The Best 4 Day Basque Country Itinerary

Basque Country itinerary
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In Northern Spain, the Basque Country refers to the area in the Western Pyrenees Mountains, straddling the border between Spain and France on the Bay of Biscay.  It’s famous for its beaches, pintxos, and cities such as Bilbao and San Sebastián.  The Basque people even have their own language – Euskara.

Aside from all of this, the Basque Country is an incredibly underrated part of Spain and shouldn’t be overlooked.  Picture rolling green hills, dramatic coast lines, quaint old towns, and gothic churches.  Below is my guide for the best 4 day Basque Country itinerary.

This Basque Country itinerary focuses on…

  • Bilbao or the “Lion City” – known for the Guggenheim Museum; the biggest city in the region
  • Vitoria-Gasteiz – the capital of the Basque Country
  • Rioja Wine Region – specializing in red wine
  • San Sebastián – the birthplace of pintxos and a world-class food destination

 

PST… DON’T MISS THIS INSTAGRAM POST FOR MORE BASQUE COUNTRY INSPIRATION!

 

How to Get to the Basque Country

This itinerary will focus on you starting your trip in Bilbao and ending the trip in San Sebastián.  However, you could also start the trip in San Sebastián and end in Bilbao.

 

BY PLANE

If you’re flying to the Basque Country, you can fly into Bilbao, Vitoria-Gasteiz, or San Sebastián.  When booking airfare, I prefer to use a big search engine to compare flight prices across multiple airlines.

 

BY TRAIN/BUS

If you’re traveling to the Basque Country from France or other areas in Spain, another option is to take a train or a bus.  I prefer to use Omio to compare train/bus times and prices.

 

BY CAR

If you’re driving to the Basque Country from another city in Spain, I prefer to use Discover Cars to compare prices across multiple rental agencies.  If you do choose to drive, you will also need an international drivers license (if you’re American).

 

How to Get Around the Basque Country

 

BY CAR

I highly recommend renting a car to drive around the Basque Country.  This itinerary will include attractions that don’t have great public transportation routes and trust me when I tell you – the landscape in the Basque Country is one of a kind beautiful.  By driving through the region you’ll have so much more freedom to stop when you went to admire the views!

Please keep in mind, US citizens do need an international drivers license to be able to drive in Spain.

 

BOOK YOUR CAR RENTAL HERE & GET YOUR INTERNATIONAL DRIVERS LICENSE HERE!

 

BY BUS/TRAIN

If you don’t feel comfortable driving, another option will be to take trains or buses.  If you choose this route, you’ll be a little bit more limited and might need to consider paying for tours to the Rioja wine region instead of going at it alone.  The upside is that train and bus travel in Spain (especially short distance) is very affordable and reliable with tons of different options.

 

BOOK YOUR BUS/TRAIN TICKETS THROUGHOUT BASQUE COUNTRY HERE!

 

Day 1 – Bilbao

How to Get from the Airport to the City

If you’re flying into Bilbao, it’s relatively easy to get a ride from the Bilabo airport (BIO) into the city.  For starters, the airport is only located about 13 km (15 minute drive) north of the city.  You can take either an Uber or a taxi from the airport and all taxi’s are required to accept credit cards.  Your ride should not be much more than 25-30 Euro.

Alternatively, if you want an English speaking driver waiting for you at the airport, you can book a private car here.

Finally, the cheapest way to get from the airport into the city is on the bus.  You’ll want to get on the A3247, there will be 2 stops before you reach the city (drop off point is Gran Via 46), the ride takes around 20 minutes, and only costs 3 Euro.

 

If you’re choosing to rent a car for this trip, you don’t need it in Bilbao so you can plan to pick up your rental car when you leave the city to save money!

 

BOOK A PRIVATE DRIVER FROM THE AIRPORT TO THE CITY HERE!

 

Where to Stay in Bilbao

There are tons of great hotel options in Bilbao and I recommend staying in the city centre for easy access to the city.  Here are my top hotel recommendations…

 

BOOK YOUR STAY IN BILBAO HERE!

 

The Best Tours/Things to See & Do in Bilbao

Bilbao is a big, beautiful city with tons of things to see and do.  Because you’re limited on time, I highly recommend booking at least one tour while you’re in town to see many highlights in a short amount of time.  Here are some of my favorite tours and things to do in Bilbao…

 

The Best Restaurants in Bilbao

Bilbao’s food scene is ever growing and aside from pintxos, the city is most famous for bacalao al pil pil, and Gilda (a cocktail stick, olive, salted anchovy, and pickled Ibarra chili peppers).  The restaurants I recommend eating at in Bilbao include…

  • Restaurante Amaren (this restaurant is a bit more expensive but I promise – it’s worth every penny!)
  • Erriberako Merkatua
  • Ledesma N5

 

Day 2 – Vitoria-Gasteiz & Salt Valley of Añana

How to Get to Vitoria-Gasteiz

If you’re driving to Vitoria-Gasteiz from Bilbao, pick up your rental car and head south.  I would highly recommend stopping at the Salt Valley of Añana located in Salinas de Añana before making your way to Vitoria-Gasteiz.  The drive from Bilbao to the Salt Valley of Añana will take around 1.5 hours.  The drive from the salt valley to Vitoria-Gasteiz is around 40 minutes.

If you’re planning to travel by bus, book your ticket ahead of time here.  The drive time is one hour.

 

SALT VALLEY OF ANANA

The Salt Valley of Añana is an ancient and unique landscape where salt has been harvested for over 6,500 years.  This remarkable site features a network of evaporation terraces built with dry stone, wood, and clay, creating a uniquely beautiful environment.  The salt here is highly valued for its purity and quality and is sold to several Michelin star restaurants around the world.

This attraction is open every day of the week from 9:45 am-2:30 pm and reopens again at 3:45 pm-7:30 pm.  You can join a tour when you arrive, walking through the salt flats and learning about the history of the region.  At the end you’re also able to have a “spa” treatment (included in every tour).

 

Where to Stay in Vitoria-Gasteiz

When choosing where to stay in Vitoria-Gasteiz, I highly recommend getting as close to old town as possible.  I stayed at NH Canciller Ayala Vitoria and would recommend it.  Another hotel I’d recommend is Silken Ciudad de Vitoria.  Both of these hotels have parking available in the case that you’re driving.

 

BOOK YOUR STAY IN VITORIA-GASTEIZ HERE!

 

The Best Things to See & Do in Vitoria-Gasteiz

Vitoria-Gasteiz is the capital of the Basque Country and has tons of fun and unique things to do.  Fun fact, it’s also one of the greenest cities in Spain (and in Europe)!  Here are some of my favorite things to do in the city…

  • Hang out in Florida Park
  • Walk/bike the Green Belt (a group of parks around the city linked by eco-recreational corridors)
  • Relax at Lago de Victoria (best if you have a rental car)
  • Visit the Santa Maria Cathedral

 

The Best Restaurants in Vitoria-Gasteiz

One thing that surprised me about Vitoria-Gasteiz is the amount of incredible restaurants and pintxos to be found in the city.  I would definitely recommend carving out a few hours for a self-guided pintxos tour!  Here are some of my favorite restaurants in the city…

  • Circulo Restaurante Cafeteria
  • El Siete Tapas Bar
  • El Tolono Taberna
  • Sagartoki
  • Reposteria Creativa CARESSA – for coffee

 

Day 3 – Day Trip to Labastida & the Rioja Wine Region

I’m a sucker for a beautiful wine region and the Rioja wine region does not disappoint.  This area is renowned for its red wines, primarily made from Tempranillo grapes.  Spanning 54,000 hectares, this historic wine region includes over 500 wineries and is divided into three sub-regions:  Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa, and Rioja Oriental, each with its unique climate and soil conditions.

If you’ve rented a car, you can certainly explore this area on your own!  One of my favorite villages in the Rioja wine region is Labastida, the perfect place to stop for lunch and walk around during a break from wine tasting.  (If you stop for lunch here, I highly recommend Restaurante Arino which you will need a reservation for).

If you did not rent a car or don’t want to drive around the region, here are two tours I recommend…

 

No matter how you explore this region – overnight in Vitoria-Gasteiz

 

Day 4 – San Sebastián

How to Get to San Sebastián

From Vitoria-Gasteiz, the drive to San Sebastián is an 1.5 hours northeast.  If you have the time, I recommend stopping at La de Victoria along the way for a picnic and to enjoy the beautiful scenery.

You can also take a train from Vitoria-Gasteiz to San Sebastián which takes under 2 hours.

 

Where to Stay in San Sebastián

San Sebastián is a posh community and is the most expensive town in Spain.  Walking around you’ll notice there aren’t many backpackers, and my local guide told me that was purposeful.  The locals have seen what tourism has done to cities like Barcelona and want to keep their community more exclusive and appeal to wealthier individuals.  With this being said, hotels in town are a little bit more expensive.

I stayed at Hotel Villa Soro and would highly recommend it!  It is about a 20-minute walk to the old town but you can take free bikes from the hotel which is nice.  If you want to be closer to the action, I recommend checking out these hotels (all recommendations come with free parking)…

 

BOOK YOUR STAY IN SAN SEBASTIAN HERE!

 

The Best Tours/Things to Do in San Sebastián

When I visited San Sebastián, I participated in a pintxos tour and I have to say, it was one of my favorite things that I did!  It was a great way to get to know the history of the city, the history of the food, and ask my local guide about the best bars and restaurants in town.  Here are my top recommendations for tours and things to do in San Sebastian…

 

For more information about pintxos tours in San Sebastián, don’t miss…

 

BOOK A SAN SEBASTIAN FOOD TOUR HERE!

 

The Best Restaurants in San Sebastián

As the birthplace of pintxos, you best believe that San Sebastián is a foodie haven.  It’s also burst onto the culinary scene and has made quite the name for itself in the food world.  For that reason, the restaurants in San Sebastian are some of the best I’ve ever eaten at!  Here are my top recommendations…

  • Atari Gastroleku
  • Bare Bare Taberna-Jatetxea
  • Casa Tiburico
  • Grandaria Jatetxea
  • Sidreria Beharri

 

FAQ

Q:  “How many days do you need in Basque Country?”

  • A:  You could certainly spend more than 4 days in the Spanish Basque Country, however I would not spend less than 4 days (unless you’re specifically interested in exploring one city).  If you have the time, you could easily spend a week exploring this incredible part of Spain.  And if you have even more time than one week, you could add on another part of Spain like Madrid, Barcelona, or Costa Brava.

Q:  “Is Basque Country worth visiting?”

  • A:  YES!  I think that Spain’s Basque Country is one of the most underrated places in Europe.  And frankly, I prefer it to Barcelona and Madrid.

Q:  “How big is the Basque Country?”

  • Stretching across Northern Spain and Southern France, the Basque Country stretches on for 8,088 square miles.

Q:  “Where is Basque Country?”

  • The Basque Country is located in Northern Spain and Southern France.

 

Spain Essentials – What You Need & Need to Know About Visiting Spain

TRAVELING THROUGH SPAIN

  • The easiest way to book train tickets in Spain is through Omio
  • The easiest way to book bus tickets in Spain is through Bookaway
  • To book a flight to Spain, I recommend using a big search engine to compare options
  • For car rentals in Spain, I recommend Discover Cars
  • If you want an English speaking driver waiting to pick you up at the airport, use Welcome Pickups
  • I highly recommend travel insurance when traveling through Spain – I use and recommend SafetyWing
  • If you need a SIM card, aloSIM for an easy and affordable e-SIM – use code “KYLEE5” for 5% off

ACCOMODATION IN SPAIN

  • To easiest way to book hotels in Spain is through Booking.com or Expedia
  • The easiest way to book rentals in Spain is through VRBO

TOURS IN SPAIN

  • For tours and activities in Spain, I recommend using Viator
  • For food tours in Spain, I recommend Devour Tours
  • For walking tours in Spain, I recommend Take Walks
  • For cooking classes in Spain, I recommend using Cookly

WHAT TO BRING TO SPAIN

 

I hope that this post not only informs your Basque Country itinerary, but also inspires you to add the Basque Country to your Spain bucket list.  It’s such an incredible part of Spain and the world.  If you have any questions about visiting the Basque Country, let me know in a comment below!

 

Are you looking for more travel recommendations in Spain?  Don’t miss…

 


For more information on things to see and do in Spain, make sure to check out my Instagram page/highlight reel by searching “#ppinspain” or under my highlights for “Spain”; alternatively, head to my TikTok and search for the saved “Spain” highlight


 

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Disclosure:  This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to purchase through my link, at no cost to you.  Passports and Preemies is also a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees.

 


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Kylee is a NICU nurse passionate about making travel affordable and accessible to nurses. Inspiring nurses to travel both near and far, Kylee began Passports and Preemies in 2017 while volunteering in Skopje, North Macedonia as a way to reach nurses and advocate for the prevention of nurse burnout by traveling. Kylee has been a NICU nurse for 9 years and a travel nurse for 7 years. Since starting her career in travel nursing, she’s worked in six different states, 10 different hospitals, volunteered as a nurse in North Macedonia, worked as a nurse in Saudi Arabia, and has traveled to 45+ countries. Her favorite travel nurse assignment was in Seattle and her favorite destination is Georgia (the country). Kylee is the original creator of the “8 Day Vacay” – a vacation geared towards nurses who aim to take advantage of the potentially 8 days off between work weeks with no need to use PTO.

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