We will be going on the RS Best of Basque tour in May, and are thinking about taking a couple extra days on the front end to do some exploring on our own. Any suggestions for destinations that are convenient to the tour start in Bayonne?
To learn more about this aspect of your tour, go to this page and click on "Pre-Tour": https://www.ricksteves.com/tours/spain-portugal/basque
Here's what he says directly about your question:
"Sightseeing on Your Own
If you arrive a day or two early, note that we'll be visiting all of Bayonne's major sights as a group. Your best independent sightseeing options are day trips to the nearby towns of Biarritz and St-Jean-de-Luz — easily reached by bus or train. See Rick's Snapshot: Basque Country for more details."
We really enjoyed our stay at St-Jean-de-Luz. It's a very pretty Basque seaside town in France.
You will love this tour! We did it last Sept/Oct, then traveled to Barcelona to join the 14 day Spain tour. The beginning city is Bayonne, France. It is small, if you sightsee to early, there will be repetition when you join your group.
If you do start your trip early in Bayonne, I would recommend using the hotel that the tour starts from. Not many choices of lodging within the city center.
We flew into Paris and traveled by train to Bayonne. If you are flying into Paris, are there others areas of France you would like to see on the way to Bayonne?
This is our favorite area of Europe, and would love to return especially to San Sebastian, Spain!
Taking the train from Paris to Bayonne is what we were thinking about. I wonder if a stop in Amboise to see a little bit of the Loire would be doable over a day or two?
I would spend a few days in Idaho and Wyoming and see if you can find any of those Basque sheepherders who left Europe years ago to care for sheep in the wild wild west. It might be an interesting conversation.
I flew in to Bordeaux. Took a train to Bayonne. It was an interesting connection to a RS starting point. It was cheaper than flying into Biarritz.
I went 4 days early to the tour. It was a little too much time. Went to Biarritz a couple of times. Easy connection via public transportation. Surfing is big there in the fall, but there are still many surfers throughout the day. Casino virtually on the beach in Biarritz. Went to the chocolate factory in Bayonne.
I wish I had gone to Basque Museum on my own time. We saw it on the tour. I found it very fascinating. I wanted more time there, but I ran out of time.
I tried to get to places beyond Biarritz during my extra time. I found the connections a little "clunky", so I opted out of those attempts.
Lots of really good food. I enjoyed exploring Bayonne.
HI - we took this tour in 2014...it's great! We flew into Paris, spent a day or two overcoming jet lag and enjoyed seeing Paris again. Took the TGV down to Bayonne. It was perfect.
For our September '16 tour, we also chose to fly into Bordeaux for the better airfare and schedule. Spending one night and then south on the TGV. On the return we rent a car in Bordeaux and head for 6 nights in the Dordogne. RS advises minimum of 2 nights (ideally 3) to see Sarlat, Cro Magnon Caves, Dordogne River Valley, Oradour-sur-Glane, St. Emilion, etc.
With two nights in Amboise, you can see the sites of the town on your arrival day an a couple of top chateaux on your full day. Train travel time is about 2 hours from Paris to Amboise (direct trains depart Austerlitz station at roughly 7:30 a.m., 13:00, 17:30, and 18:30 weekdays, different on weekends), then 5-6 hours to Bayonne with 2 connections. To maximize sightseeing time versus train travel time, I'd hope that you're also spending a few days in Paris. To compare, a direct Paris-Bayonne TGV only takes 5 hours; best to book this ahead for the best fare and seat availability, but not on the same day as flight arrival.
I see most everyone is starting in France. When I took this tour (loved it by the way), I spent 4 days in Madrid first, including a day trip to Toledo. Was especially glad to have seen the Picasso exhibit at the Reina Sofia, including the original "Guernica" before heading for the Basque trip.
It was an easy train ride (with a change of trains at the border) to Bayonne the day the tour started.
I'm flying into Biarritz from Dublin the day before the tour begins. I decided to spend the night in St. Jean Pied de Port before heading to Bayonne. The tour stops in SJPDP for part of a day but I wanted to get a little more in depth intro into the starting point of the Camino.
The train to/from Bayonne to SJPDP looks pretty easy.