The north of Spain is so underrated and I’ll tell you why. When most people think of Spain, they either picture of the dry and flat land of Castilla-La Mancha, or the scorching hot beaches in the south. However, everyone seems to forget about the beauties in the north. Here are five reasons why you should visit the Basque Country and other regions at the top end of Spain.
In the north it is incredible. The thing that shocked me most when I first landed was just how green it is. Everywhere you look, there are luscious plants and trees growing up the mountain side.
I was that never into hiking before moving to Bilbao, but it’s impossible not to take advantage of the thousands of trails that start right on your doorstep. You’re surrounded by these stunning, tall mountains, which are so easy to access. With some routes you may need to take a train, but you can reach the majority simply by walking. Nothing beats finally getting to the top and seeing the rocky peaks all around and, of course, the sea.
Another great thing about the north is that you have equally beautiful beaches to surf at in the summer. It’s the best of both worlds!
You may be familiar with tapas, but pintxos are next level. They’re essentially bite sized snacks to keep you going at any time of the day. And they’re cheap! In some places you can get them for as little as one euro! In these bars, I often grab a selection to fill me up nicely.
However, the best pintxos I’ve ever tried are in San Sebastián. These are a little bit pricier, but well worth it. They have some gorgeous pulled pork rolls, creamy crab in a sea urchin shell, bacalao al-pil-pil, and a classic tortilla (with onion of course). In general, Spanish cuisine is delicious, but there’s just something special about a pintxo accompanied with a caña.
This may seem controversial because it is known to rain a lot in the north. However, you learn to love this cooler temperature. In summer, when the people of Madrid and the south of Spain are dying from the unbearable heat, we are living it up. A comfortable 27 degrees Celsius are perfect for soaking up the sun at the beach, but doesn’t leave you desperate for the air con all day long.
It also makes it easier to teach classes when humidity isn’t draining the life from all of your students. On the other hand, the winter cold isn’t the type to get into your bones and leave your teeth chattering. It gets chilly at points but the coldest climates remain on the mountain tops; the perfect place to go and enjoy some snow in the winter.
The Lack of Tourists
The best bit about the north of Spain is that it’s not swamped with tourists. There’s a good expat community to help and support you when you need it, but you’re not constantly hearing English every time you step out of the house.
Locals also don’t automatically slip into your native language any time you try to communicate with them. They respect you trying to talk to them in Spanish, or they genuinely don’t speak English. The fact that there are very few tourists in the north gives you a chance to improve your language skills, learn about the culture, and fully immerse yourself into the northern lifestyle.
Unlike in the UK, public transport is a dream in the north of Spain. It is surprisingly well connected despite being full of mountains. There are many options to travel between cities e.g. the train (Renfe), the bus (ALSA), and BlablaCar.
I live in Bilbao, and we also have a very useful metro. It’s genuinely one of the nicest, cleanest metros I’ve ever used. Not only are these reliable means of transport but they are incredibly cheap if you have the right transportation card. I use a Barik card to travel around my region and, a two-hour train journey costs a mere three euros.
Public transport is fantastic and really handy when you don’t have a car.
These are just a few things that I really love about the north of Spain. It wasn’t where I had expected to be placed but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. It really is a wonderful part of the country and it is extremely underrated!