Spain's Basque Region

Tour Highlights

Northern Spain is a fascinating region with incredible landscapes, rich history and culture, proud gastronomic heritage, top quality wineries and unique architecture.
The Basques have maintained their unique identity for centuries, with their own culinary traditions, distinctive geography, and a language that remains a mystery with no relationship to any other in the world! To the east lies Galicia Province - known as the “land of 1000 rivers” since the landscape is dominated by lush river valleys, Roman ruins, ancient stone towns and quaint villages. The Atlantic coastline is jagged with steep cliffs and deep, fjord-like estuaries, offering dramatic vistas.

We begin with 6 nights in the exciting city of Bilbao, internationally recognized for its dramatic transformation to a modern urban marvel. The spectacular Guggenheim Museum is the symbol of the city (for good reason), but it is just one of many museums and art galleries. There are lovely walking paths along the river that runs through the city, a charming Old Quarter that has maintained its historic atmosphere, and pedestrian streets with shops and cafes. From our base here we will visit surrounding treasures like the chic town of San Sebastian, historic Pamplona, the Nervion River with its famous iron “hanging bridge” and the spectacular wine region of La Rioja. 

We then travel to the Bay of Santander to see Magdalena Palace on its rocky peninsula, and 8th century Oviedo - now a sophisticated city. In Leon we will visit the Gothic Cathedral, famous for its stained-glass windows before continuing to Santiago de Compostela in the province of Galicia for a 4-night stay. This city is home to the most important shrine in the country - St. James Cathedral (Spain’s most famous pilgrimage centre). The “walk” began in the 10th century and hundreds of people still participate annually. There will be excursions to La Coruna to see this unique port city, Cape Finisterre with its spectacular views (considered by the Romans to be the end of the world), the old Roman capital of Luga and a typical Galician farm to indulge in the best local products. 

* Those joining any of our tours to Europe must be able to walk fairly long distances and climb stairs easily.

Tentative Itinerary

We depart for Bilbao with a change of planes in Munich.
We arrive in Bilbao and transfer to our hotel. This evening is our Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant.
We enjoy a walking tour of the Old Quarter to discover the city’s most impressive sites; the Church of San Nicolas (patron saint of sailors), Santiago Cathedral, the Teatro Arriaga, the Mercado de la Ribera (the largest covered market in Europe) and the Plaza Nueva, built in the neo-classical style. We then visit the famous Guggenheim Museum, to marvel at the building itself and view the masterpieces of modern and contemporary art housed within. The afternoon is free to spend more time at the museum and wander the streets of this lovely unique city.
Today we visit the chic town of San Sebastian. Once the meeting place of aristocracy, it remains popular for strolling along the wonderful seaside promenade while admiring the elegant buildings. We will take the funicular up the cliff for spectacular panoramic views of the bay, ocean and surrounding islands. After a walking tour of the old town there will be some free time to stroll the maze of old streets. Later we visit the Maritimes Heritage Museum in Albaola to learn about the Basque whalers and fishermen that voyaged to Atlantic Canada in the early 16th century.
Today we explore the magnificent La Rioja region, including Haro’s antique quarter of centuries old palaces. We will visit a vineyard in the historic setting of Rioja Alavesa, with a tasting and lunch at a bodega. Later we visit Marques de Riscal Winery to see the impressive “City of Wine” designed by Canadian architect Frank Gehry, a project integrating innovation and tradition. Finally we visit the village of Laguardia to see the well-preserved medieval old quarter.
We visit the Maritime Museum in Bilbao, followed by a relaxing boat trip along the Nervion River to the marina of Getxo. See the famous iron “hanging bridge” - an architectural wonder and the world's first bridge to carry traffic on a high suspended gondola. We will enjoy a walk in the fishing village of Algorta before returning to Bilbao.
Ernest Hemingway fell in love with Pamplona, and his writing gave the city world-wide recognition. Rich in history and tradition, the streets and squares of the historic quarter are dominated by unique churches and medieval walls. We will stroll along the pilgrimage path of St. James Way and see the dramatic Gothic-style Cathedral. Lunch is included at a local restaurant before returning to Bilbao.
We proceed to Santander and the Palacio de la Magdalena - once the royal summer residence, which lies on the rocky La Magdalena Peninsula. There will be time to enjoy the Paseo de Pereda promenade and Jardines de Pereda gardens before continuing to Oviedo - the 8th century capital of the regional kingdom and today a sophisticated city with impressive historic buildings and statues.
This morning we visit the old pedestrian quarter of Oviedo to see the squares and chigres (cider bars) before we proceed to Leon - capital of the old Spanish Kingdom of Castile. The main attraction here is the Gothic Cathedral with its spectacular stained glass window.
We take the scenic route through the picturesque Bierzo region with its valleys, mountains, lakes and historic villages, arriving later in Santiago de Compostela.
Our city tour includes the most important monument - St. James Cathedral – the city’s crowning glory and one of the world’s finest examples of Romanesque architecture. Legend has it that the remains of the apostle St. James were found here, and when he was declared the patron saint of Spain, pilgrims travelled from all over Europe to visit his shrine. The afternoon is at leisure.
A full day of touring as we visit La Coruna - a unique port city on a dramatic promontory. We will see the city's World Heritage listed Roman lighthouse, called the Tower of Hercules, with sweeping coastal views, and the medieval old town surrounded by narrow lanes. We will visit the lively fish market followed by a seafood lunch before proceeding to the wild coast of Cape Finisterre - the final destination for many pilgrims on the Way of St. James.
The grand Roman walls encircling Lugo, the old Roman capital of northern Spain, are considered the best preserved of their kind in the world. Within the fortress is a labyrinth of streets and squares, ideal for strolling. After a tour of the old town and some free time, we will visit a Galician farm specializing in cheese and livestock to enjoy a typical farm lunch featuring local products. Tonight’s dinner is at a local restaurant featuring the “Queimada” - Galicia’s magical beverage. Music and mystery surround this spectacle of preparing the ancient and delicious drink!
We return to Bilbao along the scenic north coast for our final dinner and overnight.
We fly home via Munich.

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