Our luxury holidays to the Basque Country in northern Spain include the very best four and five star hotels across the region, including seaside retreats, city properties and vineyard hotels in La Rioja.Lying at the point between the Pyrenees and the Bay of Biscay is the Basque Country, a name which refers both to an autonomous community within Spain and to a larger cultural area which comprises parts of Spain and France. Known in Spanish as the Pais Vasco, you will find a unique culture here with fascinating traditions and a regional language which is widely spoken throughout. The region’s key attraction is the closeness of both sea and country - the spectacular coastline boasts sweeping sandy beaches and rugged cliffs, stunning sunsets over the ocean and surf breaking on rocks; but only a short drive inland are rolling green hills and flower filled fields. Lying around 10 miles away from the north coast is the vibrant and energetic riverside city of Bilbao, whilst further east is San Sebastian, an elegant seaside resort set on a beautiful bay only a few miles away from the French border. Stretching away from the Basque coast and forming the border with France are the Pyrenees, where rocky mountains with waterfalls and lakes stretch into Navarre, a region which is dotted with unspoiled villages and mediaeval towns which line the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. Further west are the undulating hills of La Rioja, a region whose name is synonymous with the fine wines that it produces.Although parts of the region are heavily industrialised, there are many areas of unspoiled countryside as well as over 150 miles of coastline, making it a superb destination for a luxury holiday. The natural environment has long played a huge role in the lives of the region’s inhabitants, with charming fishing villages along the coast which celebrate marine festivals as well as mountain farmers inland whose traditions remain unchanged. Throughout the region, visitors are sure to experience the unique culture of the Basque country through its language, cuisine and traditions.
Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum, a Frank Gehry-designed landmark which transformed the city. The charming old town of San Sebastian, located between the beach and the river. Vitoria-Gasteiz, the capital of the Basque Country which is home to a mediaeval old town and two cathedrals. Guernica, a small town which was bombed during WWII and inspired a famous painting by Picasso. Fishing villages between Bilbao and San Sebastian including Bakio, Bermeo, Zumaia and Lekeitio, some of which are home to wonderful beaches and are also popular surf spots. Hondarribia, a historic town situated on the border with France. Pelota, a traditional ball game which is played throughout the region on a two-walled court. Numerous bars across the region which serve ‘pinchos’ (a Basque version of tapas), including those in Logroño. Wine-producing towns across La Rioja where visitors can enjoy cellar tours and wine tastings, which can also be enjoyed at the luxury vineyard hotels which we feature. Yuso and Suso Monasteries, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in La Rioja. The fortress city of Pamplona, renowned for the annual bull running festival.CuisineThe Basque Country is renowned for its varied and innovative cuisine, with numerous Michelin-starred restaurants found across the region. San Sebastian alone is home to eight Michelin-starred restaurants, two of which have been included within the top ten of Restaurant magazine’s list of the world’s 50 best restaurants. Wine is of course an incredibly important product, primarily in La Rioja which is known for its high quality reds as well as a number of good white and rosé wines. A regional variation of tapas called ‘pinchos’ can be found throughout the Basque Country and Navarre, frequently eaten as a snack in bars. Regional cooking varies according to location, with plenty of fresh fish and shellfish to be found along the coastline and a greater use of meat and game further inland. Local dishes include ‘Bacalao’ (salt cod), ‘Marmitako’ (fresh tuna stew), ‘Cordero al Chilindron’ (spicy lamb stew) and ‘Txangurro relleno’ (stuffed spider crabs). Local events19-20 January: San Sebastian Drum Festival, 29 June: Haro Wine Festival, 6-14July: Los Sanfermines Bull Running Festival (Pamplona), July: San Sebastian Jazz Festival, 4-9 August: Festival of the Virgin Mary (Vitoria-Gasteiz), August: Bilbao’s Big Week, September: San Sebastian International Film Festival, September: San Mateo Wine Festival (Logroño)ClimateThe Basque Country’s climate is generally quite mild and wet, although there is some variation between coastal and inland areas – the Basque coast experiences relatively high levels of rainfall, cold winters and warm summers where temperatures regularly reach 25 degrees, whilst some areas further south enjoy a Mediterranean climate, with hot summers and little rain.
By air: Bilbao airport is served by low cost airlines including Easyjet, with flights to the UK and to other cities within Spain. There are also small airports in Pamplona, Hondarribia and Logroño which can be reached from Madrid and other Spanish cities. Buses run from Bilbao airport into the city centre and to San Sebastián. By rail: There are train stations in many of the main towns and cities throughout the region, including Bilbao, San Sebastián, Pamplona, Vitoria-Gasteiz and Logroño, which are all accessible from Madrid and Barcelona. The Basque Country is also easily accessible from France, allowing visitors to travel by train all the way from the UK. Hire-cars: We would recommend a hire-car for all holidays to the Basque Country where visitors wish to travel outside of the main cities, as many local highlights are in rural areas. Own car: Brittany Ferries offers twice weekly ferries from Portsmouth to Bilbao (journey time 24 hours), allowing you to travel to Spain with your own car.
Enjoy a short break in buzzing cities in the north of the region, then travel southwards to the vineyards of La Rioja or towards the Pyrenees for a relaxing holiday. You can also easily travel westwards from the Basque Country along the Atlantic coastline through the region known as Green Spain towards Galicia. The region is easily accessible from France, so can be combined with stays in towns such as Saint-Jean-de-Luz and Biarritz.
The opulent five star Hotel Carlton is one of the best luxury city hotels in Bilbao.
Palacio Guendulain is a sumptuous 4 star hotel in the heart of Pamplona's Old Town.
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