Last Updated on 07/11/2021 by Alfred
This list of the best places to see in the Basque Country will help you organize a route through this region full of natural wonders and charming villages.
Located in the northeast of Spain, this autonomous community is a perfect destination for a seven to ten-day tour, which will allow you to discover large cities with beautiful old towns, fishing villages, incredible coastal landscapes, and nature reserves, as well as one of the best cuisines in the world and people with strong cultural traditions, who will welcome you with open arms.
Although we recommend renting a car to enjoy the freedom to stop wherever and whenever you want, if you don’t want to drive, you can base yourself in Bilbao or San Sebastian and make day trips by public or private transport.
The best time to travel to Basque Country is between April and October. This is when there is a more pleasant climate and less rain. However, if you want to avoid the crowds and higher prices, we recommend avoiding July and August.
Based on the experience of this route through the Basque Country by car, one of the most beautiful regions to see in Spain, we have made a list of what we believe are the 10 must-see places to visit in the Basque Country. Let’s start!
10 Unique Places To See In The Basque Country
1. San Sebastian
San Sebastian (Donosti in Basque), located in a privileged location on the Bay of Biscay, is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain and a must-see in the Basque Country.
You can start to know this city walking along the promenade of La Concha, the most beautiful urban beach in Europe and surrounded by stately buildings, to the end of Ondarreta Beach where the Peine del Viento, a curious sculpture by Eduardo Chillida, is located.
The narrow streets of the historic center, which hide taverns with bars full of delicious pintxos, old churches, and squares full of atmosphere, are also a must, as well as the breathtaking views from the top of Mount Igueldo.
We recommend investing a minimum of two days to complete this list of places to see in San Sebastian and spend the night in some accommodation in the old part of the city, such as the Pensión Régil, which is excellent value for money.
A trip to Hondarribia, one of the most picturesque villages in Spain, is another of the best things to do in the Basque Country.
It is worth crossing the gate of Santa Maria to get lost in the cobbled streets such as Calle Mayor and Calle San Nicolas in the walled old town. Find charming medieval corners such as the Church of Santa Maria de la Asuncion, the Castle of Charles V and the Plaza de Armas and Plaza de Gipuzkoa.
Another of the most beautiful places in Hondarribia is the Marina, a neighborhood of fishermen with white houses and colorful windows and balconies. This neighborhood has some of the best pintxo bars, especially in the street of San Pedro.
To finish the walk through one of the most pleasant villages of the Basque Country, you can go to the promenade, the old port, and Hondarribia beach.
If you do not have a car to get to this town, you can book an excursion to Hondarribia from San Sebastian, including a visit to San Juan and San Pedro, two other fishing villages.
3. Hermitage of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
Located on top of a rock, facing the coast of Biscay and resisting the raging waves of the Bay of Biscay, stands the Hermitage of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, one of the fabulous jewels to visit in the Basque Country.
More than a thousand years old and surrounded by a natural environment of islands, cliffs, and wild beaches that will leave you speechless, this hermitage has gained much popularity in recent times for appearing in the famous series Game of Thrones.
To reach the top of the hermitage, they say that you will be granted a wish if you ring its bells 3 times. You will have to cross a stone bridge and climb the 241 zigzagging steps.
Although the entrance is free, due to the large influx of people and having a daily quota of visitors, you have to make a reservation in advance through the official page.
The most convenient option to get to the hermitage is to rent a car, although there is a regular bus service from Bilbao if you travel in summer.
Another more comfortable and exciting option, with a guide in Spanish, is to book an excursion to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe from Bilbao.
4. Bermeo – One of the best places to see in the Basque Country
Bermeo, a colorful fishing village located in the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve and less than 10 kilometers from the Hermitage of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, is another of our favorite places to see in the Basque Country.
Sea and fishing are always connected to this town. Its old port, lined with colorful fishermen’s houses, hosts several bars where you can enjoy delicious pintxos and the famous rabas.
Besides the port, we recommend visiting the Fishermen’s Museum in the Ercilla Tower, Lamera Park, the Town Hall, the Cloister of San Francisco, and the Monument to the Fishermen, which is part of a set of sculptures scattered around the town.
If you do not have a car, you can reach Bermeo from Bilbao by Euskotren train or bus A3527.
On this minibus tour with a Spanish-speaking guide, you will also visit, besides Bermeo, other important locations along the Basque coast.
Bilbao has managed to leave behind its industrial and gray past to become one of the favorite destinations for travelers touring northern Spain and the important cities to visit in the Basque Country.
In addition to entering its emblematic Guggenheim Museum, you cannot miss a stroll through the narrow streets of its old part known as the Seven Streets, where several of its tourist attractions are concentrated, until you reach the Plaza Nueva, full of pintxo bars as recommended: Cafe Bar Bilbao, Charly, Sorginzulo and Gure Toki.
To complete a visit to this cosmopolitan city, full of character, we recommend you go up to the Artxanda viewpoint and take a walk at sunset along the banks of the estuary crossing one of its 10 bridges.
6. Swimming on the beaches of Sopelana – One of the best things to do in Basque Country.
Visiting the best beaches in the Basque Country, such as those in Sopelana, is another of the best things to do in the Basque Country.
These long golden sandy beaches, known as Barinatxe, Atxabiribil, Arrietara, Meñakoz, and Azkorri, are surrounded by cliffs and are perfect for a refreshing dip and to practice sports such as paragliding or surfing.
The most famous is Barinatxe, known as “La Salvaje” and like other beaches in the area, it is suitable for nudism and has all the necessary services to enjoy its waters and sandy beaches in quiet.
Vitoria-Gasteiz, capital of the Basque Country (Euskadi) and in the shadow of its well-known neighbors Bilbao and San Sebastian, is another must-see city in the Basque Country.
Recognized as the Green Capital of Europe thanks to its 6 large parks that surround it, Vitoria has one of the best-preserved and most striking medieval centers in Spain, as well as gastronomy based on delicious pintxos that will leave you speechless.
To not miss anything interesting in the city, we recommend you complete this list of places to see in Vitoria, which includes the magnificent Cathedral of Santa Maria, a route through the murals, and its most beautiful squares, which can be visited in one day.
If you have more time, you can take a route by car through the Rioja Alavesa to visit some of its most renowned wineries and visit some of its most charming villages, such as Labastida and Laguardia.
8. Butrón Castle
Butrón Castle, which looks like something out of a fairy tale, is another of the most beautiful places to visit in the Basque Country.
This Neo-Gothic castle, located in the Biscayan town of Gatika and built in the Middle Ages, impresses at first visit for its thick walls and four towers topped with a keep.
Although it is not possible to enter inside, it is worth visiting to enjoy its gardens and the magical forest. At the same time, you can take pictures of the castle from different angles.
9. Gorbeia Natural Park
The Gorbeia Natural Park, located around the emblematic Gorbeia mountain, 1,481 meters high, is the largest park to see in the Basque Country.
In this vast rocky natural space, you will find everything from green meadows, beech, and oak forests to karst caves, making it an ideal place for hiking and mountaineering.
Among its most famous places is the karst formation of the Itxina massif, the Otzarreta beech forest, the Gujuli waterfall with a waterfall 100 meters high, and the climb to Mount Gorbeia, which has fantastic panoramic views.
Mundaka, a coastal town famous for its left wave that attracts surfers from all corners of the world every year, is another of the most beautiful villages in the Basque Country.
Before touring the old town of this fishing village, you can go to the viewpoint of Portuondo and the hermitage of Santa Katalina to enjoy fantastic views of the landscapes of the Biosphere Reserve of Urdaibai in which beaches, cliffs, and forests are mixed.
Other places that could perfectly fit this list of places to see in the Basque Country are Lekeitio, the Oma Forest, Zumaia, Getaria, Pasajes, Zarautz, and Gernika, among many others.