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Drive from St-Emilion to Barcelona via Pyrenees or Basque Country end of Oct

We will have about 1wk at the end of October between St-Emilion and Barcelona (after Barcelona, we will drive back to Toulouse via Girona etc on the Mediterranean side).

We originally planned to go through France Pyrenees staying in Cauterets area to hike and also drive over some the of Col mountain passes. We have visited Alps/Rockcy Mountains and enjoyed the experiences. However, we are now not sure about the weather at the end of Oct. It also seems that some of the hotels/B&B close by the end of September.

One alternative route seems could be going through Basque country and to Bilbao, then to Barcelona. Is this doable? Will it be a better route for the end of Oct? This will be our first trip to Spain - all places are new to be discovered.

We are still at the planning phase. Would like to hear people's experiences. Thanks!

Posted by
6103 posts

Indeed, late October could be dicey for some of the high passes and hikes in the Pyrenees. For example, in Cauterets, the lift to Lac de Gaube closes in early October.
Your plan B sounds better. I would allow 3-4 days in Basque country, 1-2 in Rioja depending on your affinity with wine, and 1-2 in Zaragoza.
With a car, perhaps Bilbao is best visited as a day trip from a more rural base. Gernika would be a good base, for example. Or Bermeo, or any town in that general area I would say.

Posted by
469 posts


if you prefer the mountains, I would suggest going through the Baztan Valley. In mid Oct. 2020 I was there for several days. I had three perfectly sunny days, about 25C. The valley is quite beautiful at that time of years as the leaves are starting to turn. You can stay in Elizondo, and there are plenty of places to go hiking. I would recommend going to the Puerto de Izpegui. On a sunny day you can see the north face of the mountains going off in the distance.

@Balso mentioned La Rioja. Personally mid/late October is my favorite time of year here. The weather is generally good, and the landscape is beautiful with the Fall colors. Briones or San Vicente de la Sonsierra are nice small towns to stay in and there are many hiking routes though the vineyards.

You can't miss with Zaragoza, but if you want to stay a bit more in the mountains, Jaca might be a good choice.

Posted by
8 posts

Thank you so much for your suggestions. Will definitely look at the Baztan Valley and La Rioja region.
Also thanks for the tip of staying outsize of Bilbao.
We also enjoy exploring villages and old towns. Are there "don't miss" spots in Basque and La Rioja?

Posted by
1180 posts

Hello from Wisconsin,
We drove from Barcelona to San Sebastian. On that south side of the Pyrenees. Your choice of roads is four lane (see nothing, experience nothing) or mountainous twisting curving up and down driving. Great vistas but you don't go far per hour. We have also driven the north side of the mountains from Aix to Bayonne. Once again you have the choice of four lane (see nothing, experience nothing) or hilly twisty roads. Notice the word hilly? Beautiful green wooded vistas with steeples poking out designating villages.

Doesn't sound much different, but I would do the French side again. I have no desire to do the south side again. The owner of the B&B where we stayed in Talarn, north of Barcelona, didn't believe me at first when I said which secondary road we had driven. That is how mountainous it was.

Four lane highways in Europe are just like our Interstate highways, built through the most boring terrain and easiest road building land that can be found. Not that I am biased. I am in France and Spain to experience France and Spain not drive like a mad man. I can do that at home.

The Basque regions on both sides of the border are wonderful. The French side was a bit more gentrified. The Spanish side was more rustique.

wayne iNWI