If you’re currently planning your trip to Europe, we have an extra tip for you. In this week’s #ExperienceOfTheWeek series, we introduce you to Explora Norte, a group of tour guides waiting to show you all the beautiful corners of Basque Coast, Spain. In our latest interview, we talked to Laura, the founder, and owner of Explora Norte, about her story, her plans for the future, and how this year’s summer season looks like in the age of the global pandemics. Ready? Let’s dive in.
Q1: Hi Laura, how are you doing? How is life around Euskadi these days?
Good afternoon, first of all, thank you for giving me this opportunity to introduce you to my land, the Basque Country.
Despite standing out for being a humid area, the weather is changing and it is not raining as much anymore. In fact, this year we are having heat! But in these Coronavirus moments, there is almost no tourism, the streets are almost empty. It is a little sad. Despite the green areas, the mountains, and the color
Q2: Tell us more about Explora Norte. How did it all start? Where does the name come from?
The Explora-Norte company is a project that started 5 years ago, we are going to 6! Actually, I was born out of some personal circumstances and the illusion of working around art and leisure.
I studied Art History and since I finished my degree and doctorate I always wanted to work in art. But here it is difficult. With which I worked for many years as a librarian. But there were some bad years, without work, so I took advantage and start my own company related to tourism.
Our tours or experiences (as we like to say) are unique, made with care and detail, regardless of the time, you pay for the enjoyment and knowledge. What started as something incognito, proving already, after 5 years, we are consolidated. We cannot complain, in difficult moments like now, we continue working. The name comes from the fact that we are the northern part of Spain, and my interest is that you enjoy it, explore it, get lost with us in our land of legends, wonders, and unknowns.
More unique is the logo, a green clover, evoking that color of the Basque Country, and that desire of 5 years ago for the company to function and build my work from my leisure. In turn, the clover is inside a sandwich with cartoons, as if emphasizing that we like tourists to get involved and want to know, even our “bilbainadas” (exaggerations, because if we highlight the Basques in something they are exaggerating everything).
Q3: Basque Country is an amazing destination and I bet there are dozens of things to show to fellow travelers. How many guides do you have in your team? Are you all locals?
For us, it is very important that the guides are local because we are the ones who know our land and our anecdotes the best.
At the moment we are 6 guides with enough languages, including: English, German, French, Spanish, Basque, Italian, Portuguese, Greek, and sign language. This year we wanted to start with Russian but we will wait another year.
A visit with our guide is different. We don’t want to “drop the roll” and you’re gone. We want to involve you on earth. For this reason, we use a friendly tone, close, and familiar treatment. We always say that our visits are like going with a friend that you haven’t seen in a while.
Q4: Your selection of experiences is literally endless. You offer urban tours, gastronomic tours, and even personalized plans. What are the most popular activities among travelers who come to you?
Mostly visits to the Guggenheim Museum. Then the personalized visits. They are the ones we like the most and the most they play.
Normally a guide is requested for a 4-hour tour. However, in many cases, we have reached 7-8 hours-long tours with so much laugh and good vibes. Tourists end up happy and do not pay more but enjoy twice as much.
On more than one occasion we had a scheduled trip to Donosti, and we liked each other so well, that we stopped in towns and knew things that were not planned but that we are proud to have and show. Urban experiences such as gastronomy or txakoli tastings are also in high demand.
Q5: Today many people travel and plan their itineraries on their own. Why would you recommend booking one of your experiences to our travelers?
Ouch! I think I will go ahead with this question!
You can take a tour guide and plan your tour with tickets and everything. Surely it will be cheaper. But it’s not the same as to go with a person who is going to show you the city or the place you want as if he were a friend, taking you to places that do not appear in the guides or telling you anecdotes that are from the locals and transmitted between us, unwritten. So we say experiences and not tours. It is not “letting go”, it is making you live a unique day with us.
This year, in January, I met a woman, who hired us and was excited to see a traditional fair. Well, she told me on a tour, while we ate. That same day, I looked for a fair, and the next day I took her there. The woman left happier and more excited and I was happy that she left happy. These are the things that only we do. They are done when work is an illusion, not an obligation. That is why we want lovers of their work so that clients are well protected during their holidays.
Q7: Travel industry is in uncharted waters right now but we all hope travel will rebound soon. What does the situation in the Basque region look like right now? Are tourists coming back already?
Right now it’s horrible. In summer we already had to be with the streets full of people, with no gaps in the agendas. However, the streets are quite empty, national tourism and little, the agendas with very few reservations …
Hopefully, a vaccine will come soon and start to change. Currently restructuring the company and changing experiences to meet COVID-19 standards, security …
Q8: Last but not least, what is your favorite spot around Euskadi that you’d take your friends to see or experience? Tips from a true local are always worth it 🙂
My favorite place where I try to take all my clients is the Basque Coast. Don’t just go to Bilbao or Donosti, but visit traditional and endearing towns such as Getaria, Hondarribia, Zumaia … Places where you enter fully with the Basque tradition, customs, towns not too overcrowded by tourism – towns that have views in front of you from the sea and from behind a small green mountain.
Book some of the most popular tours by Explora Norte here: