An electric road trip through the Basque Country had been on our bucket list for a while. The Basque Country is an absolute dream destination if you like versatile cities and landscapes and at the same time want to travel in a sustainable way. Enjoy the cool cities, heavenly hills, the surprising back country and all its activities and delicacies for 7 days. Keep reading for all the stops that you should include in your planning.
Sniffing the atmosphere in the small streets of Hondarribia and Pasaia
Start your trip just across the border in Spain. Hondarribia is a completely walled border town that lies against France. In the past, quite a few feuds between the Spaniards, French and English were fought here. Meanwhile, things are a little more relaxed and the French come here to eat out. The Spaniards on the other hand go to Hendaye beach across the road to sunbathe. Even the islet in the middle of the river is gleefully divided semi-annually between the French and the Spaniards. Hondarribia itself consists of a maze of small streets with cozy balconies full of flowers at every authentic house. Lovely to stroll through. At Villa Magalean you sleep soundly while your electric car is charging.
If you leave Hondarribia for Pasaia, you must take the GI-3440 which swings over the rolling hills overlooking the sea. Here you immediately get a good glimpse of the Basque landscape. You ride between herds of sheep and horses from one breathtaking sight to another. If you would come with an (electric) campervan, you will find a few top camping pitches here.
Finally, you will arrive in Pasaia. This town actually consists of 4 parts scattered along the different sides of the river. You can take a boat from one side to the other for a few euros. The women used to do that here with rowing boats. As you stroll through the narrow streets, you’ll probably see dried flowers scattered on doors or signs painted on the wall. This is how you notice that the Basques strongly believe in mythology. Be sure to walk along the footpath towards the sea to enjoy the view to the fullest.
City of contrasts: San Sebastián
Of course you can’t miss San Sebastián when you are in the Basque Country. The city exudes such a great atmosphere that you immediately feel welcome here. The boulevard that runs through the center breaks the old and the new part of the city in the middle. The old center is now so pricey that you will only find older residents there. In the morning, they go in large numbers to take a refreshing dip at Playa Concha. The young people on the other hand will be walking or cycling through the streets with a wetsuit and a surfboard on their way to Playa Zurriola. The city itself is therefore best explored like a local: on foot, by bike or by public transport. This way you can easily discover the nicest places, bars and shops (and there are many). Find out more in our article on the best pintxos and cheesecake in San Sebastián.
When you are in San Sebastián, you should take the opportunity to sleep in the largest passive hotel in Europe. Arima just opened in 2017 near the Basque culinary center. This trendy building consists of 1 layer of wood and 1 layer of metal that are aligned in such a way that there is always shade. The panels on the outside move automatically when needed to regulate the temperature. Arima pays attention to every detail when it comes to sustainability: they clean the rooms with ozone, the pool contains no chlorine, all products are local, you can load your car and go on and on. For us it was love at first sight, what a futureproof concept…
Catching waves in Zarautz and Zumaia
Our road trip through the Basque Country continues along the coast to the west. The first unmissable stop you will encounter there is Zarautz. This town is especially known among surfers. But because it’s a lot less crowded here than San Sebastián, it’s a lot chiller here as well. The beach is the largest in Gipuzkoa, so everyone can find a quiet spot for themselves between the dunes. In the distance you can still see parts from the bay that give the beach an idyllic background. In addition, Zarautz has set up an environmental management system for the beach to prevent pollution and to raise awareness of the environment for everyone who visits the beach. Good job there!
Zumaia is a different story with rough beaches and rocky outcrops next to a charming historic center. If you want to get some extra sea air and explore the Basque Country at a leisurely pace, you can follow the Saint James pilgrimage route to Zumaia. You will find the arrows and shells everywhere so the temptation is big to keep following them! Combine sleeping with charging your car in Casa Rural Jesuskoa.
Spot dragons and score sustainable souvenirs
San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
We started our day at San Juan de Gaztelugatxe with sunrise. You get a completely different experience when you hop down here early in the morning and see more and more sun rays breaking through behind every bend. The place has recently become known as Dragonstone from Game of Thrones and therefore attracts a lot of people in the middle of the day. That’s why it’s just a little more fun to get this place more exclusive to yourself, away from the crowd. The island itself is currently being renovated, so unfortunately you can’t go all the way to the end right now. Therefore, check in advance what is open during the repairs and the corona measures in force.
After a 45-minute drive from San Juan de Gaztelugatxe you arrive in the biggest tourist attraction of the Basque Country: Bilbao. You will find most visitors mainly around the Guggenheim and the historic center. But above all, let yourself be tempted to dive into the nicest alleys and discover Bilboa at random. There is something to experience everywhere.
In Bilbao you can clearly see that the Basque Country is working very hard on sustainability. On every street corner you will find shops that focus on local or recycled short-chain products. A few recommendations: SKFK, Querido Planeta, Flamingos Vintage Kilo, Bohemian Lane, Los Jaboneros,… Finally, in Bilbao you will find one of the largest covered food markets in Europe at the Mercado de la Ribera. Escalators take you between all floors to the best pintxos in town.
We did not sleep in the city, but briefly outside in the charming country house Lurdeia. Here they do everything they can to protect the surrounding forests. They also grow their own organic fruits and vegetables. The owners tell you with great passion about their approach to global warming and overpopulation on our planet. There is also a charging station for your electric car here.
Exploring green mountains and the real capital of the Basque Country
Nature Park Urkiola
Urkiola Natural Park is one of the nine parks in the Basque Country and definitely one to include in your planning. The park is mainly an attraction for hikers and climbers. You can also go bouldering, canyoning, cave climbing, trail running and so on. In other words, you won’t get bored here. We opted for the most accessible way to explore the park and stuck to sturdy walking shoes and hike to Urkiolagirre.
This gentle 10-kilometer walk starts gently ascending between horses, cows and rows of trees. After half an hour of ascending you have already forgotten where you were because suddenly you are surrounded by mountain ranges and sheep on all sides. Is this a Heidi in Tyrol moment? The mythology of the Basques shows very tangibly here on the ridge to the left (see first photo below). If you look closely you can see goddess Mari sleeping in the mountain. Mari represents all life on our planet for the Basques and lives here in the mountains.
From Urkioala you descend in half an hour to Vitoria-Gasteiz. This is the real capital of the Basque Country and you can’t miss it. Not only do you find many more locals than tourists here, there is a lively city atmosphere. In 2012, Vitoria-Gasteiz won the European Green Capital award and you will notice that when you explore here. Around the city is a 33 kilometer long green ring that connects various parks for extensive cycling and walking. The first cycle paths in all of Spain were built here and now the counter is already at 144 kilometers! From Vitoria-Gasteiz you can perfectly explore the region by bike thanks to the old train tracks that have been transformed into a gigantic bicycle route.
In Vitoria-Gasteiz you will find several hotels with charging points. You can find a complete overview on the Basque Country website.
Among the vines in Rioja Alavesa
Laguardia is located in the middle of the wide fields full of vines of La Rioja Alavesa. When you enter the car-free village on top of a hill, you do not immediately realize which treasures are hidden here. At first sight it seems like a typical charming village where the peppers are hanging to dry on the balconies and everywhere there is a terrace ready for you to taste wine. What you don’t realize is that you are walking on a hidden underground cave system.
Behind the gigantic gate of Casa Primicia you can discover a part of the hidden city. It is the oldest original wine trade in Spain when the village was founded in the 9th century. Here they processed up to 160,000 kg of grapes per year in gigantic stone tanks. Then they were kept in animal skins and barrels. Until 50 years ago you could still order wine from such an animal skin in some bars in Bilbao. Now things are a little different at Casa Primicia. They make delicious organic wine and also serve it in bottles with an artistic label (all connoisseurs of content and appearance satisfied).
In their cellar you can still see barrels of wine maturing and you will come across 1 of the 2 escape tunnels of the town. Passing through to the other 240 private caves under the city is unfortunately no longer possible after walls have been added. They are afraid that if they break a wall now, the whole city will crash down one level.
– Casa Primicia convinces more and more of their competitors to switch completely to organic wine. Hat off! –
Hotel Eguren Ugarte
While you’re here, you simply have to stay the night in the middle of the vineyards. We slept in Hotel Eguren Ugarte. Not only do they have a see-through elevator that guides you past the cellars full of wine, but you have breakfast here with an unmistakably beautiful view. Downstairs at the visitor’s car park you have a regular charger and two Tesla chargers to charge your car.
Local delicacies in Ordizia and Ondarre
If you like local markets and local delicacies, you can indulge yourself in the rural region around Ordizia. The Wednesday market in Ordizia has been around for more than 500 years and is very important for the regional culture. The inhabitants here believe wholeheartedly that good food starts with good products. That means you should know where it comes from and that it is in season.
When we walked around, the mushrooms were in season and you could really see them left, right, top and bottom in all kinds of sizes and colors. When you’ve walked out of the market, you can take a pintxos tour along various bars that process the market products in their pintxos.
One of the products that you really should take with you and put in your suitcase is the Idiazabal cheese. You can buy it on the market or pop into the cheese farm and agrohotel Ondarre. If you make an appointment in advance, you will receive an explanation about the sheep and the making of the cheese.
Electric road trip route through the Basque Country
In total, you only have to drive 400 kilometers to complete this road trip through the Basque Country in 7 days. This gives you plenty of time to let everything sink in and enjoy every place. We traveled in a fully electric Volkswagen ID4 that took us silently and smoothly from one destination to another. The Basque Country launched the e-basque route in 2021 with a major focus on charging stations at accommodations and on the road. So you should never stress to get stranded somewhere with an empty battery.
The Basques especially love 2 things: food and sports. Because we have so much to say about both, you’ll find the best tips in our extra article ‘Eating your way through the Basque Country‘.
Copy and photography: TravelRebel Silke Lamoen
Video and drone shots: TravelRebel Elke D’Haese