5 Places Not To Miss In The Spanish Basque Country | Road Trip Itinerary

Three days is not enough to explore the Basque Country. The coast is lovely, and I’m sure you could spend easily one or two weeks in the area we covered in a couple of days. But we only had a short time to meet up with our friends during their holidays there. It was worth the effort: we visited amazing places and loved our food discoveries as well.

We drove from Biarritz to San Juan de Gaztelugatxe along very scenic roads and had lovely stops on the way.

Our overall target was to check out the stunning Gaztelugatxe, and we ended up picking places where to stop on the way according to the strength of the rain. Well, you cannot always be lucky with the weather – and we loved where we stopped so we were lucky in the end! Plus, we had a lovely day for visiting Gaztelugatxe, so it was perfect!

Highlights of our three-day road trip on the Basque Country coast

Roadtrip Basque Country - Saint Jean de Luz resto1. Saint Jean de Luz

Okay, this isn’t Spain (it’s still France), but it’s close to it, and it’s the Basque Country. We were hungry, so we stopped there to try the Basque gastronomy, on our way back to Biarritz airport at the end of our road trip.

If Saint Jean de Luz is on your way while you’re driving to the Spanish Basque Country, it’s worth to have a look around.

The history of Saint Jean de Luz starts back in the 15th century, and the town had its “Golden Age” in the 17th century. Buildings from that time remain in the now busy town centre.

Don’t miss enjoying a short walk on the Promenade. Make a detour to the Saint Baptiste Church. In this typical church from the French Basque Country, the French King Louis XIV married the King of Spain’s daughter, ending the long-lasting conflict between the two countries.

2. Donostia (San Sebastian)

Mount Urgull - San Sebastian - Guillén Pérez
Photo: Guillén Pérez

Donostia (San Sebastián) has been one of the chicest seaside towns in Spain since the 19th century when the Spanish nobles started to enjoy the beautiful bay and its beaches. Nowadays, the atmosphere seems to be more young and festive than chic.

The Pintxos bars (the local tapas) are a Basque speciality not to miss in San Sebastian.

So after hiking Mount Urgull to get the best views of the city, we tried a couple of different bars in town for our first Pintxos experiences. I love the concept: you can taste small portions of many different foods that are displayed on the bar. And it’s delicious.

They also had local wines to taste. Unfortunately, wine is never a good pair with a road trip as we had to hit the road in the evening, so we stuck to local cider, lighter in alcohol.

pintxos bar Nicolas Vollmer

Photo: Nicolas Vollmer

Photo: Marianne Casamance

If we had more time, we’d definitely have spent the night in San Sebastian. It’s a lively place with a nice countryside to explore, including wineries*. Click here to see available accommodations*.

3. Getaria

Spain Roadtrip Basque Country - cliffs near GuetariaThe road leading to Getaria looked fantastic. We drove along stunning rugged cliffs and, despite the grey weather, I wished we could have spent more time exploring the bay.

We reached Guetaria in the evening just before sunset. It was perfect timing to have a walk to the Mount San Anton to admire the view. In town, we wandered in charming lanes made of wood and stone to reach the port and choose a restaurant.

Fish and white wine are the two specialities of the area. I also ate urchins for the first time.

We spent the first night of our road trip in Getaria. Click here to find out the accommodation available*.

4. Lekeitio

With San Nicolas island in front of the river mouth, the drive into the old town of Lekeitio is very scenic. We stopped there between two showers. I liked how interesting it felt to drive through Spanish towns. There is always something special to look at: a church or another building full of History. That’s something we also have in France but that I’ve been missing in Australia’s towns.

Spain Roadtrip Basque Country - Lekeitio 01

Spain Roadtrip Basque Country - Lekeitio 03
Spain Roadtrip Basque Country - Lekeitio 02 
Spain Roadtrip Basque Country - Lekeitio 04 
Spain Roadtrip Basque Country - Cliffs

5. San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe was my highlight of the trip. Do you recognise it from elsewhere? The winding stairs were featured in the popular Game of Thrones TV series. We went there before the season 7 got released, so it was surprising to see it there!

Are you a GoT fan? Have a look at this tour* to retrace the footsteps of Jon Snow, Tyrion Lannister, and Daenerys Targaryen in the Basque Country.

It’s a great leg work out to go up more than 200 steps, but it’s rewarding all the way. The views are fantastic.

Gazteligatxe in Basque means Tremendous Castle. Up there, you won’t find Dragonstone, the castle from Game of Thrones. In reality, it’s a lovely small church from the 10th century. I loved finding marine elements hidden in the architecture of the church. And don’t be surprised to hear the bells ringing at any time. According to the legend, those who make it up there should ring the bell three times and make a wish.

We spent the second night of our road trip near Gaztelugatxe. If you’re looking for a hotel, check out accommodations in Bakio*, the closest town. Alternatively, Bermeo is a bit further but also bigger and may have more options to suit your needs (click here to view availabilities*).

Spain Roadtrip Basque Country - Gaztelugatxe

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe - Basque Country Road Trip Spain
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San Juan de Gaztelugatxe - Basque Country Road Trip Spain 02

Bonus: Cider in Spanish Basque Country

how to serve basque ciderI’m originally from Britanny, and I studied in Normandy, the two French regions famous for producing cider in France.

Still, I keep being surprised by ciders when I travel.

I mean, they all look the same, they’re made with the same ingredients and have very similar names. So why do they taste so different? In England (and even worse in Australia!), it tastes awfully sweet to me. In the Basque Country, it was flat.

Well, that was before we learnt how to serve it the local way: you have to pour it from about 20cm above your glass, with a special cork half placed on the bottle. It’s still a lot flatter than the French cider, but I enjoyed it!


Have you visited the Spanish Basque Country? What was your highlight? Share your experience in the comments below!


If you’re looking for more inspiration for your road trip in Spain, here’s a 10-day itinerary that will take you from Madrid all along the east coast.


Where did we go during our road trip in the Spanish Basque Country?

We flew from Paris to Biarritz, where we rented a car to drive to Spain. There is also an airport in Bilbao if you want to do it from the other end.

Over three days, we drove 350km for about 6 hours in total.

If you’re renting a car in France or Spain, you may be interested in this tip to save money on rental car insurance in Europe.


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5 Places Not To Miss In The Spanish Basque Country | Road Trip Itinerary was last modified: March 22nd, 2018 by Eloise

I am a part-time traveller: I combine a full-time job with a passion for travelling. I love to share my trips and tips to inspire others to explore what’s around them. Before moving to Australia, I lived in France, England and Turkey. I’ve finally found my balance in Brisbane.

12 thoughts on “5 Places Not To Miss In The Spanish Basque Country | Road Trip Itinerary

    1. I agree! It’s an exciting place for many different reasons. I’d go back again anytime if it weren’t that far from where I live (only about 15,000 km)

  1. The north of Spain is one of my favourite regions in the world! I just love the history, the nature, the beaches and teh food! San Sebastian is so gorgeous and I love their culture! Thanks for sharing these other towns that I am yet to visit!

    1. Thank you, Georgia! I’m sure you’ll love these towns! I didn’t know much about the north of Spain before that short trip, and it made me want to see more of it.

  2. I have only been to Madrid and Barcelona in Spain, Cannot wait to travel around in Spain to see a little less crowded places. Must be amazing to do a road trip in Spain.All of these 5 places looks amazing and unique. Lekeitio looks so picturesque :D

    1. Hi, Vibeke. I haven’t made it to Barcelona yet. I’m looking forward to visiting it but on another hand, I’m a bit concerned about the overcrowding tourism going on there. The Basque Country was indeed amazing and I’d recommend it to anyone :)

  3. I’ve read some about this region and now will have to add it to the must-go list. Especially since parts of GoT were filmed here (loved the tour). We love tapas and local wines so slow travel here to really get a feel for the culture would be a great experience. Not so sure about the cider but we’ll certainly try it. Thanks for the guide, and the photos.

  4. Wow, these are truly an amazing places and stunning landscapes to see and experience in Spain. I haven’t been here and seeing all these beautiful destinations really want to go here and experience them all. I love how serene these places are and just breathtakingly amazing. Your photos are really awesome as well! Thank you so much for sharing this with us. You have just brought me in Spain.

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