San Sebastián and the port city of Bilbao are two essential stops in Spain's Basque Region. A trip between the two is typically a short, one-hour drive across 62 miles (100 km), so the recommended way to travel is by private transfer or with a rental car. These methods allow you to make stops in a few villages along the beautiful Basque coastline, such as Bermeo or Getaria. Other options include the train and bus.
The Basque Region is a world all of its own, an autonomous community with its language and distinct cuisine. Consider this 5-day itinerary, which includes Bilbao, San Sebastián, the Basque Coast, and the fishing town of Getaria.
By Rental Car or Private Transfer
Duration: 1 hour, more with stops
The journey between San Sebastián and Bilbao is quite popular, as many travelers enjoy exploring these two cities. Though a highway connects the two in just over one hour via AP-8 highway, this region features one of the best opportunities for a road trip. Rather than taking the highway, enjoy the coastal route and twist along the rugged coast of the Bay of Biscay. You'll enjoy exceptional views, charming villages, unique history, impressive geology, and a few beaches.
We recommend one or more of the following stops for your road trip or private transfer:
If you plan to leave in the afternoon and are looking for a place to stop for lunch, Getaria is it. It's just 30 minutes from San Sebastián. Head down to the port and sit on the terrace at one of the restaurants grilling locally and fresh-caught fish. Pair your traditional meal with local txakoli white wine, slightly effervescent and typically enjoyed as an aperitif. If you arrive too early for lunch, you can still enjoy the town's culture. Or opt for a little exercise and follow one of the paths up Mount San Antón, where you'll eventually reach its lighthouse and enjoy exceptional coastline views.
Drive just 13 minutes west along the coast to the village of Zumaia, famous for its two beaches running alongside the world's longest stretch of continuous rock layers, some sitting vertically. It's a popular area for geologists, as the rocks here are over 100 million years old. Zumaia also has a picturesque medieval center and a long history with the octopus. You might see fishers catching and drying octopi within the town, and as another lunch option, you'll certainly see them on the restaurant menus if you'd like to taste the local cuisine.
The small seaside town of Lekeitio is precisely halfway between San Sebastián and Bilbao and about an hour's drive from Zumaia—an excellent place for a break. The town's draw is its unique Isuntza Beach, which changes shape based on the tides and often features a sandbar leading to San Nicolás Island. There are several other beaches to enjoy, or you can walk through the charming port. Either way, you'll get those Basque vibes with colorful, timbered buildings.
Another hour down the coast is Bermeo, one of the most important (and colorful) fishing villages in the Basque Country. For centuries, the people of Bermeo were whalers, which you'll surely notice when strolling along the Old Port or visiting the museum inside Ercilla Tower. If you prefer to relish the scenery, the town is on the edge of the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve, so you can expect some truly stunning coastal views.
Enjoy a scenic 30-minute drive to Gaztelugatxe, the perfect first stop on your road trip as one of the fascinating sites on Spain's northern coast. It offers quite a dramatic scene, with its San Juan Hermitage atop a small island. To reach the hermitage, you'll walk along a stone bridge via 231 frayed steps on a flysch cliff, a type of rock only found on the Basque Coast. The island, with its hermitage, is home to nearly 1,000 years of history and offers one of the best viewpoints in the Bay of Biscay. It's also an important seabird breeding site, so keep your eye out for unique species.
After visiting Gaztelugatxe, it's just 45 minutes south to Bilbao.
Duration: 2.5 hours
The Euskotren train runs every hour, with the last train departing in the later evening. You can purchase tickets online (and print them out) or at the train station. You may have the option to select a "flexible" fare, which allows you to modify your trip if needed. Make sure to be seated on the train at least 5-10 minutes before departure.
Duration: 1 hour 15 minutes
By bus, this journey will take a little over an hour and departs every half-hour. Multiple companies operate this route: Alsa, Lurraldebus, Transportes Pesa, and Eurolines FR.