A road trip through Northern Spain offers a glimpse into the region's rich cultural roots and diverse landscapes, from the coastal heritage of San Sebastián to the rolling vineyards of La Rioja. This 10-day excursion includes opportunities to explore unique traditions, cuisine, and architecture that define this corner of Spain, with stops in historic Pamplona and vibrant Bilbao.


  • Learn about the region's unique heritage and history of the Basque Coast
  • Go hiking along the coast or in the Cantabrian Mountains
  • Explore the charming villages and wine culture of La Rioja
  • Visit the Guggenheim Museum and eat pintxos in Bilbao

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in San Sebastián, History & Culture Walk San Sebastián
Day 2 Hike, Boat & Lunch on the Bay of Pasaia San Sebastián
Day 3 Self-Guided Hiking Day near San Sebastián, Private Sailing in La Concha Bay San Sebastián
Day 4 Drive to Pamplona, Private History & Culture Walk Pamplona
Day 5 Drive to La Rioja, Secrets of Logroño Walk La Rioja
Day 6 Wine Like a Local with Hotel Pick-Up La Rioja
Day 7 Drive to Bilbao via Sajazarra, Guggenheim Museum, History & Gastronomy Bilbao
Day 8 Self-Guided Hiking Day near Bilbao, Pintxos & Wine Tasting Bilbao
Day 9 Basque History Tour: Gaztelugatxe, Bermeo & Gernika Bilbao
Day 10 Depart Bilbao  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in San Sebastián, History & Culture Walk

Waterfront in San Sebastián
Take to San Sebastián's waterfront

Welcome to San Sebastián! After picking up your rental car from the airport, you'll drive to your accommodation in the city, typically a 30-minute drive. After settling in, head out for your first excursion and enjoy a history and cultural walk in San Sebastián. You'll learn why this is one of Europe's most beautiful cities, how the sea has impacted its history and culture, and why the locals have an affinity for contemporary art.

You'll meet your guide on the edge of Old Town, where the 19th-century city walls once stood. You'll visit the main churches in the old part of the city, the 18th-century Basilica and the 16th-century Gothic-style San Bizente Eliza, plus the 12th-century Motako Gaztelua Castle, Konstituzio Plaza, and plenty of viewpoints. In New Town, enjoy the architecture of San Sebastián's Belle Epoch era with the Hotel de Londres and Maria Cristina and the Victoria Eugenia Auditorium, among other buildings.

Of course, no visit to San Sebastián is complete without enjoying one of its city beaches! The most famous beach is La Concha, a 1.5-mile stretch of sand that curves out from New Town in the shape of a sea shell. The beachfront promenade is a great place to return to at dusk to watch the sunset and the city lights flicker on. Finish your walk by chatting with your guide while enjoying pintxos (Northern Spain's version of tapas and drinks). 

Day 2: Hike, Boat & Lunch on the Bay of Pasaia

Hiking along the Bay of Pasaia
Enjoy a hike along the Bay of Pasaia

Today you'll explore the beauty of the Basque Country's scenic coast and countryside with a hike, boat trip, and lunch along the Bay of Pasaia. San Sebastián is right on the beach, so you can easily escape the crowds and enjoy the surrounding nature. Your guide will lead you along the famous Way of Saint James route, a moderate trek just under 5 miles (8 km) roundtrip with a few ups and downs. All your efforts will be worth it, as you'll enjoy incredible sea views of the region's wild coast. 

The hike is about its views, as you'll pass the scenic Zurriola Beach to reach your first lookout point. You'll enjoy several other viewpoints and observation decks, perfect spots to rest your feet and appreciate the scenery. The route features inlets, caves, and plenty of cliffs before turning toward the Bay of Pasaia, a natural basin with picturesque rock structures, fishing villages, and a lighthouse.

Continue into the hamlet of Pasaia, a historic fishing village with some of the area's best seafood. Replenish your strength with fresh fish and local drinks at an authentic tavern. This experience mimics the life of the 16th-century Basque whalers, which you can learn about at the town's living museum featuring wooden ships. Before returning to San Sebastián, you'll enjoy a boat cruise around the bay.

Day 3: Self-Guided Hiking Day near San Sebastián, Private Sailing in La Concha Bay

Sailboats in San Sebastián's La Concha Bay
Sail San Sebastián's La Concha Bay and drop anchor for an afternoon swim

San Sebastián is an ideal spot for hiking, as the city features a rugged coastline and three peaks, plus it sits within a half-hour's drive of several protected areas and parks. The route you choose to tackle is up to you, and you'll receive complete details on all your options. But to inspire your self-guided hiking day, you could always conquer one of the city's three peaks: Monte Urgull, Monte Igueldo, and Monte Ulía. Or a popular area for trekking is the nearby Aiako Harriak National Park.

After your hike, enjoy a sailing excursion from San Sebastián with an onboard picnic. You'll depart from the city's port and enjoy views of La Concha Beach and Santa Clara Island. As you pass along the coast, you might spot anglers or local wildlife, including birds and dolphins. While cruising, relax with a picnic of local delicacies, traditional snacks, and famous txakoli wine produced with green grapes. Upon returning to San Sebastián, your captain is happy to drop anchor in La Concha Bay for a swim!

Plan your trip to Spain
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 4: Drive to Pamplona, Private History & Culture Walk

Rural Basque Country
Enjoy the scenic drive from San Sebastián to Pamplona

In the morning, you'll set out for the inland city of Pamplona. Though this metropolis gets its reputation from the annual Running of the Bulls event, there's a lot more to see and do. But to make this route more scenic, consider stopping in the rural village of Etxalar, one of Navarre's most picturesque townlets, and/or the walled seaside city of Hondarribia. Both provide a dose of charm and history. Discover all the details of this road trip from San Sebastián to Pamplona here.

After settling into your accommodation, head into Old Town for a guided walk through Pamplona. You'll meet your guide at ​​Plaza del Castillo, then stop at Bar Txoko, one of Ernest Hemingway's favorite taverns in the city. You'll also visit sites like the Palace of Navarre and the Monument to the Fueros, then cross the Tres Burgos de Pamplona. Enjoy Town Hall Square, where the annual San Fermín festivities and Running of the Bulls begin, and walk along the same streets as the runners and view the fences.

You'll end the walk with a stroll along the city's ancient walls and by visiting the Cathedral of Pamplona, ​​where your guide will detail the building's facade and its many unique stories and legends.

Day 5: Drive to La Rioja, Secrets of Logroño Walk

Drive through the vineyards of La Rioja

The next stop on your road trip is the picturesque city of Logroño in the La Rioja province. Along the way are several interesting stopping points, including cultural villages like Estella, hiking opportunities in Izki National Park, and the Haro or Briones wine areas. Try and make two or three stops depending on your time and interests. Learn more about a road trip from Logroño to La Rioja here.

Then, kick your time off in your destination with a guided walk in Logroño, learning all its hidden secrets, corners, and legends. You'll meet your guide at the Wall Revellín, the remains of the 16th-century medieval fortifications with its preserved west gate. Just around the corner is the Parliament, a beautiful building that once housed the Convent of Mercy. Other sites include the Church of Santiago el Real, the Catedral de Santa María, and Plaza Mercado.

As you end your walk, you'll pass by the exterior of the Museum of La Rioja, set in an 18th-century palace, where your guide will share the city's important relationship with the famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. You might want to go into this place on your own at some point. Then, make your way to La Laurel, a lively area with alleyways and side streets hosting pintxos taverns. It's the perfect sport for dinner, hopping from one bar to the next to try different kinds of pintxos and wine from Rioja.

Day 6: Wine Like a Local with Hotel Pick-Up

Vineyards of La Rioja
Vineyards of La Rioja

Despite its smaller size, La Rioja might be Spain's most renowned wine region and the perfect place for winery tours and tastings. But with this activity, you'll join a local to explore two wineries in the area, directly interacting with the winemakers and their families. Rather than a quick tourist experience, you'll stop at local vineyards and learn about the authentic history of winemaking through different generations.

Throughout the day, you'll visit two vineyards, and thanks to your guide's long-standing relationship with the local winemakers, you can meet with them, too. Enjoy getting to know the winemakers and their families while learning about the history of La Rioja winemaking and what makes it a favorite globally. Since this is a more intimate experience, you can ask questions and dig deeper into the process.

At both estates, the winemakers will take you through the process, from cultivation to bottling. Learn about oenology from an expert and walk through the production facilities and vines. You'll enjoy a wine tasting with the winemaker at the end of each tour. Learn how to swirl and sip to extract the flavors and identify the different aromas and tastes. You'll walk away with a new understanding of La Rioja and its coveted varietals.

Day 7: Drive to Bilbao via Sajazarra, Guggenheim Museum, History & Gastronomy

The historic village of Sajazarra

Today you'll make your way to Bilbao, stopping in the historic village of Sajazarra, one of Spain's most beautiful townlets, complete with a stunning castle. For a unique perspective on the village, you'll enjoy an "off-road" segway experience in Sajazarra, cruising through its stone streets, stopping at hidden gardens, and viewing the castle's promenade. Then, head out into the surrounding countryside and ride down the dirt roads bordering Sajazarra's vineyards and beautiful landscapes.

After settling into your accommodation, enjoy a private walk through Bilbao's history, culture, and gastronomy. A local will lead you through Bilbao's colorful and modern neighborhoods, along the river, and finally, to the Guggenheim Museum. Along the way, learn about its history and stop to try traditional pintxos around Plaza Nueva and Ribera Market, the largest covered market in Europe. Enjoy a meal with your guide featuring traditional dishes.

Of course, a must-see in Bilbao is the Guggenheim Museum, known for its unique architecture designed by Frank Gehry. Start your visit by admiring the building's exterior, a mix of shapes and reflections bouncing off a titanium coating. Then head inside to peruse the famous works of Andy Warhol, Anselm Kiefer, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and local Basque sculptors, including Eduardo Chillida and Jorge Oteiza. Your guide will explain why Bilbao commissioned the building and how its reputation has grown.

Day 8: Self-Guided Hiking Day near Bilbao, Pintxos & Wine Tasting

Hiking along the coast
Hiking along the coast just outside of Bilbao

Bilbao is an excellent hub for hiking, with plenty of routes through the city's Old Town, parks, and riverfront. You can also hike in the surrounding countryside, as Bilbao's between the Bay of Biscay coastline and the verdant foothills of the Cantabrian Mountains. Your route is up to you, and you'll receive complete details on all your options. Some include the coastal path from Bidezabal to Sopelana, the Paseo de La Galea cliffside trail, and challenging treks in the Pagasarri Hiking Area.

Then, enjoy a pintxos walking tour in Bilbao in the afternoon, learning about the city's history, culture, and gastronomy. You'll start in the historic Casco Viejo (Old Town) and follow the city's Nervión River. Pass well-known artwork like the Spider and Puppy statues, the Arati Isozaki Towers, and the Zubizuri (White Bridge). 

Modern work aside, the city's historic core is also home to 700-year-old structures and architecture dating to the 13th century. Enjoy walking its cobbled streets and visiting iconic sites like the Cathedral of Bilbao, Fuente Plaza Santiago, and Plaza Nueva. Along the way, you'll stop at four different eateries to sample more pintxos and Spanish wine.

Day 9: Basque History Tour: Gaztelugatxe, Bermeo & Gernika

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
San Juan de Gaztelugatxe

There's so much beyond the city of Bilbao, and you can explore it with the help of a history and nature excursion down the Basque Coast. With a guide leading the way, you'll make a few stops, showcasing Northern Spain's appeal: how history and natural beauty intertwine. Discover the region's rural past while soaking in some of the most majestic views of the sea and mountains.

You'll start by visiting the 10th-century hermitage atop the Gaztelugatxe island dedicated to John the Baptist. "Game of Thrones" fans might recognize this iconic site as Dragonstone. The island and hermitage are linked to the mainland by a stone bridge connecting to a walkway that dramatically climbs up the hill with drop-offs on either side. Enjoy the sea views, contrasting perfectly with the island, its cliffs, and the mountains in the distance.

Next, drive about 30 minutes to Mundaka, a small town on the estuary of the Urdaibai River. Follow your guide along the pier and the estuary, watching the famous waves come in—the area is known for its world-class surfing. Then, trade coastal views for the agricultural inland by visiting the town of Gernika. This village is the perfect place to dive into Basque history, as this is where you'll find the Ancient Tree, an important place where medieval kings pledged to uphold and honor local law.

Day 10: Depart Bilbao

Bilbao's unique mix of architecture at dusk

It's time to catch your flight out of Bilbao Airport. The journey from the city center to the airport takes about 15 minutes, but give yourself plenty of time to return your rental car and get through security. Safe travels!

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Map of Self-Drive Northern Spain: San Sebastián, Pamplona, La Rioja & Bilbao - 10 Days
Map of Self-Drive Northern Spain: San Sebastián, Pamplona, La Rioja & Bilbao - 10 Days