Basque Country Tours Spain Vacations Rick Steves 2019 Tours

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 tour of Bayonne’s superb Museum of Basque Culture — setting the foundation for all we’ll learn about Basque culture and history. This afternoon you’ll have free time to enjoy Bayonne, or take a short train or bus ride (20 minutes) to the seaside towns of St-Jean-de-Luz or Biarritz. No bus. Walking: moderate. Day 3: St-Jean-Pied-de-Port and Pamplona

Today we’ll say au revoir ( agur in Basque) to France, but not before we make one last stop for a visit to 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 we’ll learn about the humble pilgrims who have trekked across the north of Spain since the Middle Ages to pay homage to the remains of St. James. This afternoon our bus will take the scenic route, crossing over the impressive Pyrenees mountains to Pamplona. After a short orientation walk our guide will introduce us to the unique culture of eating tapas. Sleep in Pamplona (2 nights). Bus: 3 hours. Walking: moderate. Day 4: Proud Pamplona

Let’s run with the bulls today — figuratively speaking, of course — as we take a walking tour through the historic heart of Pamplona ("Iruña" in Basque), including its cathedral and ramparts. We’ll learn about Pamplona’s importance as capital of Spain’s Navarra region, and as a key stop along the Camino de Santiago trail. We’ll also learn about Pamplona’s association with author Ernest Hemingway — who hailed from Illinois but is celebrated here as a native son. Tonight we’ve been invited to dine like the locals at a traditional sociedad private dining club. No bus. Walking: moderate. Day 5: All Day on the Camino de Santiago

Today, we’ll board our bus and drive deeper into El Pais Vasco – the Spanish Basque Country. But we’ll also make our way to San Sebastián as pilgrims, hiking along a stretch of the famous camino. We’ll stop for a well-deserved lunch and tasting of Navarre vintages at a local winery. We’ll arrive in San Sebastián this evening in time to get oriented to our new neighborhood. The evening is all yours to simply soak in the sights of the beautiful Bay of Biscay surrounding you. Sleep in San Sebastián (2 nights). Bus: 2 hours. Walking: strenuous. Day 6: Savoring San Sebastián

We’ll begin our day with a walking tour of elegant San Sebastián ("Donostia" in Basque). Our guide will give us a view of Spanish Basque life and culture 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 and evening 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, you’ll be ready to make your own San Sebastián dining discoveries. No bus. Walking: moderate. Day 7: Guernica and Bilbao

We’ll start our day driving along the rugged coastline of the Bay of Biscay as we make our way to the town of Guernica (Gernika). We’ll dive further into the independent Basque spirit as we visit the town made infamous by the 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. This afternoon, we’ll head to a sheep farm where we’ll learn firsthand the importance of sheep to the Basque culture and make our own yogurt. Then we’ll make a beeline for bustling Bilbao, where we’ll sleep (2 nights). Bus: 3 hours. Walking: moderate. Day 8: Bilbao and the Guggenheim

This morning we’ll devote our time 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 Bilbao’s Old Town maze, its Fine Arts Museum, and other sights. Tonight, we’ll rendezvous for a farewell dinner together, where we’ll share travel memories and toast new friends. Topa! No bus. Walking: moderate. Day 9: Tour Over After Breakfast

Overall the tour was very good, organized and well thought out. Pamplona was a horrible, over-hyped, lack luster, dirty, graffiti laden town with one claim to fame…the running of the bulls. I would reduce the experience there to a stop-over with the local guide who was very good. Other than running of the bulls (and I am far from a PETA person) the town has nothing to offer. In my European travels from Ireland to Istanbul, Pamplona is bar none the least enjoyable European destination. Favorite "WOW" moment

"RS gets a big WOW for having tour members in their late 70’s risk their health, well being and the remainder of their tour by trekking a rock strewn, down hill frankly dangerous segment of the Camino de Santiago. Augustin described the initial trail as down hill and rocky but no one was truly prepared for having to carefully place each foot fall along the rock strewn path in order to avoid injury. Yes, he stated no one HAD to take the trail but I think it misguided to offer it at all."

Wonderful exploration of Basque Country with fantastic guides and friendly tour mates. I chose this tour for the unique culture and small geographic area and because it would be easier than my usual solo travel by public transport. Good content (cities/sights seen), pace (2 nights/city, 9 am starts to offset late Spanish dinners), and group/free time balance. Travel days had interesting stops. If looking for big, iconic sights, this isn’t your tour. Its beauty is on a smaller scale. Favorite "WOW" moment

"Half-timbered buildings reflected in the river in Bayonne early Sunday morning, walking the quiet cobblestone streets of St-Jean-Pied-de-Port before the crowds arrived and hearing the church bells of one church after another across the valley calling villagers to Sunday Mass; the sheep farm and cheese demo; Picasso’s Guernika; the Guggenheim glowing in the setting sun; the chapel on the Camino where our guide had been married; but above all the morning spent walking the Camino in silence."

We learned much about the region and culture, which was one of our top goals, and we had fun! The itinerary was well crafted to make the most of our time but also give us free time to explore, plus it offered a good sense of different parts of the Basque Country. The rest of the tour group was exceptionally cordial and supportive of each other. And, an absolute highlight was our guide, Francisco. His knowledge, passion, energy, humor and warmth made this more than a tour, but an experience. Favorite "WOW" moment

"The day we hiked a section of the Camino de Santiago! There was fog and mist in the air when we started, then light rain, which gave it even more of a mystical feel. Francisco ideally prepared us for the walk by explaining the history of the Camino, and how some pilgrims approach it. He encouraged us to walk at least part of it alone to gain a sense of a true pilgrimage and to feel the history at our feet and to think about our "uncried tears" — and this made it evermore meaningful."

This was our second Rick Steves tour and like the first, it was amazing. We are already planning our next one. Basque Country is not known for the typical sites other than the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao (which was also quite fantastic). What distinguished this tour was the immersion into the history, culture and the people (and the food!) of Basque Country. I don’t have enough superlatives to state how well our guide, Francisco, told the story of his people and his homeland. Favorite "WOW" moment

"Francisco and his stories was my "wow" moment. In St-Jean-Pied-de-Port he explained the relationship between the villagers on the Camino with the pilgrims. Before our walk began, he discussed the different ways pilgrims approach the Camino, how they are traveling on it, the stone sculptures they leave honoring their loved ones. And at Gernika, Francisco shared his interpretation of Picasso’s painting and told of his grandfathers, best friends separated by political ideals. Incredibly moving."