- Visiting the world-class Guggenheim museum
- Savouring fabulous Basque cuisine
- Cycling through the beautiful Urdaibai natural park
- Admiring the dramatic Atlantic coastline: Cliffs, beaches, estuaries and coves
- Relaxing by the harbour of the picturesque fishing village of Lekeitio
- Arriving in stunning San Sebastian and bar hopping in the Casco Viejo
Tucked into a lush corner of north-east Spain is the departure point for our epic journey: the city of Bilbao, one of the great treasures of the Basque Country. With an eclectic combination of remarkable architecture, a buzzing gastro scene and stunning landscapes of rolling green hills just outside the city centre: Bilbao with its own language, its own culinary traditions, and a distinctive geographic and cultural landscape just isn’t like the rest of Spain.
Relax and sample some typical food as you wander the narrow streets of the charming old quarter and the 19th-century arcaded Plaza Nueva which is a rewarding pintxo haunt. No tapas to be found here – that’s Spanish rather than Basque! Instead delicious toppings are placed on fresh bread held together by cocktail sticks.
The region’s cuisine, built around authentic and local products like grilled lamb, cured meats, salted cod, sheep’s and goat’s cheese, piquillo peppers, artichokes, and fresh anchovies, to name just a few, is rightfully world-famous.
If time permits, a visit to Gehry’s Guggenheim is a must. This modern architectural landmark is the unmistakable emblem of Bilbao itself. A stroll along the river front will afford you spectacular views of the museum’s sculptural exterior and a visit inside will offer a perspective of Bilbao that is both futuristic and deeply connected to its past.
- Meals: Breakfast
- Ascent: 530m Approx
Following a pleasant ride down Bilbao’s lovely regenerated riverside you will catch the train out of the city to the North Atlantic coastal town of Plentzia.
Plentzia is renowned for its elegant waterfront promenades of grand villas which are a relic to the wealth of the industrial bourgeoisie, and quaint streets filled with sea food restaurants and pintxo bars. Sat on an estuary that provides a natural harbour for the fishing fleet, the town also boasts a perfect horseshoe bay of golden sand. Off on the bike you will soon realise how hilly the Basque country can be, but the rewards of the views and the lush meadows outweigh the effort. The road dips and climbs and clings to the coast above dramatic cliffs.
The tiny fishing enclave of Armintza is an ideal place to take a break in a quayside café, before heading on through lush eucalyptus and vines to the wine making village of Bakio. Txakolina is a unique dry white wine produced in the Bakio and Getaria regions of the Basque coast that is perfect paired with the local seafood.
Bakio is also a great spot to witness the highspeed ball sport of Pelota, played in a traditional court called a fronton which curiously often share one side with the church. Luckily your hotel is in the same village where you can enjoy beach views and fabulous hospitality.
- Meals: Breakfast
- Ascent: 525m Approx
Leaving Bakio in the glistening morning sunshine you’ll climb to the dramatic sight of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, one of the most impressive spectacles of the Basque Country. A jagged peninsular points out into the sea connected by a narrow ridge surrounded by the waters of turquoise, it’s worth a visit to the 9th century hermitage at the summit.
Your route winds on through the town of Bermeo and on to Mundaka, despite a lot of focus on world class surfing waves, Mundaka has a charming Basque port and a very attractive main plaza. A little further out of town the hermitage of Santa Catalina is well worth a visit. You won’t fail to be impressed by the spectacular views that the estuary has to offer. Mundaka makes a relaxing stopover, whatching the catch of the day being brought from your hotel terrace.
- Meals: Breakfast
- Ascent: 860m Approx
Your ride this morning will pass through the UNESCO Biosphere reserve of Urdaibai, a natural setting of outstanding beauty and diversity. Riding alongside the estuary is a pleasure, pedalling past atlantic coastline, marshes, coastal cliffs and Cantabrian oak forest.
Following the estuary inland on quiet lanes, passing sleepy hamlets you’ll arrive at historical Guernica. The town is located within the beautiful Urdaibai Nature Reserve and was made famous by Picasso’s portrayal of the atrocities of the Spanish civil war. Much of the town was destroyed in the bombing but still to be seen is the Guernica Tree, where underneath its branches, Basques were granted autonomy in the Middle Ages.Guernica became a symbol for peace activists after the horrendous bombing carried out by the German airforce during the Spanish civil. The Basques had shown firm resistance to Franco’s troops throughout the war, and in April 1937 Franco allowed Hitler’s Luftwaffe to carry out the world’s first ever aerial bombing raid over civilian targets.
Urdaibai also boasts some of the finest beaches in the Basque country; you’ll have the chance to visit Playa Laida, with its constantly-changing size and shape, or the spectacular beach of Laga, at the foot of the imposing cliffs of Peñón de Ogoño, described by many as “the closest thing to paradise”.The route dips and winds to the picturesque Ea, sitting on the tiny estuary of the same name. It’s a fabulous place to relax and try the local catch before the final climb and descent to Lekeitio, a beautiful and unique spot right at the mouth of the Lea river. When the river meets the ocean, it forms a stunning landscape with sandy beaches on each side of the river’s mouth with the island of San Nicolás situated right in the middle. Low tide exposes a pathway to the island making it accessible for quite a unique walk.
Lekeitio is a bustling and picturesque town with a very long fishing tradition and the busy harbour is lined by multicoloured, half-timbered old buildings. Well worth a visit is the impressive, if rather grand, gothic church in the centre of town.
- Meals: Breakfast
- Ascent: 620m Approx
The route leaves Lekeitio on a beautiful coastal road that contours the green hillsides, seemingly created for cycling! Passing numerous villages with natural harbours the route makes you work a little before descending to the riverside village of Zumaia, which is of great interest to geologists because of the longest set of continuous rock strata in the world. Known locally as the “flysch” they date from over 100 million years ago and is a truly impressive sight. The painter Ignacio Zuloaga was born in Zumaia and his home had been turned into a museum exhibiting works by El Greco, Rivera, Zurbarán and Goya.
This afternoon it’s an easy coast along the sea hugging road to the attractive medieval fishing settlement of Getaría, some 25km west of San Sebastian, which is the perfect place to get a feel for coastal Basque culture.
The rolling green hills surrounding Getaria are full of txakoli vineyards. It is of course possible to try different txakolis in the bars and restaurants of the town accompanied by the delicacies of the sea, however if you really want to sample the wines before you buy or just find out more about txakoli in general, it would be best to venture into the bodegas that surround the town, one of which will host you for the evening.
- Meals: Breakfast
- Ascent: 520m Approx
The final day of your coastal Basque tour is relatively short but packs plenty in. It’s a short hop, below vineyards, along the coast to the longest beach in the Basque country at Zarautz. The beach has perfect waves for learning to surf and is backed by an interesting old quarter. Following the beach promenade you’ll reach the Inurritza dunes before heading up and over a peninsular to the Orio estuary and village devoted to traditional Basque rowing. It’s a competitive sport that was developed from boats used to catch anchovies and sardines in the early 19th century.
The final section of this fabulous route will take you onto the Camino de Santiago heading east, as it climbs through pastures to gain incredible views down the coast. Arriving in the village of Igeldo you’ll have the chance to visit a traditional cider house where simple quality is king. Cider poured from huge barrels, t-bone grilled over wood, cod omelette and simple salads are the staple.
At the end of the Igeldo mountain you’ll be treated to fabulous views of your destination, San Sebastian, framed by lush green hills and the beautiful, crescent shaped, La Concha beach, possibly the most beautiful urban beach in Europe.
The relaxed and elegant city with its Basque twist is widely considered one of the best places to eat in the world. The charming old city center is famous for having the highest concentration of bars in the world where the pintxo is king and food is taken very seriously. A truly great place to enjoy your last evening celebration.
The cycling is almost 100% on asphalt with the odd section of gravel and cycle path. The roads are mostly quiet, although some sections in and out of towns may be busier.
The coastal region that the trip covers is hilly with constant climbs and descents. Electric bike hire is available if you are looking for some extra help on the hills.
Leisure Cycling Grade
Distances generally between 20-45 miles / 32-72 kms per day
For the leisure cyclist with a good level of physical fitness
May include some steeper, cheeky climbs
Possibly sections of varying terrain (eg. forest tracks, gravel paths etc).
Our grading guidelines have been carefully created based on our many years of cycling experience, as well as customer feedback from our trips. Of course, if you're still struggling to figure out where you fit on the scale, do feel free to give us a quick call and we'll be more than happy to help!
For more information about our grading system click here.
Is this suitable for you?
Although you may not cycle everyday, you do keep yourself relatively fit and maybe enjoy an afternoon out on your bike at the weekend. Your preference is perhaps for flatter terrain but you don’t mind tackling some hills, and the occasional steep climb if you can take it at your own pace. For those happy to tackle some ups and downs, and possibly some sections of varying terrain (eg. forest tracks, gravel paths etc) we’d recommend our grade 3 trips. We’d generally expect those on a Grade 3 trip to have a decent level of physical fitness and be comfortable with some longer days in the saddle.
Dates & Prices
2021 Daily departures available from 28 Mar – 31 Oct (excluding dates from 16 Jul – 15 Sep).
Season 1 For trips starting between (and inclusive of) the 06 Apr and 21 Apr, 04 May and 15 Jun, or 16 Sep and 31 Oct: €2075 pp.
Season 2 For trips starting between (and inclusive of) the 28 Mar and 05 Apr, 22 Apr and 03 May, or 16 Jun and 15 Jul: €2255 pp.
Alternatively for a great value holiday choose one of our scheduled departures below.
A) Accommodation (shared twin / double en suite rooms)
B) Meals as per the itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
C) English-speaking local representative (with welcome meeting)
D) Detailed route notes and maps
E) GPX tracks available on request
F) Luggage transfers
G) Airport transfer on scheduled arrival and departure days from and to Bilbao airport (BIO)
What's not Included
A) Bike hire (available if required)
B) Flights and charges for travelling with your bike (if applicable)
C) Meals not stated in the itinerary
D) Single room (available if required)
E) Travel insurance
F) Personal clothing and equipment
G) Personal expenditure (souvenirs, bar bills, hotel facilities etc)
H) Entrance fees to museums and other attractions en route
I) Airport transfers on days other than the scheduled arrival / departure days
Our guide to: Bilbao to San Sebastian
Everything you need to know about our coastal and food inspired cycling odyssey set on the dramatic Atlantic coast!
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