As I walked away from the pristine shores of Barcelona in a downpour, I thought my trip to Spain had already reached its peak. What awaited me even in the northwest, in the Basque Country? Hell, what even is Pays Basque?
I approached my first stop, outside the Urkiola Natural Park, and the rain started to fall. As my eyes adjusted, incredible landscapes poured out before me, with a shimmering sun revealing mountains shrouded in fog. I felt like I had just taken a road trip in a religious experience.
Straddling the border between Spain and France, the Basque Country (Euskadi in Basque) is not even a country, formally. It is a community linked by a distinct language and culture. Foodies know him as a pocket of culinary pioneers who have accumulated a bunch of Michelin stars. Linguists know that speaking French and Spanish will get you moving, but if you learn a part of the ancient and distinct Basque language, the locals will be tickled.
Most of the time you will find mountains and beaches spectacular enough to appear at first glance as a photoshopped forgery. Even Basque towns, reborn from an industrial past, are reveling in beauty these days. If you do go, give yourself time between cheese and ham meals to gawk at the result.