Basque Country

El Pais Vasco, Spain


The Basque Country or
in Spanish el País Vasco stretches 100 miles from Bilbao north to
Bayonne in France.  When, in the first third of the twentieth century,
the bourgeoisie of Madrid discovered the pleasures of vacationing at the
beach, San Sebastían became one of their favorite sea side resorts.  At
that time and even now a days, the Basque Country is one of the richest
areas in Spain, the iron mines of Vizcaya generated a great industry and
wealth that quickly took to the joie de vivre of neighboring
France by enjoying the good life, vacationing at resort hotels, spas,
eating at good restaurants and gambling at the casinos.

being one of the most industrialized regions in Spain, there remain many
areas still untouched where nature is at its best, particularly the
natural parks of Valderejo, Urkiola and Urdabai as well as the luscious
landscapes along the Guernica River.  All of which lend themselves to
extraordinary canoeing, hiking, riding, and a number of other mountain
sports for those looking for thrills and adventure.

San Sebastían keeps the
charm of yesteryear, a favorite holiday destination of the Madrid elite,
its urban beaches wedge between two mountains give way to one of the
most popular Spanish tourist postcards.  In the vicinity of San
Sebastían are some magnificent beaches such as Zarautz, the Spanish
birthplace of surfing and some of the prettiest towns in Spain like
Hondarribia located almost on the border with France and its fabulous
parador a historic castle on a hilltop.basque-country- guggenheim-museum

Bilbao, the largest and
most populous city of el País Vasco was home to the areas
revolution, many of the great Spanish fortunes were forged here in the
big steel mills and shipyards.  After the financial crisis suffered by
these industries in the eighties, Bilbao was reborn and the city
transformed,  where once there were industries and factories now are
pleasant walks, gardens and museums including the extraordinary
Guggenheim Museum, an icon symbolizing the transformation of the city.

Basque cuisine has
always been a major ingredient in the Basque culture, its extraordinary
seafood (the Basque Country has a large fishing fleet) and the
delicacies grown in their farms have led to a food culture that includes
some of the best chefs in the world, as Juan Mari Arzak or Martin
Berasategui.  Chef Ferran Adrià had this to say “in
terms of the average quality of the food, in terms of what you can get
at any place you happen to walk into, maybe it is – probably it is, yes
– the best in the world”.   The food in Bilbao is amazing it is a must
to walk through its old quarter entering the numerous bars to drink some
wine, cider or txacolí (an excellent white wine) served with tasty
tapas, ir de pinchos or txikiteo, Basque version of a pub
crawl.  San Sebastían boasts some of the best tapas renowned throughout
Spain as well as Vitoria the capital of the region and home to the
autonomous government.

The festivals and
fiestas of the Basque Country are among the most joyous in Spain, the
tamborradas (drum procession) in San Sebastían, Aste Nagustia or Big
Week in Bilbao where over a period of 10 days the city is transformed
into a major center of festivities and entertainment for people of all
ages  or the festivities of La Virgen Blanca (White Virgin) sum up the
best of the Spaniards zest for live, with their bands, people dancing in
the streets, singing  and drinking and, of course, eating.

The Basque Country is
sure to enchant any traveler with its cities, sea side resorts,
beautiful mountains, green meadows, picturesque villages and the
existence of a very unique Basque rural culture, a strong personality,
with its own language Euskera, and very old traditions.



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