Information and Tourism
You don't have to travel far into the Basque Country - or Euskal Herria as it is known to those who live here, to realise that you've entered a region that is very different. Take a look at any restaurant menu or road sign and you soon realise just how different.
It doesn't take long to appreciate the region's sheer natural beauty, either. Densely forested mountain sides are usually covered with a fine mist of rain, but that doesn't matter. In the summer, it is a refreshing contrast from the searing heat further south.
The region's mountains are where the Basque heartland can be found, complete with pretty medieval towns. Tolosa, which was once a major stopping-off point on the trade route between Navarre and the Bay of Biscay, is today better known for its lively annual carnival. Monasteries are dotted here and there, marking out the fact that an ancient Pilgrim Route passes through the region.
The Basque coastline is a mix of pretty villages, small resorts and down-to-earth fishing ports. There are also busy beaches and long winding roads that cling to the coastline. There is certainly no denying that the Costa Vasca is beautiful.
The Basque Country's two major towns of San Sebastian and Bilbao are like chalk and cheese. San Sebastian is the undisputed queen of the region when it comes to style and elegance. The city seems to have it all, from a plethora of Michelin-starred eateries to some of Spain's most beautiful city beaches. Hang out in an Old Town bar - there are quite a few to choose from, and watch the elegant San Sebastian locals go about their daily business.
Alternatively, further up the Basque Country coast is Bilbao, a busy and bustling city that is unashamedly a 21st-century kind of place. The fact that Bilbao is home to the internationally acclaimed Museo Guggenheim makes up for the fact that the city's urban sprawl is more post-industrial than picture postcard.
Between the two cities is the town of Gernika, home to the famous Tree of Gernika, in front of which tourists feel obliged to take their family photos. Nearby is the former parliament building known as Casa de las Juntas. Picasso's anti-war painting 'Guernica' was created in response to the bombing of the town during World War Two.
Basque Country Information and Fast Facts
- Country: Spain
- Main administrative centre: Vitoria-Gasteiz
- Population: approximately 2.3 million
- Language: Basque and Spanish
- Area: 2,790 square miles / 7,226 square kilometres
WORLD GUIDES TO THE BASQUE COUNTRY
World Guide to Bilbao, Spain
The city of Bilbao stands on the northern side of Spain, near to the coast and beaches. The biggest city in the Basque Country, Bilbao is continually reinventing itself and is renowned for its spectacular Guggenheim Museum.
World Guide to San Sebastian, Spain
Often known as 'Domostia', San Sebastian stands close to the French border, on Spain's northern shore. Centered around La Concha Bay, San Sebastian has four main beaches, a scenic backdrop and a sophisticated feel.
Map of Spain