Spain: Basque Country

Guided Walking Tour, Spain: Basque CountryGuided Walking Tour, Spain: Basque Country

Spain

Basque Country

overview

Immerse yourself in a journey of discovery across some of Europe’s most diverse geography. From the walled feudal town of Orduña, walk through high plateaus, rugged canyons, and mountain greenery to end with lunch in a traditional farmhouse. In La Rioja’s wine country, rolling fields lead to towns where stone buildings and avant-garde architecture mix—a perfect setting for exploring vineyards, wine cellars, and medieval ruins. Along Hondarribia's coast, discover ancient whaling settlements, fruit orchards, and dizzying cliffs that plummet to the Atlantic. Cross the border into France, where beaches lined with elegant villas invite a leisurely stroll. At every stop, feel a vibrant sense of place and meet people proud to share their culture. Perhaps you’ll join in a game of pelota or enjoy a feast of pintxos, small plates of regional specialties. Be sure to sample the Slow Food cuisine; its fresh twist on traditional fare highlights the rich heritage and mixed cultures of the Basque region.

Pre- or Post-Tour Extension

Linger longer! Add a Tour Extension to this adventure and explore more. Our extensions combine guided experiences with independent travel, allowing you to savor both insider access and ample private time, all the while staying in premium, hand-selected accommodations.

Barcelona Extension »
4 days, 3 nights

Granada Extension »
4 days, 3 nights

Madrid Extension »
4 days, 3 nights

Activity Level
Easy to moderate;
5-7 miles daily
Meet
Bilbao, Spain
Depart
San Sebastian, Spain
Daily Itinerary
Download printable
itinerary
Reading List
Recommended
pre-trip reading
Guided Walking 
7 days, 6 nights Trip Includes 

Trip Includes

  • Two expert, local guides (for groups of 8 or more), with you 24/7
  • All meals except for one dinner; local wine or beer included with dinners
  • All accommodations while on tour
  • Transportation from the meeting point to the departure point
  • Entrance fees and special events as noted in the itinerary
  • The unbeatable and cumulative experience of the Country Walkers staff
per person double occupancy
Single supplement + $595
 

Solo surcharge + $0
 

Call 800.234.6900 to book this trip.

 

REQUEST RESERVATION
Number of Travelers
Total in your party
Price From
per person double occupancy

Call 800.234.6900 to book this trip.

REQUEST RESERVATION

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Itinerary and Accommodations

Days
Destination
1
Orduña
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2
Orduña
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3
Laguardia
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4
Laguardia
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5
Hondarribia
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6
Hondarribia
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7
Hondarribia
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Day 1

Orduña

Meeting in Bilbao. Erreta Lanteno to Torre de Quejana; 5-6 miles, moderate, 1350-ft. elevation gain and loss

After meeting your fellow travelers at the Hotel Hesperia Bilbao this morning, you depart for your first day in the Basque Country. Entering the lovely Ayala Valley, at the foothills of the impressive cliffs of the Sierra de Orduña, you arrive in the tiny town of Erreta Lanteno. Your morning walk begins on a shaded dirt road with a steady ascent (approximately two miles), taking you to the hidden farmlands of the valley.

As lunchtime approaches, you arrive at a beautifully renovated typical Basque stone farmhouse, surrounded by green pasturelands. You are welcomed by Josu, a former CW guide (now mayor of the Ayala Valley), and his wife, Begonia, for a hearty country lunch of organic vegetables, local cheeses, chorizo, and freshly baked bread. The meal wouldn’t be complete without a first taste of txakoli, the refreshing sparkling white wine for which the Basque Country is known.

After lunch, you descend quiet country roads and mule tracks en route to the medieval castle of the powerful landlord of this region, the Chancellor Lope de Ayala. After visiting the 14th-century Tower of Quejana, you are met by your coach for the 25-minute transfer to the walled medieval town of Orduña. Arriving at the main town square, you are welcomed to your home for the next two nights―an 18th-century customs house that has been recently restored into a unique hotel featuring spa facilities. There is time to unpack and explore the neighborhood before gathering again for a welcome aperitif and presentation on Basque history and culture, followed by dinner at the hotel.

Hotel Aisia Orduña

Orduña, Spain

A renovated customs house dating from the 18th century, this four-star property overlooks the town square. The hotel’s neoclassical architecture mixes harmoniously with its eclectic interior décor, modern amenities, fine-dining restaurant, and spa facilities.

Day 2

Orduña

Nervión Canyon: Unza to Puerto de Orduña; 6-7 miles, easy to moderate, 500-ft. elevation gain

After a buffet breakfast, you embark on a 30-minute drive to the rural village of Unza and the start of the day’s walk in the high plains of the Sierra de Orduña. Ascending grassy slopes and high pastureland dotted with grazing cows, horses, and long-haired sheep, you arrive at the spectacular Nervión Canyon, with its 2,000-foot vertical drop. (While the drop-off can be vertiginous, those who suffer from vertigo will be able to stay at a safe distance from the edge).

Walking along the rim, you are treated to breathtaking views of the canyon’s dramatic cliffs and the sweeping valley below. Soaring overhead are griffon vultures, the largest birds in Europe. Nervión Canyon boasts the highest concentration of this species, who favor the high pasturelands in search of prey. Don’t forget your binoculars for an unforgettable flying show!

A shady grove provides the perfect setting for a fresh picnic lunch prepared by your guides―perhaps salad with goat cheese, chorizo, tuna, ham, melon, and peppers, finished off with chocolate and almonds for dessert. Following lunch, your walk continues along the canyon rim into the afternoon. Reaching the outskirts of Puerto de Orduña, you are met by your driver for the 30-minute return drive to your hotel in Orduña.

Later, those interested reunite for a guided tour of Orduña, a medieval town at the foot of the Sierra Salbada mountains. Dinner tonight is at a local restaurant only a short distance away from your hotel.

Hotel Aisia Orduña

Orduña, Spain

A renovated customs house dating from the 18th century, this four-star property overlooks the town square. The hotel’s neoclassical architecture mixes harmoniously with its eclectic interior décor, modern amenities, fine-dining restaurant, and spa facilities.

Day 3

Laguardia

Salinas de Añana visit; 1 mile, easy. The Salt Trail: Salinas de Añana to Fontecha; 5 miles, easy to moderate

This morning, a 40-minute drive over the Sierras brings you to Salinas de Añana, an ancient town linked to the history of salt as early as the year 822, when its saline springs were first documented. Arriving at the town’s salt pans, you are met by a local guide who provides an overview of the traditional salt extraction process and the important role this precious commodity played in the history of the town and entire Basque region. Extracted from the remains of an oceanic deposit of salt, the Salinas de Añana salt is ultra-pure and highly prized by top chefs. Despite a decline in business due to the competition of more affordable international brands, Salinas de Añana has carved out a niche for itself as a specialty product and is hoping to have the valley appointed a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Setting off on foot from the salt valley, you follow the old Salt Trail used by hundreds of mule drivers during the Middle Ages. Passing through Mediterranean forest and cultivated rolling fields―home to many migratory birds flying from Europe to Africa―you skirt Arreo Lake before reaching the little town of Fontecha. The town is watched over by two medieval towers, built by two rival families made rich and powerful by the salt trade. Stopping at a terraza, the outdoor seating of a local café, your guides unpack a late lunch and order a round of well-deserved cold drinks.

This afternoon, a 50-minute drive delivers you to the southernmost part of the Basque Country: La Rioja, Spain’s most renowned wine-producing region, and the medieval hilltop town of Laguardia. Considered the capital of the Rioja Alavesa, this fortified town is home to more than 300 cellars used for making and storing wine beneath its streets. You arrive at your home for the next two nights, a unique hotel designed to meld tradition with modern comfort, and located on a lively village square in the heart of the town. Before your delicious Slow Food dinner served in the hotel’s fabulous restaurant, you enjoy a brief city tour as well as a visit and tasting at La Bodega del Fabulista wine cellar.

Hospedería de Los Parajes

Laguardia, Spain

A newer property constructed in an ancient town, this hotel was built to captivate the senses. Offering both accommodations and a menu that combines modernity with tradition, the hotel hosts a private wine cellar along with a full spa, including Turkish bath, Scottish showers, a series of indoor pools of varying temperature, a Jacuzzi, and a sauna.

Day 4

Laguardia

La Rioja: Santa Maria de la Piscina to San Ginés; 6 miles, easy to moderate, or Santa Maria de Toloño monastery; 8-9 miles, moderate, 1,090-ft. elevation gain and 2,080-ft. elevation loss

Following a delicious breakfast of fresh yogurt, fruit, meats and cheeses, and croissants, you set off to explore the northern portion of La Rioja wine country. An easy-to-moderate walk option begins at the Romanesque chapel of Santa Maria de la Piscina, set amidst poppy fields, and takes you through world-renowned vineyards. Alternatively, you may opt for a more challenging option up and over the Sierra de Toloño to the ruins of Santa Maria de Toloño, a 9th-century monastery with spectacular views of the wine country.

This route begins high in the Sierra at the 3,051-foot Rivas de Tereso pass and, after gently ascending a forested dirt road, continues along an open gravel trail bordered by high pastures and grazing cows. Reentering the forest, the walk continues uphill over steep switchbacks and mountain trails before reaching the ruins of the massive rocky formation known as Santa Maria de Toloño. Rewarded with spectacular views over the lush farmland and vineyards of the Ebro River Valley, you depart the monastery and begin a steep descent toward the town of San Ginés.

All walkers reunite at a shaded picnic area on the outskirts of town, where your guides lay out another delicious lunch. Afterwards, you may opt to join your guides for an additional 1½-mile walk to town before returning to your hotel by midafternoon. You may then opt for a visit to the hotel’s wine cellar, where you taste wines from the region before enjoying dinner on your own this evening. Whether your preference is to dine at a simple café or to enjoy a refined dinner at one of this classic Basque town’s wonderful restaurants, your guide(s) will offer recommendations.

Hospedería de Los Parajes

Laguardia, Spain

A newer property constructed in an ancient town, this hotel was built to captivate the senses. Offering both accommodations and a menu that combines modernity with tradition, the hotel hosts a private wine cellar along with a full spa, including Turkish bath, Scottish showers, a series of indoor pools of varying temperature, a Jacuzzi, and a sauna.

Day 5

Hondarribia

Zumaia to Zarautz (including sections of the Camino de Santiago); 6-8 miles, easy to moderate, 1000-ft. elevation gain and loss

After breakfast, a scenic 1½-hour drive brings you to the Basque Country’s northern coast along the Bay of Biscay. Reaching the seaside town of Zumaia, located in Gipuzkoa Province, where the Urola and Narrondo Rivers convene, you set off for the day’s walk. Departing from the village beach, a steep but short ascent takes you up and over the hills on a dirt road, affording spectacular views of the Bay of Biscay. This undulating trail with wide-open views was first used by the pilgrims en route to Santiago de Compostela over 1,000 years ago. You cross vineyards of txakoli and lush farmland, dotted with horses and sheep, before stopping at a txakoli cellar for a tour and tasting of this typical Basque white wine.

After lunch, you continue on a combination of mule tracks and cobblestone medieval roads and wind past lookouts of old Basque whalers. Your guides explain how this ancient practice played a major role in the region’s development. Arriving at the town of Zarautz―an ancient whaling settlement turned beautiful seaside resort―there is time to break for an ice cream at a seaside café.

Later, you board the coach for a short 30-minute transfer to San Sebastián for a relaxing rest of the afternoon, discovering the wonders of this elegant provincial capital with French flair during a guided city tour. San Sebastián spreads over a bay with beautiful fine-sand beaches on one side, and the old fishing port of Parte Vieja on the other. With a population of approximately 200,000, it offers a multitude shopping and sightseeing opportunities. San Sebastián offers numerous fine-dining options, and tonight you enjoy a memorable meal at one of the region’s many Michelin-starred restaurants.

From San Sebastián, a short transfer brings you to your final destination of Hondarribia, a charming border town on the shores of the Bidasoa River. Your home for the next two nights is the old Gothic palace of a medieval bishop born in this town.

Hotel Obispo

Hondarribia, Spain

A restored 15th-century bishop’s palace with modern amenities on a quiet square in the old town with a courtyard, bar, and views of the port.

Day 6

Hondarribia

The Cliffs of the Basque Coast: Haizabia to Hondarribia; 4 miles, easy

To complete this diverse tour of the Basque Country, a brief drive across the border into France brings you to the spectacular Cliffs of Sokoa, a world-famous area known as “La Corniche de la Côte Basque,” the Basque coast’s winding oceanside drive. Following the cliffs’ edge, where gentle green slopes and apple orchards meet the rough Atlantic Ocean, you discover hidden islands and tiny bays, until you reach Hendaye Beach, the longest in the Basque region. You stroll along the shore, with its old casino and elegant villas facing the waves of the Cantabrian Sea, before embarking on a 15-minute ferry ride on the Bidasoa River, crossing the international border back into Spain. Soon, you return to Hondarribia and go bar hopping for pinxtos (Basque high-cuisine tapas) in the colorful local taverns. These delectable small plates are a social food, meant to be enjoyed with others, and are best when accompanied by some txakoli.

In the evening you enjoy a memorable final celebratory dinner where you offer one last toast to the dramatic and fascinating Basque culture.

Hotel Obispo

Hondarribia, Spain

A restored 15th-century bishop’s palace with modern amenities on a quiet square in the old town with a courtyard, bar, and views of the port.

Day 7

Hondarribia

Departure from Hondarribia

After breakfast, you bid farewell to your newfound friends before your guides assist your departure from Hondarribia.

Itinerary Disclaimer

Bear in mind that this is a typical itinerary, and the actual activities, sites, and accommodations may vary due to season, special events, weather, or transportation schedules. We reserve the right to alter the itinerary since tour arrangements are made up to a year in advance, and unforeseen circumstances that mandate change may arise. Itinerary changes are made to improve the tour and your experience. If you are currently booked on a Country Walkers adventure, an itinerary has been sent to you for your exact departure date. Please call Country Walkers at 800.464.9255 if you have any questions about the exact itinerary or hotels selected for any of our tours.

Guides

Cristina Feijoo

A native of the Basque Country, Cristina is fluent in five European languages and has worked as a German teacher. An avid traveler, she has guided extensively in Spain, especially on the pilgrim’s route known as the "Camino de Santiago" and in the Basque mountains that she loves. Cristina has a background in alternative psychologies and is also a passionate golfer.

Itziar Zorrilla

Itziar has a background in economics. Her passion for her native culture, and her love of the outdoors are evident on our Basque tour. Her warmth and enthusiasm immediately make guests feel at home in this fascinating region. When not guiding she is climbing cliffs and mountains around the globe or traveling to lost valleys from Vietnam to Patagonia.

Joserra Combarro

Trained as a lawyer, Joserra is an experienced guide who spends most of his time hiking and exploring the mountains of his native Basque country. His passion for traditional cuisine and American jazz and blues, as well as a terrific sense of humor, is evident to all who have traveled with him.

Ilia Ruiz Aizpuru

A native of the Basque Country, Ilia completed a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations at Saint Edwards University in Austin, Texas, and has extensive professional experience in both New York City and Mexico City. She is a proud Basque, a skilled traveler, an avid hiker and an adventurous young woman with a true love for her Basque landscapes, people, and cuisine. Throughout her time abroad, her homeland was never far from her heart; it was long missed and now that she has finally returned is excited about sharing it with all her new friends.

Florencia Savanti

Florencia Savanti is an anthropologist with a deep love for the outdoors that grew from working in Patagonia as an archaeologist for over 15 years. Her passion for travel, learning languages, and her love of meeting people of different cultures and experiencing nature took her to Northern Spain, where she lives with her family. Flor is fluent in the Basque language and is heavily involved with the Baltistan Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports community-based projects in literacy, education and self-sufficiency for underprivileged women living in the Karakorum Mountains of Pakistan. An avid traveler who loves to share her favorite experiences, she has lead countless hiking tours from the Pyrenees of Spain to the Andes of Chile and Argentina.

Guest Comments

G. Lesses, South Carolina, May 2012

We have occasionally considered other tour companies, but have enjoyed the quality of CW tours so much that we always return.

B. Meeks, Georgia, May 2013

Because we walked in the rain everyday, our guides were more careful and more considerate. They planned options for those of us who wanted to walk only part of the day. Walking in rain, mud and wet grass is not my favorite way to walk however these guides were so wonderful, I didn't want to miss a step.

M. Beck, Connecticut, June 2010

The beauty of Basque-land surpassed my expectations. My leap did not disappoinment me-step-by-step!

T. Butt, Ohio, August 2010

This is surely the best way to become immersed in another culture while having everything taken care of for you.

J. Carr, California, September 2011

Fabulous country (Spain), fantastic region (Basque), great hikes and extraordinary guides!!

M. Hatzenbuehler, New York, June 2011

The Basque Country is so interesting―culturally and historically. This trip lets you sample all it has to offer, from the scenery to the food to the culture. A wonderful trip!

J. Hurley, California, June 2011

This was one of the more memorable trips we've taken with CW. Not only is the countryside spectacular and the food extraordinary, but Cristina and Joserra were among the best guides we've ever had the pleasure to walk with in all our travels.

L. LeBlanc, Louisiana, June 2009

The picnics arranged by Josu were sumptuous and the evening meals offered a wide range of fabulous flavors. Josu is fantastic. Thoroughly professional and the most congenial host. Passionate and articulate about his country, a gentleman in every way. I loved learning about Basque culture, history, and politics in addition to the contact with such a gorgous natural environment.

P. Matzek, Illinois, August 2011

Not only did I see and hike through the beautiful Basque Country, but I also learned so much about the history and culture of the area.

D. McElree, Hawaii, June 2010

The Basque Country was a delightful surprise—beautiful hills with rich historical and cultural experiences. Our tour guides were engaging and showed their passion and knowledge with our pirvate group, CW gave our group of friends a memorable trip of a lifetime!

O. Pittet, New Jersey, June 2010

Taking a wide variety of CW trips has proved to be one of the best investments of my "sunset" years!

M. & J. Preston, Michigan, September 2011

A complete vacation! Interesting culture and fellow walkers, invigorating walks, informative guides. We loved exploring a region we knew little about.

P. & J. Zandy, Connecticut, June 2010

A beautiful region with knowledgeable guides that highlighted the unique blend of Spanish culture with a French influence. The countryside was glorious. The accommodations were not uniformly up to par but the hiking, guides and experience were exceptional.

C. Fund, South Carolina, May 2012

Another great trip. We loved the guides, the walks, the food and the wines. Thanks for introducing us to a wonderful part of the world.

T. Hornung, Utah, May 2012

I like the diversity of the walks, no two days were identical.

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