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1 week Basque Country Spain and France

Seeking recommendations for 7 days in Spanish and French basque country in early May. Plan to fly into Bilbao and rent a car for a week then fly to portugal. Seeking general recommendations of where/what etc. Also how to seek out best accomodations preferably agriturismo style. Better to stay in one place as a base or move around a little?
Need triple room.
Thank you in advance.

Posted by
16724 posts

Rick's guide to Spain includes some coverage of the French Basque Country as well as the area south of the border. There's more than can be seen in a week, so you'll need to proritize based on your own interests. I assume you'll want to pick up and drop off the car in the same country to avoid the dreaded international drop charge. I don't think a single base would be practical. You might manage with two; three separate lodgings over the course of seven days would be a bit of a pain, but it could be done since you'll have a car.

Have you determined your departure point for the flight to Portugal? Is there something workable from Bilbao? There's also a smaller airport outside San Sebastian, but I don't know that it will have non-stop flights to Portugal; connections will drive up your travel time and probably your cost, and you should be sure you understand the ticketing situation. A compination of two flights on a budget airline may not be a true connection: The risk of a missed connection may all fall on you.

I prefer the larger, less touristy, Bilbao to San Sebastian, but plenty of travelers seem to like San Sebastian better. Other possible Spanish Basque destinations include Hondarribia, Zarautz/Getaria/Zumaia, Lekeitio, Bermeo, Vitoria-Gasteiz and Laguardia. In France I preferred the larger Bayonne to the cute St-Jean-de-Luz, and I like both a lot more than Biarritz. I didn't get to any of the small mountain villages.

I can't help with accommodations because I go for budget places in cities or large towns served by public transportation. I search for suitable ones on booking.com. The paradors in Spain are nice properties, many of them historic. There's one in Hondarribia and another in Argomaniz, a place I've never visited. I think you could stay in Hondarribia and visit San Sebastian from there (don't know about parking), but that would mean about a 3-hour round-trip to Bilbao.

Posted by
760 posts

Hi from Wisconsin,
We spent a week each in the Basque regions of Spain and France. Salie-de-Bearn in France was a lovely town with a couple good restaurants. The landscapes around this town were beautiful. Driving from Salie to Saint-Jean-Peid-de-Port was well worth it. Saint-Jean is a customary launching point for the El Camino. Bayonne was good but not great. The food was fantastique in this French Basque region. Keep in mind that any road in these regions that is not four lanes is going to be slow, pretty, but slow.

In Spain let me recommend el Pintal Cueva. A cave half way between Bilbao and Gijon, of course that is west of your target area. But still, a rural, mostly undeveloped cave with prehistoric artwork were you get to visit the real thing, and not a replica. San Sebastian was not our favorite. Once again, like Salie above, inland is where we found the most beauty. (Beauty IS in the eye of the beholder.) Doneztebe was where we stayed. It is a small town with a walking path to the next two towns up stream on the Ezkurra Erreka . nad those two towns are really rural.

Not far inland from the coast Spain looks like Ireland on steroids. Take the small roads into the Europa Mountains. And the food was great. Make sure you have some uncarbonated cider in a bar while you are there. And beware, food, food, food. In the rural areas it comes with everything. A glass of wine, a complementary plate of charcuterie. A beer or cider and a small tapa.

wayne iNWI

Posted by
2648 posts

We stayed at the Parador in Hondarrbia and it’s very nice. It’s also one of the more expensive Paradors. It does have limited onsite parking for a fee. In Bayonne, we opted for the Ibis Styles Bayonne Center Gare near the train station. It’s just across the bridge from the city center. Ibis is a budget hotel chain, but the hotel was perfectly fine. It has very limited onsite parking, but one can always park at the train station. The other respondents mentioned the places I would have mentioned.