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Help with Basque Country Itinerary

Recently I posted on here wether my husband and I visit Provence or the Basque country for 9 nights in Sept next year. I received quite a lot of replies which I really appreciated. At the last moment we decided on visiting Provence.
A few weeks later and after suggestions from friends we are now swaying again to the Basque Country.
This is our itinerary at the moment but we are very happy to tweak it if anyone has a better suggestion.
Day 1 & 2 . Fly into Bilbao from Amsterdam.
Day 3 & 4 . Santander.
Day 5,6 & 7 . San Sebastian
Day 8 & 9 La Roija.
Day 10. Drive or fly??? from Bilbao to Barcelona.
Questions - Should we have 2 days n S.S and spend a night in Santiago de Compostelo instead?
We would like to hire a rental car with a GPS. Any recommendations on a reputable reasonably priced company?
Should we fly or drive to Barcelona?
Thanks for your ideas.

Posted by
9363 posts

Santiago de Compostela is over an eight hour drive from San Sebastian. Do you really want to drive eight hours to spend the night and then head back? When would you see the city (not to mention all of the great places you will miss along the way)? I would save Santiago for another trip, since it is the outlier in your itinerary. It is not in the Basque country, or even close to it.

Posted by
9110 posts

Your post is confusing.

Santander is close to but not in the Basque provinces.

La Roija doesn't exist. La Rioja does, but it's not in the Basque provinces either.

Santiago is way the heck and gone up above Portugal. It's a good seven hour drive from Bilbao.

As far as the rest of it goes:

you've missed the best of the Basque country

once you've driven as far as La Rioja you might as well press on the other five hours into Barcelona

Is your emphasis Basque or just generally northern Spain?

Posted by
6 posts

Thanks for your replies - this is what I wanted as I wanted to know if we were on track.
So we will have 9 days to fill.We don't necessarily just need to see the Basque Country. I would like people's suggestions of their favourite places to stay.Thank You.

Posted by
516 posts

I wouldn't pass up Provence for Basque country. San Sebastian is nice but I felt like it was a day trip. We spent three days there last fall and did daytrips for things to do. Glad we seen it but would never go back. Provence you can visit over and over.

Posted by
355 posts

With all due respect, saying that you wouldn't go back to the Basque Country because you've been to San Sebastian, would be the equivalent of saying you wouldn't go back to Provence because you've been to Avignon. There is WAY more to the Basque Country than San Sebastian.

I went back to you original post and I will have to repeat what I posted there. If you are going in August (and I am not stating this from experience, as I have never been to Europe in August), I would venture to guess that the Basque Country is much less impacted by tourism in August than is Provence.

I agree with Ed that you have missed the mark at little. My travels in that area have centered more on France than Spain, as I have family there. Some of my favorite towns are St Jean-Pied-de-Port, which is a very typically Basque town and one of the traditional starting point for the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. St Jean de Luz is a very typical little fishing town and very charming. Biarritz is a more upscale beach resort, but the beach is very beautiful and the hotel (Hotel du Palais) is worth a walk through the lobby and look around. It was built as the summer residence of Eugenie and Napoleon III. You can drive along the coast to Hendaye. Here's an article from Travel and Leisure:

And then there's the Spanish side of the Pyrenees: Bilbao, San Sebastian, Pamplona, Guernica and everything in between.

Anyway, can you tell I love the Basque Pyrenees? Just haven't had enough time to explore it better...

Bottom line - Provence or the Basque Country - you really can't go wrong either way!

Posted by
12193 posts

Santiago de Compostelo is too far away for the trip you are taking.

I would probably try to do a circular route starting in Bilbao (spend your time here before you start out), Santander, Burgos, Vitoria (the center of the Rioja wine-making region), San Sebastian.

From there, if you're driving, you could go through Pamplona (and see the really nice nearby castle in Olite). Drop the car in Zaragosa and catch a high speed train into Barcelona from there.

For the Rioja region, remember you won't be able to visit a winery without reservations (made a day or two in advance). They don't open for drop-in public tours but will give you a tour if they know you're coming.

Posted by
1446 posts

To add to the confusion...

If you drive one-way from Bilbao/San Sebastian to Santiago de Compostela, you will get the chance to see not only some of the Basque region, but also the "green" and very pretty Galicia (yes and Asturias, etc.). It's easy to fly from Santiago de Compostela to Barcelona at the end.

Posted by
9110 posts

You won't see much of the Basqu area heading west out of Bilbao. Vizcaya is the westernmost Basqgue province. You're clear of it and into Cantabria in the first fifteen miles, about when you can see the outer Nervion sea wall.

Posted by
1446 posts

Ed, you are correct about the Basque region not extending west, but the OP seems a bit all over the place to begin with... I was just proposing one way of making sense of several disparate places that she wanted to include - and still get a great (and feasible) trip out of it.

Posted by
9363 posts

Before you got to Galicia, you would have to pass through not only Cantabria, but the gorgeous Asturias. I think Santiago is just too far out to fit with the other things you want to see.

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you to some of the helpful posters. I know I 'am all over the place' as someone put it. I went to Spain once about 36 yrs ago so can't remember all that much about it. Obviously I didn't get to see everything either. I have been looking at guide books and playing on the internet to make up some sort of itinerary. Another couple may be joining us now and they are part owners of a very good winery in Central Otago here in NZ.
We just want to travel around and see as many interesting things as we can.