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Gastronomic Northern Spain: Basque Country, Navarra and Rioja

7 days
SpainRiojaNavarraBasque Country
  • Enjoy San Sebastian’s and Bilbao’s gastronomic delights: taste innovative and playful Basque cuisine
  • Discover the wonderful scenery and elegant architecture of San Sebastian, Pamplona and Bilbao
  • Enjoy the beautiful and majestic countryside of the Navarra and Rioja, two of Spain’s most attractive wine regions
  • Visit renowned, but very different top wine estates in Navarra and Rioja
  • Enjoy tasting great wines in evocative places, as guest of these wine estates
  • Sojourn at exclusive hotels – on a wine estate, and in historic city centers
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About Basque Country, San Sebastian and Bilbao

Basque Country in the northeast of Spain, is a strikingly beautiful region, where green, thickly wooded mountains and hills dominate the landscape. A mostly rocky and wild coastline shelters the land from the Atlantic Ocean. The hillsides close to the sea are famous for the Txacoli vineyards, producing a fresh, lightly sparkling white wine low in alcohol but with good acidity. But perhaps the most renowned aspect of Basque Country is its cuisine: a plethora of innovative chefs have been creating innovative dishes of local ingredients for decades. The high quality of the frequently Michelin starred fine restaurants of this region is one of the pillars of the current international prestige of Spanish cuisine.

Basque Country is well-known too for its elegant and historic cities like Bilbao and San Sebastian. There are also notable lesser known historic towns like Victoria, Hondariba and Tolosa.

With a superb natural setting around a beautiful semicircular bay, San Sebastian may be one of Spain most appealing cities. The charming old town core and the Beaux-Arts quarters around it are awash with pinxtos (Basque-style tapas) bars serving creative and delectable finger food. Here traditional bar food is often elevated to a fine art. Then there is a constellation of classy one, two and three Michelin-starred restaurants, located in and around the city. San Sebastian is a delight for anyone who loves to eat.

The region’s biggest city, Bilbao, is real urban success story. Here one encounters striking contemporary, neo-classical, Beaux-Arts and medieval architecture, agreeably blended. It is also a serious food town with Michelin stars as well as a large number of pinxtos bars serving often extraordinarily innovative finger food.

About Navarra and Pamplona

Navarra is a small but delightfully diverse region in Northern Spain situated between Basque Country, Aragon and Rioja. For many centuries it was an independent kingdom, and these days it is a semi-autonomous province of Spain, where that independent feeling is still palpable. From the cool northern mountains to the dry more Mediterranean climate of the south, Navarra offers a landscape of forests and vineyards, whereby the hills are dotted with castles and medieval towns, like Estella and Tudela.

Tempranillo and Garnacha are the grape varietals we see most commonly planted, often leading to the production of serious red wines. The smaller, artisan produces often produce the finest wines, mostly with Garnacha, which local winemakers often refer to as the “Pinot Noir” of Spain. The region is renowned too for the quality for the freshness and quality of its agricultural produce. Peppers, beans, tomatoes and artichokes are favorites, grown mostly in the warm south of the region. Stewed artichokes with soft cooked egg, tuna topped with Navarra tomatoes and braised oxtail with fresh peas are local favorite dishes.

Pamplona, the capital of the region, is worth a detour. It is a picturesque and atmospheric university town. Within the impressive city walls one finds a compact medieval center with some grand monuments, ancient streets, elegant squares and some good museums and galleries. One eats very well here too, both in traditional restaurant as well at the many tapas bars.

About Rioja

Rioja is Spain’s most famous wine producing area, located in the province of the same name. The region has a centuries old tradition of wine making. With the arrival of French merchants in the late 19th century, Rojas’ name really took off, as the area gained expertise from Bordelaise winemakers, including their use of small oak barrels.

This beautiful wine region with its beguiling landscapes is divided into 3 vine growing areas, all producing rather different wines. In Rioja Baja, the Granacha grape variety thrives in warm, relatively low altitudes. Then there are the higher, cooler districts of Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa, where the Tempranillo and Graciano grapes flourish. The majority of Riojas are red but some white are made too, the main white grape varieties are Viura and Malvasía. There is a lot of good Rioja wine, but one can argue the most distinctive wines are made by vineyard-designated wine producers.

Rioja has some charming towns and villages. Places like Laguardia, Briones and Cenicero are charming historic hilltop settlements, overlooking the wide expanses of vineyards and forests, with high mountains as a dramatic backdrop.

Logroño, around 300 kilometers from Madrid, is Rioja’s capital and economical centre as well as its largest city. It is a pleasant place, with a charming old town, the “casco antiguo”, the epicenter of a busy tapas scene with many tabernas serving perfect local food and wines. Also worth a detour is the wine town of Haro, a lively little place, on the banks of the Ebro River and the main town of Rioja Alta. Already in the 19th century Haro had become one of the most important wine cities in Spain, as many companies established their bodega (winery) in or around the town.

When it comes to local gastronomy, this wine region has many simple but delicious treats. Rioja’s classic dishes include slow-roasted lamb over vine prunings, conjonudo (chorizo with egg and red pepper served on bread) and patatas a la riojana (potatoes with chorizo). A staple too is the menestra de verduras, sautéed local spring vegetables mixed with diced serrano ham.

What to expect from us?

With our ‘Food and Wine Tour Northern Spain – Basque Country, Navarra and Rioja’ you will discover some of Spain’s best culinary and cultural delights; you will also taste some of the region’s wonderful wines at spectacular wineries. This 7 days / 6 nights experience is perfect for discerning travelers seeking delectable cuisine, fine wines, and wonderful cultural heritage in an intimate and exclusive manner.

Hotel Pamplona -facadeBasque Country – San Sebastian
You will be staying 2 nights at a very comfortable 4-star hotel situated in an imposing and stylish modern building. It is tastefully furnished in a calm but timeless modern style, with many wood tones. The hotel successfully blends traditional charm with modern Spanish design. All the rooms have parquet floors, air-conditioning and are very agreeable. The hotel has a charming rooftop bar.

The hotel is located in a quiet area of San Sebastian, within walking distance of the city centre – it is 15 minutes away from the old town. It is an excellent local base from which to explore lively San Sebastian. If you do not wish to walk, tram stops are nearby.

Navarra Pamplona
In Pamplona you will be staying 1 night at an 18th century palace, recently converted into a charming boutique hotel. It is located right in the heart of the medieval town. This 4-star hotel has spacious and very comfortable rooms, each of which is tastefully furnished and is air conditioned. It has all the amenities one would expect of a very good place to stay. Public spaces in the building have a stylish, elegant Spanish atmosphere. The spacious courtyard offers a very relaxing atmosphere.

The central location of the hotel is perfect for those who wish to explore the city on foot: the handsome Plaza del Castillo square, the main tapas streets, the city’s fortress and the cathedral are a few minutes away.

Rioja
You will be staying an elegant and charming hotel-cum winery set in the middle of the most beautiful countryside of Rioja. Built in a style inspired by early 20th century architecture, the building has an elegant structure that respects its pastoral setting among vineyards, olive trees and pasture land. The interior is spacious and light, both guest rooms and public spaces offer wonderful views to the surrounding landscape.

There are only 15 rooms, which are very comfortable with playful but calm furnishings. All rooms, each of which is air conditioned, have an outdoor terrace or balcony. From the hotel one can walk into the winery, which is seamlessly integrated with the reception area. The winery produces very good red wines. There is a good restaurant as well as a pleasant intimate spa.

The property is situated within a 1000 acre estate, with easy access to walking and mountain bike trails. Logroño, Riojas’ capital is just a short drive way.

Basque Country – Bilbao
In Bilbao you will be staying 1 night at charming, classic 5-star hotel. It is centrally located in the city, in the buzzing Ensanche district. It is set in a handsome and atmospheric Beaux-Arts building, extensively restored. An elegant old-world style hotel it is.

Rooms are very comfortable, each of which is tastefully furnished and is air conditioned. Public spaces in the building have an open and elegant atmosphere. Note the beautiful bar, where writer Ernest Hemingway reputedly used to hang out.

Dates 2017

This gastronomic break is available throughout the year, with the exception of August. The itinerary has been designed to commence on a Saturday. Arrangements can be made to commence any other day of the week, just let us know.

Minimum number of guests is two.

To check availability for specific dates, please get in touch.

The price for a 7 days (6 nights) gastronomic break

  • Euro 1295,- per person sharing a double room
  • Euro 275,- single room supplement

What is included?

  • 2 nights’ accommodation 4 star hotel San Sebastian
  • 1 night accommodation 4 star boutique hotel Pamplona
  • 2 nights’ accommodation hotel-cum winery Rioja
  • 1 night accommodation 5 star hotel Bilbao
  • 6 breakfasts
  • 1 restaurant dinner San Sebastian – tasting menu with wines & soft-drinks (Michelin star)
  • A lunchtime pintxos (tapas) tour with drinks San Sebastian
  • 1 restaurant dinner Pamplona – with wines & soft-drinks
  • 1 exclusive tour & tasting at winery Navarra, with lunch – including wines & soft drinks
  • 1 restaurant dinner hotel-cum winery Rioja – tasting menu including wines & soft drinks
  • 1 excusive tours & tasting at Rioja winery, followed by tapas-style lunch – including wines & soft drinks
  • 1 restaurant dinner Rioja – tasting menu including wines & soft drinks
  • 1 restaurant dinner Bilbao – tasting menu including wine & soft drinks (Michelin star)

To access Basque Country from abroad, it may be easiest to fly into Bilbao airport, since this airport offers the most varied international connections. Then driving from Bilbao to San Sebastian would take little over one hour.
Alternatively you can also fly into Madrid Airport. There are several daily domestic connections between Madrid and the local San Sebastian airport. If you wish to take a car from Madrid, the drive between Madrid and San Sebastian would take around four and half hours.

There are many direct flights to Bilbao from cities in Europe. For trans-Atlantic flights, it may be easiest to connect in London Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Madrid or Barcelona. Alternatively you can fly directly into Madrid. Booking early can be very advantageous. Paladares Travel does not offer flights. We suggest that you book these directly with one of the many companies offering such services.

In order to get to the various wineries taking part in the tour, you may wish to rent a car or arrange for a private car service. Kindly note the pricing on our website does not include transportation, since the cost is largely dependent on the number of people requiring such service. But of course we would be happy to organize a bespoke car service or rent a car on your behalf. If you would like Paladares Travel to assist you, please let us know.

Day 1
  • Arrival San Sebastian during the day, check in hotel. Time to explore this charming beachside city on your own.
  • In the evening dinner at one of San Sebastian’s best restaurants, in the center of the town (with a Michelin star). Here the young chef marries impeccable techniques with top local produce to create a short, attractive menu. In a calm, yet elegant ambiance you will sample the Chef’s tasting menu which may include tuna tartar with lemon cream, hake in green sauce with peas and clams, Basque risotto with Idiazabal cheese or roasted Iberico pork with cardamom. All dishes will be paired with top quality Spanish wines.
Day 2
  • Buffet breakfast.
  • Around lunch time you are expected for “txikiteo”, a pintxos (tapas) tour. Your guide has a vast knowledge of all the goodies which San Sebastian has to offer. He will take you from bar to bar while sharing information about San Sebastian and the culinary highlights. Eating pintxos is a social, active event and each bar has its own speciality. You would enjoy, for example, sheep cheese with mint, or ham croquettes in pistachio paste, or crab with avocado and fennel. Always ingeniously paired with local wines or cider.
  • After the pintxos tour you are free to further explore San Sebastian on your own. Perhaps a stroll along the elegant promenade that hugs the city’s three beaches, or a visit to the striking Kursaal complex on wonderful La Concha bay, which culminates in the Ulía mountain.
  • The Kursaal, a distinguished addition to the extraordinary landscape of San Sebastion, is one of the city’s main venues for art exhibitions and concerts. It was designed by renowned architect Rafael Moneo, and inspired by the Sydney Opera House, on which Moneo had worked.
  • Dinner on your own.
Day 3
  • After breakfast depart for Navarra, in the direction of Pamplona.
  • As you drive away from the coastal area of San Sebastian to head for the Basque highlands (Gipuzkoa), it may be easy to see why the Basque countryside is known for its dramatic and stunning natural beauty. Further on in Navarra the landscape changes to become softer, more Mediterranean in feel.
  • After around 1, 5 hours’ drive, arrival in Pamplona, Navarra. Check in at your charming boutique hotel in the heart of the old city. Afternoon free to explore picturesque and unspoiled historic Pamplona on your own.
  • Dinner at a charming local restaurant in the old town, it offers an inventive menu of typical Navarrese dishes, reinterpreted by the young chef. You would enjoy the chefs’s specials, paired with matching local wines.
Day 4
  • Buffet breakfast.
  • Check out of your hotel, then a beautiful and easy drive through Navarra, towards Rioja.
  • Your first stop is in the foothills of the Pyrenees, to visit a Navarra winery near the border with Rioja Alavesa. This winery, located on an estate of about 350 ha, enjoys a setting of spectacular natural beauty. The centuries old buildings of the estate combine very well with the new, striking but unshowy winery, designed by a prize winning architect. Grapes are organically grown, and include the local Tempranillo and international varieties like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Wines are world class. Jancis Robinson is a fan.
  • The tour of the winery will be followed by a tasting over a refined country lunch, with exquisite vintage wines.
  • After lunch, drive into Rioja, just a short drive. Check in hotel cum winery Rioja, time to unwind
  • Dinner will be served at the hotel’s restaurant; here you would taste classic Rioja dishes but with a modern touch. All dishes will be paired with the wines from the estate.
Day 5
  • Buffet breakfast.
  • Late morning visit to one of the Riojas’ best modern wineries on the border between Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa. Relatively rare for Rioja, this is a single-estate vineyard, with all vineyards owned or controlled by the “estate” winery.
  • The finca (estate) has a wonderful location, on a ridge above the meandering Ebro river. Walking around the main winery building allows for spectacular views of the river and vineyard landscape. The elegant winery itself is relatively new, tastefully at one with the landscape. The use of traditional Rioja colours and material gives the building a timeless feel.
  • Wines are excellent, which has been acknowledged by leading international wine magazines. After a comparative wine tasting, a light lunch will be served indoors or outdoors, weather permitting and depending on your choice. For an outdoors lunch you will be given a generously filled picnic basket. This will allow you to enjoy the bucolic landscape surrounding the winery on your own, whilst having an alfresco lunch.
  • After lunch, time to explore the charming hilltop towns of Rioja. Or return to the hotel, with more time to relax and enjoy the splendid surroundings
  • Dinner at a charming and elegant local restaurant, were you would taste good, contemporary Rioja food, with an emphasis on regional and seasonal ingredients. Dishes may include succulent grilled meats from the Parrilla ( large indoor barbeque), roasted kid, ham & egg croquettes, and grilled piquillo peppers. The meal will be paired with good Rioja wines. The restaurant is an easy taxi ride away from your hotel.
Day 6
  • Buffet breakfast.
  • Check out of your hotel, depart for Bilbao.
  • Check-in at your Bilbao hotel. Free time to discover buzzing and unspoiled Bilbao on your own.
  • Your farewell dinner will be at an atmospheric yet unstuffy Michelin-starred restaurant in the centre of town. Here modern, ingenious Basque cuisine is prepared with local products. Dishes are refined, served in very small portions and features seafood, like lobster with mushrooms and pork belly. The tasting menu will be paired with equally outstanding wines.
Day 7

After breakfast the program ends.

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