Travel through the Basque Country: 3-day drive along Biscay’s coastline
Travelling through the Basque Country by car is one of those experiences that, if you have the chance, you absolutely must do it. If you are planning to spent a week in the Basque Country, but you are not sure which places you should see or even organize you itinerary, we’ll give you a hand. Discover the most beautiful driving routes in the Basque Country to do over a 6-day tour: Part I
Being able to enjoy more freedom of movement during your trip to Euskadi is priceless and for this reason we encourage you to travel by car as you will be able to discover some of the most charming beaches in the north of the Peninsula, hidden places that are hard to reach by public transport and, of course, taste its wonderful cuisine which highlights its famous pintxo-potes and generous servings of local cuisine.
As you know, the Basque Country is made up of three provinces: Vizcaya, Guipuzcoa and Alava. These territories conceal some mysteries that are under study and make them a tourist attraction for national and foreign travelers. In this article we present a 3-day trip itinerary through the Biscay coast to find out amazing places. Let’s get started!
Basque Country Route: places to visit in Biscay
Bilbao and its surroundings
Bilbao, the capital of the province of Vizcaya is the biggest city in the Basque Country. Start your route in this place surrounded by mountains and fondly called ”El Botxo” which in Basque means ‘hole’ will be a good choice. In the past, this city had a very high industrial character and presence that it still holds today. Its hallmark is still intact, although it has been able to transform itself into a modern and avant-garde city.
As every great city, Bilbao has an estuary that divides it into two banks: the river Nervión. This lets us see clearly the difference between the oldest Bilbao, where you can find the Casco Viejo, the famous Siete Calles, the Plaza Nueva, the Ribera Market or the Bilbao Cable Car which goes up to the Mirador de Artxanda, from where you can enjoy one of the most beautiful views of the city; and the most modern Bilbao, with the Guggenheim Museum, the Azkuna Center and of course the San Mames Stadium, a place you have to visit during your route through Bilbao.
To enjoy the famous pintxo-pote of this city you can choose any of the two sides. If you are in the old part of the city, go to Plaza Nueva. There you will find plenty of bars and restaurants with bars full of pintxos. In the more modern part of the town there are multiple streets and options for tasting typical dishes.
Did you know that the Vizcaya Bridge, also known as the Suspension Bridge, is the only transporter bridge in the world that is still in operation? Opened at the end of the 19th century, it was a breakthrough for that time and has been declared a World Heritage Site by the UNECO as an architectural construction representative of the Industrial Revolution. This bridge is located between the town of Portugalete and the municipality of Getxo. You can use it to cross the Nervión estuary by car or walking along its footbridge.
Getxo is a town located on the right bank of the Nervion estuary. This municipality is full of contrast and beauty. Our recommendation to visit it is that you use the Vizcaya Bridge ferry to get to one of the 5 neighborhoods that make it up: Las Arenas. There you will find a marvelous 3.8 km promenade that borders the estuary and takes you to the seafront and the old quarter of Algorta where you will find small sailors’ houses that you will surely want to snap a picture of.
La Salvaje Beach in Sopelana
After your visit to the lower area of Getxo we recommend you take the car again and move to the Azkorri cliffs, a perfect place to walk and enjoy spectacular views. If you feel like walking, you can take the 9-kilometer promenade that takes you to the town of Sopelana where you will find one of the largest sandy beaches in Biscay: La Salvaje de Sopelana beach. This beach is a paradise for the surf lovers of this area, also known as ‘locals’. After your walk on the beach, you can go for a drink at the Peñon or the Triangu, some of the surfing bars you will find in this zone.
Butrón Castle, located in the town of Gatika, was built in the Middle Ages and is one of the most representative buildings of Biscay. Although it is currently not possible to visit inside, be sure to stop by to see it and appreciate its architecture. You will feel like you are in a medieval movie.
Armintza is a small fishermen’s neighborhood located in the municipality of Lemoiz. Despite not appearing in almost any of the tourist guides of the Basque Country, it is a place full of charm. It has many attractions such as its famous flysch, the port where local people gather, or its rocky beach surrounded by cliffs. After your visit we suggest you have a snack either in the bars that you will find in the port or in the most famous restaurant of this area, the Begotxu, where we assure you will not remain hungry. This place accumulates a great number of positive reviews, and its star dish is the Asturian “cachopo” type meat escalope.
San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
San Juan de Gaztelugatxe also known as Rocadragon thanks to the series Game of Thrones is an islet connected to land by a two-arched bridge located in the town of Bermeo. A place where nature surprises and rewards you with landscapes of invaluable beauty. To visit it is highly recommended to wear comfortable shoes as you will have to walk 5km and climb 241 steps to reach the Gaztelugatxe Hermitage. Once at the top, it is tradition to ring the bell three times and make a wish. Visits are currently restricted, so to see it you will have to make a reservation online.
Port of Bermeo
Bermeo is one of the most important fishing ports in the Basque Country. It is also part of the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve. The port of Bermeo is the hub of the municipality. Here you can see large fishing vessels and markets. This site is considered one of the most beautiful fishing villages on the coast of Biscay.
Just 5 minutes’ drive from Bermeo is the fishing village of Mundaka, an important part of the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve and known worldwide in the surfing world for its famous left wave. Strolling through the streets of Mundaka seeing its colorful houses, the famous sandy beach of Laida and eating near the fishing port will re-charge your battery to continue your tour along the Biscay coast.
Gernika is a town full of history that shows us the inland part of Biscay. A town that knew how to rise from the ashes and which is worth a walk. In Guernica y luno you can visit the Casa de Juntas, the famous Gernika Tree or the Peace Museum. You will also find in Pedro de Elejalde street a life-size ceramic replica of Pablo Picasso’s ‘Guernica’
Laida, Laga and Elantxobe Beaches
Laida beach is a dreamy spot within the Urdaibai Reserve perfect to enjoy both on summer days when the tide is low and during the rest of the year. From the shore of Laida and on the other side of the beach you can see the towns of Mundaka, Busturia and Pedernales, as well as the island of Izaro. Very close to Laida is Elantxobe, a small and beautiful village located on the slopes of Mount Ogoño where, in addition to its wonderful location, the narrow and steep slopes that climb from the port to the upper part of the village stand out.