Beaching It Up this Summer in Spain’s – Basque Country?

Spain is of course known as one of Europe’s beachiest lands, from the Costa del Sol to the Canary Islands to the sweet little coves of Ibiza and Minorca. But the green north, along the Atlantic Ocean’s Bay of Biscay, is also lined with great (if a bit chillier of water) beaches, which tend to have a wilder, more laid-back feel – more surrounded by nature and quaint coastal fishing villages instead of holiday resorts (not to mention less crowded with holidaymakers from abroad – most of your fellow beachgoers up here will be Spaniards).

Euskadi – aka the Basque Country – is an excellent case in point, with some 45 beaches along 160 kilometres (99 miles) of coastline. The jewel in the crown here is right in the city of San Sebastián (aka Donostia). Filled with beachgoers all summer long, the Playa de la Concha on the Bay of La Concha stretches more than 1.5km (just under a mile); has shallow, calm waters; and is protected by headlands on either side as well as lined by an elegant boardwalk.

By contrast, if you’re looking for something a bit wilder in terms of both surroundings and waves, head a half hour west of San Sebastián to Zumaia, where the special charm of the 270-metre (886-foot) Blue-Flag Playa de Itzurun is the enormous escarpments flanking it and especially the series of distinctive ridges that emerge from the water. (Another fun fact: this beach was used in season seven of Game of Thrones to film the scene in which Daenerys Targaryen returns to her ancestral castle Dragonstone.)

Another of Euskadi’s loveliest strands, just 20 minutes east of Itzurun, the Playa de Zarautz, is also the longest of them all, with more than 2km (1¼ mi.) of tawny sand. The active warm-weather scene here includes bathing, sunning, and surfing (annual competitions are held here), as well as kayaking/canoeing, diving/snorkeling, paragliding, kite flying, fishing, and a beachfront promenade with plenty of restaurants and bars.

We’ll wrap this selection up farther east, some 20 minutes outside Bilbao, with Sopelana (aka Sopla) which has a string of four beaches and also especially popular with surfers; the best known is Barinatxe, but neighbouring Arrietara, Atxabiribil, and Meñakoz are also well worth a visit.

So if you’re looking for a different place to hit the sand in Spain, grab a flight to San Sebastián or Bilbao and discover what Euskadi has to offer!

Photo: Kiosko