When Spain comes to mind, the image of sunny beaches tends to come along with it. Every summer, tourists flock to Barcelona or to the Costas del Sol and de la Luz in the south, or even around Valencia, crowding the beaches there and soaking up those Spanish rays on this sunlit peninsula.
Aside from Barcelona, the northern coast of the country hardly gets as much attention, aside from what the locals give it. And the locals are well aware of what they’ve got on the beautiful northern coast of Spain. One region in particular is very visually stunning, and that is the coast of the autonomous province known as the Basque Country, which spans Spain’s northeastern corner along the border with France. The Basque Country region, holding a very unique population of people who speak the ancient language of Basque on a daily basis, also stretches across the border and into France.
The beaches of this region are full of the most lush scenery, dramatic cliffs, and mountains that stretch all the way to the ocean. All the weather isn’t as perpetually nice and sunny as in the south, the landscapes are worthwhile no matter what the weather. Here are some of the highlights of this beautiful coast:
Located near the capital of the Basque Country, the city of Bilbao, Sopelana is in my opinion the best beach around. There are many beaches in the area surrounding the city, but this one takes the cake with its soaring cliffs and views.
San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
Sitting on a small island right off the coast lies a small, historic hermitage named after Saint John, or in Spanish, San Juan. To arrive to this unique place, one has to walk all 231 steps to the island. However, the views on the cliffs and on the island of the hermitage itself are both beautiful.
Puente Colgante (Hanging Bridge)
Again we return to the Basque capital for one of its many iconic sights that sit along the coast, the puente colgante, or the hanging bridge. The bridge serves as both a tourist site, and as a means of transportation across the Nervión River for people in the city, vehicles and individuals alike. A hanging car of sorts takes cars, motorcycles, and just pedestrians across the water throughout the day. Taking the elevator up the top walkway is rewarded with views across both the city of Bilbao, the mountains, and the coastline.
This beautiful natural reserve full of lush green scenery, coastal roads that stretch around mountains, and shimmering water and beaches is definitely worth a day. Or a week.
Mundaka and Bermeo
These are two of the adorable, small coastal towns near to the Urdaibai natural reserve. Bermeo is the perfect place to kick back and relax on a daily basis, always with the sound of the ocean and a cup of cafe con leche in your hand. Mundaka, right down the road, is a surfer’s mecca. This town is famous for the huge waves its beach is hit with on a daily basis, and thus is always visited by surfers around the world.
Right across the border sits another laid-back beach town – only difference, the signs are in French and Basque, not Spanish and Basque. As a bonus, there’s even some really cool forest-like walkways along the water.
Saint Jean de Luz, France
A more famous town than its neighbor, Biarritz, Saint Jean de Luz is full of color and crepes. Grabbing a chocolate crepe from one of the many stands, and then relaxing by the port or on the beach is a perfect way to spend the day here, as was the hour I spent in this pretty little city.
Without a doubt, San Sebastian is the jewel of the Basque Coast. This city may not be the capital, but it’s full of culture, excitement, and its geographic location and views are unlike any other place I’ve seen. The city is famous for its bay, called Conch Bay, which is walled in by two mountains on either side. One with a lookout point at the top, and the other with a church. Climbing up to the lookout point will give you the most amazing view, and a better idea of just how incredibly beautiful the city of San Sebastian is. You will also discover that the island in the center of the bay actually happens to be in the shape of a turtle!
The Basque Coast is, without a doubt, an incredible place. The time I spent there three years ago left a very good impression on my memory, and even without the photos, the views of the landscape in this region are ones I could never forget! I look forward to the day I get to return.