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The Basque region of Spain is characterized by stunning landscapes, delectable cuisine and quaint villages. For many travelers to Spain, it would be easy to spend at least a month on a tour of the Basque Country, swooning over the gorgeous coastline and gorging on pintxos (Basque-style tapas) while wandering from town to town.
Of course, most visitors to Spain don’t have that much time, so we created a 3-Day Basque Country Itinerary that allows travelers to experience the region in just a few days.
Top Tip: Our route in Basque Country can be added as part of a longer Northern Spain Itinerary or as an additional destination on a broader Vacation Itinerary for Spain.
Plan a Basque Country Itinerary for Spain
Even on a short trip, it’s possible to visit two cities in Basque Country. Well-known (and foodie-favored) San Sebastian is a top destination – and should certainly be on every Basque Itinerary – but staying in one of the less-visited Basque villages is also highly recommended.
With a plethora of charming places to choose from, it can be difficult to decide which town to add to a Basque tour. However, from the places we visited, we really fell for Hondarribia – a town that sits just west of the French border and is conveniently next to the main San Sebastian Airport.
Best Basque Country Itinerary for 3 Days
Our Basque Country Itinerary features fun activities and essential information to help others tour Basque Country, like we did. To aid travelers in their trip planning for Spain, we have also included a Basque Country map and helpful tips and facts at the end of the article.
Pro Tip: Get (and stay) organized for your vacation to Spain by using our Travel Planning Printables!
Save, Pin or Bookmark this Basque Travel Guide so that you can plan your trip to Spain!
Day 1: Hondarribia, Spain
Hondarribia is one of the best towns in Basque Country! Explore Hondarribia on foot and then go beyond the center for more nearby discovery.
Hondarribia Old Town
After getting settled in your Hondarribia hotel (recommendations to follow), take a stroll around the cobblestone lanes to get acquainted with the charming Old Town. Wander down Kale Nagusia (Main Street) where you will pass by 18th century Baroque buildings along with the impressive Iglesia del Manzano church.
Turn down any of the many picturesque Hondarribia lanes to marvel at the brightly-painted houses featuring wooden balconies. Find your way to Plaza de Armas (Weapons Square) and Castle of Charles V. Now converted into the stunning Parador Hotel, visitors are welcome to go inside and enjoy a beverage in their cozy café.
Marina District Hondarribia and Lower Town
The Hondarribia Marina District evolved from an old fisherman’s port to a enclave of restaurants and tapas bars. For lunch, dine al fresco at a waterfront restaurant or choose from one of the many options on San Pedro and Santiago Streets in the Hondarribia Lower Town.
Take A Half-Day Trip from Hondarribia
After lunch, in the afternoon choose one or two of the following three attractions near Hondarribia. However, an ambitious traveler – with a rental car – could possibly see all three!
Pro Tip: If the weather is nice, we recommend walking to the Cape Higuer Lighthouse and perhaps having a drink with a view at Bar La Cabana. Then find yourself relaxing at the beach on the way back to Hondarribia.
Visit the Hondarribia Lighthouse
One of the lesser-visited Basque Country points of interest, the Cape Higuer Hondarribia Lighthouse marks the most northeastern corner of Spain. Just a short walk outside of town, the base of the lighthouse provides a stunning view of the Basque coast. If this option is of interest to you, get more information in this separate post on the Hondarribia Lighthouse.
Relax at the Hondarribia Beach
When you think of popular Spanish beaches, you’ll likely be drawn to the stunning coastline of southern Spain. However, a wide and sandy Hondarribia Beach is on the north side of town where the Bidasoa River flows into the bay (and provides a natural border between Spain and France). The clean and calm waters are ideal for swimming and the breakwater fishing pier is pleasant for walks on sunny days.
Explore France in St. Jean de Luz
If you do have a car, drive across the border to St. Jean de Luz, France. Experience a taste of French Basque Country, which is noticeably different from Spanish Basque Country. Read more about our visit and get our tips for One Day in St. Jean de Luz.
After you return from your half-day tour, and depending on where you ate lunch, plan to dine at either the Marina or Lower Town of Hondarribia. Spend the evening savoring Hondarribia Pintxos as you graze your way through the night. Read (and learn from!) our mistakes in our first attempts at Basque Cuisine.
Day 2: San Sebastian, Spain
San Sebastian is one of the top places to visit in Basque Country – and for good reason! With an incredible food scene and ample nature, every Basque Country Itinerary should include a stop in San Sebastian.
San Sebastian Old Town
Get settled in your San Sebastian hotel and then tour San Sebastian, starting in the historic Old Town. In the maze of Old Town streets, find the Plaza de la Constitucion, a massive square in the city center.
Other sights to see in the Old Town San Sebastian are the Gothic-style San Vicente Church, the Baroque Basilica of Santa Maria Church and the San Telmo Museum.
Monte Urgull Hike
Rising from the north end of the San Sebastian Old Town is Monte Urgull. Once a strategic defense lookout, the hill is now a nature park. Featuring various interconnecting trails, they eventually lead to the 12th century Castillo De La Mota (Motako Gaztelua) and a nearly 300 foot tall statue of Christ at the summit.
The spectacular view from Monte Urgull looks across Concha Bay to Monte Igueldo, with Isla de Santa Clara appearing to float in the middle between the two.
Top Tip: For more information about the park and trekking to the top, read Monte Urgull: Hiking San Sebastian to Castillo de la Mota.
San Sebastian Sunset
Before returning to the Old Town, find a spot along the Basque coast to watch the sunset. Our favorite spot to watch the sinking sun is on the Pasarela-Embarcadero steps just south of the San Sebastian Marina.
Pro Tip: Bring along a bottle of Txakoli, the famous Basque Country wine, to enjoy while the sun sets!
San Sebastian Pintxos
As the lights come on and the San Sebastian restaurant doors reopen, enter back into the Old Town to experience one of the best things to do in Basque Country: Pintxos bar-hopping! We suggest going in with a plan, but feel free to ramble aimlessly, letting the crowds and scents dictate your route.
Day 3: Explore More of San Sebastian or Take a Basque Day Trip
On your last day of your Basque vacation, choose to enjoy more San Sebastian attractions or take one of the popular day trips from San Sebastian.
San Sebastian Beaches
The main crescent-shaped beach on La Concha Bay is a great place to soak up the sun and swim in the sea in San Sebastian. In the middle of Concha Beach is the popular La Perla Health Spa along with several seaside restaurants and cafes. At the far west end of Concha Bay (and through a tunnel) is Ondarreta Beach, which is a popular San Sebastian beach for families.
To the east of the Old Town and fronting the Gros neighborhood is a second beautiful San Sebastian bay with stunning, sandy beaches. Zurriola Beach (also Playa de Gros or Zurriolako Beach) is popular with locals and also a well-known surfing spot in San Sebastian (you can even sign up for lessons!).
Monte Igueldo Funicular and Amusement Park
Towering over the west coast of the Bay of Concha is Monte Igueldo. The most entertaining way to get to the top of Monte Igueldo is via the 120 year old San Sebastian funicular.
At the top of Monte Igueldo are several stunning San Sebastian viewpoints and a few café/bars to enjoy a beverage. The small, county-fair-feeling Parque de Atracciones amusement park is the other main reason people visit Monte Igueldo, and along with the Canopy Donostia adventure park, it’s one of the best things to do in San Sebastian for families.
San Sebastian, Spain Tours
San Sebastian is well-located for day trips to nearby Basque locations. Top destinations for day trips from San Sebastian are Bilbao (including a visit to the Guggenheim Museum), St. James Way hiking tour (a portion of the Camino de Santiago), Game of Thrones locations and Biarritz, France in French Basque. For tourists interested in learning more about San Sebastian, there are guided walking and biking tours of the city as well.
Basque Country Map
Use this detailed Google Map to make your way around on your Basque Country Spain Trip!
Basque Country Facts
Before embarking on Basque Country holidays, it’s important to understand a few things about the region.
- Basque Country is a region of southwest Europe compromised of seven districts (four in Spain, three in France) and covering nearly 8,000 square miles.
- Basque people originally settled in Europe at the end of the Stone Age.
- Basque is the language spoken in Basque Country and it is unrelated to any other language!
The word Basque in Basque language is Euskara. Hondarribia is the Basque name for the town; in Spanish the town is called Fuenterrabia. However, San Sebastian is the Spanish name for the town; Donostia is the town’s name in the Basque language.
- Hello in Basque is kaixo
- Please in Basque is mesedez
- Thank you in Basque is eskerrik asko
- Goodbye in Basque is agur
Getting to Basque Country
We flew to Basque Spain from the international airport in Madrid. The Basque Country airport we arrived at was the San Sebastian Airport (EAS), which is actually located in Hondarribia. There are two other Basque Country airports: Bilbao Airport and Vitoria Airport. You can search for the best prices for flights on SkyScanner.
We relied on public transportation to get around Basque Country. However, renting a car would allow for greater exploration and an epic Basque Country road trip!
Where To Stay in Basque Country
There are many Basque Country hotels to stay in during your trip. With such short amount of time in our 3-day Basque Country itinerary, we recommend staying in the heart of the old town in both Hondarribia and San Sebastian.
In Hondarribia, we stayed at the charming Hotel San Nikolas in the Old Town (which we loved!). If it’s booked full for your Basque vacation dates, start your search for other Hondarribia hotels on Booking.com.
San Sebastian Hotels
In San Sebastian, we stayed in the Gros neighborhood (east of the Old Town) at Hotel Arrizul Congress. We felt it was a lucky choice, as we hadn’t booked early and ended up with an entire apartment, that was modern and clean. You can search for other San Sebastian hotels on Booking.com.
What To Pack for Your Basque Itinerary
Walking Shoes for Spain
We do cover a lot of ground in this Spain vacation planner! Be sure to pack a pair of comfortable walking shoes for your trip. I prefer to explore in my Columbia shoes – and Kris likes wearing Merrell trail shoes. Read all of our personal tips in our best Travel Shoes for Europe post!
Spain Weather Appropriate Gear
What you will need to pack in your backpack or suitcase for your trip to Spain will depend largely on the season. Summers in Basque Country are typically very hot and sunny – so bring sunglasses, plenty of sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat and a refillable water bottle. For winter, you will likely want to wear layers, as temperatures can range widely throughout the day. With a chance of rain, make sure you are prepared with a packable raincoat and travel umbrella.
Spain is an absolutely gorgeous country! Be sure to truly capture that beauty with a real camera, rather than using your cell phone. We carry a DSLR Canon Rebel (which is a great budget camera for beginners) with an 18-135mm lens (so that we only have to carry one with us).
Map and WiFi in Spain
We recommend purchasing a Spain destination map before your trip so that you have time to learn the layout of each place.
Travelers relying on Google Maps and other online travel resources will need WiFi. While it is possible to adjust your personal plan for international data, frequent travelers (or those traveling as a group) may find it beneficial to buy a GlocalMe Mobile WiFi Hotspot. With GlocalMe, you can purchase data online – so it is ready to go the moment you arrive after a long flight. Furthermore, you can connect up to 10 devices at one time and it doubles as a power bank.
Anti-Theft Travel Bag for Spain
Unfortunately, foreigners are prime targets for pick pockets. We keep our valuables – like wallets, phones and camera – tucked away in a zippered bag. Travelon makes a full line of anti-theft bags, which we review along with others in our post on The Best Day Packs for Travel.
Spain Travel Insurance
Travel Insurance may protect against cancelled trips and lost luggage, and can come in handy if you get ill or injured abroad, too. If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip to Spain, consider traveling protected with World Nomads.
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