Araba is the biggest of the three provinces that make Euskadi-the Basque Country, as it´s called. Its capital is Vitoria-Gasteiz, where the Basque Government and a good part of the Administration is based. Araba is usually ignored by tourism, except for its southern part, the wine region of Rioja Alavesa, where the best wines of Europe are made.
If coming to the Basque Country, try not to ignore Araba. It offers wonderful natural spaces (Valderejo, Gorbeia and Izki Natural Parks, for example), a wide diversity in landscapes and climates, excellent food, a great capital worth a visit and unexplored valleys surrounded by beautiful mountains.
Vitoria-Gasteiz is considered the most livable city in Spain, due to its ample spaces, the high rate of trees per habitant, number of parks, low crime rate and high number of pedestrian areas. Its Old Quarter was declared a Protected Monument in 1997, and keeps the spirit of the old times. The restoration of the old cathedral, www.catedralvitoria.com, can be followed in a guided tour that explains the whole process and has won several awards as Best Restoration Project. Not far, you can have lunch at www.restauranteelportalon.com, a XV century building with a spectacular façade and a beautiful interior, and great food, of course!!. You can´t miss the excellent pintxos served at its many bars, many located in the pedestrian street Eduardo Dato (a popular one is www.sagartoki.es). And, on the way out of town, the sanctuary dedicated to the Virgin of Estibalitz, many girls are named after the matron saint of the province.
Not far from Vitoria-Gasteiz, you can enjoy the reservoirs of Urrunaga and Ullibarri-Ganboa, both offer excellent hikes and places to have great food. The town of Peñacerrada-Urizaharra, still keeps a good part of its mediaeval walls untouched. In Salinas de Añana, further south, near the Valdegovía valley, pure rock salt is obtained as it was done hundreds of years ago, in terraces where water evaporates (guided tours available). And then, the Rioja region…that will be object of a separate post.
Two great museums in Vitoria-Gasteiz not to be missed: Artium, www.artium.org, contemporary art in a spectacular building, and the Museum Fournier of Cards, over 20.000 models of playing cards of all countries.