The Basque region of Spain is characterized by stunning landscapes, delectable cuisine and quaint villages. For many travelers, 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. Unfortunately, most visitors don’t have that much time, so we created a 3-Day Basque Country itinerary that allows people to experience the region in just a few days.
Note: Our planned route can be added as part of a longer Northern Spain Itinerary or as an additional destination in a big city Spain Itinerary.
Visit Basque Country
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 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 towns we visited, we most liked Hondarribia – a town that sits just west of the French border and is conveniently 2km from the San Sebastian Airport.
Basque Country Itinerary
Our Basque Country itinerary provides activities and essential information to help others tour Basque Country, like we did. To aid other travelers in their planning, we have also included a Basque Country map and helpful tips and facts at the end of the post.
Day 1: Hondarribia, Spain
Hondarribia is one of the best towns in Basque Country! Explore the town on foot and then go beyond the center for more nearby discovery.
Hondarribia Old Town
After getting settled in your Hondarribia hotel, take a stroll around the cobblestone lanes to get acquainted with the Old Town. Wander down Kale Nagusia (Main Street) where you will pass by 18th century Baroque buildings. Turn down picturesque 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 a Parador Hotel, which welcomes visitors inside to the bar).
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 one of the many options on San Pedro and Santiago Streets.
Lighthouse, Beach, France
In the afternoon, choose from one of the following three attractions (Note: An ambitious traveler – with their own car – could possibly see all three!).
- Hondarribia Lighthouse: One of the lesser-visited Basque Country points of interest, the 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. For more information see our post on the Hondarribia Lighthouse.
- Hondarribia Beach: The small, sandy Hondarribia Beach is on the north side of town where the Bidasoa River flows into the bay. The calm waters are ideal for swimming.
- St. Jean de Luz, France: Drive across the border to St. Jean de Luz, France to experience a taste of French Basque Country, which is noticeably different from Spanish Basque Country. Use our tips for One Day in St. Jean de Luz.
Return to the Marina District and spend the evening savoring Hondarribia pintxos as you graze your way through dinner. Read (and learn from!) our mistakes in our first attempts at Basque Cuisine.
Day 2: San Sebastian
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 are the Gothic-style San Vicente Church, the Baroque Basilica of Santa Maria Church and the San Telmo Museum.
Rising from the north end of the San Sebastian Old Town is Monte Urgull. Once a strategic defense lookout, the hill is now a park with many trails that lead to the hill-topping fort and statue of Christ. For more information about the park, 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 pier just south of the marina. 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 restaurant doors open, re-enter the Old Town to experience one of the best things to do in Basque Country: Pintxos bar-hopping. Go with a plan or ramble aimlessly, letting the crowds and scents dictate your route. Read our experience and recommendations for San Sebastian Pintxos Bars or join a guided San Sebastian pintxos tour.
Day 3: San Sebastian or Day Trip
On your last day of your Basque vacation, choose to enjoy San Sebastian attractions or take one of the popular day trips from San Sebastian.
San Sebastian Beach
The crescent-shaped beach on La Concha Bay is a great place to soak up the sun and swim in the sea. In the middle of the beach is the popular La Perla Health Spa. To the east of the Old Town is a second beach, Zurriola Beach, a well-known surfing spot.
Monte Igueldo Amusement Park
At the top of Monte Igueldo are several viewpoints and a small amusement park. The most entertaining way to get to the top of Monte Igueldo is via the 100-year-old San Sebastian funicular.
San Sebastian, Spain Tours
San Sebastian is well-located for day trips to nearby cities. Top destinations for day trips from San Sebastian include 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.
Basque Country Map
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 settled in Europe at the end of the Stone Age.
- Basque people have their own language.
Basque is the language spoken in Basque Country.
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
- Thank you in Basque is eskerrik asko
Getting to Basque Country
We arrived to Basque via plane. The Basque Country airport we flew into was San Sebastian Airport (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 and taxis 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.
San Sebastian Hotels
We didn’t book a hotel ahead of time in San Sebastian – and when we arrived, our preferred accommodations had no vacancy. We ended up staying in the Gros neighborhood (east of the Old Town) at Hotel Arrizul Congress, which turned out to be a great choice, as it was an entire apartment. You can search for other San Sebastian hotels on Booking.com.
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