Detailed Itinerary 2014
Day 1 - Depart U.S. / Fly overnight to Bilbao
Depart the U.S. for Bilbao, Spain. The particulars of your
arrival overseas are detailed with your flight itinerary.
Day 2 - Arrive in Bilbao / Transfer to San Sebastian
Upon arrival at the Bilbao airport, claim your luggage and
clear customs. Please make certain your VBT luggage tags are affixed to your
bag so your VBT representative can identify you. As you enter the arrival hall,
look for your VBT representative holding a VBT sign. Please wait here while
your representative helps make arrangements for your transfer to your hotel in
San Sebastian (a drive of approximately 90 minutes).
VBT provides you with City Information in your Final Travel
Booklet that includes information and recommendations about what to see and do
in San Sebastian. Take the rest of the day to explore the city and have dinner
on your own.
Day 3 - San Sebastian
VBT No-Air Package guests: After breakfast on your own, meet
your VBT Trip Leaders at the Hotel de Londres y de Inglaterra San Sebastian at
9:00 am (Address: Zubieta 2, San Sebastian, Spain; telephone: +34 943 440 770).
To reach the hotel, you can take a taxi from San Sebastian airport to San
Sebastian (approximately 40 euros/$55.00 US). If your arrival in San Sebastian
is scheduled for later than 9:00 am, or if you are delayed, please contact the
San Sebastian hotel to advise them of any travel delays or changes so the hotel
staff can pass the message on to your VBT Trip Leaders.
VBT Air Package and Pre-Trip Extension guests: Meet your VBT
Trip Leaders in the hotel lobby at 9:00 am.
Once we have gathered, we'll have a short introductory
meeting. Then, our warm-up walk is an easy stroll along the town's
two-mile-long beachfront promenade, which offers views of beautiful La Concha
Bay. You will soon discover why Queen Isabella II and other wealthy aristocrats
would spend their summer holidays in this scenic corner of Spain. To help get
our bearings, we'll ride the funicular to the Monte Igueldo viewport, which
will give us a great perspective on this scenic, seaside resort. We will
continue with our exploration to the Old Town, which dates back to the 12th
century. Here we enjoy lunch with an introduction to Spanish tapas—or pintxos,
as they are known in the Basque language.
In the afternoon, return to our seaside hotel for a siesta.
Or join an optional afternoon walk to the summit of Monte Urgull, where we'll
visit Castillo de la Mota. The castle was built to defend the city from
attackers and allowed for San Sebastian to prosper during the Middle Ages. You
will find a museum within the castle with exhibits and information about the
This evening, get to know your fellow travelers and Trip
Leaders during a welcome reception and dinner, hosted in our historic hotel
overlooking the sea.
Day 4 - Train from San Sebastian to Tolosa / Walk through Basque villages / Farm visit
After breakfast, we'll walk to the San Sebastian train
station for our 30-minute train ride inland to the verdant hills of the Basque
Country. Our destination is Tolosa, a town located on the Oria River. After a
brief tour of Tolosa, we'll have a short shuttle into the surrounding hills to the quaint Basque village of Bidania. Today's walk immerses us in Basque country life as we meander through the neighboring villages on lesser-traveled, paved roads where we'll pass peaceful pastures nestled in the valleys. We'll hear the tinkling sounds of cowbells and see sheep grazing as we pass under the shade of apple trees. A charming stone farmhouse will be our site for today's lunch. Our host is Pello Urdapilleta, whose family has raised Euskal txerria—a breed of pig found only in the Basque region—for generations. Pello will introduce us to the rural culinary delights of this region of Spain.
Following lunch, you have the option to continue walking through the lovely
countryside to our accommodations—a hotel within a restored, 17th-century
jauregia (palace)—or you can travel there by van. Later we'll walk to the village to learn from the locals how to play the much-loved Basque game of pelota. This centuries-old sport has served as the basis for similar sports such as racquetball and tennis. However, the Basque people decided that rather than playing face-to-face over a net, they'd prefer to use their hands to hit a ball in a three-walled court—oftentimes using the exterior of the town church to play.
This evening, meet the jauregia's owners and learn about the
history of and future plans for this unique property. We will also have our Basque language class to prepare us for dinner on our own at our hotel, or perhaps for a walk into the village to sample the night life at the local pub.
Day 5 - Basque Country hills and forests
Today, our path will be a mostly steady incline through lovely forested hills and valleys. Stopping for lunch, we'll have the opportunity to feast on a Basque specialty: alubias de Tolosa, or Tolosa beans—purple-black legumes that turn red when cooked and are celebrated for their rich, buttery flavor. We'll also have a chance to sample the local sidra (hard apple cider). After an included lunch, you have two options: You can shuttle back to our hotel, or you can return by foot retracing your morning path.
Tonight enjoy dinner at the jauregia. We will be treated to a delicious dinner prepared by the palace's creative and renowned chef.
Day 6 - Walk the pilgrimage path “Way of St. James” / Hondarribia walking tour
After breakfast, we head back to the coast. Our short
transfer will take us to the start of today's historic walk along the “Way of
St. James.” The coastal route that we follow is considered to be the oldest of
the paths leading to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, where many
believe St. James is buried. Our path dates back more than 1,000 years and is
believed to be the first institutionalized route to be used by the holy
pilgrims. The natural beauty of today's walk—featuring vistas of the Bay of
Biscay and small rugged coves—will be even more spectacular as we reach the
summit of Mount Jaizkibel. We will then shuttle 5 minutes to the Sanctuary of Guadalupe, where
a 15th-century Black Madonna is kept. From here, you can shuttle to our next
hotel or continue your walk through the quaint fishing town of Hondarribia before ending at our hotel.
After free time for lunch on your own in Hondarribia, we
will explore the town with a local guide, who will acquaint us with the history
of our home for the next three nights. Hondarribia is a town with two
identities—one belonging to the lower port town and the other to the
800-year-old medieval walled town above, with its balcony-lined cobblestone
streets and magnificent vistas of the sea, the Bidasoa River and neighboring
This evening, we will have the special privilege of being
guests at a members-only, private gastronomic society, or txoko, as it is known
in Basque. Txoko members tend to be mostly men who have shared interests in
cooking creative meals for their guests. When Basque culture was suppressed
under the reign of Francisco Franco, txokos became safe havens where members
could share their language and traditions as well as their love of cooking.
Women used to be banned from the society; today, however, they are welcome to
dine with the men.
Day 7 - French Basque country / Coastal walk to St. Jean-de-Luz
Today we have a short walk from our hotel to the pier, where
we take a five-minute ferry ride across the Bidasoa River to Hendaye, France.
This seaside resort with its long stretch of beach will be our starting point
for today's walk. Our narrow dirt path will meander past stunning cliffs,
scenic coves and quaint villages before we arrive into St. Jean-de-Luz,
considered to be one of the most attractive towns on the French Basque coast.
You will have ample opportunities during the walk to shuttle to our destination
if you would prefer more time exploring St. Jean-de-Luz.
There are many sites to visit in this idyllic town, such as
the Maison Louis XIV, a temporary residence of the Sun King, who came here in
1660 for his marriage to Maria Theresa. You can also visit the nearby church
where the pair were married, which is the largest Basque church in France. Or
simply enjoy exploring the town's picturesque harbor and pedestrian-friendly
streets. Enjoy lunch on your own in one of the many outdoor cafés. Later in the
afternoon, you may take the 12-minute train journey back to Hendaye at whatever
time fits your personal schedule.
This evening, we will regroup and venture out to a nearby
bar to compare stories of our adventures in France over delightful
appetizers. Later, you can choose from among Hondarribia's many gourmet
restaurants for dinner on your own.
Day 8 - Plaiaundi Ecological Park / Roman Irun / Basque cooking demonstration & Farewell dinner
For today's walk, you can choose from among several options,
depending upon your interests. If you are a birder, you may wish to take an early morning shuttle prior to breakfast to visit the Plaiaundi Ecological Park; known for its abundant birdlife,
it's located along one of Europe's main migratory paths. Along the paths you
will find explanatory panels, stands and towers that will help in the
observation of the wildlife here. After breakfast, walk to Hondarribia's marina and fishing port to see the many holiday boats and fishing trawlers. You may start a later morning walk from the hotel, or shuttle to a variety of starting points along the way. Most of the route will follow the banks of the River Bidasoa estuary and at times we'll once again tread in the pilgrim's footsteps on the "Way of St. James." Later in the afternoon, you will also have the option to shuttle to the nearby town of Irun, built upon an ancient Roman settlement or simply stay near our hotel and explore Hondarribia's art galleries and stores.
Tonight we'll learn how to replicate the flavors of Basque
Country in our own kitchens during an exclusive cooking demonstration, followed
by a farewell dinner in the hotel.
Day 9 - Transfer to Bilbao / Guggenheim Bilbao Museum tour / Walking tour ends
VBT No-Air Package guests: This morning, we transfer to Bilbao for a visit to the world-renowned
Guggenheim Museum, designed by acclaimed architect Frank Gehry. We will have
the privilege of discovering hidden corners and seeing how the exhibitions are
prepared during our behind-the-scenes tour of this architectural icon (the behind-the-scenes tour may not be available on some tours as security won't allow if there is a new exhibit set-up taking place at the time of the tour). At the
end of the tour, you will be given a personal audio guide to further explore
the museum's exhibits at your leisure. The tour concludes after your visit to
the museum. Your luggage will be stored for your pick-up at the nearby Melia
Bilbao hotel, approximately a ten-minute walk from the museum. The hotel will
help you book a taxi at your own expense to your next hotel, train station or
Note: So as to fully enjoy the Guggenheim museum tour which ends at 1:00 pm, Bilbao departures should be scheduled for after 3:00 pm.
VBT Air Package and Post-Trip Extension guests: This
morning, we transfer to Bilbao for a
visit to the world-renowned Guggenheim Museum, designed by acclaimed architect
Frank Gehry. We will have the privilege of discovering hidden corners and
seeing how the exhibitions are prepared during our behind-the-scenes tour of
this architectural icon (the behind-the-scenes tour may not be available on some tours as security won't allow if there is a new exhibit set-up taking place at the time of the tour). At the end of the tour, you will be given a personal
audio guide to further explore the museum's exhibits at your leisure. After
your visit to the museum, walk to the nearby Melia Bilbao hotel and check in
for your overnight stay in Bilbao.
The remainder of the day is free for you to explore this
vibrant city at leisure. VBT provides you with City Information in your Final
Travel Booklet that includes recommendations about what to see and do in
Day 10 - Depart for U.S.
After breakfast, transfer to the Bilbao airport for your
Please note: For guests with early-morning departures, full
breakfast at the hotel may not be available, but a light continental breakfast
may be. Please check with the front desk to verify the times and locations
where breakfast is served.
VBT transfer times and departure points are finalized in
advance and cannot be modified for individual guests. If you extend your stay
beyond the scheduled program dates, return transportation to the airport is at
your own expense.