(Options: Customized Itineraries)
Rioja/Basque Country, Spain - 8 nights
Available year round
We have put together an amazing active and culinary vacation for those wanting to discover La Rioja and San Sebastian. You will stay in two different accommodations for four nights each. This exciting holiday includes two cooking class experiences at a private, members-only gastronomic society, two hikes, one bike tour, a tapas guided tour, a pintxo guided tour and several private culinary tours and exciting activities. Discover why Northern Spain should be on everyone's bucket list!
During your stay you will not only experience cooking lessons but you will enjoy a market visit, a gourmet lunch in a popular winery, guided visits to hilltop villages and more.
While in San Sebastian you will go to the French Basque region, where you will discover Biarritz, St. Jean de Luz and the fabulous Hondaribbia. You will also be treated to a visit to the incredible fishing village of Getaria where you can enjoy the freshest in seafood.
You will also have the unique experience of visiting a cheese farm where you will learn how to make the famous Idiazabal cheese, as well as visiting a family run Basque Txakoli winery.
This tour offers the opportunity to meet artisan producers, talented chefs, and locals who are passionate about their history, their cuisine and their way of life. Join us for an unforgettable eight night immersion into what makes Spain such a sensational destination.
ARRIVAL IN BILBAO
Arrival in Bilbao followed by a private transfer to our selected hotel in Rioja. For the next four nights you will stay in a beautiful family run hotel located in a pedestrianized hilltop medieval village with spectacular views of the valley of vineyards and the steep Cantabrian mountains. The hotel has very good service, great food, superb refurbished caves where you can have a drink and also has a little spa.
The location is breathtaking and from there we have arranged winery visits, wine tasting, olive oil tasting, hiking trails, bike tours, cooking classes, guided tapas tours and visits to other unique hill top medieval villages.
OLIVE OIL TASTING, MARKET VISIT & COOKING LESSON IN A PRIVATE GASTRONOMIC SOCIETY
Today you will be picked up at your hotel around 9:30am and you will have a guided visit to a authentic traditional olive oil mill. Enjoy a walk amongst the olive trees followed by tasting of three extra virgin olive oils. The olive press is like an ethnographic museum for being an important source of the oleic patrimony of Rioja Alavesa. Know the traditional elaboration system of the virgin olive oil, a traditional extraction system by pressure of the grounded olives by giant conic stone meals.
This unique sensorial experience will teach you to taste, value and appreciate the olive oil of quality, with its properties and attributes. Submerge yourself in the stimulating world of the liquid gold, convert yourself to a lover and critic of a delicious product so widely used but unknown at the same time. You will learn the categories, varieties and aromas that you didn’t know until now. We open to you the doors of the oleic culture of Rioja Alavesa and prepare your palate for an unforgettable experience.
Transfer to Logrono to a private member's only gastronomic society located in a historic mansion in the old quarter of Logrono. You will first have a guided visit to the local food market to select the ingredients for the local dishes. Afterwards one of the members of the gastronomic society will teach a hands on cooking class (or cooking demonstration if the group is large). You will prepare a special meal based on typical dishes of La Rioja with seasonal ingredients. Bear in mind that the area of Rioja and Navarra is considered the garden of Spain with the best and tastier fruit and vegetables. Lunch follows based on the dishes prepared by the chef accompanied with wine from Rioja and other drinks.
After lunch, return to your hotel around 3:30pm/4pm and enjoy the rest of the evening on your own.
HIKING IN THE MOUNTAINS - GOURMET LUNCH IN A WINERY - GUIDED VILLAGE TOUR - EVENING TAPAS TOUR
Today you will get some exercise! You will have a guided hike to the Cantabrian mountains overlooking the Riojan Valley of vineyards. Starting at 9am you will start from the foot of the Cantabrian mountains to one of the peaks, all the while enjoying spectacular views of the Northern part of Rioja. (You do not need to go to the top and the guide will adapt the walk to your needs).
Afterwards around 1pm, you can go back to your hotel and have a shower and change clothes. Following, you will enjoy a gourmet traditional lunch in a winery next to the mountains with views of the vineyards. The menu is based on typical dishes of Rioja including the famous lamb chops grilled over dry vine branches in an open stone fireplace. The lunch will be paired with three wines, including dessert, coffee and liqueurs. If available, you can have a tour of some unique features of the winery with the 85 year old owner Vitorino visiting his personal tower with a 360 degree views of the valley and mountains and visit to his personal cave.
Around 4pm, you will have an hour guided visit of a hill top medieval towns with spectacular views of the valley of vineyards and the steep Cantabrian mountains. Most of the houses in the village have underground cellars and that is why vehicles are not allowed inside the walls. We will also see a winery landmark in Rioja from outside (Ysios) designed by a world famous architect combining rural scenery with modern architecture.
Return to your hotel for a rest before your amazing private guided tapas tour in Logrono at 8:30pm, which is the capital of La Rioja and 20 minutes from your hotel. You will be picked up by your guide and will go to Calle Laurel in the Old Quarter of Logrono, arguably the best gastronomic street in Spain, boasting almost 100 tapas bars, each one specialized in a tapa. We will be going to different tapas bars selected by the guide as per your preferences and you will have a tapa in each bar accompanied by a small glass of wine, beer or water. There are some unique tapas typical from the area not found anywhere else in Spain. It is also a very good way of mingle with the locals and learn how they have lunch and dinner as well as strolling around in the Old Quarter. This is always a highlight among our clients and was certainly a highlight for me when visiting.
Return transfer to hotel around 11pm.
GUIDED BIKE TOUR - LUNCH - COOKING LESSON AT PRIVATE GASTRONOMIC SOCIETY
Today you will have a 4 hour guided bike tour through the Rioja Valley combining local roads/paths through the vineyards with the foot of the mountains and the River Ebro banks. The valley is not flat, but is undulating with many steep slopes, up and downs. We will adapt the route as per your requirements and level (intermediate or advanced).
Return to hotel to have a shower before you have a local lunch in either a former convent in the courtyard of a historic building from 1373 or in a wine museum with breathtaking views at 2pm.
Following lunch enjoy a guided visit of two hilltop medieval towns: Briones and San Vicente
Return to your hotel for a rest and around 8pm you will have your second cooking class/demonstration in the private gastronomy society. This time it will be for dinner with a completely different menu that is based on tapas.
After dinner you will be transferred back to the hotel.
TRANSFER TO SAN SEBASTIAN - SAN SEBASTIAN CITY TOUR - PRIVATE GUIDED PINTXO TOUR
In the morning you will have a private transfer to your hotel in San Sebastian where you will spend the next four nights (you can also choose to stay in Hondarribia - please inquire about details and additional cost). After checking in your hotel, you will be picked up and enjoy a two hour guided tour of San Sebastian followed by a pintxo tour in the historic quarter for lunch.
The tour is a combination of driving and walking. You will walk through its old town, temples, museums and cathedral in the city center, and later on drive up to Igeldo to get the best views in town! You will have the chance to admire San Sebastian from its best viewpoint, Mount Igueldo, that will give you the full perspective of the city. A short stop in the "Peine de los Vientos" to visit the most symbolic place of the city, and then a complete walk through the city, with multiple stories and tales that happened in San Sebastian during history. The tour lasts about 2.5 hours.
Next enjoy a guided "pintxo" tour. In this private tour, we will take you to the best 5 places in town and will introduce you to this fantastic local custom. We do not want you to eat like a tourist, we want you to dine as a local! This tour will allow you to enjoy the region’s famous miniature food in the old town of San Sebastian. A special selection of 5 pintxos (Basque tapas) paired with 5 Spanish wines (or water or soft drinks) in up to 5 bars. It is a very nice way to have an informal dinner, learning about the local customs and tasting the best specialties in our favorite bars!
The rest of the day is free for you to enjoy.
FULL DAY BIARRITZ & FRENCH BASQUE COAST TOUR
The French Basque region has its own identity: posh Biarritz was the European royalty's favorite summer holiday spot and St. Jean de Luz, an enchanting fishing village.
Here are the highlights:
HENDAIA: The longest beach of the Basque Country! After a short stroll along the beach promenade, we will depart to Saint Jean de Luz through the beautiful coastal “La Corniche Road”
SAINT JEAN DE LUZ: Former Basque Corsairs’ capital, this small fishing village became rich in the 16th century from fishing and whaling. Piracy brought wealth to the town. The ‘finest moment’ for the town was in 1660, when Louis XIV married Marie-Thérèse of Spain in the town church – the Basque church of St. John the Baptist
BIARRITZ: One of the most posh beach resorts of the Basque Coast. It is a luxurious seaside town and is popular with tourists and surfers. Biarritz also boasts some of the best beaches in Europe. Biarritz became more renowned in 1854 when Empress Eugenie (the wife of Napoleon III) built a palace on the beach (now the Hôtel du Palais). The British royal family and European royalty regularly took vacations in Biarritz.
And on the way back, you will have a guided tour of fabulous Hondarribia.
HONDARRIBIA: One of the most beautiful towns of the Basque Country, its medieval old part is one of the few fortified towns in the Basque Country. Its walls, most of which are still standing and are constantly being restored, give it a special appearance by evoking an epic past and by impregnating every corner, alley and square with aromas, flavors and sounds that take us back to past times. We will also find the typical Basque fishermen houses, with colorful balconies filled up with heaps of flowers.
WAY OF ST. JAMES COASTAL ROUTE - LUNCH AT A WATERFRONT RESTAURANT
Today starting your hike in San Sebastian (or Hondarribia if you choose to stay there instead), you will walk the "CAMINO". The mountainside is etched with a centuries-old walking trail that was once a Christian pilgrimage route to the town of Santiago de Compostela, where St. James’ remains are said to be buried. Known as the Way of St. James or the Pilgrims’ Way, the coastal trail is now as popular for its views as it is for its history, offering incomparable vistas of San Sebastian and the Basque Coast.
Hiking rocky paths, we will make plenty of stops to soak up the panoramas. The route heads down the hill and goes at a steady pace, allowing you to focus on the idyllic scenery stretched out before you. Once we arrive to Pasajes San Pedro on the Bay of Pasaia, we will board a sightseeing boat to cross the waters to Pasajes San Juan.
A very well deserved 5 course lunch will be waiting in a waterfront restaurant in Pasajes San Juan, a captivating coastal village, with very narrow streets, where the 19th-century French poet Victor Hugo found inspiration.
After lunch and crossing back by boat, you will be returned to your hotel in San Sebastian.
Free time on your own for the rest of the day.
VISITS TO AN IDIAZABAL CHEESE MAKING FARM & A FAMILY RUN BASQUE TXAKOLI WINERY - LUNCH IN GETARIA
You will be picked up at 9am your hotel and will be taken to a real sheep farm, located in the rolling Basque hills, to taste and learn about one of the culinary icons of the area, Idiazabal cheese. The owner will lead us through the farm, giving us an intimate insight into the production starting with the milking process in the Milking Room. Using the fresh milk we just got, you will participate in the process of cheese-making to finally have a great tasting session of 4 different cheeses paired with wine or cider.
On the hills of the stunningly beautiful Txakoli wine region, are the vineyards of the charming family owned winery you will be visiting. Discover their famed Txakoli wines, made with local grapes varieties that grow on terraces overlooking the sea. After learning about the special production way of this wine, we will taste the wine accompanied by local tuna, chilli peppers and chorizo!
Having set the mood with these savory visits, you will be just about ready for lunch. Today it will be by the sea, in one of the typical grilled fish restaurants at the harbor of the captivating fishing town of Getaria.
Before lunch, go into town and take pleasure in a relaxing stroll with your guide through the enchanting medieval streets of the center, and the picturesque color and charm of the fisherman’s houses with their beautiful wooden balconies. The town’s location, perched on the hills overlooking the sea, offers spectacular views that will stay in your memory forever.
Below is an optional full day tour that you can replace with the tour on either this Day (Day Eight) or on Day Six (additional supplement for this tour - please inquire):
FLAVOURS OF THE BASQUE COUNTRYSIDE TOUR
1. CIDER TASTING IN A TRADITIONAL TASTING CIDER HOUSE
Hand picked local producers, passionate about their products! Today you will learn how the region's famous cider is made, in an up close and personal visit in a traditional cider house.
We will introduce you to the world of "Sagardoa", the Basque Cider. While on this tour you will enjoy a walk around the apple orchards and you will learn about polination, fermentation process, presses, etc. by watching an audiovisual documentary which illustrates how natural Petritegi cider has evolved from 18 century to the present day. After the short tour, you will taste the cider with some chorizo!
2. FULL LUNCH IN A PRIVATE FARMHOUSE. HOME OF AN ARTISAN HAM PRODUCER
After the cider experience, we will drive you inland, through green rolling hills to a farmhouse, where the endangered indigenous Basque Pig is reared in the traditional way, out in the woods!
Visit a Basque farmhouse run by the same family since the 16th Century. By the hand of a member of the family, devoted to recovering the indigenous Basque pig, you will learn how those pigs are reared and understand the traditional role of these self-sufficient traditional Basque farms.
These happy pigs are fed in green raigrass pasture, full of white and purple clover, hay and mountain herbs, nettle and Rumex roots and the fruits of our centuries-old native hardwoods.
Afterwards, enjoy a very special home-made meal in the family’s dining room. The meal is prepared using only homemade products including their ham and charcuterie, beef meat, wild mushroom etc. accompanied with plenty of Rioja wines or Cider.
Return to your hotel in San Sebastian.
Private transfer to Bilbao airport or any other location on request.
*The content or order of the itinerary may change depending on dates, availability of services or activities, local festivals/holidays, weather constraints, etc. Menus are samples and may vary according to the season
A minimum of 2 participants is required to run this tour and the tour is limited to a maximum of 8 participants.
(The number of participants refers to how many persons are required to run the tour, not to how many persons you must have in your party. Please inquire.)
HOW TO ARRIVE
Closest International Airport: Bilbao situated about 90 miles/90 minutes from first accommodation.
*These details are provided as additional information. Please check below to see if transfers are included in this tour.
Single Supplement/Please inquire
*Please inquire about lower pricing based on 3 or more persons
*Pricing may vary depending on market fluctuation or season
After availability is confirmed, a 30% non-refundable deposit per person and the completed and submitted registration form will secure your reservation. Final payment is due in full 75 days before your arrival date.
Available year round upon request
*Eight (8) nights' accommodation with breakfast (4 nights in Rioja at a family run boutique hotel in a double superior room and 4 nights in San Sebastian at a 3 star hotel in a double standard room - all taxes included)
*Private transfer from Bilbao to Rioja (Day One)
*Day Two- Private full day including transport, olive oil experience, private local guide, cooking demonstration in a private gastronomy society, lunch and drinks
*Day Three - Private full day including transport, hiking guided route, gourmet lunch in a winery, guided tour to Laguardia and Ysios from outside and private local guide
*Day Three - Private guided tapas tour in Logrono including transport, private local guide, food and drinks
*Day Four - Private full day including transport, bike guided tour, private local guide, gourmet lunch and guided tour to two villages, private cooking demonstration in a gastronomy society including transport, dinner and drinks
*Day Five - Private transfer from Rioja to San Sebastian
*Day Five - Private full day including guided city tour and guided pintxo tour with transport, local guide, food and drinks
*Day Six - Private full day tour + Biarritz and French Basque Coast tour including transport and local driver guide (Lunch not included)
*Day Seven - Private full day - Way of St. James Coastal Route - Hiking guided route including private local guide, boat tickets, transport and full lunch
*Day Eight- Private full day, Basque Txakoli Wine and Idiazabal Cheese - including transport, cheesemaker entrance, txakoli winery entrance and private local guide. (Lunch not included- pay as you go)
*Day Nine - Private transfer from San Sebastian to Bilbao airport. Other destinations on request
Airfare, personal expenses, travel insurance, meals not specified in itinerary (ie. lunch in Getaria), and tips are not included.
For further inquiries or to register, click here.
Please contact us for cancellation policy information. Travel insurance is highly recommended.
Jeanette P., Livonia, Michigan"Jo-Ann is a pleasure to work with. She is very accommodating and responds almost immediately to any emails that are sent. I have worked with Jo-Ann on several trips now and will continue to do so. The Spain trip that we just returned from was amazing. it was a combination of three of her Spanish trips and it was very well organized and a whole lot of fun! This trip allowed us to see Barcelona, San Sebastian, and Rioja and it was a wonderful mix. It was a true foodie experience, like nothing we had ever experienced before. Our guides were very knowledgeable and fun to be with."
"Jo-Ann, We had such an amazing time in the Rioja region! I knew the trip was going to be fantastic, but everything far exceeded my expectations. Our guide was great and not only did a good job of keeping us on schedule (not an easy task, I can assure you), but took us to all the local dives and dishes when he led us through the maze of tapas bars. We would have missed out on so much without his guidance. He even spent his personal time with us after a long day of touring - for him, not us :), to be sure we hit all the highlights of Logrono. The two of you organized an unforgettable trip! I can't thank you enough. Gratefully, Beth".
Marti S."Active Gourmet Holidays customized the perfect experience for our group in Rioja, Spain; delicious combination of food, wine and culture! This trip was an exceptional travel value giving us the opportunity enjoy and make memories!".
"Thank you for the excellent organisation of the Rioja winery tour. The guides you found for us were good-humoured, charming and professional. I wish you all the best with your future projects".
"We enjoyed the trip very much - the choice of wineries to visit couldn't have been better. I think we went at the best time of the year to see the beautiful colours of the region - certainly a lovely part of Spain to visit. I especially enjoyed the lunch on the Saturday in the traditional winery - set against the backdrop of the mountains. Many thanks."
"The Gods have certainly gifted La Rioja with perfection in all things - the sun, the gloriously fire-coloured vines covering such a dramatic landscape, the amazing buildings so fearlessly set into the very best that nature can offer, the gorgeous wines we tasted which were so plentifully offered and the wonderful food .... and here I am running out of superlatives to describe what was for us one of the most pleasurable trips we have ever taken. Our thanks to you for the excellent organisation and I have already been recommending you to friends and colleagues who were interested in hearing about the trip."
"We really enjoyed the wine tour of Rioja. The hotels, the food, and especially our guide, Alberto, were fantastic! One of my favourite things was the interesting contrasts of style, size, and philosophies that the selected wineries illustrated. I also was relieved that it was a very non-snobby approach to appreciating wine. I hate the pretentious way some people talk about wine. We had dinner the first night at the restaurant (Las Duellas) at our hotel. My mother and I were both shocked at the quality of the seafood at this restaurant--as good or better than any I have had in Los Angeles, or even on Kauai, which certainly has some of the best fish in the world. So I am extremely satisfied with the tour, and will definitely be recommending you to my friends. Thanks so much."
"I just wanted to say a BIG thank you for organising my parent's wine tour - they had an absolutely fabulous time and were so over-excited that it was hard for them to contain themselves!!!! Thanks so much for making it wonderful for them!!! I will definitely recommend your tours to anyone else looking for something similar in Spain. Many Thanks again."
This exciting region is depicted below. You can also access Google MapsTM by clicking HERE.
*In some cases mapping may give clients a general sense of location due to changes in venue. Please inquire about specific location.