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New Tour – Best of the Basque Country! May 2017


Dates:  Saturday 6th May – Sunday 14th May

Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve, Vizcaya

Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve, Vizcaya

Situated on the elbow-crook of the Bay of Biscay, and in an area barely larger than Northern Ireland, the autonomous region of the Spanish Basque Country offers the visitor a spectacular and diverse range of habitats, a bounty of wildlife, and a unique cuisine and culture.
This 9-day tour brings together culture and gentle birding: here is a place that differentiates itself with ease from neighbouring France and the rest of northern Spain, with its own rugged coastline and coastal paths, craggy mountains and lush, verdant valleys with their complementary plethora of wildlife, and a proud history incorporating a long fight for independence and autonomy, an ancient autochthonous language, and long established historical pilgrimage routes. In addition, here are five UNESCO world heritage sites. The Basque Country is indeed one of the jewels of Iberia. 

Otherwise known as ‘Euskadi’ (The land of the Basque Speakers), a diverse array of habitats paves the way for an abundance of birdlife. Spread across three centres in Bizkaia, Arava and Gipuzkoa this new tour offers an opportunity to look for six species of woodpecker in sheltered Pyrenean Oak forests, colourful European Bee-eaters feeding along ravines and Egyptian Vulture, Hobby and Bearded Vulture circling the mountains. There is also opportunity to look for Peregrine Falcon, Little Owl, Cetti’s Warbler and orchids and other interesting plants nestled by the sands of Azkorri beach. Eurasian Spoonbill, Stork, Black –winged Stilt, Marsh Harrier, Garganey, Black Kite and Osprey can be found in the great expanse of wetlands in Urdaibai and Salburua. Higher up, raptors such as Golden Eagle, Short-toed Eagle and Booted Eagle soar around the peaks and cliffs of the majestic Sierra de Cantabria where the occasional Blue Rock Thrush can be seen amongst the boulders, whilst the streams and alpine meadows of Goierri provide a home for Citril Finch, Dippers, Alpine Swifts, Alpine Accentors, Crossbill and Wryneck.

San Adrian Tunnel Way, Aizkorri-Aratz

San Adrian Tunnel Way, Aizkorri-Aratz

Not only does Euskadi’s landscape provide a paradise for birds and a haven for botanists but Basque cuisine also boasts a reputation of supreme excellence. With more Michelin stars per capita than anywhere else in the world and the Basque belief that good food can be perceived as a reflection of good character, you are sure to feel welcomed and indulged in the picturesque towns of San Sebastián - the 2016 European Capital of Culture, and the quirky riverside landscapes of Bilbao where we will sample traditional pinxos (Basque country tapas) and txacoli (local slightly sparkling dry white wine).

From the roaring swells of the Atlantic that batter the jagged coastline of the UNESCO Flysch Trail and the quintessentially Basque landmark of  Gaztelugatxe (the castle on the crag), where we can find Atlantic Gannet and Belearic Shearwater, to the melodic cow bells that roll across the alpine hills of the Goierri Highlands; from the sociable sounds, sights and delicacies of Donostia to the vineyards and crumbling stone houses of the medieval villages of Rioja Alavesa - this is a place that commands exploration.

For further details on this new tour, which explores the best of the Basque Country’s wildlife, scenery, food and wine, please contact emily@naturetrek.co.uk or call 01962 733051