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  • Writer's pictureKatarina Zlatkovic

Basque Country

Updated: May 17, 2023


The Aizkorri-Aratz nature park

I have a feeling this will be a long one since I have SO MUCH to share. I’ll start from the very beginning by how we got there in the first place.


My boyfriend is originally from Basque Country, but lives and works in the United Arab Emirates for a few years now. We’ve been planning on going to meet his family already for a year, but as you can guess, Covid19 rules for travelers made it very difficult. Until now.


We finally took the flights with KLM, it was a long journey coming from Dubai and having a layover in Amsterdam, but it was worth it the same moment we were about to land and the greenery almost left me speechless.


As you guys can imagine, living in the desert makes you miss all the seasons and the beauty of change, except summer. Upon landing, all the tiredness disappeared right after I took a deep breath, filling my lungs with fresh, clean air while my eyes soaked up the green scenery on the way to San Sebastian.


Flying over Basque Country

We spent around one week in the Basque Country, so I’ll try my best to select and list some of the beautiful spots to visit, food to try and some activities too! We didn’t walk 12 km every day for nothing. 😎


I will go through each day of my journey and how it looked from my perspective.


DAY 1

After a long trip, we finally had some time to refresh and shower upon arrival. We had a small breakfast and went to the famous La Concha beach.


The weather was cloudy and gloomy, a bit chill I would say, but if you ask the locals, they will insist the weather is perfect.


Never thought I’d be taking a dip in 20 degrees Celsius cold water, however, there is a first time for everything. 😊


What I also learned is that weather changes very quickly so you might always want to have an umbrella with you or a hoodie.



After we enjoyed the time at the beach and I have survived the dip in the cold water, (yes, I am so proud of it I feel like I should put it on my resume) we took a long walk around the city center and headed back home since we were insanely tired.

Oh yes, and that same night I have tried Ham Croquettes (Croquetas de jamon) and a famous Basque cider for the very first time. It was the love at the first bite/sip.


Basque Apple Cider
Spanish croquettes with ham

DAY 2


Right upon waking up, I had only one thing on my mind - Pintxos.

Basque Country is very famous for its culinary masterpieces and one of them are these delicious snacks, usually placed on a piece of bread and pierced with a toothpick to hold all the goodness together.


Some of the common ingredients used for pintxos are fish/seafood, meat, cheese and vegetables in all kinds of combinations. So we went straight to the best bars that serve these goodies in the Old Town in San Sebastian.


Oh also, people drink wine at noon here and also, there is a very long lunch break so many bars and places might be closed in the afternoon.


Pintxos in San Sebastian

After we enjoyed discussing which pintxos are better, we took a little walk around the Old Town and explored for a while.


We entered a small, beautiful church named Parroquia de San Vicente Martir and loved the peaceful atmosphere. This gothic church was built in 1507 year, and it seems to be the oldest building in all San Sebastian.


The rest of the day we spent by walking around the beach area to see the surfers, small shops selling handmade stuff and have some Ice Cream at Arnoldo’s on the way.


Coffee, pistachio and yoghurt flavors are a bomb!


DAY 3


The third day started by having toasts and coffee for breakfast, a quick visit to the beach before we had to go to the Cider House for lunch.


I already mentioned how big the production of cider is here, but when you happen to visit one of the Cider Houses, apart from tasting cider and wine, you can actually enjoy insanely good food too!


Having eaten all of this, we needed a siesta (Spanish word for nap) in order to continue the exploring. I am beginning to understand why it is so necessary in this country.

Although rainy, there was no way of stopping us being tourists, so we went up to the Monte Igeldo. It’s a super vintage amusement park built in 1912.


Located at the end of La Concha Bay, it is possible to reach there with the car (which we did) or with a cable car (that’s probably nicer because of the views on the journey).


It is 181 meters tall and once we reached there, the view of the city and the beach was breathtaking.


La Concha Bay San Sebastian

Luckily the rain showers stopped in the meantime, and we could enjoy a long walk to the Old Town because I just couldn’t get enough of it.


There was something so attractive in the French influenced architecture along with Gothic churches.


That was when I discovered San Sebastian Cathedral, my second favorite cathedral in Donosti.



Right next to this stunning cathedral, there is a great restaurant called Rua 887, where we had dinner and some wine.


Every dish we tried had an intriguing mix of flavors, very impressive set up and countless wine choices.


I love how fresh breadbasket comes in almost all of the restaurants here.

My top recommendations are: Aguachile de Carabinero, Anchoa de Getaria, Arroz a brasa and grilled red and green peppers.


We ended this beautiful day with a night walk by the sea, absorbing the beauty around us.


DAY 4

New day, new adventure and this time was a trip to France.


Basque Country is split on French and Spanish side, and since I haven’t had a chance to visit France yet, it seemed like a perfect opportunity for a road trip!


It took us around 40 minutes to reach Saint Jean de Luz, a lovely small town on the Basque Coast.

It accommodates only 15.000 residents, and it has a charm just as any other European capital. Small bakeries, souvenir shops, long beach and an incredible architecture would capture anyone’s heart.


Saint Jean de Luz beach

We found a sweet coffee shop called Atlantik Lifestyle where we took a short break and had the freshest goat cheese bagels and summer salad with juicy figs and walnuts.

After that, we continued exploring and guess what? We found ANOTHER beautiful church called Eglise Saint Jean Baptiste and is very famous because Louis XIV and Maria Teresa were married in front of that remarkable altar.

Wonderful wood works and organ playing in the background made this experience super worth visiting.


We wrapped the trip by roaming around the small streets, buying postcards and pastries at Maison Adam. It was such a wonderful afternoon.



DAY 5


The parents of my boyfriend realized how obsessed I was with every flower, every tree, everything green in there so they decided to take us on a hike, all the way to the magnificent Aizkorri-Aratz Natural Park.


It was around one hour drive from San Sebastian, and you know you are on the right way if you spot Arantzazu Monastery before the hike.

Sanctuary of Arantzazu was rebuilt three times and it survived three big fires, however, the new impressive basilica was built in the 1950s on the edge of the cliff and is one of the best examples of Basque innovative architecture.


Arantzazu Monastery Basque Country

Before starting the adventure, we saw many maps of the hiking trails that were explained pretty clear. We also had warm coffee in a Thermos bottle and fruit snacks to enjoy along the way.


The hike took us 2 hours and it seemed a bit challenging at the times since it was the first one in my life. I believe I was stopping every 10 meters to take a photo of a flower, cute lizards and trees, and I can imagine, for some of you this might seem silly but living in Dubai can make you feel like that.



I mean, just look at the scenery! It felt like someone placed a wallpaper right in front of me.

After reaching our destination, we found a sweet restaurant named Urbiako Fonda, where we saw many other hikers, families and friends just enjoying their breakfast or lunch.

The food was heavy and just what we needed: fried eggs, pork sausages, thin slices of grilled meat and fries. Okay and a bottle of cider. We needed that too.

This hearty meal was calling for some walk, otherwise I would have fallen asleep on the grass. Maybe that wouldn’t be bad either, considering the beauty around me was so intense, it made me wish to stay forever.

On the way back there were many horses, sheep and cows in the distance and we could hear their bells as loud as if they were just next to us.

Minding their own business while chewing grass, they didn’t even realize I was draining the battery on my iPhone with recording their each and every movement.

That did sound creepy, I agree.



The Aizkorri-Aratz hiking trail

Even though the way back was much easier, I felt kind of sad for leaving this behind me. Little I knew what they were preparing for us the next day.


DAY 6

Since I have called Day 5 “The Best Day”, the parents of my boyfriend decided to challenge that statement and took us for another hike.


It was in Orio, only 25 minutes' drive from San Sebastian. We were extremely lucky that the day was warm and sunny with the temperature at around 27 degrees Celsius and the route was a bit shorter than the one we did yesterday.


As there are more than 5 routes to take, we chose one called Zarautz. I loved seeing green Txakoli vineyards and the grapes bathing in the sun.


Txakoli is the traditional wine of the Basque Country, made from mostly white grapes. This white wine has a high acidity, pale yellow color and citrusy/flowery aroma.


Txakoli wine yards in the Basque Country

Just at the point where we felt a bit overwhelmed with the steep route, we began to see the bluest shades of the sea and we knew were about to reach the peak and start going down to the beach.


The view from the top was incredibly serene, blue-green water hugging the rocks before breaking into wave and the beach of crisp, clean golden sand stretched for a kilometer or more. It was very crowded with families on holiday, groups of friends and surfers.


I kind of missed the “normality” after the Covid19 restrictions.


Orio Beach in the Basque Country
Orio Beach view after hike

After a swim, we had a coffee and tortilla and realized we had to go back to do the PCR test we needed for coming back to Dubai and that made my heart ache a little because I knew the holiday is about to be over.


DAY 7

Apart from packing and spending the time with the family, I wondered if we would have a chance to eat the Pintxos again before we go.


The day was sunny again, great opportunity to visit my all-time favorite building in San Sebastian and eat some goodness.

Let me tell you more about this massive, gorgeous, architectural piece that proudly stands there in Old Town - Basilica of Saint Mary of the Chorus.


This a baroque Roman Catholic church and basilica completed in 1774. The main entrance is situated between the two towers and looks iconic with its tortured statue of Saint Sebastian and the papal symbols that prove the status of basilica. The shield of the city is located as the crown of the building.



I have spent good number of minutes admiring this stunning basilica, which actually made me a bit hungry, so that meant Pintxos given the fact that those bars are just a few minutes away. Coincidence? I don’t think so.


This time we added one extraordinary dish to our food tour and that is Patatas Bravas (Spicy Potatoes) and Mejillones Tigre (Tiger Mussels) at the place called La Mejillonera. WOW! Didn’t see that one coming.


Tiger Mussels and Patatas Bravas

Stuffed and happy, we went for a walk around my favorite areas and use the day the best we possibly could by savoring the moments, landscapes and uniqueness of this city to which I hope we return soon.


Streets of San Sebastian
Exploring San Sebastian
Ocean View Basque Country
Narow streets of San Sebastian
Instresting architecture of Donosti

That would definitely not be all, but I had to sum it up and it wasn’t easy. Even know while writing this, I feel nostalgic, and it’s only been 2 weeks since we came back.

This was one of the best trips of my life and I cannot thank enough everyone who was part of it. I felt safe, I ate the most delicious food, met wonderful people and got to enjoy the nature at its finest. Hope you guys liked it as much as I did!

For more information, photos, videos and restaurant tags, visit my Instagram profile @katarina.zlatkovic or send me an email on zlatkovickatarina78@gmail.com.

Thank you for checking it out 😍!

With love,

Kat








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