Top 5 day-trips in Basque Country

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Today we’re joined by Spanish Guide Jon, an experienced tour guide and long-time local in the beautiful and culturally-rich Basque region of Northern Spain. Jon promises that on another occasion he’ll share with us his favourite things to do in his hometown of San Sebastian, but today he’s letting us know about how best to spend your time OUT of the city, on a day trip through Basque country.

Today I’d like to suggest 5 daytrips that can be performed easily from San Sebastian, ranging from world class museums, wine tasting, beautiful countryside views and trekking! So let’s begin:

1. GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM in Bilbao and the Gulf of Biscay

• Designed by the North American architect Frank O. Gehry, the building itself is an extraordinary combination of interconnecting shapes. Impressive limestone blocks contrast with curved architectural forms covered in titanium. Glass curtain walling provides the building with the light and transparency it needs. Explore the museum by yourself; an audio guide is included in the ticket price.
• San Juan de Gaztelugatxe Island. The island access is spectacular. A winding way that leaves from the mainland and crosses an ancient stone bridge takes you to the top zone of the small island after 237 steps.
• Gernika. On April 26th 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, the town was razed to the ground by German aircrafts, sent by Hitler to support Franco's troops. When Picasso painted the Gernika in 1937, he could not imagine that its vision of the bombing would become an anti-war symbol.

2. Inland countryside and Coastal fishermen villages

• Town exploring and beach walk in Zarautz. The strong marine tradition of whale hunting lasted here until the 16th century. Tourism began shortly after the summer stays of Queen Elizabeth II, marking the town as a true tourist destination for the last 60 years.
• The charming small fishing village of Getaria. Home of Juan Sebastian Elcano (1487 to 1526) the man who was first to sail around the world. It is probably one of the most treasured medieval centers, which best reflects the passing of time.
• The place where the green mountains, abruptly meet the Atlantic Ocean! At this point of the coast, the mountains drop dramatically to sea level, with wonderful views that also let us observe the rough rock formations formed over millions of years.
• Mount Izarraitz. Driving by old Basque farmhouses, narrow mountainous roads, small villages, sheep and cows, we will discover the essence of the Basque Country!

3. Biarritz & French coast

• Saint Jean de Luz, the former Basque Corsairs' capital. This was an important point on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, and became rich in the 16th century from fishing and whaling. Piracy brought added wealth to the town.
• Biarritz, one of the most posh beach resorts of the Basque Coast. It is a luxurious seaside town and is popular with tourists and surfers. Biarritz also boasts some of the best beaches in Europe.
• Hondarribia, the walled city. One of the region's most beautiful towns, its medieval old part is one of the few fortified towns in the Basque Country. Its walls, most of which are still standing and are constantly being restored, give it a special appearance by evoking an epic past and by impregnating every corner, alley and square with aromas, flavours and sounds that take us back to other times.

4. Wine tasting in Rioja

• Wine cellar visit and wine tasting in Elciego, the “Marques del Riscal” Wine cellar/Hotel (it is designed by Frank Gehry, the same architect of the spectacular Guggenheim museum in Bilbao).
• Laguardia, a medieval style village (optional wine tasting in a typical cave-wine-cellar).
• Dolmen “House of The Sorceress”, a single-chamber megalithic tomb, is one of the largest dolmens in the Basque Country.

5. Trekking in Basque mountains

• Mt Ernio (1075m, 2 hours up, 1:15 hours down). Across the Northern slopes of Ernio, there are forests of Beeches and Oaks. Between the stones of Ernio, a moon milk river flows, the only one in the world. It is, in fact, formed by a strange substance that nature pours off in a solid state and underground Ernio filters off in liquid state. This river was discovered a year ago by a scientific society but its exact location/source is still secret to prevent its exploitation.
• The mountain village of Errezil (Rejil). A place where time forgot, Errezil is situated in and around the lofty heights of Mount Ernio. An oasis of life and color today, but not always has it been like this; for many years this whole area was the center of hard battles, cradles of famous Carlist guerrillas and Independence war.

Clearly, Jon is an absolute fount of knowledge on Basque country!
Thank you so much for sharing with our readers your thoughts on how to spend time in the region around San Sebastian. If any travelers are headed to Northern Spain in 2012, consider chatting with Jon about designing the perfect tour itinerary. You can find his guide profile right here: San Sebastian Guide Profile.
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