Beautiful beaches, delicious food and laid back locals made Basque Country and ideal vacation. Located in norther Spain near the boarder to France, Basque Country is an autonomous region of Spain with it's own culture and language. While I stayed in Bilbao, I traveled around the whole region for a week and came back with some recommendations.
The most beautiful hike I did while traveling was San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. The hike from the bus stop was about 7 miles round trip, so I would recommend wearing the right shoes. The end of this hike is a staircase (that you might recognize from GOT) that leads to a petite church dedicated to John the Baptist. It's said if you ring the bell of the church three times you can make a wish. This is an absolute must for a visit to this region.
A wonderful over night or weekend trip in this region would be San Sebastian, which is a beautiful beach town. It has some of the most stunning views I've ever seen and the most scrumptious Pintxos I had my entire trip. I recommend taking the funicular up Mount Igeldo, this will give you THE BEST views of the city. The bottom of Mount Igeldo is a 20 minute walk from the beach. The San Telmo Museum taught me so much about Basque Country but it's not a museum that will blow you away, if you're crunched for time or would rather enjoy the beach, you can skip this.
The best Pintxos in town are at Las Cepas, Mejollonera and Teberna Dakara Bi. My dinner was from Taberna Dakara Bi which had no seating inside but I stood at a table outside to enjoy my bites of joy.
The Oma Forest was unlike anything I've seen, this beautiful hike through the quant countryside ends at Bosque Animado, a grouping of trees cleverly painted by Basque artist and sculptor Agustín Ibarrola in 1984. My favorite part was finding the spots to stand where images from multiple trees come together, like an eye or zig zag. It was playful, creative and really unique to this region.
Most of my time on this trip was spent in wonderful Bilbao. The most important part of Bilbao is the Guggenheim museum. This museum is what put this used-to-be-working-class-town on the map. It has a wonderful collection of modern art and is surrounding by public art on all sides, visible without buying a ticket. We visited during their Art After Dark event which had an incredible DJ and not too shabby bar to drink from.
For food I highly recommend eating at Menu Del Dia, the wine and meal were incredible. Also the atmosphere was unstuffy but the building was intriguingly decorated. The best cafe I visited was Mami Lou, it had wonderful pastries and a great view (seen below).