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Bilbao and the Basque Country Travel Guide

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  • Photo: NCG / Shutterstock
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  • Photo: KLV / Shutterstock

Plan Your Bilbao and the Basque Country Vacation

Northern Spain is a misty land of green hills, low russet rooflines, and colorful fishing villages; it's also home to the formerly industrial city of Bilbao, reborn as a center of art and architecture. The semiautonomous Basque Country—with its steady drizzle (onomatopoetically called the siri-miri), verdant landscape, and rugged coastline—is a distinct national

and cultural entity.

Navarra is considered Basque in the Pyrenees and Navarran in its southern reaches, along the Ebro River. La Rioja, tucked between the Sierra de la Demanda (a mountain range that separates La Rioja from the central Castilian steppe) and the Ebro River, is Spain's premier wine country.

The Sanctuary of St. Ignatius of Loyola. This sanctuary, in Cestona, about 34 km (21 miles) southwest of San Sebastián, is an exuberant baroque structure erected in honor of Iñigo Lopez de Oñaz y Loyola (1491–1556) after he was canonized as Ignacio de Loyola in 1622 for his defense of the Catholic Church against the tides of Martin Luther's Reformation. Almost two centuries later, Roman architect Carlos Fontana designed the basilica that memorializes the saint. The ornate construction contrasts with the austere ways of St. Ignatius himself, who took vows of poverty and chastity after his conversion. Polychrome marble, flamboyant altar work, and a huge but delicate dome decorate the interior. The fortresslike tower house has the room where Ignatius (Iñigo, in Euskera) experienced conversion while recovering from a wound received in an intra-Basque battle.

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Top Reasons To Go

  1. Explore the Basque coast From colorful fishing villages to tawny beaches, the Basque Coast always delights the eye.
  2. Eat tapas in San Sebastián Nothing matches San Sebastián's old quarter, with the booming laughter of tavern-hoppers who graze at counters heaped with colorful morsels.
  3. Appreciate Bilbao's art and architecture The gleaming titanium Guggenheim and the Museo de Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Museum) shimmer where steel mills and shipyards once stood, while verdant pastures loom above and beyond.
  4. Run with the bulls in Pamplona Running with a pack of wild animals (and people) will certainly get the adrenaline pumping, but you might prefer to be a spectator.
  5. Drink in La Rioja wine country Spain's premier wine region is filled with wine-tasting opportunities and fine cuisine.

When To Go

When to Go

Mid-April through June, September, and October are the best times to enjoy the temperate climate and both the coastal and upland landscapes of t...

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