Spain is full of contrasts and unique corners that enhance and embellish its rich culture. In this land of picturesque sceneries, the most beautiful towns in the Basque Country take pride of place. Gipuzkoa, Bizkaia and Araba display stunning green landscapes and coasts full of impressive cliffs in the north of the peninsula, composing a region that has preserved its unique personality and worldview for thousands of years now. This is why the Basque territory and its towns attract countless tourists every year, providing an amazing experience drenched in nature and history.
Getaria, in the province of Gipuzkoa, is one of those towns that lie in between a windy road and sharp cliffs, welcoming its visitors through its charming cobbled streets. It is precisely here where the very famous sailor and explorer Juan Sebastián Elcano was born.
Nowadays, Getaria welcomes thousands of visits every year. It hosts such emblematic buildings as the museum of Cristóbal Balenciaga, as well as dreamlike beaches and a wide variety of delicious pintxos. It is one of the most beautiful towns in the Basque Country, perfect for visiting and enjoying its rich gastronomy.
Only a few kilometres away from Bilbao, right in front of the sea, Mundaka presents as one of the most beautiful towns in the area. There we can enjoy the magnificent architecture and natural landscapes that best define Euskadi. As a matter of fact, one of its main attractions is the church of Santa Catalina, of Romanesque architectural style, which stands on top of a cliff.
This picturesque fishing town as many other interesting spots, like the lookout of Portuondo, where one can enjoy the most impressive views of the bay. It is also the perfect place for those who love water sports, since it has the best waves in the area.
The mining tradition of the Basque Country intersects with the sea in the town of Lekeitio, on the shores of the Cantabrian Sea. It belongs to the province of Bizkaia and it is an interesting destination in terms of both history and nature. One of the most emblematic spots there is the shipyard of Mendieta, on the banks of the Lea. This building, which is more than 100 years old, was declared an Asset of Cultural Interest. It is also worth mentioning the Gothic basilica of La Asunción, whose pillar has become one of the greatest landmarks of Lekeitio.
Resting on the mouth of the river Artibai, Ondarroa is one of the most visited towns on the coast of Bizkaia. It makes perfect sense, considering Ondarroa has one of the most interesting old towns in this territory. It hosts interesting structures like the bridge of Itsasaurre, designed by renowned architect and engineer Santiago Calatrava. The atmosphere of this place shifts between a modern ambience and a setting of medieval seafaring that will always bewitch its visitors. Moreover, it has interesting corners like the building of Likona, from the 15th century, which is one of the oldest buildings on the Basque border; or the church of Andra Mari, of Gothic architectural style.
If we compare it to the longevity of other towns, this one is relatively modern. However, it is a great option if you happen to be near Bilbao, since it was born after its division with Barakaldo in the late 20th century.
The church of Alonsotegi acts as its main axis, and the rest of the town spreads around it. It is one of the smallest and most picturesque towns in the area. Other interesting places to visit here are the shrine of San Antolín de Irauregui, the neo-Gothic church of San Bartolomé and a series of archaeological remains they have found in the area.
This time 50 kilometres away from Bilbao and with only 400 inhabitants, Elantxobe follows the pattern of traditional Basque towns. Its fishing tradition can be seen everywhere, in every street and building in Elantxobe. Its typical Basque houses cluster on the hill of the cape of Otoño, forming a unique, attractive landscape. The church of San Nicolás de Bari stands out among its most interesting spots, as well as the peculiar square called Giratoria. When it comes to its natural surroundings, we should mention the formidable lookout of the cape of Otoño and the natural pools, which are very popular in summer.
This medieval town is a popular tourist destination in the comarca of Rioja Alavesa. Its history goes back to the 10th century, when it belonged to the Kingdom of Navarre. The fortified churches of San Juan Bautista and Santa María de los Reyes are two spots the traveller just cannot miss, as well as Casa de la Primicia, which is considered the oldest civil building in Laguardia. Walking through its streets will take us on a journey to the past, where we will be able to experience the town’s medieval legacy.
The Basque Country is home to beautiful fishing and coastal towns, but those who love inland tourism will also fall in love with places such as Rioja Alavesa. There one can find true jewels like Labastida, a town resting between the mountain range of Toloño and the Ebro, and built around a castle from the 11th century. Its most interesting aspects, both historically and concerning tourism, are the shrine of Santo Cristo, the parish church of La Asunción, and Casa-Palacio de los Salazar. It is also delightful to walk through its streets and the upper neighbourhood of Labastida, better known as La Mota.
Most people agree that one of the most beautiful towns in the Basque Country is the one called Pasai Donibane in Basque, or Pasajes San Juan in Spanish. It is a small town on the banks of the river of Oiartzun, and it has become a popular picture with its little fishing houses painted with bright colours.
Apart from its traditional harbour and lovely houses, there are other interesting spots in this town, like the parish church of San Juan Bautista, the Renaissance-style building of the Miranda family and the palace of Villaviciosa, as well as the square of Santiago. One cannot leave Pasajes San Juan without enjoying a drink in the terraces that face the river.
The province of Gipuzkoa also hosts Lezo, a calm town next to the river that lies only a few kilometres away from Donostia-San Sebastián. Its charm attracts more and more tourists every year. We can see a clear Renaissance architectural style in Lezo’s streets, which will guide us through one of the most precious old towns in the area, with beautiful buildings like the Gothic basilica of Santo Cristo or the town hall square. It displays a stunning natural landscape too, right on the skirts of the natural park of Aiako Harria and the mountain Jaizkibel.
This town is precious both in terms of nature and architecture, and also when it comes to unparalleled landscapes near the coastline. Still in Gipuzkoa, Oiartzun partly belongs to the natural park of Aiako Harria, exhibiting its stunning mountain setting and only a few kilometres away from the Cantabrian Sea. Besides, it hosts some interesting buildings when it comes to historical and cultural value, for instance the parish church of San Esteban de Lartaun, with an altarpiece from the 17th century, or the basilica of San Juan Bautista, dating back to the 16th century; both have been declared Assets of Cultural Interest.