The Basque County: Spain & France
May 21-28, 2023
Bilboa add-on: May 18-21
Tucked along the border of Spain and France, hugging the Bay of Biscay and Pyrenees Mountains, is the Basque Country—an ancient land rich with history and culture, exquisite cuisine and long-held traditions. We’ll begin our journey into this fabled land in San Sebastian, a city considered one of the world’s top food destinations. With its elegant Belle Époque architecture and medieval center, not to mention top-rated restaurants, you’ll have time to explore and enjoy all the town has to offer. From here, we’ll head into the nearby countryside, enjoying the green valleys and rugged seaside cliffs. Visit wineries, fishing villages, and learn the secrets of the Basque kitchen.
Next stop: France, where we’ll meander through charming villages nestled amid the Pyrenees. In St. Jean Pied de Port, we’ll see where pilgrims have come for centuries to walk the road, or camino, to Santiago de Compostela. Nearby sits the town of Espelette with its dried chile-adorned homes—a gift from the New World along with the chocolate that fills the stores in Bayonne. This ancient town, full of colorful half-timbered houses, is where shiploads of cacao first arrived from Mexico. Roam the medieval streets of Hondarribia and dine at a Michelin-starred restaurant.
We’ll enjoy two lovely yet very different accommodations during our tour. In San Sebastian, we’ll stay at a turn of the last century baroque palace in the heart of the city. It offers a rooftop bar with amazing views as well as riverside seating for breakfast. Crossing the border into France, we’ll relish every minute at the Hotel Arrayain Sare, designated one of the most beautiful villages in France. The historic family-run establishment dates from the 16th-century and has all the charm you can imagine and more.
$3950 per person, double occupancy
Extra night in San Sebastian: $280
3-night Bilboa add-on: $1100
Single Supplement: $300
Our Basque Country tour includes 4 nights at the 4-star Abba San Sebastian and 3 nights at the 4-star Hotel Arraya in Sare, all ground transportation after arriving in San Sebastian and until drop-off at the Biarritz train station or airport, all group activities, cooking classes and demonstrations, all meals specified in the itinerary.
A $1000 deposit is required to secure your place in our Basque Country tour. Since the number of participants is limited and accommodations vary, early registration is advised.
Please note that currently both France and Spain require all visitors to be fully vaccinated.
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A Culinary Journey into a Fabled Land
Arrive at the riverside Abba San Sebastian Hotel, located minutes away from Old Town. We’ll meet in the evening for a guided walking tour of the city combined with a moveable feast of the area’s famed pintxos, or Basque-style tapas.
Peruse La Brecha food market with Chef Bendur before heading to one of the town’s oldest txokos, or gastronomic societies, for a cooking class. These traditional men-only clubs are a cornerstone of San Sebastian life. Free afternoon.
The Basque Seaside
We’ll head into the neighboring countryside for a tour of a traditional cider house. Then off to the fishing village of Getaria with lunch at a local tavern. Afternoon visit to a Txakoli (regional white wine) vineyard with its sweeping coastal views.
Pamplona & Paella Cooking
Today we’ll explore the Navarre region and the city of Pamplona, famous for its San Fermin festival and the original running of the bulls. After a guided tour, enjoy time to explore and lunch on your own. Visit a sheep farm where the smoky Basque Idiazabal cheese is made. Evening paella cooking class.
We’re off to France and our new accommodations at the Hotel Arraya in Sare. Along the way, we’ll stop in Hondarribia to explore its medieval center and view its 10th-century castle. Lunch on local specialties before driving into the Pyrenees to visit the former fortress towns of Elizondo and Zugarramurdi.
Fine Dining & Chocolate
Explore the quaint seaside village of Saint Jean de Luz with time to roam its narrow alleyways. Visit Egiategia, an aquatic winery that is experimenting with under-the-sea fermentation. Lunch at Gaztelur, a Michelin starred countryside restaurant. Chocolate tour and tasting in Bayonne, an ancient village filled with half-timbered homes.
We’re off to Saint Jean Port de Pied, for many the starting point of the camino into Spain. Sip Pear William at the Brana House winery and lunch on the region’s famed Kintoa ham at a local farm. In Espallete, we’ll see how chiles were brought back to the Old World and ground into pepper before visiting Ainhoa, another one of France’s designated most beautiful villages. Farewell dinner at the Hotel Arraya.
After breakfast, we’ll pack our bags and head to Biarrtiz for a drop-off at either the airport or train station.
Itinerary subject to change depending on local festivals and concerts.
Our Bilboa add-on will take place May 18-21. It includes 3 nights with breakfast along the river at the Sercotel Arenal Bilboa in Old Town, a city walking tour with market visit followed by lunch at a traditional tavern, free afternoon to visit the Guggenheim Museum, a day in the Rioja wine region with a private guide, two tastings, and a vineyard lunch as well as transportation to San Sebastian.