The Spanish side of Euskal Herria is known by the Basques as “Hegoalde” which means south. It is made up by the autonomous communities of the Spanish Basque Country and Navarre. The French Basque Country, on the other hand, is known as “Iparralde” (north).
While the Spanish Basque Country and Navarre are official regions (comunidades autónomas) of Spain, the French Basque Country isn’t an officially recognized region of France. Instead, it belongs to New Aquitaine, occupying its southwestern corner.
The total population of Euskal Herria is about 3.2 million: 2.2 million in the Spanish Basque Country, 660,000 in Navarre and 300,000 in the French Basque Country.
The Spanish Basque Country is home to the largest and most touristic cities in all of Euskal Herria: Bilbao and San Sebastián.
There are a lot of things to do in the Spanish Basque Country such as exploring the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, savoring delicious pintxos in San Sebastian’s old town or venturing out to discover some of its hidden gems such as the breathtaking San Juan de Gaztelugatxe.
If you are into wine, check out the red wines around Laguardia in Rioja Alavesa (in the southern tip of the Spanish Basque Country) and the white wine txakoli around Getaria (along the bay of Biscay).
Less than 10% of the total population of Euskal Herria lives in the French Basque Country. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a lot of things to do in the French Basque Country.
The region is much more developed along the coast, where the largest cities can be found: Bayonne and Biarritz. During the summer, the area is a popular beach destination, beloved by both French and Spaniards, as well as international tourists.
As you go towards the interior, the landscapes quickly become more mountainous and rural. But the area still has a lot to discover, such as exploring the quaint tiny villages of Espelette, famous for its peppers, and St Jean Pied de Port, well-known for being a popular start point of the St Jacques pilgrimage.
The capital of Navarre, Pamplona, is considered the historic capital of Euskal Herria. The city is renowned worldwide for being home to one of the largest fiestas in the world, the San Fermin festival, famous for its traditional running of the bulls.
Navarre is a land of contrasts with a large list of things to do. While its green mountainous north borders with the Pyrenees and is a nature lovers’ paradise, the south is made up by the very unusual semi-desertic landscapes of the Bardenas Reales.
For more places to visit in Spain, check out our latest project España Guide.
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