What the Basque Country has to offer…
The Basque people have lived here for thousands of years and they are one of the most ancient ethnic groups on the planet. As for their language, Euskera, it is wholly original, with no connection or similarities to any other spoken language. It is hard to visit their corner of heaven and not leave with a new-found empathy for their quest to be recognized for who they are. A short or hopefully longer stay in this beautiful land, will reveal many of it´s natural wonders, cultural offer and culinary plenty. It is the perfect mix of colors, the balance of modernity and traditions and the friendliness of its people that will make you fall in love with this tiny but rich corner of land. Once you are here, you will experience the well-known Basque hospitality, which is remarkably warm and open. Life is to be lived, that is the Basque approach to life. It is one the Basques abide to with great precision.
The Basque Country has it all: A wonderful coastline with sandy beaches and green mountains just next to it. The vibrant city of Bilbao, formerly industrial, but reborn as a center of art and architecture, offering a wide cultural scope of museums, art galleries and spectacular buildings by famous designers. The elegant coastal town of San Sebastian (Donostia) with it´s beautiful La Concha beach offers Michelin-starred restaurants and those legendary pintxos bars you just won´t get enough of. Furthermore, there are plenty of rural and fishing villages along the coastline and magnificent vineyards in the Basque part of the Rioja. In short, the scenery is spectacular, the food and wine even better. Welcome to the land of plenty!
About Basque Gastronomy
Basque cuisine enjoys a reputation for being one of the best in the world. This statement is corroborated by everyone who visits this region and eats at a bar, restaurant, steakhouse or cider farm – the food here is incredibly good! Traditional cooking, based on the quality of its products and their simple preparation is the guideline of most Basque chefs. Obviously, a special mention needs to be made to the wines from the Basque Rioja Alavesa region. Nestled among the extensive vineyards of Rioja Alavesa are medieval villas with traditional underground cellars which stand in perfect harmony alongside the avant-garde architecture of the wineries designed by famous architects of the stature of Gehry, Calatrava, Aspiazu or Maziéres. The perfect day out would consist of visiting a winery, enjoying a typical lunch there, enjoying a wine tasting session and discovering the exceptional countryside at the foot of the majestic Sierra antabria mountains.
Pintxos, Txakoli and Basque Cider
Another of the curiosities of Basque cuisine are the „pintxos“, small portions served in most bars and restaurants and which represent another opportunity to try Basque delicacies. The Old Quarter San Sebastian is a mecca for lovers of this Basque speciality. Few people can resist this mouthwatering miniature mouthfuls. An insight to Basque gastronomy would not be complete without trying Txakoli, one of the region´s best known wines. It is a young, fruity, slightly sparkling white wine with low acidity made from grapes grown on the mountain sides under the gentle breeze of the Cantabrian Sea. Another perfect accompaniment to Basque cuisine is the locally produced cider. It is one of the region´s oldest traditional drinks, a tradition that can be savoured in every sip, whether it´s from a bottle sipped in a glass clinked together in a friendly toast or whether it´s straight from the „txotx“ or barrel. The cider restaurants are the places to go to have the full-on „txotx“ experience and find out about the world of cider-making and cider drinking and the accompanying food featuring succulent steak and codfish tortilla.
The Basque Country is green….
In the Basque Country, nature is just a stonethrow away from civilisation. If Basques are deeply connected to their culture and food, then you can say that they are one with the nature surrounding them. The 7,200 km² of the Region present two main landscape types. On the one hand, a large coastal stripe, deeply green and with mountains, that includes Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa and the North of Alava. On the other hand, in the south, the wide and dry plains of Alava.
Besides the mountains and natural parks, the 252 km of coastline are one of the main attractions of the Basque Country that enchant visitors year round. Steep cliffs alternate with river mouths, marshes and thin-sand beaches. The Basque Country offers outdoor experiences for everyone, from sea to mountains, from beaches to forests, being in the Basque Country means being in contact with nature. Those who love nature have a lot to discover here. Its landscapes‘ diversity and beauty is astonishing.
Basque people are crazy for sports…
…of any kind. They like to actively participate, watch, bet and just enjoy them whenever possible. Sport is deeply connected with the Basque culture. The main sport in the Basque Country, as in the rest of Spain and much of France, is football. Athletic Bilbao is the most famous Basque football club with the curiosity that only Basque players are allowed to play for the club. Cycling is the second most popular sport in the Basque Country. When being in the Basque Country you will see many people climbing up the steep hills and riding along the coast with their bikes. Miguel Indurain was born in Atarrabia (Navarra), and he won 5 times the Tour de France.
Tradition & modernity, also in sports
Basque rural sports is the term used for a number of sports competitions rooted in the traditional lifestyles of the Basque people. There are various types of rural sports such as wood chopping, dragging, stone lifting and many more. Winners receive a Basque beret (txapela) as a trophy, hence the Basque word for champion, „txapeldun“, literally „one who has a beret“. Pelota, which is very popular here in the cradle of this sport, is either played by hand and then called „pelota a mano“ or with baskets and then called „jai alai“. Almost every tiny village has its own „frontón“ (court where Pelota is played) and you will see kids of all ages playing this deeply in the Basque history rooted game. In recent years surfing has taken off on the Basque shores, and in towns like Mundaka, Zarautz and Biarritz and almost any other Basque beach, you will spot surfers in the water waiting to catch the next good wave.