Where the Travel Experts Holiday. Eva Gómez-Pallete and Hans Eguinoa

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions
Hans and Eva with their family

Hans and Eva with their family

Bonito Norte was created in 2010 by Eva Gómez-Pallete and Hans Eguinoa, who after more than 10 years guiding wine and bike tours in different regions in Spain, decided to start a new adventure with their own travel agency.

Why did you set up your own travel agency?

The idea was to make a regional expertise incoming agency called Bonito Norte Viajes for holidays, special occasions or business trips. There are still some places and people that can’t be easily reached even with today’s up-to-the-minute technology. Those are the people and place to which we wanted to introduce clients.

We also knew that we wanted our agency to be more personal and that we should only have local, well-traveled guides who speak the language. That is key in rural Spain where spoken English is still is not usual. We wanted to cater for small groups who sometimes feel uncomfortable by large numbers so we decided to offer fixed dates for small groups and small, tailored made for micro groups as well as self-guided for couples or big bus tours. It is a pleasure having your attention!

What do you like to do on holiday?

the pinchos counter in san Sebastian

the pinchos counter in San Sebastian

We love active holidays in northern Spain and in the Spanish inland. We love to pack the day with activities, maybe to kick off with a walking route with the aim for beautiful views or the chance to spot the details that could be birds, other animals or plants. Clean air, trees, majestic mountains or maybe a swim in a creek or river to freshen up! After this you get hungry and nothing beats the Spanish family owned small restaurants where they serve excellent food in the typical “homely” spirit. This can be found in every region but is at its best in the northern regions where they basically leave the pot on the table until you are satisfied!

Up north the specialties are different kinds of bean stews with different kinds of meat, veggies and chorizos and blood sausages (morcilla). In Spain they don´t call it slow food, but it´s really what it is all about. Excellent nearby grown produce so fresh you can smell it and ecological shepherding giving us some of the best meats in Spain. Afterwards a short siesta  (this is Spain, after all!) followed by the possibility of a visit to a small dairy or winery where you get face to face with the people working the land, and that make our day complete. If during a visit they can include an activity such as butter-making, cheese-making or grape stomping we are in heaven. We like diversity and we love to do and try different things that will give you a more complete view of a region. And often the people and food hold the keys. The chance of interaction and exchanging ideas is enriching and learning and why not do so over a glass of wine and some pincho(tapa in northern Spain).

Art, crafts, photography, music or architecture related activities and visits are also our favorites.

Where did you last travel?

wine stomping - the traditional way.

wine stomping – the traditional way.

Last time we traveled was to the region by the Spanish border with Portugal in the Arribes de Duero reserve. It’s an incredible landscape which, in places has been abandoned by man. There are lovely villages with neo-rural families re-engaging with traditional wine & cheese making traditions, and the Duero river canyon gives  a wide spam of possibilities of genuine tourist activities in harmony with the river and its surroundings.

Do you know where you’re going next?

We are going to try to deepen our knowledge about Galicia – the green pearl in the north-west, continue and learn more about The Basque Country and Asturias without forgetting keeping up to date with our own region Cantabria. Galicia is a mysterious land with well-preserved traditions, great open-air possibilities, and like the other regions in northern Spain, full of empty beaches and beautiful green & hilly landscapes. Las Rías Baixas and La Costa da Morte (the Death Coast) are some highlights we will focus on in Galicia…

Of all the places you’ve been to, what was your favourite and why?

Oh, there are too many…We would point out the natural beauty of Santander Bay and the Puntal beach, the majestic mountains of Picos de Europa, the silence of the beech forests in La Rioja & the pine forests in Soria, the “being-a-kid-in-Legoland” feel eating tapas in San Sebastián, the feeling of being where everything is happening in Bilbao, the sensation of being out of time in Arribes de Duero… We could go on…

Which destination do you wish to travel to but haven’t been there yet?

Too many. Now thinking of Italy, a long dreamed trekking, art and culinary travel we will do hopefully in 2015.

What would you recommend tourists see that isn’t in the travel guides but which you’ve seen?

Abra de pas in Cantabria

Abra de pas in Cantabria

Take a break and go away from the coast and into the green valleys… In Cantabria check out the Pasiego way of life in the river Miera valley, go and spot the Asón waterfall in spring, go to the Saja-Nansa reserve. In La Rioja & Soria check out the Cameros mountains and villages.  In the Basque country go to the Gorbeia Park or look for the real Idiazabal cheese-farmers and go search the Maragatos in the Mountains of León…

In San Sebastián, go where the basques are heading away from the old town. Try a pintxos route in nearby Gros. Go to the small Michelin recommended restaurants that haven´t been awarded with a star yet. You will regret it if you don´t when they have 1-2 stars…

How do you plan a vacation? (guidebooks/website/agents/friends etc)

We try to imagine our own perfect travel plan. The people we know in the area are key; local families, producers or associations are our first and most valuable source.

Yes we love guidebooks and of course we tend to check more and more on the web, social media and forums. We love that part of the job, the detective part to sort of smell where the real gems can be and looking up the people that will give you the added value and our reason to be.

Then, we travel there ourselves, several times, and then we will be ready to offer a new vacation to others.

What would you recommend people do whilst in northern Spain?

See where the locals eat.  Look up the local agendas to see when the local festivities take place. Be part of it. See how the Spaniards celebrate life! Try things! Talk to people and take advantage if you find a person speaking English!

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