If you are currently planning your trip to Europe, we have an additional 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 the Basque Coast, Spain. In our last interview, we spoke with Laura, the founder and owner of Explora Norte, about her history, her plans for the future, and what this year’s summer season looks like in the era of global pandemics. Clever? Let’s dive.
Q1 : Hello Laura how are you? How is life in the Basque Country 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 climate is changing and it no longer rains so much. In fact, this year we are getting hot! But in these moments of the Coronavirus, there is almost no tourism, the streets are almost empty. It’s a bit sad. Despite the green areas, the mountains and the color.
Q2 : Tell us more about Explora Norte. How did it all begin? Where does the name come from?
The company Explora-Norte is a project that started 5 years ago, let’s go 6! Actually, I was born from 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 started my own business 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, showing that, after 5 years, we are already 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, which evokes that color of the Basque Country, and that desire from 5 years ago for the company to function and build my work from my leisure. In turn, the clover is inside a cartoon sandwich, as if to emphasize that we like tourists to get involved and want to know, even our “bilbainada” (exaggerations, because if we highlight the Basques in something they are exaggerating everything).
P3 : The Basque Country is an incredible destination and I bet there are dozens of things to show fellow travelers. How many guides do you have on your team? Are you all local?
For us it is very important that the guides are local because we are the ones who know our land and our anecdotes best..
We are currently 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 one more year.
A visit with our guide is different. We don’t want to “drop the roll” and you go. We want to get you involved on earth. Therefore, we use a friendly, close and familiar tone. We always say that our visits are like going with a friend you haven’t seen for a long time.
P4 : Your selection of experiences is literally endless. It offers city tours, food tours, and even personalized plans. What are the most popular activities among travelers who come to you?
Your selection of experiences is literally endless. It offers city tours, food tours, and even personalized plans. What are the most popular activities among travelers who come to you.
A guide is normally requested for a 4 hour tour. However, in many cases, we have hit 7-8 hour tours with so much laughter 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 trip to Donosti scheduled, and we liked each other so much that we stopped in towns and learned things that were not planned but that we are proud to have and to show. Urban experiences such as gastronomy or txakoli tastings are also in high demand.
P5 : Today, many people travel and plan their itineraries on their own. Why would you recommend booking one of your experiences to our travelers?
Oh! I think I’ll go ahead with this question!!
You can take a tour guide and plan your tour with tickets and everything. It will surely be cheaper for you. But it is not the same as going 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 local and transmitted between us, not written. 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, he told me on tour, while we were eating. That same day I looked for a fair and the next day I took it. 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 vacations.
P7 : The travel industry is in uncharted waters right now, but we all hope travel picks up soon. How is the situation in the Basque Country at the moment? Are the tourists already coming back?
Right now it’s horrible. In summer we already had to be with the streets full of people, without 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 it will start to change. Currently restructuring the company and changing experiences to comply with COVID-19 standards, security…
P8 : Last but not least, what is your favorite place in the Basque Country that you would take your friends to see or experience? Advice from a real local is 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 fully immerse yourself in the Basque tradition, customs, towns that are not too crowded by tourism, towns that have views of the front. you from the sea and from behind a small green mountain.