Northern Spain is often overlooked by travelers. Basque country has its own language, specialties in food and wine and beaches. It is much less crowded than many parts of Spain and a surprise to all those who linger there. Our guest writer, Christine Medina, gives The Scoop on cool beaches in Basque Country.
By Christine Medina
Basque Country has many faces. It is at once, rolling green hills, grazing sheep, modern cityscapes, year-round rain and incredible beaches. When I first came to the North, I was surprised that the quality of the beaches, in many ways, surpassed those of the South. Spotless, fine sand stretched far along the coastline, broken up by rugged patches I thought characteristic of a place in the rough Bay of Biscay.
Though San Sebastian’s La Concha beach often steals the limelight of other Basque beaches simply for its prime position, I was more impressed with the beach of Zarautz; a town located 20 minutes outside of the Guipuzcoan capital. It’s hard not to be impressed: at 2.8 km, it’s Basque Country’s longest beach! Royalty itself couldn’t resist this patch of coastline; Queen Isabella II of Spain and Queen Fabiola of Belgium spent many a summer vacation here.
Surfers can’t resist the beach’s charms either and Zarautz is the home to several of Spain’s champion surfers. Walking around the city, I noticed how popular this sport was: the sidewalk was dotted with wet footprints of surfers walking back to their houses after catching some waves!
As easy as it is to slot Zarautz into the ranks of beach town, it offers much more than sand and surf. Gastronomy is an equally important part of Zarautz too: beloved Basque chef, Karlos Arguiñano has his restaurant (and a hotel!) here. There’s no better way to experience the local culture than by indulging in the cuisine and Arguiñano’s pintxo (what the Basque call tapas) bar made for the perfect place to sample.
After savoring bites of fried cod with peppers, boiled pork sausages and fresh foie, I was sold on Zarautz. This town effortlessly convinces you to return. But, I wasn’t quite finished with my tour. Zarautz also offers interesting architecture (as if I weren’t in love enough already with the place). From the medieval church of Santa Maria, to the Renaissance palace of Narros to many impressive private homes, the town isn’t lacking in sights—or bites.
Now that I live closer, Zarautz will be a destination I return to often–with an empty belly, of course!
To get to Zarautz from Bilbao/San Sebastian take the A-8 highway, bus or the EuskoTren.
• Euskotren (train and bus): San Sebastian–Zarautz–Bilbao.
Tel. 902 543 210
• Autobuses La Guipuzcoana: Zarautz-Azkoitia.
Tel. 943 851 159
• Autobuses Alsa Turitrans: Irun-Zarautz-Bilbao-Gijón.
Tel. 902 422 242 / 943 462 360
• Autobuses La Burundesa: Zarautz-Pamplona (only summer)
Tel. 943 462 360 / 948 221 766
• Autobuses Pesa: Zarautz-Arrasate y Zarautz-Loiu
Tel: 902 10 12 10
Christine Medina, originally from Seattle, was an expat in Andalucía for three years. She recently moved to Basque Country, in the north of Spain and shares her travel advice, anecdotes and photographs at http://http://christineinspain.com/