Omg, it’s been ages since I’ve written a blog post, but so happy to have this opportunity to write this on my weekend day off. So F.C. and I got married (AGAIN, this is the third and last time I swear) in Barcelona and then we kind of went on a second honeymoon (Japan was our first) to the Basque country with two of our close friends. We decided to devise a Basque Country itinerary and decided to first fly into Bilbao and do a road trip from there! Here’s how we structured it:
How to plan your 4-day Basque Country itinerary
Day 1 – Bilbao
We first decided to kick off our Spain Basque Country itinerary by flying into Bilbao from Barcelona and then renting a car to drive around. That was actually our first mistake. Bilbao’s city streets are NARROW AF, and it was a struggle to park anywhere. I’d suggest alternatively to first use public transport in Bilbao before you rent a car. We stayed in a charming Airbnb in old Bilbao. Funnily enough, this was our first experience trying out Airbnb and this place was spick and span, with easy movement in and around Bilbao. Our hosts were really helpful too. We just reached the apartment, parked our car in and then headed out on foot.
We walked all around the old town of Bilbao, which is nothing short of charming. We started our visit to the Guggenheim museum by the river Nervion. This museum is all sorts of weird and wonderful outside. As none of us were too crazy about art, we enjoyed the museum from the outside as well as the giant-ass spider (actually known as Maman). Also nearby, is a precious sculpture called ‘Puppy’. The Guggenheim also has its very own Michelin star restaurant called Nerua, which may be worth a visit, however, we chose instead to go to Mirador de Ulia during our road trip. Michelin dining to me is quite necessary on this Basque Country itinerary, mainly because there are so many and the produce is really something else! Honestly, if you love art, go to the Guggenheim, but otherwise, Bilbao has plenty of beautiful art to look at as you meander through the city on foot.
Day 2 – Gaztelugatxe & Bermeo
On the second day, we headed to Dragonstone AKA Gaztelugatxe, a famous Game of Thrones filming location, but importantly, just a gorgeous trek to experience. It’s a little islet off the coast, you can beat the crowds by driving there as early as possible. As we went there, we found a lot of people reinforcing the island, because it just has been getting too many visitors! It made me a bit sad to experience it first hand -the concept of ‘overtourism’, and I think from that day forward I consciously made the decision to do fewer travels per year and just to shortlist the ones I really wanted to experience.
Anyway, back to Gaztelugatxe! It’s actually named after a saint named Juan and serves as a lovely trek, with a monastery atop the island. It’s a medium level trek, where you’ll be surrounded by so much greenery & blue water.
After the hike, we decided to drive down to Bermeo for lunch. Bermeo is a charming city with a little port called Port Path and it’s best to savour the freshest fish and pintxos at the bars and walk around post-lunch. You’ll be able to see the main town hall & Santa Maria church. After that, we headed to San Sebastian for the night. In the winter activities like ice fishing is something that is popular and fun.
Day 3 – San Sebastian
San Sebastian is also predominantly a walking city, but much bigger and more expensive than Bilbao. We also got an Airbnb here, with the most charming hostess towards the old town, but then later we got a place in the main touristy area, which is awash with bars, perfect for bar-hopping & experiencing the best pintxos ever! That day was the day we went to the amazing Mirador de Ulia, which also happens to have both vegan and vegetarian menus. It’s also a beautiful vantage point for views of the coast. Even though we visited in June, it was much too cold for a swim!
We then drove down to the main town and did our favourite thing, walk around of course! We walked by the beach and enjoyed the gusting winds and warm coffees. Before we knew it, it was already time for dinner, so we headed to Old Town for some Txakoli wine and lots of pintxos (skewers with different combinations of seafood, meat, vegetables or bread). A must-try is the La Vina Basque cheesecake, which is nothing short of divine. These bars are usually crowded, so keep that in mind and embrace it!
Day 4 – Zumaia
On our last day before heading back to Bilbao to catch our flights, we went to see the flysch cliffs at Zumaia. Flysch cliffs are formations of sedimentary rock “formed by the alternate deposition of thin layers of silt and sandstone, found near shorelines that were rapidly experiencing changes in sea level. They are formed underwater along the continental shelf when the area undergoes large structural deformation due to interaction of tectonic plates”.
The best way to see this is on foot, and the Flysch cliffs area in Zumaia has multiple scenic walking routes that are truly beautiful. It is marked as a UNESCO site as well.
Once we visited Zumaia, we then headed back to Bilbao to catch our flight back to Barcelona, full-bellied & relaxed.
I hope you enjoyed this Basque country itinerary! Let me know if you have any questions!