Our route crosses the Basque Country through the Pyrenees and the coast of Cantabria, in France and Spain, and it may be necessary to point out what “Basque” means, since it is usually confusing.
Basque Country, or Euskal Herria in Basque, literally means “the town inhabited by people who speak Basque”; it is a place name which currently covers the Autonomous Community of the Basque Country (CAV) or Euskadi (Álava, Vitoria, and Guipúzcoa), and the Autonomous Community of Navarre, or Nafarroa, in Spanish territory, and three more provinces in French territory (Lower Navarre, Lapurdi, and Zuberoa).
In Spain, the Autonomous Community of Navarre and the Autonomous Community of Euskadi have the right to unite in one single autonomous territory, so the CAV administration would include the territories of Navarre, although inhabitants of Navarre have not decided whether to exercise this right yet. The territories under French administration nowadays do not have as many political rights recognized in the Constitution. All these territories have a common millenary history, and their own language, Basque, the origins of which are unknown, and which was never latinised, so it is a linguistic rarity in a geographical environment surrounded by Romance languages.
Stages of the coast to coast Iberian route crossing Euskadi
As regards our Iberian route, from Irún, we use Basque Country or Euskadi specifically to identify the CAV, and not the group of all the previously described territories. We do so for practical purposes, since when we cross the CAV, we will see that, everywhere, the government advertising uses Euskadi or Basque Country only to refer to the three provinces of the CAV, out of which we will cross two along the coast of Cantabria.
Our Basque route starts in Irún, the first major town in Euskadi, and a city at sea level, from which we will go to Hondarribia, where we can consider Jordi Laparra’s traditional Transpyrenean tour as finished, or we can go on to Donostia/San Sebastián, and end the extended tour proposed by other authors, which is also the end of the Transpyr commercial race.
From Irún, the route we propose traverses Euskadi for 184 km, running parallel to and following exactly the Northern Route of the Way of Saint James, also called the Coastal Route, combining roads and forest trails in order to have an itinerary that is completely suitable for cycling. Although we will see that, in many sections, we divert from the Way, our route has been designed so that those who want to follow it can enjoy the cultural legacy and the accommodation network offered by the traditional Jacobean route.
From Irún to Ondarroa, we will follow the coastline; from Ondarroa to Bilbo, we will use inland trails and roads crossing the forest of Gernika; and from Bilbo to Muskiz, we will follow the coastline again, so that we can have a clear and broad idea of the different, rural and urban, coastal and inland, aspects of current Euskadi.
List of stages of the route by Euskadi