The Basque Country in Spain is a country within a country, an area whose people have struggled to remain independent from the rest of world for centuries. While their legal struggles continue, today, they are considered on of the most autonomous communities in Europe. Situated in the northwest corner of Spain and stretching northwards into France, Basque Country includes the provinces of Biscay, Gipuzkoa and Álava.
San Sebastian, the capital of Gipuzkoa, is the starting point for many visitors. Located on the bay of La Concha, San Sebastian features a coastline of beaches capped by Mount Igueldo and Mount Urgull at either end. An oceanfront promenade runs along the bay, with a shopping district in the center. The city is a combination of 19th century neighborhoods that reveal French influences and modern attractions like the Kursaal Convention Center and Auditorium, a complex that includes an 1,800-seat concert hall, designed by Spanish architect Rafael Moneo.
Mount Urgull features the Mota Castle, built in the Middle Ages but revamped in the 16th century. A 40-foot sculpture of Jesus Christ was added in 1950. The hill offers picturesque views over the bay and the city. Mount Igueldo offers commanding views of San Sebastian as well. Visitors can ride to the peak in a funicular.
The city of Bilbao gives visitors a glimpse of Basque culture in the modern age. Whole sections of the industrial city have been revitalized as a popular cultural destination. Bilbao features the Guggenheim Bilbao museum of modern art, designed by Frank Gehry, an impressive structure that dominates the city. Bilbao is surrounded by hillsides filled with white-washed homes topped with red-tiled roofs.
Near Bilbao is the town of Lekeitio. The Basque coast covers around 150 miles of beaches, marshes, cliffs and islands, and Lekeitio is one of the areas most charming fishing villages. Blue and red boats fill bob in the Bay of Biscay, seafood restaurants line the docks and 17th and 18th century homes line the streets. One of the most popular features of Lekeitio is its land bridge that only appears at low tide. Then visitors can walk out to the San Nicolas Island in the middle of the bay without getting wet. The 15th century cathedral, St. Mary’s, is a good example of Basque Gothic architecture.
With multiple international connections. Bilbao Airport is the most convenient entry point for visits to Basque Country.