Six Joys of Basque Country

For many travelers, the Spanish provinces of Basque Country bring to mind the beaches of San Sebastian or a visit to Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum. While both are worthy stops, don’t overlook the other gems that Basque Country has to offer.

Txakoli

Pronounced cha-ko-LEE, txakoli is a delicious, slightly sparkling, dry white wine produced in Basque Country. It’s poured from a great height – as high as you can hold the bottle while still pouring the wine into the glass – and with a special pourer called an escanciador. This aerates the wine (and also provides for an interesting presentation). Plenty of people who don’t typically drink white wine have been won over by a glass of txakoli.

Pintxos

Pronounced PEEN-chos, these are the ubiquitous finger-foods served at bars throughout Basque Country. They are a great accompaniment to txakoli and allow you to snack periodically throughout the course of an evening instead of sitting down for one big, quick meal.

Zarautz

You may not have heard of Zarautz, but it’s worth a stop. You’ll find world-class surfing and the longest beach around, with different areas for surfers, families, and those who eschew the hassle of wearing a swimsuit. Zarautz also has a killer promenade bordering the beach, perfect for eating and shopping. There are surf schools aplenty if you’re so inclined. Zarautz is a great place to spend the day for solo travelers, couples, and families alike.

Sagardotegi

Visiting a sagardotegi (cider house) is an absolute must. Don’t expect a lot of instruction when you arrive. You’ll be given a glass, seated at a long wooden table, and served chorizo and a cod omelet in short order. Watch what others do to figure out the cider part of it. In a separate room you’ll find giant barrels of cider. Have as much as you want, but don’t expect a sweet cider; brace yourself for a bitter cider that’s more likely to bring to mind vinegar than apples. Astigarraga is the place to find a cider house. If it’s peak season, you’ll want to make a reservation.

Getaria

An adorable and quaint fishing village perfect for walking around and enjoying pintxos or grilled fish. This is also the birthplace of famed designer Cristóbal Balenciaga, whose clients included Grace Kelly, Jackie Kennedy, Ava Gardner, and Audrey Hepburn, and you can visit the Balenciaga museum if you’re into that sort of thing. If you need to work off the pintxos and txakoli, hike up Mount San Antón, which, due to its shape, is also known as the Mouse of Getaria.

Basque Museum

Sure, Bilbao is home to a Guggenheim museum, but don’t overlook Bilbao’s Basque museum. Located at Plaza Miguel Unamuno, the museum is home to more than 20,000 objects, including the Mikeldi Idol which dates back to the Iron Age. Don’t miss this amazing collection that touches on every conceivable aspect of Basque culture.


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