Petit Bayonne, on the other side of the river), great chocolates and gateau basque, apart from picturesque villages.

5) BILBAO, Guggenheim Museum (this was obvious!), Old Town, Funicular train to Artxanda for spectacular views of the city.

6) HANGING BRIDGE (Puente Colgante) of Portugalete, a Unesco World Heritage Monument, unique in the world, over 110 years old and running 24 hours a day.

7) VITORIA, Old Quarter (jewish) and a visit to the spectacular restoration of its Old Cathedral (Ken Follets based its novel The Pillars of the Earth on this cathedral, so they made him a statue!)

8) ATXONDO valley, where silence can be heard, spectacular place with the mountains and sheep in the background. And several wonderful restaurants.

9) URDAIBAI Biosphere Reserve and the beaches of Laga, Laida, the town of Busturia, Mundaka (surfers´ paradise), the sea estuary, the caves of Santimamiñe and the PAINTED FOREST OF OMA. Also the steep fishing town of Elantxobe.

10) The walled towns of LAGUARDIA and LABASTIDA and the wine region of Rioja Alavesa. Not to miss the guided visits to the wine cellars underneath the town.

11) The POZALAGUA caves, in the Karrantza valley, a spectacular combination of rare stalactites and stalagmites, now specially prepared for visits with kids, http://www.karrantza.com/?seccion=cuevas3&idioma=es.

You will not find massive tourism or tourist traps at any of these places, and if you plan your visit in advance you will get a very good idea of this beautiful country.


23 11 2009

If you come and visit us, there are several places you can´t miss. Lekeitio is one of them. I spent several childhood and adolescence summers there, with my family (those long summers that started in June and ended by mid September, adapting to school holidays), so it´s a special town to me.

Lekeitio is on the way from Bilbao to San Sebastián, on the very scenic coastal road. It takes about one hour by car to get there from Bilbao, driving on a very curvy road (those that get sick on cars, take your precautions before). They´ve just opened the bypass approaching Lekeitio, so now it´s more accessible.

This is a fishing village, or maybe I should say “still”. The number of fishing boats is rapidly decreasing, and pretty soon this beautiful village will have to find other ways of earning an income. There are three beaches, Isuntza, Karraspio and La Salvaje. There´s an island that is linked to the continent by a wall, that disappears under the water with high tide (on the intro of this web you can see an overview of the town, www.lekeitio.com). There´s a XV century beautiful gothic church, Asunción de Santa María, with an incredible altarpiece. There are great festivals in September, 8 incredible days – not to forget Goose Day, when they hung dead gooses from a a rope on the port (used to be alive) and people on boats hung from their neck trying to break them, while being pulled and pushed up and down in the water.

Still very much untouched by tourism, this town keeps its authenticity and it´s a real pleasure to walk along the narrow streets where fishermen live, have some pintxos at its bars and enjoy the awesome views. And have the daily menu at the Hostal de la Emperatriz (also a spa and a hotel), overviewing the town, the beach, the sea and the island. Or sleep at Palacio Zubieta, paradise of tranquility…