The free-spirited Basque country is a world apart, with its own ancient language, a renowned cuisine, and emerald mountains offering some of the most gorgeous hiking in all Spain. We’ve created a captivating hiking and cultural adventure that follows smugglers’ paths into hidden mountain valleys where sheep and horses graze, and crosses spectacular high trails from Spain into France—on foot! Eating well is truly the second religion of the Basques, and between hikes, you’ll enjoy a cooking class, sample sheep cheeses, sip superb red Rioja wines, take lunches at a monastery and a family farmstead, and savor dinner in a Michelin-starred restaurant. Overnights include a Baroque manor house in wine country and a historic grain mill-turned-hotel in picturesque Arbizu.
Gourmet picnics, pintxos, and the Hondarribia parade were highlights, as well as the delightful country hikes with wild rosemary, thyme, and lavender underfoot, blackberries to pick, and two superb dinners at the fabulous Hotel Arce!
— Julie L., Harbour Island, Bahamas
Bilbao / La Rioja / Navarre High Country / Arbizu
Basque lore and legend is all around us on hikes amid the hidden rock labyrinths of Gorbea and the limestone peaks and lush meadows of Urkiola. In Navarre’s high country, our trails lead along undulating ridges in the footsteps of mountain tribes who settled here 6,000 years ago, and to a remote monastery for a home-cooked lunch. On one afternoon, you’ll join a private cooking class presenting the cuisine of La Rioja and taste wines with a master winemaker, the owner of our hotel.
High Route of the Pyrenees
From Roncesvalles Pass, where the Basques defeated Charlemagne’s army in 778, hike right into France on the spectacular Pyrenees High Route, passing mysterious stone megaliths, then head back into Spain and the remote Aldudes Valley, home to a much-prized local cured ham.
Bidarray, France / Hondarribia, Spain
Our hike on the grassy slopes of Mt. Atxuria follows the smugglers’ trail used by armies that fought in the 19th century Spanish civil wars. Our last hike is along the cliffs of Hendaye, France, where the green slopes of the mountains drop to the sea amid hidden islands and coves that were once the secret refuge of Basque witchcraft and black Sabbath celebrations. From our hotel in the colorful fishermen’s quarter of Hondarribia, we join the locals for the tradition of txikiteo, or pintxo-bar-hopping, in the town’s tavernas. Depart on Day 10.