Welcome to the Autumn season.
Autumn is a perfect time to travel, in my opinion, and that is certainly true for a country like Spain. Today, I do not attempt to lure you into Spain, if not lure you to the threshold that marks the boundaries between Europe and Spain – the Pyrenees.
The best way, in my mind, to travel to Spain from Europe is by land. Whilst I am not adverse to air travel (I travel by air quite frequently) I often prefer to make an exception in the case of Spain. There is no better welcome to the Iberian Peninsula than across the mountain range that separates Hispaña from the rest of Europe.
The Pyrenees are a range of mountains in southwest Europe that form a natural border between France and Spain. They separate the Iberian Peninsula from France, and extent for about 450 km from the Atlantic Ocean (Bay of Biscay) to the Mediterranean Sea (Golf de Lyon). The highest Pyrenean summit is said to be the Pico d’Aneto with 3,404 m, even though Mont Perdu with 3,355 m might be slightly better known. The Pyrenees seem to be older than the Alps with about 100 to 150 million years since their formation, but that is neither here nor there. They are both intriguing; I personally prefer the Pyrenees.
I have crossed the Pyrenees mountains by car on at least a half a dozen occasions, each time choosing a different route, and always being amazed about the sheer beauty of the mountainous landscape, the warmth of the Pyreneans, be they French, Basque, Andorran, Aquitanian or Spanish, and by the stark contrast between the Europe that one leaves behind and the Iberian otherness that one enters.
Of course I have crossed the Pyrenees by aeroplane as well, dozens of times, and whilst I prefer to travel by land I must admit that the beauty from above the clouds is unbeatable, especially in the snowy season.
If you travel to the Pyrenees instead of through them you are a very lucky person. The Pyrenees have now in a sense been discovered by hikers and backpackers, outdoor activists and walkers, skiers and mountaineers, Camino pilgrims and individualist travellers, and that has led to an increase in popularity to such an extend that the Pyrenees are becoming an alternative to the much better explored Alps.
I can only recommend a trip to and a journey through the Pyrenees. If you do not live in Spain as I do, but come from the north and thus, France, you could make your entry into the Pyrenean wonderland from Bordeaux, possibly via Pau and Lourdes. Or you could come down from Biarritz and make your way to Donostia (San Sebastián) via Irún. In both cases your voyage might continue to Pamplona, depending on your final destination.
Further east, you could make your way right up to the Principality of Andorra, one of the smallest European countries which shares its money, its stamps and its defense with both, France and Spain, without belonging to either. In this case you might well have come down from Toulouse, passing the charming French provincial town of Foix before you ascend to Andorra.
If you have come down the Autoroutes du Sud de la France and Perpignan, I would urge you to leave the motorway and make your way up into the Pyrénées Orientales, heading for Prades and Puigcerdà. From there you could continue to Vic and eventually Barcelona.
Do not fail to allow for plenty of time whilst in the Pyrenees, either for some walking or some outdoor activities, and some sampling of the gastronomic delights, food and beverage wise, that this region has to offer.
I would be very surprised if you would ever regret a visit.