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A relaxing itinerary in the Basque country?

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Mar 9th, 2014, 03:11 PM
  #1
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A relaxing itinerary in the Basque country?

We are planning an ~9 day vacation in the Basque country in early May. I visited Bayonne and St. Juan Pied de Port more than 30 years ago and loved it (my ancestors are from there).
For this trip we'd like to take in the Spanish and some of the French side, and stay in at most two places---a leisurely trip.

In reading through the many posts on this topic, it looks like flying in and out of Bilbao from the US would work. We'd rather not be in a big city for too long though so I don't know that Bilbao would be one of our 'bases."

What are everyone's recommendations for: a) a couple of spots to make our base during the 9 days, and b) towns to see via day trips. We plan to rent a car.

In terms of what we want to do and see: enjoy the food, people, nature, walking, easy hiking, culture, and some museums.

Thank you!
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Mar 9th, 2014, 03:49 PM
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San Sebastián close to Bilbao is the food capital of Spain if not all of Europe. Beautiful landscapes and lots of walking/hiking possibilities in the many parks, along the bay or along the coast in either direction. Pop 170 000. http://www.sansebastianturismo.com/en/
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/07/tr...anted=all&_r=0

Regarding museums, you have the spectacular Guggenheim in Bilbao, the excellent Fine Arts museum (one of the best in Spain), and in San Sebastián I can recommend the San Telmo museum about Basque history and cuture.
Guggenheim: http://www.guggenheim.org/bilbao
Fine arts museum: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractio...que_Count.html
San Telmo: http://www.santelmomuseoa.com/index.php?lang=en

Plenty of fine, small villages along the beautiful and rugged coastline between Bilbao and San Sebastián: Lekeitio, Mutriku, Zumaya, Getaria, Zarautz etc. http://www.fodors.com/world/europe/i...asque-coast-3/
http://www.basquecountry-tourism.com...sque-coast.php
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Mar 10th, 2014, 07:48 AM
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Good work, Kimhe. Tasty places to eat in Bilbao too. The city tourist information office is a useful resource and runs good walking tours.

http://www.bilbao.net/cs/Satellite?c..._detallePagina

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bilbao

http://www.bilbao.net/cs/Satellite?c..._detallePagina
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Mar 10th, 2014, 08:52 AM
  #4
 
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I was in Biarritz and San Sebastian last June, it was divine!

Split the time and you'll get to see alot in between., youll be close to Bayonne and in the Pyrenees!

In San Sebastian I would recommend San Sebastian Food, they are incredible tours ,I did several and each was fab! As k for Eli, I have a friend going there this week , shell be home in 10 days and will report !
If you go to Biarritz I can tell you of some great eats....
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Mar 10th, 2014, 08:57 AM
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If you have a car, any of the smaller towns in the French Basque country might provide a good base. Try http://en.gites-de-france.com/ for B&Bs or longer term rentals.
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Mar 12th, 2014, 11:12 PM
  #6
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Thank you all for the links and advice.

Here is a new question: we've never been to Barcelona or Madrid and wondered whether we should spend ~2 days in one of those cities prior to or at the end of our trip.
Will that mess up our itinerary and wreck our intention to make this a leisurely vacation?
I realize trying to visit Barcelona or Madrid plus the Basque country is a typical American approach to visiting Europe-- wanting to cram too much into too few days.
However, we realized we might not get to Spain again for many years and perhaps we would should take advantage of being there and visit one of the "major" Spanish cities.
Thoughts?
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Mar 13th, 2014, 01:07 AM
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Both madrid and Barna are well linked with Bilbao by road, train, bus or plane (I recommend this last one). Vueling flies cheap to Barcelona, and both cities are really worth visiting. One is more "mediterranean" and the other is more "castilian". Hard to explain, so I think (I´m a Basque local) that I´d toss a coin...
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Mar 13th, 2014, 08:07 AM
  #8
 
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Frankly with only 2 days I wouldn't try to visit Barcelona or Madrid. In your original post you indicated that you didn't really like big cities and these are the largest in Spain. 2 days would be very short especially coming from the Basque Country - it would only give you one full day. If you want a more relaxing itinerary I'd stick with the 9 days in the Basque Country. I'd use San Sebastian as a base for 4-5 days and spend at least 2 nights in Bilbao. So this really only gives you 2-3 days to play with. You could rent a car and explore the coast, drive into the mountains and visit the villages, visit Pamplona, Vittoria or even head to La Rioja for a couple of days. There's so much to do in the Basque Country!
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Mar 13th, 2014, 08:33 AM
  #9
 
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Only you can decide if you want a "relaxing itinerary in Basque country" or a peek at Mad or Bcn plus a peek into Basque country. I spent a few days in San Sebastian and easily could have spent a week. There are many appealing towns to choose from to pair with SS (plus a day or two in Bilbao before the flight home).
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Mar 14th, 2014, 06:54 PM
  #10
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Thank you all for the additional insights. I think we've talked ourselves out of adding Madrid or Barcelona.

Question:
How convenient is San Sebastion as a base if we wanted to make a day trip to the French Basque side? Bayonne for example or San Juan Pied de Port.
It looks easy to drive on the map, but the road may not not translate into leisurely day trip.

Assuming we stay in Bilbao for 1-2 days at the front of our trip, we'd then go to San Sebastion for ~5-6 nights, longer if the day trips are accessible.
If not, is there a town/city that would make a next best "base" for French site (without incurring charges for the rental car) and that would make an easy return back to Bilbao for departure?
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Mar 14th, 2014, 06:59 PM
  #11
 
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If you stay in St-Jean de Luz you can easily visit the pretty Basque villages such as Ainhoa, Ascain, Sare, Espellette..or stay in one of those villages.
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Mar 16th, 2014, 04:45 PM
  #12
 
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Sounds like it is shaping up to be a great trip!
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Mar 17th, 2014, 08:03 AM
  #13
 
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San Sebastián would be an excellent base for visiting coastal St Jean de Luz, Biarritz and Bayonne and St Jean Pied de Port up in the Pyrenees. From 30 mins to about 1 h driving to all these places.

Several excellent small villages along the beautiful coastline between San Sebastián and Bilbao, such as Getaria, Zumaia, Mutriku, Lekeitio. Fabulous food, as in all of this food crazy region. http://tourism.euskadi.net/basque-coast/
About Getaria, just west of San Sebastián: http://www.euskoguide.com/places-bas...taria-tourism/

Also nice inland towns close to San Sebastián, such as Hernani, Tolosa and the old university town Oñati with the Arantzazu sanctuary. A very different inland vibe here.
Tolosa: http://www.euskoguide.com/places-bas...vel-guide.html
Oñati and Arantzazu: http://www.euskoguide.com/places-bas...vel-guide.html

I can also very recommend to go for lunch in close by Pasajes San Juan/Donibane, a few miles east of San Sebastián. Several excellent seafront restaurants with bargain lunch deals. Go here with taxi in 10 minutes, bus in 30 minutes or walk here in a couple of hours over the Monte Ulia hill along the coastline:
http://www.euroresidentes.com/eurore...s/san-juan.htm

Two of the several restaurants in Donibane:
Txulotxo with great value three course lunch Menú del día with wine included for 20€: http://www.restaurantetxulotxo.com/
Casa Cámara from 1884: http://www.casacamara.com/

This site will give you many ideas of what to do in and around San Sebastián, a fabulous part of the world: http://www.euskoguide.com/
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May 6th, 2014, 01:21 PM
  #14
 
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mosey, I'm doing this trip next month and was curious how your trip went?
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