The name Euskal Herria – which simply means ‘land of the Basque speakers’ – is how the natives of the Basque Country refer to their land. Ideally situated in northern Spain and southern France, this is one of Europe’s oldest and most culturally rich regions that offers visitors a mixture of the Pyrenees Mountains, dramatic Atlantic coastline and breathtaking countryside, making it a widely rewarding holiday spot.
The country’s scintillating modern architecture stands aside compared to other places in Southwest France, resulting in one of the most unique aspects of a visit to this destination. Scattered in different corners of the region are traditional Basque houses, called Extea, constructed from local material and featuring starched white facades, with rich green, brown, burgundy or navy timbers. The architectural style dates back to the 17th-18th centuries.
The Basque Country is also an ideal place for foodies. One of the best places to taste extraordinary mouth-watering cuisine is San Sebastian, a picturesque city that comes with two restaurants included in the ‘Top 10 of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants,’ and in addition, has more than 14 Michelin stars spread across seven restaurants. People flock to this getaway to try pintxos, which are culinary creations much like Spanish tapas. Another wonderful place that is gradually becoming a hotspot for foodies is the town of Hondarribia, found some 20 minutes up the coast.
As to attractions, the region again comes with full hands. Apart from quaint villages and numerous fishing communities found along the coast, the Basque Country is also home to several beach resorts, wonderful cities and some of the best surf spots in the world.
The region’s most cosmopolitan city, Bilbao is the beating heart of the Basque Country that is a must for any visitor to this amazing venue. There is much to see and do in Bilbao but one place that is definitely worth a visit is the Guggenheim Museum, a museum of modern and contemporary art, housed in an impressive building, designed by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry.
The gateway to the Basque Country, Bayonne is an attractive, fortified city of around 46000 inhabitants and the perfect place to stay and visit the whole of the region. Crossed by both the Nive and Adour rivers, Bayonne is considered the cultural capital of the Basque Country, offering visitors two superb and highly recommended museums: the Basque Museum – the largest ethnological museum in the region, with about 2000 works of art and precious objects; and the Bonnat Museum, famous for its large number of paintings, sculptures, drawings and unique works of art of the great masters. The city is also proud to be the cradle of chocolate production in France and is the place where every year the world-famous ‘Fêtes de Bayonne’ is held.
Just a few minutes from Bayonne, one can find the ultra-chic Biarritz – the Pearl of the Basque Country, ideally nestled between sea and mountains. Also known as the surfing capital of France, Biarritz is an increasingly popular ocean resort, with beautiful beaches, wonderful golf fields, luxurious hotels and some of the finest restaurants of Europe.
Another wonderful getaway is St-Jean-de-Luz, a small town and a popular vacation retreat on the coast of the Aquitaine region of France. The town appeals visitors with its architecture, sandy beaches and a downtown with a quaint feel to it. Around the main square in the town center, one can find some of the best sea-food restaurants on the Cote Basque, as well as numerous bars and terraces, ideal for enjoying the regular musical events in the square. Enjoy your visit!