Settle into a historic seaside parador on the border of Spain and France and delve into Basque heritage, exploring sophisticated resorts and artist enclaves on the Bay of Biscay and charming villages nestled in the Pyrenees.

Starting at: $4,890 * Price includes special offer Make a Reservation Ask Us A Question or Call 855-330-1542
 Dusk in beautiful San Sebastián
 Flag-lined street in Hondarribia
 Traditional Basque dance. Credit: Basque Tourism Bureau
 Square in Hondarribia
 San Sebastian ocean side view
 San Sebastian beach
 The city of Bilbao, with the Guggenheim Museum, set amid the Basque countryside
 The Guggenheim Museum of Contemporary Art, Bilbao
 The Pyrenees Mountains
 Monument to the running of the bulls in Pamplona
 View of Bayonne
 Street scene in Bayonne
 The harbor in Biarritz
 The beach in the resort town of Biarritz
 The historic fortress of the Parador de Hondarribia
 A comfortable lounge in the Parador de Hondarribia
 View from the terrace of the Parador de Hondarribia

France and Spain’s Basque Region: A One-Week Stay at the Parador de Hondarribia

9 days from $4,890

Settle into a historic seaside parador on the border of Spain and France and delve into Basque heritage, exploring sophisticated resorts and artist enclaves on the Bay of Biscay and charming villages nestled in the Pyrenees.

or Call 855-330-1542

SPECIAL OFFER

Save $250 per person when you book by April 5, 2024!

Special Air Rates & Services: As part of our special air program, FlexAir, available with this tour, you can choose from a wide variety of flight options. Visit the Tour Details tab and click on "Special Air Rates/Services" drop down. 

Overview

Delve into the vibrant soul of the Basque region in both France and Spain during a weeklong stay in the Parador de Hondarribia, a renovated 10th-century castle perched on the waterfront. Soak up the charms of Hondarribia, a Spanish village on the French border, and set out to discover Basque culture in havens of art and cuisine along the Bay of Biscay and in gem-like villages nestled in the Pyrenees. Encounter renowned architecture in Bilbao and explore the historic resort towns of San Sebastian and Biarritz. Experience French Basque traditions in Bayonne and St.-Jean-de-Luz, and trace the footsteps of Hemingway in Pamplona.

Highlights Include

  • Spain: A walking tour of Hondarribia’s Old Town provides insight into your home for the week. From here, it’s easy to explore the Basque region. You’ll venture to Bilbao to visit the renowned Guggenheim Museum, designed by architect Frank Gehry; explore nearby San Sebastian, a world-famous resort on the Bay of Biscay; and discover legendary Pamplona, a charming city located in the foothills of the Pyrenees made famous by Ernest Hemingway. 
  • France: Learn about the heritage of Bayonne, capital of the French Basque region and designated a “Town of Art and History.” Spend time in the fashionable seaside resort of Biarritz and explore smaller gems in the shadow of the Pyrenees. Highlights include Espelette, where strands of drying red peppers adorn traditional Basque homes, and St. Jean Pied de Port, a crossroad for pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela.
  • Culture and Cuisine: Meet with local people in Hondarribia and in France to discuss Basque history and culture. Visit a wine cellar to learn about and taste local French vintages. Plus, savor delicious Basque cuisine, renowned for its blend of tradition and creativity. You’ll have the opportunity to try out a txoko (a Basque members-only dining society), a traditional cider house, and local pintxos bars and fine-dining restaurants. 
  • Parador de Hondarribia: Enjoy a one-week stay at this historic upscale Spanish property. Located in the medieval center of Hondarribia, the fortified parador is also known as the Castle of Charles V and dates from the 10th century. Here, stone walls and public spaces decorated with tapestries and fine antiques remind guests of the parador’s storied past, while the terrace offers panoramic vistas of the bay. Please Note: Our October 12-20, 2024 program will be accommodated at the Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra located in the historic town of San Sebastian, and will follow the same itinerary, with only minor changes to the scheduling due to the new location. Find more information on the Tour Details tab. 

2024 Itinerary

Days 1 & 2 – Depart the U.S./Arrive Bilbao, Spain/Hondarribia

Depart the U.S. for Bilbao on an overnight flight.

Upon arrival, you’ll be met and assisted with the transfer to the town of Hondarribia, about an hour and a half west of Bilbao. Check in to Parador de Hondarribia and receive your welcome packet with maps and general information about the region. Your Smithsonian Journeys Travel Director will be available this afternoon and throughout the program for suggestions regarding independent activities.

This evening, gather for a welcome reception and introductory talk by your Smithsonian Journeys Expert followed by dinner at a popular local restaurant. (R,D)

Day 3 – San Sebastian

A full American-style breakfast will be served each morning. Take a guided walking tour of the Old Town of Hondarribia. See the Plaza de Armas and stroll along charming streets  steeped in the town’s rich heritage. Then take a short drive to the Santuario de Guadalupe, a beautiful chapel with views of the Bidasoa Estuary and Txingudi Bay. A stop will be made for lunch at a restaurant outside of Hondarribia.

Continue on to nearby San Sebastian, a historic resort town on the Bay of Biscay. On a walking tour with a local guide, marvel at the stunning views of La Concha Bay, meander through the Old Quarter, and see the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Chorus. Later, spend time exploring on your own before returning to the parador later in the day. (B,L)

Day 4 – Bayonne and Biarritz, France

Cross the border into France on the way to Bayonne, the capital of the French Basque region. Take a short walking tour of the town with a local guide, visit the Gothic Cathedral of Our Lady of Bayonne, a World Heritage site known for its cloisters, then enjoy a traditional lunch at a local cider house.

Continue to Biarritz, a fashionable French seaside resort on the Bay of Biscay. The town owes much of its charm to the garden-promenades that run above the three superb sand beaches. Stroll along the waterfront from the Church of St. Eugenie to Rocher de la Vierge, taking in panoramic views of the Basque coast. This evening, enjoy a private dining experience at a txoxo or local dining club and see how a traditional meal is prepared using local market products paired with wines from the club cellars. (B,L,D)

Day 5 – Bilbao, Spain

Spend today in Bilbao, home to the iconic Guggenheim Bilbao Museum, designed by renowned American architect Frank Gehry. An expert guide will take you on a fascinating tour of the museum, highlighting some of its important works of modern art. After a brief tour of Bilbao, enjoy lunch at a local restaurant. Back at the hotel, join fellow travelers for an informal discussion about the day’s discoveries in the Smithsonian Journeys Travelers Corner. During an evening at leisure, try one of Hondarribia's delightful restaurants. (B,L)

Day 6 – Espelette and Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France

Enjoy a scenic drive to Maison Ortillopitz, a restored private residence in France's Basque country. Tour the house with the owner before continuing to the town of Espelette, known for its most important export, a hot pepper called the piment d’Espelette. On a walking tour, see long strands of these bright red chilis hanging to dry on facades throughout town. Sit down to a luncheon of French Basque specialties.

Continue to Saint-Jean-de-Luz, a beautiful town that reveals a wealth of history and Basque culture. King Louis XIV of France married the daughter of the King of Spain, Maria Theresa, here in 1660. See the Church of St. Jean the Baptist on your walk through the main square. In the early evening, gather back at the hotel for a preamble to tomorrow's excursion to Pamplona that will include a discussion with a local expert on The Romance of Hemingway and Spain. Dinner is at leisure tonight. (B,L)

Day 7 – Pamplona, Spain

Drive south through the Spanish countryside to the legendary town of Pamplona. Along the way, stop at Mirador de Azpirotz to admire incredible views of the surrounding landscape. In Pamplona, stroll along 16th-century streets that are famous for hosting the annual San Fermin Festival, or the Running of the Bulls, in early July. Explore the famous Plaza de Torros or Bullring, Castle Square, and the Gothic Santa Maria Cathedral. Enjoy time on your own to explore further and have lunch at one of the many cafés—perhaps Café Iruña, made famous by Ernest Hemingway. Return to Hondarribia this afternoon. In the early evening, gather for an informal discussion about the day’s discoveries in the Smithsonian Journeys Travelers Corner. Dinner is at leisure. (B)  

Day 8 – Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France

Today we’ll explore Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, located in the Basse Navarre province of French Basque country. The town is situated at the foot of a mountain pass at a crossroads of pilgrimage routes leading to Santiago de Compostela. Visit a family-run trout farm fed by the pure waters of the Arpea spring and bred in natural and sustainable conditions. Take a stroll through the farm, learning about the farming process, then sit down for lunch at the restaurant with a menu featuring freshly harvested fish. Tonight, join fellow Smithsonian Journeys travelers for a festive farewell reception and dinner at a local restaurant. (B,L,R,D)

Day 9 – Departure for the U.S.

This morning transfer to Bilbao International Airport for your return flight to the U.S. (B)

Included meals are denoted as follows: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Reception (R), Dinner (D)

2025 Itinerary

Days 1 & 2 – Depart the U.S./Arrive Bilbao, Spain/Hondaribbia

Depart the U.S. for Bilbao on an overnight flight.

Upon arrival, you’ll be met and assisted with the transfer to the town of Hondarribia, about an hour and a half west of Bilbao. Check in to Parador de Hondarribia and receive your welcome packet with maps and general information about the region. Your Smithsonian Journeys Travel Director will be available this afternoon and throughout the program for suggestions regarding independent activities.

This evening, gather for a welcome reception and introductory talk by your Smithsonian Journeys Expert followed by dinner at a popular local restaurant. (R,D)

Day 3 – San Sebastian

A full American-style breakfast will be served each morning. Take a guided walking tour of the Old Town of Hondarribia. See the Plaza de Armas and stroll along charming streets  steeped in the town’s rich heritage. Then take a short drive to the Santuario de Guadalupe, a beautiful chapel with views of the Bidasoa Estuary and Txingudi Bay. A stop will be made for lunch at a restaurant outside of Hondarribia.

Continue on to nearby San Sebastian, a historic resort town on the Bay of Biscay. On a walking tour with a local guide, marvel at the stunning views of La Concha Bay, meander through the Old Quarter, and see the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Chorus. Later, spend time exploring on your own before returning to the parador later in the day. (B,L)

Day 4 – Bayonne and Biarritz, France

Cross the border into France on the way to Bayonne, the capital of the French Basque region. Take a short walking tour of the town with a local guide, visiting the Gothic Cathedral of Our Lady of Bayonne, a World Heritage site known for its cloisters, then enjoy a traditional lunch at a local cider house.

Continue to Biarritz, a fashionable French seaside resort on the Bay of Biscay. The town owes much of its charm to the garden-promenades that run above the three superb sand beaches. Stroll along the waterfront from the Church of St. Eugenie to Rocher de la Vierge, taking in panoramic views of the Basque coast. This evening, enjoy a private dining experience at a txoxo or local dining club and see how a traditional meal is prepared using local market products paired with wines from the club cellars. (B,L,D)

Day 5 – Bilbao

Spend today in Bilbao, home to the iconic Guggenheim Bilbao Museum, designed by renowned American architect Frank Gehry. An expert guide will take you on a fascinating tour of the museum, highlighting some of its important works of modern art. After a brief tour of Bilbao, enjoy lunch at a local restaurant. Back at the hotel, join fellow travelers for an informal discussion about the day’s discoveries in the Smithsonian Journeys Travelers Corner. During an evening at leisure, try one of Hondarribia's delightful restaurants. (B,L)

Day 6 – Espelette and Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France

Enjoy a scenic drive to Maison Ortillopitz, a restored private residence in France's Basque country. Tour the house with the owner before continuing to the town of Espelette, known for its most important export, a hot pepper called the piment d’Espelette. On a walking tour, see long strands of these bright red chilis hanging to dry on facades throughout town. Sit down to a luncheon of French Basque specialties.

Continue to Saint-Jean-de-Luz, a beautiful town that reveals a wealth of history and Basque culture. King Louis XIV of France married the daughter of the King of Spain, Maria Theresa, here in 1660. See the Church of St. Jean the Baptist on your walk through the main square. In the early evening, gather back at the hotel for a preamble to tomorrow's excursion to Pamplona that will include a discussion with a local expert on The Romance of Hemingway and Spain. Dinner is at leisure tonight. (B,L)

Day 7 – Pamplona

Drive south through the Spanish countryside to the legendary town of Pamplona. Along the way, stop at Mirador de Azpirotz to admire incredible views of the surrounding landscape. In Pamplona, stroll along 16th-century streets that are famous for hosting the annual San Fermin Festival, or the Running of the Bulls, in early July. Explore the famous Plaza de Torros or BullringCastle Square, and the Gothic Santa Maria Cathedral. Enjoy time on your own to explore further and have lunch at one of the many cafés—perhaps Café Iruña, made famous by Ernest Hemingway. Return to Hondarribia this afternoon. In the early evening, gather for an informal discussion about the day’s discoveries in the Smithsonian Journeys Travelers Corner. Dinner is at leisure tonight. (B)  

Day 8 – Tolosa and Azpeitia, Spain

Travel to Tolosa, once the capital of the Basque region of Gipuzkoa and an important stop for traders headed from Spain’s interior to ports of the Bay of Biscay. Venture into its old quarter to admire historic monuments with a range of architectural styles. Your guide will take you to the market at El Tinglado, one of the largest markets in Basque country, as well as the Basque Gothic Santa Maria Church.

Then head to the town of Azpeitia, the birthplace of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Visit the Loyola Sanctuary, built around the medieval house where the saint was born in 1491. At its center is an 18th-century basilica with a majestic dome. After lunch at a local restaurant, return to the parador. Tonight, gather for a farewell reception and dinner at a popular restaurant. (B,L,D)

Day 9 – Departure for the U.S.

This morning transfer to Bilbao International Airport for your return flight to the U.S. (B)

Included meals are denoted as follows: Breakfast (B), Lunch (L), Reception (R), Dinner (D)

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