PRICE: from 3.339-€
WHEN: April to October
DURATION: 8 days
NEAREST AIRPORT: Bilbao
Experience the tastes of Spain in the Rioja and Basque Country
When it comes to the Top Ten of world-class restaurants, the chefs of Spain's Basque Country region are never far from the top of the list. With one of the highest concentrations of Michelin-starred restaurants anywhere in Europe, the Basque country and its neighbouring Rioja region are renowned not only for their world-class food â€“ from fine dining to tapas bars, but also their wines.
During the course of this seven day gastronomic tour, specially designed by Spanish experts with unparalleled access to the most authentic food and producers, you will get to know the flavours of these regions. From the famous tapas bars of Logroño to dinner at one of the gastronomic societies - culinary clubs which meet regularly to sample the best food in the region and which are normally notoriously hard to get into.
You'll also see how local produce such as peppers and courgettes and specialities such as borage and thistle are grown through visits to allotments as well as fresh food markets, wineries and olive oil mills, experiencing local traditions first-hand. In cooking classes with local experts, you will learn how traditional dishes such as lamb chops grilled on vine branches are prepared.
As well as experiencing the food, you'll also be travelling and taking country walks through some of Spain's most spectacular scenery and medieval architecture. Highlights will include the Cantabrian mountains, the gorgeous fishing village of Pasajes de San Juan and the medieval walled town of Laguardia, famous for wine making and its extraordinary network of ancient underground cellars.
The week will also include a day trip over the border to France, experiencing some of the finest French gastronomic traditions.
Making the experience even more authentic, your accommodation will include 18th century mansions, refurbished country farmhouses in the midst of gorgeous countryside and a converted winery.
Day One - Bilbao-Rioja
Known as 'the garden of Spain' the Rioja region is renowned for its phenomenally flavoursome fruit and vegetables, (as well as, of course, for its world-famous wines), thanks to the extraordinary fertility of the soil and climate. Within hours of arriving in the region, you'll soon be experiencing the tastes and flavours that have made the region so famous for yourselves.
We'll arrive at Bilbao, one of the key ports in the Basque Country and home to architect Frank Gehry's internationally celebrated avant-garde Guggenheim Museum. We'll then transfer to the small town of Logrono in La Rioja, famous for its outstanding tapas culture (tapas being the small portions of served traditionally served with drink).
After checking-in at our selected hotel and relaxing with a reviving welcome drink, we'll talk through our forthcoming itinerary, before heading out to start sampling some of the region's most famous flavours.
Dinner will comprise of a tapas tour of the long, narrow streets of Calle Laurel and Calle San Juan in the Old Town, which between them are home to more than 100 tapas bars and restaurants. There you'll sample outstanding dishes unique to the Rioja region such as the wonderfully sweet and succulent pata negra tomatoes (a green and red striped cross breed renowned for their flavour) and salads made purely from local varieties of unusually mild, sweet onions unlike anything you've ever tasted before!
Drive: 90 minutes Bilbao-Logrono
Overnight in Logrono
Day Two - Logrono-Cameros-Logrono
After a Continental breakfast of wonderful coffee, charcuterie, cheeses, pastries and fresh orange juice, we'll visit Logrono's wonderful, bustling 19th century covered food market where some one hundred local producers hawk their wares. Amidst aisles brimming with hanging garlic and dried red peppers, and some of hugest apples and peaches you've ever seen, you'll buy fresh local products for your cooking class in the evening.
We'll then take a drive through the spectacular scenery of the Cameros mountains to a small, award-winning, family run Almazara (olive oil makers) where you'll be able to learn how extra virgin olive oil is produced and harvested as well as tasting some of these exceptional oils themselves, accompanied by small nibbles of local food.
We'll also visit a rural farmhouse where you'll get the chance of a once in a lifetime hands-on experience! The Cameros mountains are famously home to some of Spain's best goat cheeses and those who wish will be shown how to milk a goat in the stables. You'll then take the freshly-drawn milk to the farmhouse where you'll learn how to turn it into the most delicious goat cheese. You'll certainly never have tasted anything so fresh!
You'll get more of a chance to take in some of the stunning landscape over lunch as we sit down amongst the locals to traditional local dishes such as carilleras (tenderly cooked beef cheeks) or cod with mushrooms at a restaurant in the small town of Torrecilla de Cameros overlooking the nearby river and surrounding mountains.
After lunch you'll have time to explore the picturesque, steep narrow streets in the village before we return to Logrono. There will then be leisure time to relax and perhaps explore the old part of the city. Alternatively, should you wish, there will also be an opportunity to visit a nearby bee farm where you see honey being extracted from the hives (in full safety of course!) and learn about honey's fascinating variety of properties and uses.
In the evening you'll be treated to one of the highlights of the trip: unique access to a cookery class and dinner in the oldest private gastronomy society in La Rioja. Throughout Spain gastronomy societies meet regularly to sample the very finest in local food but access to these historic societies is usually highly restricted and often impossible. However, here in La Rioja, you'll be able to experience this wonderful tradition yourself.
Using fresh local ingredients from the market such as mushrooms and asparagus, you can either just sit back and learn the tricks of Riojan gastronomy or take part in preparing local dishes such as bacalao a la Riojana (Rioja-style salt cod with roasted red peppers, onion and tomato sauce) or pork stew with garlic, onion and peppers. You'll then to a superb dinner in a glorious 19th century mansion in the old quarter of the city.
Drive: 80 minutes return Logrono-Cameros-Logrono
Overnight in Logrono
Day Three - Logrono - Walking through Vineyards
This morning our specialist guide - an expert in local countryside, gastronomy and history, will take us on a fantastically memorable 8 mile walking tour through the stunning Cantabrian mountain range, dotted with medieval hilltop villages.
We'll follow the undulating Rioja Alavesa wine route, which takes us through the vineyard-filled Riojan landscape and historic villages originally built as defences against the neighbouring kingdoms of Navarra and Castille. Our guide will talk us through this fascinating history as well as explaining the secrets of the surrounding terrain and the different grape varieties we'll see growing in the vineyards.
If you happen to be there in the autumn, you may even be able to spend a few minutes helping the local farmers and grape gatherers with a light spot of grape picking for the harvest! Otherwise, the only other locals you're likely to spot on this beautifully tranquil walk are foxes, rabbits, eagles and hawks, or maybe the odd deer.
Our walk will then finish at the entrance to Heredad Ugarte, one of the area's most interesting wineries. We will visit the winery's subterranean caves and barrel rooms before sitting down to lunch. This will be another feast of superb local fare with the opportunity to try local stews and specialities such as lamb chops grilled on vine branches (which you'll see being grilled).
After returning to Logrono in the late afternoon, you'll have free time to either relax in the hotel or explore shopping and/or more tapas in the Old Town.
Walk: 8 miles (13km) easy to moderate, 4.0 hours, ascent 200 metres
Drive: 20 minutes transfer out to walking starting point and 30 minutes transfer back to Logrono
Overnight in Logrono
Day Four - Laguardia
Today we'll set off to the dramatic, medieval walled town of Laguardia, perched high on a hilltop overlooking the surrounding valleys. The town is famous for its wineries, many of which use the extensive network of centuries-old underground tunnels and we will have privileged access to one of the best subterranean cellars in the town. Located some 22 feet beneath the historic .... century Palace of the Samaniegos, the winery of El Fabulista has one of the town's most fascinating histories and still produces some 32,000 litres of wines every year. There you'll see what amounts to an on-site history of wine-making: from the areas where grapes are still trodden under human feet ( just as they have been for centuries) to a press dating from 1903 and a machine known as the "despalilladora" which is used to remove the stalks from the grapes as well as the atmospheric cellars and barrel rooms where wines are aged.
Finally, at a specially prepared Wine Tasting, you'll be able to observe for yourself how the wooden barrelled aging process rounds and softens the wines. You'll taste the clear difference between a new young wine which has not been through the wooden barrel aging process and a crianza wine which has been a few months in a wooden barrel.
Just in case you had any doubt that you were in the heart of wine country, we'll next take a trip to a small village (name?) in the Rioja Baja (lower Rioja) region, which despite having only a population of 3000, is nevertheless home to no less than 20 wineries.
But this time we'll be here mainly for the food. There's nothing quite like fresh vegetable cooked within moments of being picked from the earth and here we'll visit an allotment where the fruit and vegetables are especially famous for their vibrant flavours. We'll see tomatoes, courgettes, melons, onions, garlic, peppers and lettuce as well as one or two herbs specific to the region such as thistle and borrage which are often used in salads and local dishes.
Using the same vegetables we'll have seen growing in the allotment, we'll then take them to eat as part of a wonderfully flavour some special lunch in a private country house, sampling dishes particular to this area.
After lunch you'll have downtime to leisurely wander the village and mix with locals in cafes and bars where local wines are almost always the drink of choice. You'll have the chance to see for yourself how closely wine and gastronomy are linked in Riojan culture.
From exceptional food, we'll then round off the day with some more stunning scenery. We'll leave La Rioja to head off on a fantastic drive through the wonderfully, mountainous Navarran countryside, past the picture postcard Bay of San Sebastian to the beautiful medieval fishing town of Hondarribias in the Basque Country, where we'll be checking in to our hotel.
Transfer to Hondarribia next to San Sebastian and the French border. Check-in our selected hotel in Hondarribia.
Drive: 40 minutes to Rioja Baja, 2 hours Rioja to Hondarribia
Overnight in Hondarribia
Day Five - Hondarribia-Pasajes De San Juan-Astigarraga
You'll have got a sense of the wonderful local scenery during our journey to Hondarribia the day before but today you'll be in for a still more spectacular scenic treat.
After breakfast, our local guide will take us on an unforgettable 9 mile walk through the mountains to the gorgeous traditional fishing village of Pasajes de San Juan. Along the way, you'll be able to admire breathtaking views of the Atlantic ocean to the right and the valley on the left. We'll then have a brief walk through the village's picturesque streets before settling down in a local restaurant for the wonderfully fresh 'catch of the day' (usually hake, monkfish or Dover sole), expertly grilled and served with the Basque region's own sauces.
After our lunch has revived us from the morning's walk, we'll then slow down the pace as we transfer to the small nearby town of Astigarraga where we'll be visiting the fascinating cider museum to see how the traditional local brew is made, as well as, of course, tasting some of the amber nectar itself!
Finally we'll return to our hotel and you'll have the evening free for downtime or to explore Hondarribia at your leisure.
Walk: 9 miles (15km) moderate, 4.0 hours, ascent 300 metres
Drive: 20 minutes from Pasajes to Astigarraga and 30 minutes back to Hondarribia
Overnight in Hondarribia
Day Six - Trip to Ordizia
After breakfast, you'll be in for another unforgettable experience as we visit one of Spain's oldest and most colourful food markets in the small town of Ordizia. In many ways little changed for centuries, this weekly Wednesday street market, which celebrates it 500th anniversary in 2012, you'll mingle with buyers and sellers of food and livestock and enjoy the fantastically lively banter as people haggle and barter over everything from horses and lambs to a pound of asparagus.
You'll see the full array of the Basque Country cuisine's fantastically rich and diverse produce from vegetables, fruits, cheeses, hams and different types of meats.
If you love good cheese, you'll adore our next stop. From Ordizia, we'll continue to the small inland town of Idiazabal, famous for its cured, sheep's milk cheese of the same name. (For cheese-lovers dying to know what it tastes like â€“ think somewhere between a French Brie and Spanish Manchego). We'll visit a cheese maker where our guide will talk us through the cheese-making-process, followed by a tasting.
For lunch, we'll be visiting one of the Basque country's renowned 'asadors' where meat is traditionally roasted in wooden ovens, with the chance to sample local specialities such parrillada based on different meats eg beef, lamb or tender pork.
We'll then transfer back to the hotel and you'll have the evening free
Drive: 2 hours return. Hondarribia-Ordizia-Idiazabal-
Overnight in Hondarribia
Day Seven - Hondarribia- South of France
After breakfast, we'll have the chance to get a real 360 degree culinary picture of the region; having had a taste of some of the most outstanding flavours in Northern Spain, you'll now get to taste those of neighbouring France. We'll be heading out over the Spanish border to the picturesque fishing port of St Juan de Luz on the French Atlantic coast just south of Biarritz. With its picturesque whitewashed houses and red roofs, we'll visit the weekly food market where you'll learn about the different type of vegetables, cured meats, fruits and cheeses specific to the area and you'll also of course be able to compare for yourselves the differences between the French and Spanish food markets we'll already have visited in Ordizia.
We'll then continue to French Basque town of Espelette, famed for the dried peppers which add their distinctive local flavour to so many of the French and Basque country's most typical dishes. Our guide will take us on a tour of the town, focusing on the peppers and local culinary traditions before we head off for lunch in the French town of Aihnoa, widely considered one of the most beautiful in France.
In a valley surrounded by mountains, we'll sit down to local dishes such as Carne Picada- sliced pieces of beef with grilled fresh vegetables whilst enjoying the phenomenal scenery.
After lunch we'll continue to the ancient town of Bayonne, straddling the river Nive with its Gothic architecture and ancient bridges, to visit one of the town's celebrated cured ham makers. The delicious Bayonne ham is another essential ingredient in Basque cuisine, renowned worldwide for its delicate taste and gorgeous, orangey color and you'll have the chance to learn about its history and see traditional Bayonne ham left hanging to be dried.
We'll then transfer back to the hotel in Hondarribia where you'll have downtime to yourselves to relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
Drive: 2 hours return Hondarribia-St Juan de Luz-Spelette-Bayonne-Hondarribia
Overnight in Hondarribia
Day Eight - Departure
Breakfast and transfer to the airport for your international flight back home.
Drive: 80 minutes Hondarribia-Bilbao
Price Per Person: 3.459 EUROS (*)
Minimum 2 people
Duration - 8 days / 7 nights
(*) SPECIAL PRICES for groups with 4 people or more.
Upgrade of Accommodation on request.
From April to October- Every Week.
From November to March- On request.
We can also organize a similar tour subject to your requirements of number of people and days, budget etc,
please e-mail us on [email protected].
BOOK NOW e-mail us at [email protected] with the departure date and number of people.
Transport for 7 full days.
Transfers from and to Barcelona Airport and from Barcelona to Penedes and to Priorat.
Personalised English/Spanish speaking expert guide throughout the tour.
Seven nights' accommodation based on double occupancy with private bath. Boutique and countryside hotels. Two nights in Barcelona, Two nights in Penedes and three nights in Priorat.
Seven full breakfasts.
Guided visit to the famous Boqueria food market in Barcelona.
Guided gastronomy rally in the Gothic quarter in Barcelona visiting speciality delicatessen shops.
Guided walking tour of the Modernist District in Barcelona including the Gaudi monuments.
Guided visit of Montserrat Sanctuary and Mountain.
Guided cultural tour to Penedes region including the Castle of Sant Marti Sarroca.
Guided visit to a local food market.
Guided visit to a leading organic wine estate in Penedes.
Six Gourmet lunches (charming local restaurants, wineries and private houses).
Three dinners, one based on a tapas tour and another two based on two cooking workshops.
Guided visit to an olive mill including olive-oil tasting with snacks.
Guided trip to Ebro river Delta.
Guided visit to a sausage factory.
Guided visit of a family run winery followed by wine tasting.
Private guided olive oil tasting in the hotel.
Guided visit to Scala Dei, Carthusian Monastery (Origins of Priorat).
Guided visit to a private local fruit and vegetable allotment.
Two towns and medieval villages guided walking tours.
Guided visit to a private cheese-maker factory including tasting.
Guided visit to a mussel and oyster farm in the river Ebro Delta including tasting.
Guided visit to a local private rice factory.
What is not Included
Meals not specified.
EXAMPLE OF ACCOMMODATION USED IN BARCELONA, PENEDES AND PRIORAT (*)
Hotel the Praktik (Barcelona)
Located in a historical building from the Modernist age, in the heart of the Eixample district. A short walk from Paseo de Gracia and PlaÃ§a Catalunya; close to Casa Mila and Casa Terrades. Sagrada Familia, Catedral de Barcelona and Museu Picasso.
The rooms have free wireless Wi-Fi Internet connection available 24 hours a day. A computer is provided in the hotel lounge, so that you can consult it whenever you want. If you want to travel as light as possible, leave your laptop at home. At Praktik you will find vending machines for all the snacks you might feel like having throughout the day... and the night. Two options for Breakfast are offered: one in the well-known restaurant "Qu Qu" located in Paseo de Gracia, just 4 blocks from the hotel and another restaurant closer, just 50 meters away. In both of them you can enjoy an excellent breakfast (small baguette to choose + pastry + coffee + orange juice) for just 6.48 euros per person.
The Praktik has a larger and beautifully arranged terrace for you to enjoy throughout your stay.
The hotel has 43 designer rooms, which combine the most chic trends with the spirit of the Barcelona Modernist style at a low cost. The hundred-year-old ceilings and floors have retained the original moldings and mosaics; the contemporary design lamps defy gravity; the mirrors and bold design touches convey unique sensations. The decor of the rooms showcases a combination of Barcelona modernism and striking cultural heritage, retaining the century-old ceilings and mosaic floors alongside the addition of smart contemporary lighting, mirrors and amenities.
All rooms have TV, free WIFI and fully-fitted bathroom.
Cal Ruget Bio-Hotel (Penedes)
Situated in the heart of Penedes you will find our farmhouse near the village of Vilobi just 9 km from Villafranca del Penedes and a little more than 45 km from Barcelona and Tarragona.
From the masia, which is surrounded by vineyards and tipical crops of the area, you can enjoy uninterrupted views of the mountains of Montserrat to the castle of Sant Marti Sarroca. The main house dates from the beginning of the 1900s with characteristic architectural elements inspired by the rural surroundings.Over the years the house has been modernised and currently includes more than 550 sq metres distributed between the main house and the various outbuildings.
A large secluded garden is composed of vines, fruit trees, ecological vegetable garden and numerous small corners that invite you to relax and listen to the rhythm of country life.All rooms have an area exceeding 25 m2, and have a full bathroom with shower, large beds, Radio & CD-player, TV and open-bar. Each room is decorated in country style itself and different from the others, with endless small details.
This Bio-hotel is a pioneering initiative, the first country hotel of its type in Spain. As a Bioh-otel, our "raison d'etre" is maximum respect for the environment, sustainability and the cultivation and use of biological products. To enjoy this property is to satisfy the five senses, without haste and with time to observe the smaller details of life.
Cal Compte (Priorat)
Cal Compte is one of the most luxurious stately homes in the region of the Priorat. Situated in the centre of the village Torroja del Priorat right opposite the church, it was built in 1801 although the house has parts which date back to the 16th and 17th centuries. This house belonged to one of the foremost families in the Priorat. The house is a recognized heritage site for its architectural interest whose owners have respectfully renovated it.
Cal Compte aims to combine respect for history with modern installations and most importantly comfortable ones. All the lodgings are on the top floor of the house. There are eight individually decorated rooms. The rooms are set around a central room with sofas and a wood-burning fireplace. It has a sunbathing terrace complete with deck chairs. Standard rooms or studios with small kitchens for self-catering. Every room has a bathroom, Air conditioning and central heating. Each shower has a wooden floor and is enclosed in safety glass with monsoon shower heads. It has environmentally friendly toilets that save water. We use body products specially made for us by a local artisan based on wine extracts.
Cal Compte uses only quality materials: 100% cotton bedclothes (Nicoletta), all season quilts, 180x200m mattresses Flex (double and single beds), "monoon" showers, lighting by Santa & Cole, upholstery and curtains by GastÃ³n & Daniela, shutters by Nanimarquina.
On the second floor there is a ballroom and a colonial terrace. Cal Compte offers an Art&Wine Gallery which organizes special events, meetings, conferences, celebrations, weddings, olive oil tastings, wine tastings, exhibitions.
On the ground floor there is a dining room with a well equipped kitchen for preparing breakfast, lunch or dinner even for use in self catering or cooking classes.Also, Cal Compte boasts a specialist library on wine and olive oil, some books have been written by the owners themselves, who are recognized authorities on these subjects.
Sunny colonial terrace with lounge seating for great views over vineyards, perfect for reading a book and relaxing with a cup of tea o a nice glass of wine. The loudest thing you will hear is the chirping of the birds!, Shared outdoor pool unheated, BBQ and solarium are also available.