What to see in the Basque Country: cinematic scenery, nature and fishing villages

The Basque Country may be geographically small, but it is considerably rich in terms of places worth visiting. This article on what to see in the Basque Country will run through all the must-see places when touring Araba, Gipuzkoa and Bizkaia. And Basque cuisine, one of the best in Spain, will be very present in many of these destinations.

Highlights to see in the Basque Country

Vitoria (Araba)

The Virgen Blanca square in Vitoria

The Virgen Blanca square in Vitoria. | Shutterstock

Vitoria-Gasteiz is one of those essential stops on any Basque itinerary. A visit to Santa María cathedral and a photo in Virgen Blanca square in front of the Vitoria-Gasteiz sign is recommended as well as Machete and Burullería squares and the old historic quarter.

Additionally, if time allows, it is worth taking the murals and pintxos walking tours, not to mention a visit to the Fournier de Vitoria Museum, one of the best museums in the world dedicated to playing cards.

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe (Bizkaia)

The stairs of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe on the Basque coast

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. | Shutterstock

When searching for images of the Basque Country online, some of the first ones to appear are of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, a small chapel right by the sea made famous by the series Game of Thrones.

The chapel is a tenth century religious temple built on a small isthmus, including a footbridge necessary to reach it. While making one’s way on this path, with plenty of steps, be sure to enjoy the spectacular views. It is also worth mentioning that there is no entry fee.

Gorbeia Natural Park (Araba and Bizkaia)

Gorbeia Natural Park

Gorbeia Natural Park. | Shutterstock

As far as nature is concerned, Gorbeia Natural Park is one of those absolute must-see places in the Basque Country. The Otzarreta beech forest is undoubtedly the most famous, a place filled with magic and landscapes unique to the Iberian peninsula.

Other highly recommended places to visit within this nature park are the village of   Otxandio, the Oro sanctuary, the Gujuli waterfall and the Saldropo fen. Clearly, this is quite an appealing place for trekking enthusiasts.

San Sebastián (Gipuzkoa)

The beach of La Concha with its trademark white banister

The beach of La Concha with its trademark white banister. | Shutterstock

Donostia-San Sebastián is a city that needs no introduction. In addition to the beautiful beach of La Concha, one should definitely visit the streets of the old city, the Buen Pastor cathedral, the Miramar palace and the Comb of the Wind sculpture along the seafront.

As well, if travelling with children, the Mount Igeldo amusement park, with its vintage rides and hundred-year old cable railway, is a great way to spend an afternoon. What’s more, the best views of all the city are found from there.

Bermeo (Bizkaia)

The harbour of Bermeo

Bermeo. | Shutterstock

When it comes to quaint villages in the Basque Country, Bermeo is, perhaps, one of the most acclaimed. Located on the coast of Bizkaia, it is one of the main fishing villages in the area. It is one of those places that possesses personality and unique charm.

Here, a stroll through Lamera park and a visit to the Casino building followed by Santa María church, the old port and Ercilla tower make for a complete tour of a quintessential Basque village.

Tolosa (Gipuzkoa)

Panoramic view of Tolosa

Panoramic view of Tolosa. | Shutterstock

When asked what to see in the Basque Country, Tolosa is one of those obligatory visits. This town was once the capital of Bizkaia and was a strategic point along the routes between the kingdoms of Navarre, Castile and France. It is characterised by its medieval urban centre and its wide cultural offering, especially its carnivals. In terms of tourism, the General Archive of Gipuzkoa, Euskal Herria square, the Church of Santa María and the Castilla gate are all of interest.

Hondarribia (Gipuzkoa)

A square with colourful houses in Hondarribia, the Basque Country

Armas square, Hondarribia. | Picture: hondarribia.eus

Given the fact that Hondarribia is on the list of Spain’s most beautiful towns and villages, it should clearly be on the itinerary here. It is a very picturesque fishing town that attracts many for its traditional architecture, seafood and pintxos.

As well, special mention should be given to Santa María gate, Obispo and Armas squares and Nagusia street while a pleasant stroll around the port, Gipuzkoa square and Fuenterrabía wall is also recommended.

Nervión Falls (Araba)

Delika canyon and the Nervión Falls flowing down

Delika canyon and the Nervión Falls. | Shutterstock

One of the most amazing natural spots in the Basque Country and the Iberian peninsula’s tallest waterfall is the Nervión Falls. The majestic view of its 270-metre drop leaves most onlookers speechless.

It is always better to visit this site soon after heavy rains as little or no water is a possibility. Nervión Falls is situated on Mount Santiago, where car parking is available.

Bilbao (Bizkaia)

Bilbao at sunset

Bilbao at sunset. | Shutterstock

Of course, Bilbao would make any list of must-see places in the Basque Country. Among its most outstanding sites are the Guggenheim Museum, the old historic quarter, the Arriaga theatre, Nueva square and the Ribera market.

Time permitting, walks along the estuary, a tour of San Mamés football stadium as well as the unmissable World Heritage listed Bizkaia bridge joining Getxo and Portugalete are all great things to see.

Zumaia (Gipuzkoa)

Panoramic view of Zumaia

Panoramic view of Zumaia. | Shutterstock

Zumaia is one of the loveliest towns on the coast of Gipuzkoa and is famous for the   San Telmo chapel, perched on a cliff, which appeared in the film Spanish Affairs (Originally “Ocho apellidos vascos“). The highlights of this town include Zumaya port, its old quarter, Itzurun beach and its rock flysch, a geological rock formation caused by thousands of years of seawater erosion.

What to see in the Basque Country is both easy and difficult to answer, for the list of recommended places to visit here is endless. Of course, the best thing to do is to pack a suitcase, take the car and explore this beautiful region.

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