By Francheska Riley, University of Wyoming
Pais Vasco, like all of Spain, has many unknown treasures. One of my favorite discoveries from this side of the country was the hidden gem that is San Juan de Gaztelugaxe. This hidden island has been filmed in scenes of Game of Thrones, which is understandable because it looks like it comes straight from a fantasy world! I spent a weekend in Pais Vasco and the trek to see this island was on the very top of my to-do list.
Our hostel was in Bilbao, a fascinating city with beautiful modern architecture and a really unique atmosphere, and to get to Gaztelugaxe we had to take a bus out of the city. The bus ride was short and took us into a small beach town and from there we had to hike to get to the path that leads to Gaztelugaxe. Seeing the rural side of Spain was absolutely breathtaking. Along the road we were walking on, there were many cute little cottages with horses and fields; much different from the rows and rows of apartments that Barcelona has. It was peaceful. Our walk took us up into a forest area and finally, we saw the magnificent island peeking out from behind the trees.
To actually get up to the church on top of the island, we had to hike down a steep trail, and then up an even steeper one that led to the very top of the island, it was really high up and the stone path was so narrow that you had to walk single file. It first led up to the foot of the mountain on the island, and then led up and up in a zig zag to the very top! The views going up to the top were incredible. The water crashing against the side of the island and the contrast of the water and the green island was so unreal. I can’t put into words how beautiful the scene really is! After going up and up and up and finally reaching the top, I could see the coast for miles on both sides and the insane path that we had just climbed up. Easily this view is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.
When we finally decided to come back down from the top of island, we had to do the entire journey backwards, which was just as mesmerizing as the first time. I think that may be my favorite part about that adventure. It wasn’t just the destination that was beautiful, but the whole hike there and back as well. I feel like every single corner of this country has something wonderful to offer. Spain continues to amaze me, and I always find myself thinking “this is too good to be true!”
This experience proved to me how worth it it can be go out on a limb and try and find something a little “off the beaten path,” because it can be such a rewarding experience. Spain, and the rest of the world, has so much to offer in literally every corner.