Basque Country planning

Old Apr 10th, 2022, 08:28 AM
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Basque Country planning

I will be in San Sebastian for two weeks in June to attend a Spanish language course. This was planned in 2020 and had to cancel, so I am pretty excited to be finally going. The classes will last all day, but I will have time to explore the city in the evenings and on the weekends. After the course ends, I have an additional week to travel. My flights are in and out of Bilbao, so I am planning to spend 3 nights in Bilbao before I return home. My question is where to go in the Spanish Basque Country for the 4 days between my time in San Sebastian and Bilbao. I am hoping some of you may have good suggestions for me.

Some basic background information: I am not renting a car. Renting a car and driving in an unfamiliar place makes me anxious, and I don’t want to be anxious on my vacation : ) Unfortunately, this limits my options to places I can get to by bus, train or taxi. I love to walk and will have only a small carry on for luggage. This is a solo trip, and I speak Spanish pretty well. I enjoy historical sites, art, nature, and good food.

Because I will be in two relatively large cities, I hope to add a smaller, charming or beautiful place to my itinerary. Maybe somewhere with interesting historical sites, or perhaps beautiful coastal or mountain vistas? During my course in San Sebastian, I will be staying in a dormitory, so it would be great to have comfortable and/or charming lodging during the rest of my trip.

Here are some random options I have so far for the 3-4 days between San Sebastian and Bilbao. I would pick one or two of these at most.
  • Zarautz, Getaria or Zumaia - might be better as a side trip while I am in San Sebastian?
  • Lekeitio
  • Bermeo - possibly with a side trip to San Juan de Gaztelugatze?
  • Elorrio - maybe with a side trip to Axpe? It looks so lovely, but I am not sure if this would be doable without a car.
  • Gernika
Any and all suggestions will be very welcome!
AnaBelen
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Old Apr 10th, 2022, 10:11 AM
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AnaBelen,
Lucky you for getting to spend 2 weeks in San Sebastián in June!

About Zarautz, Getaria and Zumaia--since they're so close to San Sebastián, they'll be easy to reach on your weekend free time. We take the Lurraldebus from San Sebastián to all three.
See the schedules here- on the drop down menu, it's Donostia/San Sebastián
Lurraldebus

We have a week planned this July in Getaria and although we'll have a car for longer day trips, we'll just take the bus into San Sebastián to avoid high parking costs (and the city has very little available street parking). It's quick and easy.

Some info about this very pretty fishing village and what to see-
https://www.getariaturismo.eus/en

About Zarautz, kind of a mini San Sebastián-
https://www.turismozarautz.eus/en/ho...=2068&sesion=1


In Zumaia you may want to take a boat ride to see the flysch from the water. You can actually walk from Zarautz to Getaria along the ocean, a beautiful walk.
About the flysch tour from Zumaia-
https://geoparkea.eus/en/guided-tours/flysch-tour

Hondarribia to the east is also an exceeding pretty coastal town, with a great, lively pintxos scene, and is easy to reach on the Eikialdebus E21, that departs from San Sebastián's Plaza de Gipuzkoa.
Here's the schedule-
https://ekialdebus.eus/es/e21-hondar...erto-donostia/

For your Bizkaia (Vizcaya) province touring, Gernika (first) and Bermeo (last) are easy to reach on the Euskotren from Bilbao, and the ride, although slow, is really pretty.
https://www.euskotren.eus/en/tren.

Fodorite MikelG can tell you about the current situation at San Juan de Gaztelugatze--I haven't been there since the Game of Thrones crowds have "invaded" it. I don't remember how to reach it from Bermeo by bus or if you have to take a bus from Bakio, but he will know. You have to book tickets in advance to climb up to the shrine.

There's a boat that will take you from Bermeo to see the shrine.
https://tourism.euskadi.eus/en/top-e...aa30-12378/en/.

I've taken the bus A3512 from Lekeitio to Bilbao but not from San Sebastián. It goes along the autoroute so it's the quickest option.
BUS LINES AND SCHEDULES - Lekeitio Turismo : Lekeitio Turismo

About Lekeitio tourism-
Welcome. - Lekeitio Turismo : Lekeitio Turismo.

Elorrio is also a pretty inland town that you can reach best by bus from Bilbao, but from there to Aspe you would need a car.
https://www.bizkaia.eus/home2/Archiv...885ccc221d30b1




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Old Apr 10th, 2022, 03:57 PM
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Maribel,
Thank you so much for all the helpful information. I spent the afternoon looking through options. My challenge is that everything looks wonderful! I have added Hondarribia to my list of day trips from San Sebastian.
I think I have made some progress with deciding where to stay between San Sebastian and Bilbao. So far, I am leaning towards staying two or three nights in Lekeitio before going on to Bilbao. The town looks lovely and there seem to be quite a few things to see in town and the area. The Hotel Zubieta looks like the perfect place to recover from two weeks in a dormitory ; )
I would also like to visit the Peace Museum in Gernika, so perhaps I could do that as a day trip from either Lekeitio or Bilbao.
Thanks again,
Belen
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Old Apr 10th, 2022, 04:16 PM
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Definitely visit Hondarribia. You'll love it, both the upper, atmospheric medieval quarter around the Plaza de Armas and Parador-Castle of Charles V and down in the La Marina, former fishermen's quarter, with its colorful, flower bedecked 3-story cottages and endless, great pintxos bars on Calle San Pedro (a favorite is Bar Sol, winner of many pintxos competitions). It's just a wonderful town and very lively in the summer.

Lekeitio would be great for a few nights. I love the Peace Museum in Gernika. It's really moving.
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Old Apr 10th, 2022, 09:54 PM
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Bus 3524 will take you from Bakio or Bermeo to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, which will reopen its steps to the hermitage next April 25. In Gernika do not miss the Casa de Juntas, one of the oldest forms of Parliament in the world, really interesting. Your itinerary and options seem quite good...I´d add Mundaka to the day you visit Bermeo, it´s really worth it and frequently ignored!
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Old Apr 11th, 2022, 01:15 AM
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Found food in Hondarribia to be excellent. Recommend Gastroketa Danonzat for dinner. Its not Arzak but at about 1/10 the price its really interesting and good. Pintxos at Enbata and Gran sol were terrific and in our estimation better than what you get in the old town in San Sebastian . Nagore at the the Gourmet market at the Maria Christina hotel was our guide to food and drinks in the area. Really nice hotel with convenient car park underneath.
l
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Old Apr 12th, 2022, 06:58 AM
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Thanks for the great suggestions. I am spending quite a bit of time looking at gorgeous photos of little towns and pinxtos.

There were a couple of comments in tripadvisor reviews for the hotel in Lekeitio that surprised me. People were complaining about the mosquitos. I spent a summer in the north of Spain (decades ago), and I do not remember any mosquitos. It will not bother me if they are around, I am just curious about whether that is typical or not?

Hopefully, a 50+ woman will not stand out as odd going to a bar alone to have a drink and pinxtos? I have traveled solo quite a bit, and I usually feel pretty comfortable eating alone. I am not worried about safety, just wondering if it will seem weird to people. Although I do not usually do things as part of a tour group, I am considering one of the pinxtos tours in San Sebastian early in my stay to get oriented. Have any of you done one of those types of tours? Of course, depending on how things are going with COVID in June, I may just be picking places to eat and drink based on whether I can sit outside or not.






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Old Apr 12th, 2022, 09:51 AM
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AnaBelén,
About Lekeitio and mosquitos, I don't remember them and I think I would because, unfortunately, they love me.

After my late husband died, a native of Spain, I spent several years in my 50s traveling alone in Spain, not only to the places we had visited together and where had friends but also seeking out new adventures on my own. I never felt out of place, and I became comfortable eating alone. It didn't seem weird to anyone. In fact I was warmly welcomed as a solo diner.

I also can recommend Gastroteka Danonzat for dinner--very creative fare and the chef, Gorka Irisarri is a true expert in cheeses and has also won several awards.

Mikelg and I have a good friend who created the original San Sebastián food and wine tours (both small group and private). Now there are several other companies that have come in to offer pintxos tours, including one given by the tourist office, and that could be a nice activity for you and a way to meet other travelers. I would do this at the beginning of your stay to get oriented to the Basque food and wine scene.

It would also be fun to visit one of the cider houses in Astigarrage, one that is open all year long (some are seasonal from mid-Jan. to late April). On a weekend they are very lively, even though the "txotx" is still prohibited due to covid-19 (I think, or at least it was at the beginning of the cider season). They serve you the cider in pitchers rather than your being able to help yourself to the cider from the giant barrel, when the cider master yells "txotx". You might join a group to do that, as the locals tend to go to the cider houses in a group, with their "cuadrilla".



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Old Apr 12th, 2022, 10:16 PM
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You will not stand out as a solo traveler having pintxos and drinks at a bar. Bars here are not like in the US, they are places to meet with friends and family, places to socialize and not really to drink, where you spend less than half hour and then go to another one to keep enjoying the wine and pintxos (by the way, we normally have one pintxo per bar and it´s not really a meal for us, just an appetizer to go with your drink...before lunch or dinner). You´ll find pintxos everywhere in the Basque Country, not only in Donostia-San Sebastian, also in Lekeitio bars. Regarding mosquitoes, Zubieta hotel is close to a river, and that could maybe be an issue, but it´s a rare thing, mosquitoes are not common here. I´d also recommend Hotel Silken Palacio Uribarren, on top of one of the beaches with gorgeous views, a bit less in category but right in the center of town.
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Old Apr 13th, 2022, 04:42 PM
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Thanks for the suggestions and input. I am starting to firm up my plans, and the more I look into the area the better it sounds. It is so exciting to be planning a trip!
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