The Ultimate European Road Trip: Exploring the Basque Circuit

The Ultimate European Road Trip: Exploring the Basque Circuit

Spain is a truly amazing country with a diverse range of scenery and local cultures, and driving through the Basque Circuit will allow you to explore not only Spain, but also France. You can drive from Madrid or Barcelona to get to Bilbao and head south for the gorgeous mountain pass toward Vitoria-Gasteiz.

Turn east to Pamplona—it is highly recommended to take the N1 if you have limited time, but if you have a bit more time to spare, you will never regret taking the smaller mountain roads to get maximum scenery. If you choose the latter, make sure to head south through the Sierra de Urbasa. Once you are in Pamplona, you can take the N-135 to pass through the Pyrenees Mountains into France.

Once you are in the N-135, you will notice that the road starts to get a bit trickier, and it will be very difficult to keep your eyes off the gorgeous scenery unfolding right outside the window. Taking the D918 along the foothills will bring you to Biarritz, where there are amazing seascapes you would never forget.

What to See

Pamplona City

The Basque Circuit is undeniably one of the most scenic drives in the entire European continent. The starting point of Bilbao alone is home to plenty of memorable attractions, including the Guggenheim Museum, an architectural masterpiece that houses an interesting collection of contemporary art. The stunning Zubizuri and Deusto Bridges are also noteworthy; as are the gothic structure of the St. James Cathedral and the gorgeous Basilica of Begoña.

Pamplona is an idyllic Spanish city like no other during the summer—make sure to witness the running of the bulls (albeit from a safe distance; these animals are not exactly known for their docility). If you have a bit more time to explore Pamplona, you can take the scenic AP-15 along the mountains to go up San Sebastian to enjoy dramatic, panoramic views of the Isla de Santa Clara. The AP-15 is great for enthusiasts of technical driving—there are plenty of hairpin turns with stunning views to be enjoyed.

Once you have traversed the Pyrenees into France, spend a couple of days exploring Biarritz. This French destination is the best place to enjoy some familiar comforts that you have foregone during the road trip. For many drivers, Biarritz is the end of their Basque Circuit road trip, but you can drive back to Bilbao. Biarritz is one of the best French destinations for surfing enthusiasts, as well as those who want to try their hand at some gambling at the Bellevue and Barriere.

Final Tip

Now that you have enjoyed some of the best things that both southern France and northern Spain has to offer on your Basque Circuit road trip, do not shy away from going on more international road trips across Europe. Just make sure that you have your Schengen visa and a trusty (and updated) map and you can go on a grand tour of the continent!

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Route Details
Start Point: Bilbao, Spain Distance: 300 miles (482.8 kilometers)
End Point: Biarritz, France Estimated Days: 6 to 7