If there are three words that best-describe the Basque Country, they are: culture, nature and, born from the first two, gastronomy.
With a globally pioneering academic institution, the Basque Culinary Centre and the highest concentration of Michelin Stars in the world, Basque cuisine is at the top of the list for even the most demanding of food connoisseurs.
Restaurants such as Arzak, Martín Berasategui, Azurmendi and Pedro Subijana’s Akelarre are all devoted to their work, with thousands of “pinxos” bars that offer the latest form of art, affordable miniature cuisine.
There are simple pleasures to be enjoyed in just about every section of the region, like the internationally renowned historic quarter of San Sebastian and one of the most beautiful beaches on the planet, La Concha, that runs alongside this elegant city. It’s no wonder that it’s been a summer resort for European nobles and kings through history.
Tradition and modernism go hand in hand in Bilbao, becoming a metropolis that has managed to reinvent itself as a role-model for the rest of the world.
The notorious Guggenheim museum designed by Canadian architect, Frank Gehry, was the first of long list of works completed there by world-renowned architects such as Norman Forster, César Pelli, Rafael Moneo and Arata Isozaki.
An older masterpiece of engineering is the Vizcaya Bridge at the mouth of the estuary. Built by Alberto Palacio, a protégé of Gustave Eiffel, it is the world’s oldest transporter bridge still in use, which has earnt its title as a World Heritage Site.
Various towns scattered along the Basque coast have watched throughout history as their people have always maintained a special bond with the sea.
From Mundaka, a world capital for surfing, to Pasaia, where they are currently building a replica of the San Juan whaler, which sunk off the Canadian coast almost five centuries ago, a reflection of the glory and global hegemony of the Basque maritime industry.
And, of course, Guetaria, the birthplace of sailor Juan Sebastián Elcano, the first man to circumnavigate the earth, and the high-fashion designer Cristóbal Balenciaga, whose legacy is exhibited in the museum that bears his name.
As we go south we will arrive at the Basque capital and seat of government, Vitoria, a green and sustainable city with a beautiful medieval historic centre.
In this famous winegrowing region, you can visit hundreds of wineries, from the most traditional to the most innovative, some true works of modern architecture such as Ysios, designed by Santiago Calatrava, or Marqués de Riscal, by Frank Gehry.