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4 days in Basque Country with car

We will be flying into Bilbao, then driving through Basque country towards Bayonne, on our way to the Dordogne. We'll have 4 days. In Bilbao, we are only planning on visiting the Guggenheim (a bucket list item!) and then travelling on. We are in our 70s, and one of us is not a big walker (I can do about a kilometer, using my walking stick). We enjoy exploring small towns, great food, interesting unique phenomena,window shopping, boat/ferry rides, and more. Some of the towns we have looked into are Guernica, Zumaia (my husband is a geologist!), Getaria, Hondaribbia, and Pasai Donibane. Should we stay in one of these towns, or in San Sebastian? We plan to spend our last night in Bayonne, before driving to the Dordogne in the morning.

So, with our first night in Bilbao and our last in Bayonne, what would be a good place(s) to stay the other two nights? Small town? City (SanSebastian or St. Jean de luz? Other?). Any other suggestions?

We are travelling in late May.

Posted by
676 posts

Bilbao has much more to offer than just the Guggenheim. Its old quarter is very lively, full of shops, restaurants and bars, not too touristy, and with a fresh food market by the river. On the way to Gernika (Basque and official spelling) I´d visit San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, Mundaka and Bermeo, at least, on a day trip from Bilbao or on the way to for example Lekeitio, a great place to stay one or two nights. Parking is complicated near the flysch of Zumaia, pay attention to the restricted areas and on where you can park, very nice walk on the cliffs and if it´s low tide (we have 4 tides per day), you husband will love it. Getaria (hometown of the first person that circumnavegated the world...and no, it was n-o-t Magellan) is a quaint fishing town with excellent seafood restaurants, close to Donostia-San Sebastian. Hondarribia is very nice for a day visit from Donostia-San Sebastian, just take into account that D-SS is quite expensive in terms of lodging. You´ll love Baiona-Bayonne...many people go to Biarritz for the name, but there´s nothing much there except expensive shops, a beach and a casino...Bayonne makes a great stop, and the towns nearby. St Jean de Luz is worth on the way to Baiona-Bayonne.

Posted by
542 posts

@Igalen,

I second what Mikel said about Biarritz. Bayonne is very nice, and I really love St. Jean de Luz.

Just wanted to make a different suggestion: Elizondo, Baztan Valley. You could stay there before going to Bayonne. It is in Navarra, but still very Basque. You can cross the border at the top of the valley and head down to Bayonne.

There is a book, The Invisible Guardian (later made into a movie and was on Netflix) that is set in the valley. It is the first of a trilogy.

Posted by
6706 posts

Mike mentioned the places I would have mentioned. I haven’t been to the Baztan Valley (yet), but Dave always has good recommendations. You can’t get better recommendations than from those who live in the area. Since you are driving, if you have Google maps or similar, lookup and bookmark parking lots in the towns you will be visiting. That will save you time.

Have a good trip.