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Things to Do in Basque Country - page 3

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Haro

The town of Haro is the wine capital of La Rioja region, known for its local red wine production and many bodegas. Its annual Haro Wine Festival draws in visitors from all over the world, and the climate, soil and infrastructures built by the French — who came to La Rioja to grow wine in the 19th century after pests attacked their own vineyards — all contribute to the prime conditions for growing grapes here. With clay soils sheltered by the Cantabrian mountain range, the vineyards here grow some of the best wine in Spain.

Wine is the cultural and economic center of life in Haro. There is even a Museo del Vino (wine museum) in town, with tasting courses available, and each year Haro hosts a citywide “wine battle” where two sides pour thousands of liters of wine on one another. Haro also has an artistic heritage with homes and taverns in the Casco Vierno (Old Quarter), as well as the historic Santo Tomás church.

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Bizkaia Museum of Archaeology

This chronological collection showcases the history of Bizkaia with archaeological artifacts ranging from pre-historic times to the modern world. The permanent collection contains the materials collected from several excavations in the area, including ancient tools, ceramics and pottery. The two floors display pieces of history from periods as diverse as the Iron Age, the Middle Ages, and even the Stone Age. Many of the items originated at the nearby excavation site at Santimamiñe cave, in Kortezubi.

The museum houses modern conservation and restoration facilities and doubles as a center for research and classification. Audio and video in the exhibits explains prehistory, early rituals, the history of Bilbao, and the processes of archaeology. Educational presentations work to connect the artifacts of the past and the historical and cultural heritage of this area with the awareness of modern society.

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Loizaga Tower (Torre Loizaga)

Both car lovers and castle lovers will find a slice of heaven at Loizaga Tower. Nestled away in the mountains of Basque Country, the medieval castle is in fact home to a car museum, which includes one of the best Rolls-Royce collections in the world. The venue alone is spectacular, but it’s the car collection that anyone with even a light interest in automobiles absolutely won’t want to miss.

The museum is made up of 75 vehicles — 45 of which are Rolls-Royces -

and spans six sections. These different areas cover a variety of themes from carriages to classic autos, sports cars, luxury rides (many of which were owned by royals and celebrities), and a whole range of Rolls-Royces that span all corners of the maker’s history. With no crowds and a positively stunning atmosphere, the museum is very much worth visiting despite the beautiful-but-not-so-close-by location.

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Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve (Urdaibai Reserva de la Biosfera)

Slowly meandering toward the Sea of Biscay, the Oca River Estuary forms a vast wetland, the Iberian Peninsula's most important. It is protected by both the RAMSAR agreement and as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve (Urdaibai Reserva de la Biosfera) is home to scores of seabirds and other wildlife.

Perhaps more importantly to some visitors, it is lined with wide golden beach and quiet coves of soft sand, undulating with the tides. If you tire of tanning and swimming, climb well-marked trails into the surrounding mountains for spectacular views over the islands and sea.

This unparalleled setting has long inspired humankind to build, from today's pretty fishing villages to a ruined hermitage atop the island ofSandinderi, connected to the mainland at low tide.

Far more ancient remains include the Dolmen ofSorbituaga-Arriatara (Busturia), perhaps dating to the Iron Age, and the ancient paintings ofCave Santimamiñe. Surrounding this last are theEnchanted Forests of Oma, where artist Agustín Ibarrola works directly with nature.

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