The Soul of Basque, La Rioja & Navarre - Spain

An epic journey into the northeast of Spain from Basque Country - home to the finest gastronomy in Spain to La Rioja - the wine capital of Spain and finally Navarre with fabled medieval cities, evocative villages and inspired fortresses. This is a less-trodden Spain for the connoisseurs. 

HIGHLIGHTS

Experience exquisite gastronomy and Michelin star dining experiences

Savour probably the best wines in Spain

Experience the charm and allure of the countryside and medieval cities

Stay in charming and intimate boutique hotels

ITINERARY

DAY 1: ARRIVE BILBAO / HARO / ELCIEGO

Arrive into Bilbao Airport and continue a scenic drive to the La Rioja region - regarded as Spain's finest wine destination with over 500 wineries and part of the Saint James pilgrim route. Arrive in the town of Haro - famous for one of the most bizarre festivals in Spain. In late Jun every summer, the "Wine Fight" Festival takes place where thousands of locals and participants douse each other with wine and party all day and night. We take a walk through the charming town renowned for its amazing and high quality centennial wine heritage where you have the opportunity for your first tasting and gain insight into the locals' craze and passion for their beloved La Rioja wine. Thereafter, admire the Iglesia de Santo Tomas Church, declared a national Historic-Artistic monument in 1931 thrilling with intricate Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque styles. We then head into the "Herradura" area lined with maze of winding alleys and streets and renowned for its tapas. Next, admire the beautiful 6-aches Brinas Bridge connecting the towns of Haro and Brinas. Continue a short drive next to one of the world's most stunning winery buildings, the Bodegas Ysios, designed by renowned architect Santiago Calatrava as a symbol of the new La Rioja to mimic the rolling backdrop of the Sierra de Cantabria mountain range. Visit the avant-garde winery's cellar and enjoy a tasting of its expressive reserve wines. Finally, we check in into the Marques de Riscal - combining a contemporary retreat with design, art, gastronomy and wine in a lush landscape. 

Overnight: Marques de Riscal, Elciego 

Meals: NIL

DAY 2: ELCIEGO (HERITAGE OF LA RIOJA)

Our day begins with a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Monasteries of San Millan de la Cogolla where we discover the monasteries Suso, built in the 6th Century and Yuso, built in the 11th Century. Learn about the fascinating stories behind the monasteries where the Spanish and Basque language were believed to have been first written and spoken as well as part of the St James pilgrimage route. Later, continue to the historic town of Santo Domingo de la Calzada with its network of medieval streets and being an important stop of the St James pilgrimage route. Visit its Cathedral dating back to 1158 and consider an ascend to the top of the tower for spectacular panorama.

 

We then drive to the town of Laguardia where we make a visit to the Bodega El Fabulista, still applying old techniques of winemaking in La Rioja. Visit the atmospheric underground cellars where it was once used to produce and age wine. 

Overnight: Marques de Riscal, Elciego

Meals: Breakfast 

DAY 3: ELCIEGO / LOGRONO / ARNEDILLO / BARDENAS REALE NATIONAL PARK

Start our day with a short drive to Logrono - capital city of the La Rioja region and an important stop on the St James pilgrimage route. Lined with charming narrow streets along the Calle Laurel in the old town famous for its underrated but exceptional pintxos, Logrono is the quintessential city that embraces the "good life" with its penchant for amazing food and outstanding wines.

 

 

 

Thereafter, continue our drive into the Cidacos River Valley - declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve for its natural and untouched setting and the therapeutic richness of its natural hot springs. We visit the beautiful town of Arnedillo where we take a walk through stopping to admire the town's historical monuments such as the ruins of the Castle of the Bishops of Calahorra, the stunning bidges and the local mercado (market).

 

 

 

 

 

Next, we then leave the La Rioja region officially and entering into the Navarre region where we arrive into the dramatic landscapes of the Bardenas Reales National Park to check in into the eco design hotel, Aire de Bardenas, conceptualized by Barcelona-based architects, Emiliano Lopez and Monica Rivera. 

Overnight: Aire de Bardenas, Bardenas Reale National Park

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 4: BARDENAS REALE NATIONAL PARK

An experiential day beckons as we join our specialist guide on a 4x4 vehicle into the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Bardenas Reale, a semi-desert landscape spanning 42500 hectares where it was shaped by millions of years of erosion and weathering creating a unique landscape full of ravines, naturally-sculpted pillars. Spend a day to enjoy this spectacular site to be fully immersed into its dramatic and picturesque views from every conceivable angle. 

Overnight: Aire de Bardenas, Bardenas Reale National Park

Meals: Breakfast & Dinner

DAY 5: BARDENAS REALE NATIONAL PARK / OLITE / PAMPLONA / SAN SEBASTIAN

Journey north this morning to the ancient town of Olite, founded by the Visigothic King of Hispania in 621 and was later the royal seat of Charles III of Navarre. Visit the Palace of the Kings of Navarre, one of the most lavish and beautiful castle palaces in Europe. Marvel and be amazed at the luxurious details and elegance and once even house an ancient exotic zoo which kept animals such as lions, giraffes, camels.

 

 

 

 

Later, a short drive takes us into the city of Pamplona, renowned for the annual San Fermin Festival and the spectacle of the "Running of the Bulls". Enjoy a guided walk through the historical center and learn about the city's claim to fame, the locals' thoughts on the San Fermin Festival. Visit the Pamplona Cathedral in the old quarter, a fine example of the Gothic Period between the 14th and 15th centuries. Take a walk in the Plaza del Castillo lined with restaurants, cafes and shops where Ernest Hemingway used to frequent and draw inspiration for his book "The Sun Also Rises". Thereafter, we visit the Plaza de Toros bullring to gain an insight into the bullfighting culture and understanding of the annual San Fermin Festival. Finally, we continue our journey north to the gastronomy capital of the Basque region, San Sebastian where we arrive at the Hotel Maria Cristina

NO SUPPORT FOR "RUNNING OF THE BULLS"

At Beyond X Boundaries, we value the unique cultures and heritage of destinations but we DO NOT endorse nor support the participation or attendance of the annual "Running of the Bulls" San Fermin Festival held annually in early July in Pamplona. Life is already hard as it it for the bulls. We do not need to contribute more.

Overnight: Hotel Maria Cristina, San Sebastian

Meals: Breakfast 

DAY 6: SAN SEBASTIAN

Enjoy the day on a flexible arrangement in San Sebastian in the gastronomic capital of Spain and probably the world where there are more Michelin star restaurants here than anywhere else in the world. We will enjoy a pintxo tour with a difference as we take you to some of the best pintxo bars in San Sebastian, gain an understanding into the uniqueness of each. This evening, we take you to a Michelin star restaurant of your choice (with our expert assessment and recommendation) to savour a degustation menu complete with wine pairing of the finest selection. 

 

 

Overnight: Hotel Maria Cristina, San Sebastian

Meals: Breakfast, Pintxos Lunch & Michelin Degustation Dinner

DAY 7: SAN SEBASTIAN / COASTAL ROUTE / BILBAO

Today, we leave San Sebastian and drive by the picturesque "Coastal Route" to Bilbao. En route, we stop in the beautiful fishing town of Getaria, birthplace of luminaries such as Cristobal Balenciaga. Take in the laidback atmosphere where fishermen gathers and distribute fresh catch from the waters off the Bay of Biscay and learn about the Txakoli local white wine. Consider a visit to the Balenciaga Museum, built in honour of one of the mavericks of the fashion industry.

 

 

Thereafter, a short drive to the small town of Zumaia where the green mountains meets the Atlantic Ocean. Enjoy a walk to admire the spectacular sea cliffs and bizarre rock formations formed over millions of years of weathering and erosion. Next, we turn inland for a visit to the impressive Sanctuary of Loyola, a provincial gem and home to the Saint Ignatius of Loyola where we visit the stunning basilica, built between the 17th and 18th centuries. Our journey ends in Bilbao where we arrive at the impressive art-inspired Miro Hotel, directly opposite the remarkable Guggenheim Museum. 

 

 

Overnight: Miro Hotel, Bilbao

Meals: Breakfast

DAY 8: BILBAO

Spend the day at leisure today. Make a visit to the world famous Guggenheim Museum, designed by renowned American architect Frank Gehry which represents a groundbreaking 20th Century architecture and showcase of modern contemporary arts. Later in the day, be transferred to Bilbao Airport where we end our celebrated journey. 

 

 

Meals: Breakfast

HOTELS

Since its unveiling in 2006, this masterpiece created by Frank Gehry to house the Hotel Marques de Riscal has become a highly-sought after contemporary, luxury retreat. Design, art, gastronomy, wine and the lush landscape all combine to create a memorable sojourn.   

Marques de Riscal, Elciego (La Rioja)

Aire de Bardenas is a eco luxury hotel created by Barcelona-based architects Emiliano Lopez and Monica Rivera offering a contemporary refuge in the middle of a wheat field, surrounded by the semi-desert landscape of the dramatic Bardenas Reale National Park. 

Aire de Bardenas, Bardenas Reale National Park

Surrounded by gardens with views of the River Urumea and adjoining the majestic Victoria Eugenia Theatre, the elegant, refined Hotel Maria Cristina is situated in the centre of San Sebastian. Decorated in belle epoque style, famous celebrities including Coco Chanel and Bruce Springsteen has made the Hotel Maria Cristina home during their sojourns in the gastronomic capital of San Sebastian. 

Hotel Maria Cristina, San Sebastian

Inspired by the Bilbao Museum of Fine Arts and Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum, fashion designer Antonio Miro - Spain's answer to Calvin Klein has turned this 10 storey hotel bearing his name into a contemporary and stylish hotel with art collections, photos of famed Spanish photographers in a retreat for the modern art lover and traveller. 

Miro Hotel, Bilbao

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