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THE BASQUE COUNTRY: A Land of a Resilient People

Villa Arnaga in Cambo-les-Bains
Bayonne ham
Basque tombstones in Ainhoa
Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port
Blibao
Drying peppers in Espelette

Straddling the border between France and Spain, the Basque Country is one of the most fascinating and mysterious regions in Europe. No one knows for sure where the original Basques came from; their language is unlike any other and is virtually unpronounceable to outsiders. The landscape encompasses craggy coastal cliffs, lush countrysides and rugged mountain peaks crisscrossed with trails carved out by shepherds and smugglers. Basque culture is neither truly French nor Spanish, but carries nuances of both with distinct Basque overtones. Our tour takes you to both sides of the border of this intriguing country.

THE BASQUE COUNTRY

A Land of a Resilient People

8 DAYS, 7 NIGHTS

A LAND OF RESILIENT PEOPLE

  • HIGHLIGHTS:
    • Explore historic Bayonne, elegant Biarritz and colorful Saint-Jean-de-Luz in the French Basque country.
    • Discover the charm of farming and fishing villages: Donibane, Hondarribia, Ainhoa, Espelette, and more.
    • Visit the Villa Arnaga, lovely home and gardens of Edmond Rostand, author of "Cyrano de Bergerac."
    • Explore the amazing Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.
    • Sample an incredible variety of tapas at romantic sidewalk cafés in San Sebastián.
    • See Guernica, whose destruction and suffering during the Spanish Civil War was memorialized by Picasso.
    • Savor delicious Basque cuisine on both sides of the border.

 

Day 1: (Lodging near Biarritz)

  • Arrival day,
    • Your guides will meet you at the train station or airport in Biarritz.
    • Short drive to Biarritz, for a welcome stroll on the beach promenade.
    • Check in, rest, or take a short country stroll in the village.
    • Apéritif and orientation on the Basque region.

 

Day 2: (Lodging near Biarritz)

Guided tour of historic Bayonne

  • Morning
    • After a short drive we will meet our local guide in Bayonne for a guided tour of historic Bayonne. Once a Roman fort, later British as part of the dowry of Eleanor of Aquitaine, it was joined to France in the 15th century.
  • Afternoon
    • Visit the Musée Basque et de l'histoire de Bayonne (museum focusing on Basque culture and the history of Bayonne).
  • Evening
    • Enjoy a Bayonne specialty dating back to the Spanish conquistadors--a thick, rich, spicy hot chocolate drink. Gentle walk along the colorful riverfront district of the Nive River.
    • Free time to explore the old streets of Bayonne, shop for local specialties or visit the Bonnat Museum.

 

Day 3: (Lodging near Biarritz)

Guided visit of Biarritz and Saint-Jean-de-Luz.

  • Morning
    • Guided tour of Biarritz. The town began as a small Basque whaling station, but was transformed 150 years ago into an internationally renowned seaside resort, thanks to Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoléon III.
  • Afternoon
    • Guided walking tour of Saint-Jean-de-Luz to see the handsome 17th- and 18th-century houses built for merchants and ship builders, and the famous church where Louis XIV was married to Maria Teresa of Castile in 1660.
  • Late afternoon
    • Walk along the coastal corniche to Saint-Jean-de-Luz, enjoying superb views of the Atlantic Coast, the sandy bay and magnificent harbor, and the picturesque houses of the port.

 

Day 4: (Lodging near Biarritz)

A day in Spain's Basque country. Visit Bilbao and Guernica.

  • Morning
    • Visit to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. Bilbao is perhaps best known for its dramatic ultra-modern Guggenheim Museum. The city itself, though, is fascinating: a cultural, governmental and economic center of the region.
  • Afternoon
    • A drive of about 40 minutes will take you from urban Bilbao to the small rural town of Guernica. The town, which was once the seat of government for the Basques, still stands as a symbol of Basque independence. Most of us, however, know the town from Pablo Picasso's mural depicting the terrible tragedy of war and its effects on ordinary people.
  • Evening
    • Dinner

 

Day 5: (Lodging near Biarritz)

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, Roncevaux and return by the Aldudes Valley.

  • Morning
    • Drive to the beautiful inland village of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, once an important stopover for pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. After visiting Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and before lunch in Aurizberri-Espinal, Spain, we will stop at the Roncevaux Pass.
  • Lunch
  • Afternoon
    • We will drive down the Aldudes Valley through foothills where you will find picturesque villages, farms raising pigs that provide the Basque country's famous ham and cheese-making farms.
  • Evening
    • Dinner

 

Day 6: (Lodging near Biarritz)

Explore the Gipuzkoa cost (Spain's Basque country province).

  • Morning
    • Visit San Sebastián (Donostia) on the southern coast of the Bay of Biscay. As the New York Times article of August 4, 2011 says: "To visit San Sebastián, on Spain's northern coast, is to fall in love. The first sight of the shimmering scallop-shaped bay, replete with crescents of golden sand and turquoise waves, will sweep you off your feet."
    • On our way to Hondarribia, we will stop to visit the Spanish fishing village of Pasaia Donibane (Pasajes de San Juan).
  • Afternoon
    • Drive and walk in the foothills of the Pyrénées for spectacular views of the Bay of Biscay. Before arriving in Fontarrabie or Fuenterrabía (Hondarribia), we will drive up to and through the Jaizkibel mountain range for a panoramic view of the Basque coast.

 

Day 7: (Lodging near Biarritz)

We will visit the villages of Cambo-les-Bains, Espelette, Ainhoa, and Zugarramurdi or Sare.

  • Morning
    • Visit Cambo-les-Bains and the Villa Arnaga, lovely home and formal gardens built by Edmond Rostand, author of "Cyrano de Bergerac."
  • Afternoon
    • You know you have arrived in Espelette when you see curtains of bright red peppers hanging to dry on the walls of the village homes and shops. Hot peppers, or "piments d'Espelette," are the main product of this colorful village.
    • Visit Ainhoa, one of the region's prettiest and most traditional villages. With its idyllic setting at the foot of the mountain and its traditional Basque-style houses, Ainhoa well deserves its official status as one of "the most beautiful villages of France."

 

Day 8:

Au revoir to the Basque Country.

  • Morning
    • Tour ends after breakfast. Your guides will drive you to the Biarittz train station or airport, where you can take the train or flight back home, or to your next destination.

 

What our travelers say about the Basque Country

  • Not enough words to thank you for most splendid trip full of great kindness, good humor, knowledge, skill, patience, and delicious food and interesting places. Thank YOU Alain very much for early morning carrying heavy luggage to car and easy trip to Bordeaux airport and your sweet goodbye. You have given me a treasure!!! Our experiences in Bordeaux and Basque country shine brightly. Thank you!!
    • S. R., Pennsylvania
  • I was so impressed with all of the information you included (in the packet). I have been so busy with work that I am even more thankful that everything for the trip has been taken care of.
    • K.K, California
  • I enjoyed everything. Each day had some memorable highlight. There was plenty of variety. Enjoyed dinner with "natives.
    • S.S, Washington