Straddling the modern-day borders of Spain and France is one of Europe's most ancient, independent-thinking regions: the Basque Country. Starting in Bayonne and ending in Bilbao, this tour happily immerses you in the rich art, history and culture of Europe's Basque Country — including the distinctive towns of St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, San Sebastián and Guernica. You'll also enjoy the region's gourmet cooking, full-bodied wines, and a time-tripping hike along the centuries-old Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail. Join us for the Basque Country of Spain & France in 8 Days!
You'll get all this!
- A small, friendly group of 24-28 people — half the size of most tour groups
- Full-time services of a professional Rick Steves guide and local experts who will make the fascinating history, art and culture of the Basque Country come alive for you
- All tours and admissions — at no extra cost — covering at least 12 group sightseeing events • Bayonne walking tour • Bus excursion to walled French town of St. Jean-Pied-de-Port • Drive through the Pyrenees • Bayonne Museum of Basque Culture tour • Visit to the French Basque city of St. Jean-de-Luz • San Sebastián Private Dining Society (txoko) dinner • San Sebastián walking tour • Pilgrimage walk along the Camino de Santiago trail • Navarre wine region excursion • Guernica visit • Bilbao walking tour • Guggenheim Museum tour...and more
- All group transportation from Bayonne, France to Bilbao, Spain
- 7 nights accommodations in memorable, centrally-located hotels
- All breakfasts and half your dinners
- All tips for guides and driver
- Free stuff including Rick Steves' Spain guidebook, Spanish phrase book, moneybelt and earplugs
- Guaranteed tour price, locked in the moment you make your deposit
- Optional single supplements — this tour has a limited number of private rooms for solo travelers for an additional fee
- Tour alum discount of $50 for each tour you've taken prior to 2014
- 50% discount on a consulting appointment with our in-house experts to assist with your pre- or post-tour travel plans
- Flexibility should you need to transfer, or cancel/interrupt your tour
- Fine print: You are responsible for the cost of your drinks and free-time sightseeing. See our Tour Conditions Agreement for important details regarding everything listed above
Daily Activity Key
- Light = 2-4 miles of mostly level walking throughout the day.
- Moderate = 2-6 miles walking throughout the day with some hills and stairs.
- Strenuous = 2-8 miles walking throughout the day with lots of hills, stairs and uneven terrain.
Day 1: Welcome to Basque Country
We'll gather at our hotel in Bayonne, France at around 5 p.m. for a Basque Region welcome meeting. Then we'll take a neighborhood orientation stroll, and start getting to know one another over dinner together. Sleep in or near Bayonne (2 nights). No bus. Walking: light.
Day 2: Bayonne and St. Jean-Pied-de-Port
This morning we'll take a walking tour through half-timbered Bayonne, the capital of the French Pays Basque. After getting to know the cobbled-street ambience of the city's Old Town we'll take a scenic drive into the Pyrenees, stopping for a visit and free time for lunch in the walled French town of St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, a traditional starting point for hiking the 500-mile Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail. Here your guide will enlighten you with details about the humble pilgrims who have trod across the north of Spain since the Middle Ages to pay homage to the remains of St. James. Later this afternoon we'll return to Bayonne for some time to explore the town and enjoy dinner on your own this evening. Bus: 2 hr. Walking: moderate.
Day 3: Basque Culture and St. Jean-de-Luz
We'll start our morning with a tour of the superb Museum of Basque Culture — setting the stage for all we'll learn during the next week about Basque culture and history. Then we'll board our bus and drive to El País Vasco — the Spanish Basque Country. En route we'll stop in the walled French town of St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, a traditional starting point for hiking the 500-mile Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail. Here your guide will enlighten you with details about the humble pilgrims who have trod across the north of Spain since the Middle Ages to pay homage to the remains of St. James. We'll follow an easier path this afternoon, with a scenic mountain drive through the Pyrenees and down to seaside San Sebastián. For fun-loving diners, your guide will be happy to help organize a tasty tapas crawl tonight. Sleep in San Sebastián (3 nights). Bus: 4 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 4: Savoring San Sebastián
We'll start our day with a walking tour of elegant, prosperous San Sebastián (Donostia in the Basque language). We'll get a Spanish view of Basque life and culture today as we tour the lively Old Town, step inside the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, and walk the promenade down to the town's beautiful beach. You'll be free this afternoon to spend more time in the Old Town, at the beach, ride the funicular up to Monte Igueldo's viewpoint, or hike around Monte Urgull. Tonight we'll get to do what most travelers can only dream of: dine at a members-only private dining society (txoko) and learn why San Sebastián is the culinary capital of Spain. No bus. Walking: moderate.
Day 5: All Day on the Camino de Santiago
We'll spend our day along the camino that leads to Santiago de Compostela, and experience first-hand the historic path trod by a thousand years' worth of pilgrims. This part of the trail is also a popular recreational hiking route, surrounded by vineyards that produce some of Spain's finest wines. We'll walk a level section of the trail, meeting a mix of devoted pilgrims and happy day-hikers. We'll stop for a well-deserved lunch and tasting of Navarre vintages at a local winery, then resume our pilgrimage. We'll return to San Sebastián in time for you to sample more of the region's gourmet cuisine. Bus: 4 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 6: Guernica and Bustling Bilbao
We'll drive along the rugged coastline of the Bay of Biscay this morning, stopping at a fishing village or two. This afternoon we'll learn more about the independent Basque spirit with a visit to the town of Guernica (Gernika), site of the infamous 1937 air raid that inspired Picasso's anti-war masterpiece (now housed in Madrid). Today, Guernica is considered the very heart of the Basque nation. We'll learn more about the Spanish Civil War and today's political issues as we tour the Assembly House and its symbolic Oak Tree, where Basque leaders have met since medieval times. We'll then make a beeline for Bilbao, and get acquainted with Spanish Basque's most important city during our walking tour of the Old Town and its pristine Gothic cathedral. Sleep in Bilbao (2 nights). Bus: 3 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 7: Bilbao's Dazzling Guggenheim Museum
We'll devote our morning to Frank Gehry's dazzling temple of modern art: The Guggenheim Bilbao. We'll take a tour of the museum's best architectural and artistic attractions, then set you free for more museum meandering — or to explore more of the city's Old Town maze, its Maritime Museum, and other sights. Tonight, we'll rendezvous for a last dinner together, where we'll share travel memories and toast new friends. No bus. Walking: moderate.
Day 8: Tour Over After Breakfast
Bilbao's airport provides easy connections to Madrid and all major European airline hubs. Your guide will help you get pointed in the right direction for home, or to continue your travels in Europe. Agur!
Itinerary specifics subject to change.
Rick Steves tours are physically active!
This is an integral, essential part of the Rick Steves tour experience. On our Basque Country of Spain & France in 8 Days tour — among other things — you'll need to happily...
- Carry/roll your luggage over uneven pavement (several blocks possible) and up stairways to reach your hotel; then up several flights of stairs to reach your room.
- Be on your feet, walking and standing for up to three hours, indoors and outdoors, in all weather conditions.
- Sleep with street noise and no (or weak) air conditioning.
- After orientation and transportation lessons, be able to navigate towns and cities on your own.
We've put together some specific information on what you should know about this tour before you go. You'll also find more general information about "Getting Ready for Your Tour" on our Tour FAQ.
Sightseeing On Your Own
If you plan to arrive early into Bayonne, please be advised that the town is extremely quiet on Sunday (all the shops are closed) and we will be visiting all of the city's major sights as a group. Therefore, we recommend the following sightseeing options: Take a day trip to (or spend prior night(s) sleeping in) the nearby town of Biarritz — easily reachable by bus or train. See Rick's Spain guidebook for more details.
If you are planning on flying into or out of Barcelona or Madrid, these are also logical choices for sightseeing before or after your tour. For details about traveling elsewhere in Spain, please see Rick Steves' Spain guidebook.
Most tour members arrive a day or two before the tour begins — and those who don't, wish they had. This allows you ample time to get over jet lag and make the most of the first few days of the tour.
There is more than one way to get to and from your tour. We recommend talking to your travel agent about "open jaw" airline tickets (flying into and out of different cities). It's easiest to fly into Biarritz, France, a quick 20-minute bus ride into Bayonne, and out of Bilbao, Spain which has its own airport. We do not recommend flying roundtrip into either Bayonne or Bilbao, as it is a seven-hour train ride (often with multiple connections) to travel between the two cities.
Another option is to fly into/out of Barcelona, Madrid, or Paris and then train or fly to/from Bayonne/Bilbao. If you decide to fly in/out of Barcelona, Madrid, or Paris, you might consider spending a few days before or after the tour in these cities.
Flying within Europe can be reasonable. Ask your travel agent or check Rick's list of European budget airlines. For links to helpful rail and air websites, go to www.ricksteves.com/plan/links and look under "Transportation."
Prior to your tour departure, you will receive detailed directions on how to get from the airport to your first tour hotel, as well as contact information for your first and last hotels in case you wish to book pre- or post-tour hotel accommodations.
If you need more information about additional European travel or for specific questions about your tour, contact the Tour Department at 425/608-4217 or email email@example.com.
See a chart with monthly rain and temperature information for this tour.
While it is important to pack light, there are a few items we'd like you to consider including when packing for this tour. The Basque Region has many micro-climates; it can be rainier, cooler or warmer than expected in every season. Clothes that can be easily layered to accommodate all types of weather conditions are recommended. We also recommend a pair of comfortable walking shoes with soles offering good traction. Portions of the Camino walk will be along dirt paths that can turn muddy if it's raining.
For ideas on what to pack, check Rick's Packing List and our Women's Packing List.
Tour Guide Raves
"Our tour guide, Francisco, was a perfect 10! He is very well-studied, knows his history, speaks with confidence and enthusiasm, has a wonderful, expressive sense of humor, is very considerate, and a joy to be around. His experiences running the bulls in Pamplona make for very good stories and the fact that he is Basque, through and through, make his knowledge even more personal and meaningful."
— Claire in Des Moines, WA
"I would travel with Federico anytime, anywhere. He was outstanding; told amazing stories that brought the region to life. And he is a great singer — regaled us with beautiful arias and traditional songs."
— Joan in Chicago, IL
Favorite tour memories from recent alums:
"San Sebastián is a 'wow' city. The tour had several highlights for us. One was the Guggenheim in Bilbao. Another was the day we spent in France. The last was our day walking the Camino de Santiago, where we met a French chorale group practicing in a small church in the countryside. They sang to us in French and then in a final song, in English."
— William in Tampa, FL
"The entire tour was wonderful but I will especially treasure our first dinner at the Basque Gastronomic Society. Sitting on the outdoor terrace as evening fell and trying to find so many new foods with new friends was marvelous and a wonderful welcome to Spain."
— Charlotte in Ketchikan, AK
"The entire trip was wonderful. I especially liked the Guggenheim, walking the Camino de Santiago, and the French Basque country."
— Lynda in Minneapolis, MN
To see more comments on Rick Steves' tours, read through our tour member reviews.
Videos & More
This region is rich in history, art and culture. To help you get the most from your trip, we've put together this collection of travel resources from Rick's radio interviews and articles, as well as recommended books, films and music.
Rick Steves' TV Clips & Shows
(For more Rick Steves' TV clips on this region, visit Rick on YouTube.)
- Tasio (1984)
- The Way (2010)
- Días Contados (1994)
- La Pelota Vasca (ETA Documentary 2003)
- Agian (2006)
- Kutsidazu bidea, Ixabel (in Basque Language, 2006)
Rick Steves' Radio Interviews
(For more radio interviews on this region, see Rick's Audio Europe™ files for iPod, PC & MP3.)
Rick Steves Audio Europe™
- Opera: Jesus Guridi, José María Usandizaga
- Classical: Joseph-Maurice Ravel
- Pop/folk: Mikel Laboa, Jabier Muguruza
- Gregorian Chant: Oldarra
Rick Steves' Articles
(For more articles on this region, see Rick's Best Destinations.)
- Rick Steves' Spain
- The Basque History of the World — Mark Kurlansky
- The Basques, The Catalans, and Spain — Daniele Conversi
- Life and Food in the Basque Country — Mara Sevilla
- The Land of My Fathers: A Son's Return to the Basque Country — Robert Laxalt
- Following the Milky Way: A Pilgrimage on the Camino De Santiago — Elyn Aviva
- The Sun Also Rises — Ernest Hemingway
- Knight of the Temple — Stuart J. Dimmock
- A View from the Witch's Cave: Folktales of the Pyrenees — Luis Barandiaran Irizar
- And the Serpent Said to the Woman — Miren Lourdes Onederra
- An Anthology Of Basque Short Stories — Mari Jose Olaziregi, and others