Teens to Spend Month Speaking Euskara and Hiking the Basque Country


Group of young people from EuskarAbentura 2023

Nancy Zubiri, Editor

A month of speaking Euskara full-time. That’s what 125 young people heading off July 1 on the EuskarAbentura Espedizioa can expect. Plus, they will cover a large part of the Basque Country, mostly on foot.

This is the fourth year of this unique program that will traverse the seven historic provinces of Euskal Herria, via some of the routes of the Camino de Santiago. Their journey will start in Maule, Zuberoa and will end in Getxo, Bizkaia. The youth will hike 249 miles over the course of the 30 days, plus cover some terrain by train.

The EuskarAbentura program is for youth between the ages of 16 and 17 who speak Basque, to gather in the Basque Country and get to know it via walking. The young people and the staff of 30 adults will spend the entire period speaking Euskara, the language of the region. Because of the requirement to be fluent in Euskara, the program rarely has campers from other countries, but this year two teenagers will come from outside the Basque Country. One comes from Valencia, Spain and a second, from Buenos Aires, Argentina. In 2019, a Basque-American joined the group. The young people come from all over the Basque Country, although the largest numbers are from the provinces of Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa and Nafarroa. The annual application period ends in March.

Map of route through Basque Country
The route the teens of EuskaraBentura will take in July.

“We are trying to create and promote a new network of Basque speakers,” said spokesperson Ander Egiluz. “It’s a tiny language when it comes to the number of speakers and we are surrounded by France and Spain, so it’s not easy. If we create strong networks among people of different provinces, it becomes a language that actually connects us. We want Euskera to be like a pillar in their relationships.”

The organizers aim to introduce youth to the natural, historical, and cultural heritage of the Basque Country, all while sharing positive values. In addition to the capital cities of the seven provinces, they will visit places declared World Heritage by UNESCO, as well as forests, beaches, museums, farmland, caves, ports, castles, meadows, monuments and emblematic buildings, villages, salt marshes and homesteads.

The youth will spend each night in a different location, sleeping in places like town frontons (handball court). They will also participate in several workshops and seminars organized for them with professionals such as musicians, sociolinguists, actors and actresses, bertsolaris, journalists, dancers, writers and athletes.

Follow their adventures through EuskarAbentura’s Facebook page or Instagram page.

The idea behind the expedition first came about at the 2015 Jaialdi festival in Boise, Idaho, when a group of young Basques from the Basque Country began talking about an issue of concern, that while more and more youth are learning the Basque language of Euskara in school, the oral use of the language is stagnant or maybe even decreasing, explained Iker Goni, one of the co-founders of EuskarAbentura. When they returned home, they began meeting to discuss what they could do about this problem and decided to take a page from a similar summer youth program known as Ruta Quetzal. “We thought we could create an expedition that joins youth from all the territories so that in one month, they could get to know our country better and at the same time, do it in Basque.” And in 2018, the first expedition took place.

For more information about EuskarAbentura, click here.