Why did we visit Northern Spain?
The quick answer:
Picos de Europa National Park
The long answer and a little insight into our destination picking process:
Our return flight back home to Virginia was one month after we arrived in Lisbon. We had a month to fill and after all the hopping around from place to place during our South East Asia adventures, we knew we wanted to slow down the pace and really enjoy taking in a smaller geographical area.
So we went to www.googleflights.com
In the “Where From?” box – we typed in “Lisbon”
Then we left the “Where to?” box empty.
The flight search resulted in dozens of destinations we quickly ruled out because of price. Maybe the flight was affordable but other costs (accommodations, transportation, etc.) would have sent us over our budget. Some places are worth breaking the budget for (cough cough Galápagos) but our thought for some time now has been to save potential travels to Europe for later in life when we have have less mobility and an actual income.
The flight search also resulted in a half a dozen places one or both of us had already visited before we met. We ruled those out because we both wanted to visit someplace new.
The flight search for destinations also resulted in a bunch of larger cities. The more we’ve traveled this year, the more we’ve realized that our inevitable trips to larger cities are ones we don’t typically look forward to as much as our trips to less populated areas (the exception was Singapore. How could we NOT be pumped for all that delicious and cheap food!?). We have our reasons and not everyone would agree with them but our goal has been to avoid big cities – at least for now. Plus, major airports are located in large cities meaning they’re easy to get to. We could save potential trips to these big cities for when we only have a week of PTO to use.
So we kept looking. There were some super inexpensive flights to various places in Spain, but we didn’t really know much about Spain. The trips we’ve enjoyed the most in recent years have been focused on the outdoors which led me to Google:
“National Parks in Spain”
That’s when I saw a photo for the first time of the sharp peaks of a snow capped mountain range. At first glance, I thought I was looking at a photo of the Italian Dolomites, a place we ruled out this trip because of weather, cost, and travel time. But it wasn’t the Dolomites. It was Picos de Europa (“Peaks of Europe”), located in Northern Spain, just a 3.5 hour drive away from Bilbao.
Oh. Would you take a look at that?
Flights to Bilbao from Lisbon are just $37 per person and only take 1.5 hours.
A little bit more research later, we found an epic once in a lifetime hike and the cutest Airbnb, within budget, with four nights of availability. It was all the inspiration we needed. We were sold.
We booked flights for Bilbao with the goal to explore Picos de Europa and nothing else. We’d fill in the rest of the blanks as we went.
So, there it is. We hadn’t even heard of Picos de Europa National Park until a month before we left. During this time off, our goal hasn’t been to cross destinations off a bucket list. It’s been to stay flexible and find inspiration – whether it’s in a hike, a photo, or some magical Airbnb. We have picked destinations that we may not have a chance to visit later in life when we have less time or may be less mobile and are saving other places for when we have an income again.