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San Sebastián, Northern Spain

Highlights of the Basque Country

8-day tailor-made self-drive from £695 pp incl. flights

Special offer: Free car hire – Save up to £80pp

Free car hire available on this itinerary

Summary

Short description

Loop around the Basque Country with its postcard perfect coastlines, medieval art cities and lush vineyards.

Highlights

  • Enjoy coastal life in San Sebastián’s beach-fronted old town before kissing France in Hondarribia, a colourful fishing village
  • Discover the charms of the Basque Country’s interior, with its medieval walled towns, rolling vineyards and time-forgotten villages
  • Stay in Renaissance palaces, medieval castles and contemporary luxury that looks out over Bilbao’s Guggenheim icon

In Brief

  • 2 Nights San Sebastián
  • 1 Night Hondarribia
  • 2 Nights Argómaniz
  • 2 Nights Bilbao

About

Recommended for:
Beach | Food & wine | History & culture | Self-drive

The seaside towns and thousand-year-old fortifications of the Basque Country are as much a part of its environment as its rolling vineyards, soaring mountains and pretty beaches. And, it’s all animated by welcoming pintxo bars and lively squares. On this week-long road trip, you’ll start by following the coast along to San Sebastián’s glorious crescent beach – a historic getaway – before kissing France in charming Hondarribia. Then, duck inland to be greeted by world-class wineries and towns that proudly show off their Renaissance heritage before ending with Bilbao’s excellent galleries. Along the way, you’ll stay in Renaissance palaces, artsy five-star luxury and medieval castles – once host to knights and kings. 

Day by day itinerary

Day 1
Bilbao/San Sebastián

Flying into Bilbao, you’ll pick up your car at the airport before making the scenic coastal drive east to San Sebastián. Along the way, call into Gernika to learn about its tragic Civil War past that inspired Picasso’s pacifism and one of his greatest paintings. Or, stop off for lunch at one of the many idyllic seaside towns; Leikeito is a particular favourite for its picturesque beaches and intimate cafés. On arrival in San Sebastián, check into your 19th century villa accommodation. Set among leafy grounds and a collection of stately buildings, it’s perfectly positioned to explore the city’s many attractions.

Stay: Hotel Villa Soro (Superior)

Day 2
San Sebastián

As the European Capital of Culture for 2016, there’s more to San Sebastián than golden sands and luxury mansions. Originally the 19th century summer retreat for the Spanish royal family, today all are welcome to its pintxo bars and characterful Parte Vieja old town. Indeed, as home to three of Spain’s seven three-star Michelin restaurants, it’s fair to say that this is one of the country’s gastronomic centres; tuck into endless bowls of mouthwatering calamari and richly flavoured chorizo. Then, wander along streets lined with century-old Belle Époque buildings or shop in its upscale boutiques before returning to the grand Playa de la Concha curve, the ideal city beach. 

Stay: Hotel Villa Soro (Superior)

Meals: B

Day 3
Hondarribia

Spend the morning in San Sebastián – try your hand at surfing at Zurriola beach or check out the local art galleries – before continuing along the coast to Hondarribia. Bordering France, there’s more than a touch of Gallic influence here, with colourful fishermen’s houses, pretty plazas and a charming old town. Of course, this wouldn’t be the Basque Country without a lively beach scene. And, in keeping with the town’s history, you’ll stay in a medieval fortress whose construction dates back to the 10th century. Known locally as the Castillo de Carlos V, its hilltop perch looks out over the old town – a commanding view over the strategic Bidasoa estuary.

Stay: Parador Hondarribia (Superior)

Meals: B

Day 4
Argómaniz

Turning away from the coast, head back inland to make your way towards Argómaniz. On the way, stop off at Tolosa, where the weekly market – one of the oldest in the Basque Country – offers a chance to sample true local culture. Set on the banks of the River Oria, its important trading route position is marked by a medieval centre where narrow streets link together small squares and Basque Gothic architectural delights. Prime among them is the Santa María Church, whose ascetic 13th century frontage belies an intricate, neoclassic interior. After, check into your accommodation for the next two nights, an elegant Renaissance palace looking out over the Álava Plain to the Sierra de Gorbea Mountains beyond.

Stay: Parador Argómaniz (Superior)

Meals: B

Day 5
Vitoria-Gasteiz/Laguardia Wine Region

You’ll have today to explore your picturesque surrounds. Vitoria – the quiet Basque capital – is well off the beaten track, meaning locals-only tapas bars and undiscovered art galleries that rival Bilbao’s heavyweights. It’s also ringed by Napoleonic battlefields that today make for pretty walks and cycle routes past lakes and herds of deer. The tranquility is protected by a green belt project, comprising six parks designed to provide continual green space around the city for both pedestrians and cyclists. Don't miss the Sana María Cathedral, the splendid Renaissance structure that inspired Ken Follet's novel World Without End, or the drive south towards Laguardia. This 10th century walled city is surrounded by some of Spain’s best vineyards, often over 100 years old yet delightfully avant-garde in design. Be sure to book onto a guided tour.

Stay: Parador Argómaniz (Superior)

Meals: B

Day 6
Bilbao

On your way to the Basque Country’s largest city, perhaps make a stop at Amurrio to perhaps visit the Txakolineria, the oldest producer of txakoli wine. This light, sparkling white is a Basque Country favourite, drunk as a very dry aperitif. Its lightness means it is the perfect match for seafood. You’ll then check into your five-star hotel, opposite the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum. Its designer rooms and terraces are every bit as exciting as its artsy neighbour. Alternatively, stop off in Gernika if you didn’t have time on the first day or set out to explore the city sights, losing yourself in the city's old town warren of alleyways. 

Stay: Gran Hotel Domine (Deluxe)

Meals: B

Day 7
Bilbao

If the Basque coastline is known for its natural beauty, then Bilbao is known for its manmade artistry. The sweeping curves of Museo Guggenheim are an icon not only for the city, but also for modern architecture, lifting Bilbao out from its industrial past. And, in the wake of its construction, a vast range of small galleries and giant exhibitions followed, bringing new life to the city’s compact old town bars, 14th century cathedral and colourful Renaissance buildings.

Stay: Gran Hotel Domine (Deluxe)

Meals: B

Day 8
Depart for UK

On your last day, return your car at the airport to catch your flight home.

Meals: B

Map

Pricing

Any element of this itinerary can be adjusted to suit your needs. Just contact us to find out more.

Accommodation rating: Superior Deluxe

8-day tailor-made self-drive from £695 incl. flights

Superior

Special Offer

Free car hire: Save up to £80 pp.

Book by: 30 September 2018

Low Season

from £695 pp. incl. flights

High Season

from £1,295 pp. incl. flights

Package includes: 

  • Complimentary UK departure airport lounge access
  • Return flights to Bilbao from the UK
  • 7 nights B&B accommodation
  • 8 days car hire


Terms & Conditions

Prices are per person based on two people sharing a twin/double room; prices are subject to availability and possible change; normal booking conditions apply.

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