If you at trying to get from Basque tapas in Bilbao to the running of the bulls in Pamplona, your best bet is a set of wheels. You decide whether that is a car or bus. The mysteries of Basque Country can be yours to take in at your pace if you are in your own car.
If time is a factor and you are in a crunch, then depending on whether you have your own car or the time of day, the drive can be done in one and a half hours. Add on another hour if you are on a bus making stops.
Travel by Bus
The most time effective and least costly way of traveling between Bilbao and Pamplona is by a bus. For reference, in 2017, the cost of a one-way ticket is 15 euros and the average travel time is two and a half hours.
Also, you can join a tour group, which can give you a guided bus or train tour all over northern Spain, including popular stops in Pamplona and San Sebastian, although none of the itineraries include Pamplona and Bilbao.
Travel by Train
There is no direct train to and from Bilbao and Pamplona. You can take trains from Bilbao to Miranda de Ebro and then transfer to Pamplona from there, but the train goes out of the way, and the waiting time between trains usually adds several hours to the trip.
Travel by Plane
There are regional airports in Bilbao and Pamplona, but there are no commercial flights going to and from Bilbao and Pamplona.
Travel by Car
You can drive your own car or rent a car. The drive is about 100 miles. If you are driving your own car, this will be the fastest way to get from point A to point B, unless you want to soak in the culture and beauty that is Basque Country.
Sights by Car
The most popular driving route between Bilbao and Pamplona will most likely pass through Vitoria-Gasteiz, the capital of Basque Country. If you have some time, check out the Gothic cathedral of Santa María. More than a million visitors enjoy exploring its naves, atrium, and walls. Famous novelist Ken Follett has taken inspiration from this cathedral for his books. Old Gasteiz also boasts the status of a historic site. Its street names—Cuchillería, Herrería, Pintorería, Correría—recall the trades of the guilds of cutlers, smiths, painters and harness makers, respectively, to which they were home.
In this capital city, you can find fine food and wine both in the Old Town and in the center there are “pintxo trails.” Pintxo is the Basque way of saying tapas, where you can try the flavors of haute cuisine in miniature plates, washed down with some of the best wines from nearby Rioja Alavesa.
Side Trip for Wine
Before heading up to Bilbao, perhaps take a side trip to Rioja Alavesa. Just south of Vitoria-Gasteiz, you can combine a visit to the city with the pleasure of discovering some of the famous wineries of Rioja country.