When you think of a trip to Spain you will most likely immediately think of the Spanish Costa’s. The popular seaside resorts of Costa Blanca and Costa Brava. Or perhaps a city trip to Madrid or a tour of Andalusia. Few travelers seem to think of a tour of the Spanish Basque Country . Although, in our opinion, it is the most beautiful region in Spain. We have made two great road trips through the Basque Country and share in this article the most beautiful places in the region of the Basque Country, in northwestern Spain. With many tips for the best things to do in Basque Country.
Rent a car in Basque Country
A road trip through the Basque Country is not a road trip without a car. Of course you can choose to travel to the Basque Country with your own car, but if you choose to fly then you can easily and reliably rent a car in Spain. In recent years we have mainly rented cars through Sunny Cars because with them you are always fully insured and have no surprises. But of course there are more companies where you can safely rent a good car in the Basque Country. We have good experiences with the following companies:
The biggest city in Basque Country: Bilbao
The best destination to start a road trip through the Basque Country is the largest city in the region, Bilbao. Bilbao is a fantastic original city break destination and has become increasingly popular in recent years. Particularly because of the impressive Guggenheim Museum which is located in Bilbao, among other places. But there are many more great things to do in Bilbao. Therefore, I recommend you to spend at least two full days in Bilbao before you start your road trip. So that you can not only admire the Guggenheim Bilbao, but also stroll through the historic center, taste the best pintxos and enjoy the fantastic atmosphere in this city.
You can fly to Bilbao and rent a car and make an amazing trip through the Basque Country. The Basque Country region is not very big and in a week you can discover many beauties. Do you have more time? Then add a road trip through the Spanish autonomous region of Navarre. Navarre is officially part of the Basque Country, but is often seen as a separate region.
To do in the Basque Country: Visit San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
From Bilbao, it’s about a 50-minute drive to the next great destination in the Basque Country. San Juan de Gaztelugatxe (don’t ask me how you pronounce it) is one of the most beautiful places in the Basque Country we visited and translated from the Basque language means rock castle or castle rock. On top of the island is a small church that can be visited today. If you want to visit the island you have to buy tickets in advance through the website of the Basque government. This is to protect the special landscape. That the place is beautiful the makers of the hit series Game of Thrones have also discovered. In fact, a number of recordings were made here in 2016. Fans will therefore better recognize San Juan de Gaztelugatxe as Dragonstone.
Bosques de Oma in the interior of the Basque Country
When you drive further north, towards the border with France, it’s nice to drive a little inland. The coastline of the Basque Country is the most beautiful if you ask me, but you have plenty of time for this. In the interior you will find a unique piece of nature, namely Bosques de Oma near the town of Oma. Here is a huge forest where many trees are painted in special styles. You can make beautiful walks through the green nature.
Basque Country sights: The coastal town of Lekeitio
From Bosques de Oma you drive further towards the coast of the Basque Country. The first nice town to make a short stop in is the town of Lekeitio. The center is very cozy and it is nice to walk around for an hour. And of course have a drink with a delicious pintxo.
The impressive rocks of Zumaia
The next stop on your road trip through the Basque Country is the seaside town of Zumaia. Zumaia is small and thus quickly discovered, but the stop is definitely worth it. Mainly because of its beautiful location on the coast and the huge rocks you can admire here.
City break San Sebastián
All the above mentioned stops between Bilbao and San Sebastián can be visited in one day. If you want a little more time it is best to spend the night in Lekeitio. After an impressive, but tiring day you arrive in San Sebastián which is, in my opinion, the nicest city in the Basque Country. I recommend you to stay here for at least two nights (but actually three). San Sebastián is situated on a beautiful bay and has beautiful views over the city and the Bay of Biscay, impressive buildings and a very cozy historic center and the finest restaurants.
Road trip through Navarre
If you have enough time I recommend you to drive from San Sebastian to Pamplona in the Navarra region. From here you can make a road trip along the semi-desert Bardenas Realas.
The medieval town in the valley: Oñati
On the way from San Sebastián to Pamplona, I recommend you make a stop in the medieval town of Oñati. Oñati is located in a valley and surrounded by green hills. Just driving there is a celebration in itself. The main attraction in Oñati is the Universidad Sancti Spiritus, the ancient university.
You can choose to travel on to Pamplona or Bilbao from here, but it is even nicer to spend the night here. For this we recommend Casa Rural Arregi. This hotel is not located in the center, but in the middle of the beautiful nature of the Basque Country. Prefer something else? Compare here all hotels in – the neighbourhood of – Oñati.
End your trip in Bilbao
The most convenient way to end your road trip through the Spanish Basque Country is to pick up where you left off, in Bilbao. Here you can return your rental car and fly back home. Without a doubt, you will have had a great road trip.
Parking during your road trip
Although Spain is certainly not an expensive destination compared to the Netherlands, it is useful to know that parking costs can rise significantly. In larger cities, free parking is almost impossible and we noticed that even in many hotels you have to pay for parking. Often they charge 15 to 20 Euros per day. Useful to take into account when determining the budget for your road trip through the Basque Country.
Tips for a road trip through the Basque Country
- Make sure you set your navigation to avoid the toll roads. That way you’ll get to the most beautiful places.
- The official language in the Spanish Basque Country is Basque. So don’t be alarmed if you encounter words that are not at all similar to Spanish. Fortunately, all the important things are also indicated in Spanish and many people understand and speak English very well.
- Many people only know the Basque Country from the news because of the attacks by the ETA. Here you don’t have to worry. The ETA was officially disbanded in 2018.