Great Hikes and Cuisine of Basque Country

Mountain Trails and Ancient Cultures of the Spanish and French Pyrenees

Great Hikes and Cuisine of Basque Country route-map

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: $5595  
Length: 10 days
Arrive: Bilbao, Spain
Depart: Hondarribia, Spain
Lodging: 9 nights historic hotels and inns
Meals: All meals included except 3 dinners
Activity: Cultural Adventures, Hiking / Trekking
Trip Level: 9 hiking days on moderate trails, some steep sections, 3-6 hours a day, van support (for luggage or tired feet)
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Highlights

  • Experience the unique Basque heritage of Spain and France, with visits to pilgrimage sites
  • Picnics including renowned Basque cheeses, 2 dinners in Michelin-starred restaurants, private wine tastings, cooking class
  • Charming hotels, including a Baroque manor house
  • Enjoy an insider’s experience with native Basque Trip Leaders


We really enjoyed this trip. Great weather, magical scenery in the forests and amidst the heather, often hiking at own pace as there was room to spread out. And Basque food is so doggone good!Barbara C.—Palm Desert, CA

Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.

References

We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.

Read about our new culinary programs recently featured in this adventure.travel article. Click here!

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 at a Basque family farmstead, and savor two dinners in Michelin-starred restaurants. Overnights include a Baroque manor house in wine country and a historic watermill-turned-hotel in picturesque Arbizu.

Itinerary at a Glance

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

Days 1-5
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, join a special cooking class with a master chef of Basque cuisine.

Days 6-7
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 and stopping for delicious picnic lunches of local cheeses, meats (chorizo and jamon serrano), olive-oil packed tuna, fresth bread, tomatoes and salads, and, of course, wine!

Days 8-10
Mt. Atxuria / Hondarribia

Passing Iron Age cemeteries, we hike the grassy slopes of Mt. Atxuria, following a smugglers’ trail used by armies that fought in the 19th century Spanish civil wars. Our final 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. 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.

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

What the Trip is Like

This trip is rated Level 3+, Moderate to Strenuous. We hike from 3 to 6 hours each day over rolling hills, with some steep sections. Distances are not long (4 to 9 miles), but trip members should be in good shape and have good hiking boots.  Most of our hiking takes place at medium elevations, between 2,000 and 3,800 feet. The maximum elevation we hike to is 4,300 feet. On a typical day, the elevation change totals about 1,800 feet of total accumulated ascent, and 2,500 feet of total accumulated descent. Typically, we drive to a mountain pass in the early morning and end by hiking the trail down into the valley on the opposite side of the hills, so there is usually less uphill than downhill. This makes it easier hiking, but can be tiring on the knees, which is why hiking poles are always recommended. On every hike, you can expect varied terrain. Broadly speaking, our hikes take place on about  45% shepherds’ trails, 35% wide dirt roads, 10% rocky mule tracks (some sections can be long and slow to navigate), 5% mountain roads, and 5% cross country routes with no trail. A vehicle transfers our luggage between overnight accommodations. On many days, we enjoy picnic lunches prepared by the Trip Leaders with local wine, breads, and cheeses. 

Driving and hiking times are noted, but on first departures, and with full groups, these can vary, sometimes dramatically, from the anticipated times. Road conditions and the group’s level of fitness also affect the travel and hiking times. Please note that in Spain, the dinner hour is considerably later than what it is in the US. We do our best to secure the earliest possible reservations for our groups, but most often the evening meal will be after 8:00 pm.

Explanation of Trip Levels

 

Departures & Leaders

2015
Jun 1-10, 2015  Itziar Zorilla
Jun 29-Jul 8, 2015  Itziar Zorilla
Aug 31-Sep 9, 2015  Itziar Zorilla

Trip Cost

Prices are for 2015
$5595 (13-15 members)
$5895 (10-12 members)
$6095 (6-9 members)
Single supplement: $590
Forced single supplement: $390
more on pricing

Trip Cost Includes:

  • Expert leadership of a Wilderness Travel Trip Leader and local guides
  • Accommodations in hotels
  • All meals included except 3 dinners
  • Land transportation as noted

Trip Cost Does Not Include:

International airfare, transfers for independent arrival or departure, airport departure taxes, any meals not specified after each itinerary day, optional activities, optional tipping or gratuities to leaders or staff, hotels en route, an any additional hotel nights that may be necessitated by international airline schedule changes or other factors, pre-trip expenses of medical immunizations, visa fees, travel insurance, and other expenses of a personal nature (alcoholic beverages, laundry, etc.).

Trip Payment Schedule

At time of reservation: $500
120 days prior to departure: 20% of trip cost
60 days prior to departure: Balance

Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule

More than 90 days prior to departure: No charge!
46-90 days prior to departure: 25% of trip cost
45 days or less: 100% of trip cost

Hotel Carlton

Hotel Carlton

Day 1 (1 night), Bilbao, Spain

This classic hotel has Old World grandeur in its marble, wood paneling, and stained glass and a commanding location on a major plaza. It is within ...
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Villa de Abalos

Villa de Abalos

Days 2 to 3 (2 nights), Abalos, Spain

Set in the heart of La Rioja Valley and surrounded by vineyards, the Villa de Abalos is a small, family-run hotel whose friendly owners make their ...
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Hotel Rural Olatzea

Hotel Rural Olatzea

Days 4 to 5 (2 nights), Arbizu, Spain

A tranquil, quiet setting and spacious, well-equipped rooms are part of the charm of the Olatzea, a historic grain mill converted to an inn.  ...
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Hotel Arce

Hotel Arce

Days 6 to 7 (2 nights), St. Etienne de Baigorry, France

The Hotel Arce enjoys a stunning riverside location and spectacular views of the mountains and hiking trails just outside the door. It has been in ...
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Hotel Jauregui

Hotel Jauregui

Days 8 to 9 (2 nights), Hondarribia, Spain

The Jauregui has a perfect location in the center of the town of Hondarribia, right next to the Old Town, the seafront full of fishing boats, and a ...
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Note: Listed above are our signature accommodations for this trip. Although it is highly unlikely, we may make substitutions when necessary.

Itziar Zorilla

Itziar Zorrilla is a native of the Basque country in Spain and considers the mountains of the Pyrenees her home. An expert climber, she has traveled solo in Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America pursuing higher summits and exploring new cultures. Itziar loves to share her passion for Basque culture, the Pyrenees, and the beauty of Spain. One of her favorite hiking areas is in Anboto, close to Bilbao, where "vertiginous limestone peaks rise just from the valley—the most impressive mountains of our land." Itziar's personal rules for happiness are many: "Never leave the house without a book, never say 'no' to a movie, and never waste an opportunity to go on a trip, whether nearby or far away."

Upcoming Trips:

Great Hikes and Cuisine of Basque Country, June 1-10, 2015
Great Hikes and Cuisine of Basque Country, June 29-July 8, 2015
Great Hikes and Cuisine of Basque Country, August 31-September 9, 2015

Client Testimonials:


Itziar was outstanding. Her warmth, humor, interpersonal skills, and hiking abilities added even more to the trip. Raymond and Deborah Tonella, Napa CA
Across the Pyrenees
Itziar was an exceptional leader—very conscientious about attention to detail and ensuring that all her guests had a positive experience. Lynn F., Orinda, CA
Across the Pyrenees
A highly energetic, animated, passionate, knowledgeable, and attentive guide. Professional, well prepared, and sensitive to everybody's needs. Robert C., Corrales, NM
Across the Pyrenees
Itziar is a jewel of a leader, warm, humorous, and sensitive to individual hiker's concerns. Barbara and Don T., Windsor, Ontario
Across the Pyrenees
Itziar is by far the BEST EVER! She is intelligent, forward thinking, inclusive, compassionate, thinks on her feet, has a joyous presence, and I wish she had a dozen clones. Linda L., Berkeley, CA
Across the Pyrenees
Itziar is charismatic, dedicated to her culture, devoted to all of her clients and her attention to details is unrelenting. She's the best! Thomas H., Escondido, CA
Great Hikes and Cuisine of Basque Country
This woman is an all-star! Her energy and fun-loving vitality gave us all a lot of pleasure. Barbara C., Palm Desert, CA
Great Hikes and Cuisine of Basque Country
Itziar was fabulous. She became a true friend from the first day of the trip and was a charismatic figure on the trail. Harry J., San Francisco, CA
Great Hikes and Cuisine of Basque Country
Itziar was fantastic. She knows so much, is so passionate about Basque culture, and has so much energy and enthusiasm. Elisabeth B., Buenos Aires, Argentina
Great Hikes and Cuisine of Basque Country

Client Comments

We really enjoyed this trip. Great weather, magical scenery in the forests and amidst the heather, often hiking at own pace as there was room to spread out. And Basque food is so doggone good! Barbara C., Palm Desert, CA This was my first Wilderness Travel trip. I am impressed! I can't think of a better way to see this country. Everything about this trip was superlative. Harry J., San Francisco, CA
I loved the country, the people, our guides, and the wine and food. Susan R., Arroyo Seco, NM