Introduction to Basque Country
In the most eastern part of the Gulf of Biscay, nestled between Cantabria, Navarra and La Rioja, is the Basque Country, one of the most industrialized of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions.
This relatively small region is known as Pais Vasco in Spanish and Euskadi in Basque and is further divided into three provinces; Alava, Guipúzcoa and Biscay.
The Basque Country is governed by its own regional institutions under the 1979 Autonomy Law and has its own parliament and government. Its natural resources include timber, lead, oil, iron ore, mineral water and hydropower.
The Spanish region also has a distinctive culture and its own language, Euskera. It is equally famed for its unique folklore and boasts its own regional sport, pelota vasca (or Basqueball).
As well as large cities and industrialised areas the Basque Country is home to spectacular natural parks, beaches and historically significant architecture. Its varied terrain and mild climate make it a popular region for mountain sports enthusiasts, hikers, golfers and horse riders.
The climate in the Basque Country varies from oceanic in the northern valleys to continental Mediterranean in both the middle sections and Ebro Valley.
Natural disasters don’t often hit the region but when they do avalanches and forest fires are the most common kinds.
Environmental issues currently affecting the Basque Country include air pollution, wastewater treatment and deforestation.
Although the city Vitoria-Gasteiz is the region’s capital San Sebastian and Bilbao are generally considered to be its most important cities.
San Sebastian – During the nineteenth century San Sebastian was a famous beach resort among aristocrats. The reasons for its popularity are still clear to see in the impressive architecture and stunning beaches. San Sebastian remains a hugely attractive holiday destination, particularly among the privileged.
Bilbao – This is the largest city in the region and is recognised for its industrial and economic importance. The area is also known for its historic quarter, featuring an imposing Gothic Cathedral. However, the most famous site to see in Bilbao is the Guggenheim Museum. It’s striking and influential avant-garde architecture draws tourists from all over the world.
The Basque Country in Facts and Figures
- Surface area: 7,234 km2
- Population: Over 2 million
- Population density: 300 people per km2
- Population growth rate 5.80/1,000 population
- Birth rate: 9.3%
- Death Rate 8.9%
- Male life expectancy: 76.4 years
- Female life expectancy: 83.7 years
- Main religion: Roman Catholic
- Geographic coordinates: 42 50 N, 2 41 W
- Coastline: 252 km
- Land boundaries: 686km
- Lowest Point: Gulf of Biscay 0 m
- Highest Point: Monte Aitxuri 1,551 m
Fun Basque Country facts
- Instead of traditional Spanish tapas the Basque country offers pintxos, finger foods that are often served cold.
- The symbol of the Basque country is an oak tree.
- Some of the world’s best Spanish chefs come from the Basque Country.
- Picasso’s famous painting Guernica is based on Hitler’s bombing of a Basque Country city with the same name.
- The Basque flag, known as Ikurrina, was created in 1894.
- During the period 1936-1975 Ikurrina was decreed to be an illegal separatist symbol.
- The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is thought to be one of the greatest modern art museums in Spain, second only to Madrid’s Reina Sofia.
- Tamborrada is one of the Basque Countries most famous festivals. It takes place in San Sebastian and features heavy drum use and long parades. Tamborrada is generally considered to be the noisiest festival in Spain.
This page was kindly written by the Expat Hub