MTB Travel Guide: Basque Country

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Place: Basque Country
Country: France and Spain
Number of trails: 20+
Predominant riding style: All-mountain/enduro

The Basque Country is the autonomous region of northern Spain that reaches into the southwest corner of France. It hasn’t long been known as a mountain bike hot spot, but with a dedicated mountain bike holiday provider in the area its reputation is growing fast.

The Basque at its best. Memorable sunsets, cliff-top rides and superb trails are the norm here in the warmer seasons.

About the Basque Country

Once a united, the Basque area has long been separated between the two countries, but the community, with their dialect and determination to once again live as a separate enmity to their ‘guardians’ of France and Spain clearly define themselves as a race of their own.

Perhaps the most famous name from the Basque is that of San Sebastian – the lively student town riddled with passageways, eateries and lively bars. Perfect beaches border the Basque Country and the area is almost as known for its surfing and stunning beauty as its troublesome past.

Not all the trails are coastal, in fact there are some sizeable mountains further inland and great rides to go with them. But we all like to see the sea, don’t we?

The riding

Mountains rise directly from the sea in all but the most northern part of the Basque. All along the coastline lie walking trails, many atop high cliffs that give an extraordinary and different feel to a bike ride than found almost anywhere else in the world. These trails are not simple coastal paths though, they include technical forested sections, steep descents and in places small fishing vessels bridge gaps. Where else can one surf clean waves, sip beers by the beach and ride snakes of singletrack all in one afternoon?

Head inland and the mountains rear up to headier heights, some of over 1,500metres, which is especially enticing when you consider that the Atlantic is visible from most high-up vantage points in the Basque. There is a mix of mellow but pleasing Oakland trails and rugged mountain slopes with equally as brutal trails to access peaks and high-up abodes. These trails are far removed in location and terrain from the coastal paths but add a layer of diversity to the Basque that makes it a truly superb holiday destination for British mountain bikers.

Just pick the right season – the weather can be just as unpleasant as the UK during winter.

San Sebastián is the perfect place to finish a ride with plentiful bars and restaurants and a busy nightlife.

How to get there

Easyjet fly daily from Stansted to Bilbao.

Guiding firms in the area

Basque MTB is run by Scottish ex-pat Douglas Mcdonald. Guiding is expert, well considered and Doug is a polite and passionate cyclist.

Packages include airport transfers, accommodation, guiding and breakfast and start at €580.

All photos in this feature © Douglas Mcdonald

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