Visit the Basque Country, a land full of charm and character
The French Basque Country is where the mountains meet the ocean. Where the endless beaches of the Côte d’Argent give way to rocky coves, world-class surfing and the Spanish border. Elegant seaside resorts and pretty villages clinging to the green foothills. This is the home of the Basques, the ancient people of Europe who have preserved their language and traditions to this day.
From the most charming towns of Ainhoa, Sare, Espelette and La Bastide Clairence to the unmissable pilgrimage stop of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, via the luxurious seaside resorts of Biarritz and Saint-Jean-de-Luz, let’s discover the most emblematic and beautiful towns of the French Basque Country.
Would you like to get away for a few days, but only have a long weekend or a short holiday to do so? The Basque Country is THE destination for you! A land full of charm and character with its Spanish-French culture, this region between mountains, green hills and the Atlantic Ocean will not disappoint you! And to make the most of everything it has to offer, we propose an example of an itinerary from our hotel for a 4-day discovery.
Visit the Basque Country – DAY 1
Discovering the two unmissable towns in the northern Basque Country
In the heart of Bayonne
A city of art, bullfighting and festivities with typical Basque architecture, Bayonne is a good starting point to discover the charm of the region.
Stroll through the typical narrow streets of the old town with its Gothic cathedral, and enjoy the many shops and discover local products such as the famous Bayonne ham at Pierre Ibaiade’s shop, or Mr Txokola’s chocolate factory.
You can stroll along the river Nive, with its many cafés along the way, and enjoy a good tapas lunch in one of the many restaurants with typical gastronomy that the city offers. You may also have the chance to attend one of the Basque cultural events that take place here throughout the year. If you have the time, take the opportunity to stop at the Bonnat-Helleu Museum of Fine Arts and the Basque Museum and History of Bayonne.
Biarritz, a renowned seaside resort
A chic, elegant and refined city, the most exclusive seaside resort on the Atlantic coast will amaze you with its many sites to visit.
Between surfing, swimming and walking, a good half day is not too much to take advantage of what this city has to offer.
In the centre of Biarritz, opposite the Rocher de la Vierge, discover the Biarritz Aquarium and go on a voyage of discovery of the sea bed. If you can, take the opportunity to visit the Cité de l’Océan, a space dedicated to the discovery of the deep blue sea, and take a break at the Côte des Basques beach, one of the most beautiful beaches in the region.
Enjoy one of the many restaurants with fine cuisine that the town has to offer, and end your day with a moment of relaxation on the beach of Port Vieux to enjoy a beautiful sunset.
Visit the Basque Country – DAY 2
Along the coast
Start your journey from Bidart, an authentic Basque village overlooking the ocean and a very pleasant place to walk. Stop at the St Joseph’s chapel to enjoy a breathtaking view of the coast.
Just south of Bidart, discover the former whaling port of Guéthary, a typical small village with discreet beaches and renowned surf spots, and take the opportunity to stop for lunch in one of the restaurants to sample specialities such as chipirons and hake.
Port of Guethary
Beach of Saint-Jean-de-Luz
A small town full of charm and authenticity with its still active fishing port and its small cafés and restaurants, Saint Jean de Luz is one of the two mythical cities of the Basque coast with Biarritz. You can enjoy a superb view of the bay from the hill of St Barbe by going to its chapel.
The fort de Socoa
On the other side of the Nivelle, discover Ciboure, a small seaside resort nestled in the heart of a splendid bay opposite Saint-Jean-de-Luz. With its port and its marine cemetery, not forgetting the Socoa fort, the soul of the fishermen still floats over this magnificent village. Its panorama from the Bordagain Tower is breathtaking.
Discovering and visiting the Basque Country – DAY 3
Between land and sea
Go to the village of Ascain, stroll around the village and have a coffee. Not far from there, on the Saint Ignace pass, board an authentic 1924 cogwheel train which will take you to the mythical summit of the Basque Country at 905 m altitude: La Rhune. The panorama is exceptional! Allow at least two and a half hours to make the round trip and take the time to take some photos.
The little train of the Rhune is often overcrowded,
buy your ticket in advance to save time and avoid a long queue.
After crossing the town of Urrugne, set off to discover Hendaye, a charming seaside resort on the doorstep of Spain.
Stroll through the Sokoburu district, with its typical neo-Basque architecture, and reach the casino at the tip of Chingoudy Bay, facing the Spanish town of Fontarrabie.
Admire from its immense beach (the longest in the Basque Country) the famous Deux Jumeaux rocks and the cliffs of the Basque coastline.
You can also visit the Abbadia estate, a natural site dominating the cliffs, and its castle.
From the marina in Hendaye, a small shuttle bus leaves every 30 minutes (15 minutes in summer) to the beautiful Spanish village of Fontarabia (Hondaribia), which is not to be missed! The crossing takes just over 5 minutes and costs only 2 euros (pets are allowed).
Visit the Basque Country – DAY 4
The back of the Basque Country
To discover even more of the beauty the region has to offer, take a trip to the back of the Basque Country.
Village of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port
On the way to Santiago de Compostela, at the foot of the mountains and close to the Spanish border, Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is a magnificent village classified as a World Heritage Site where it is worth spending at least half a day.
It is very pleasant to stroll through the narrow streets of this fortified town with its ramparts and citadel which offers a superb view of the town and the mountains behind. Take the opportunity to visit the Church of Our Lady, whose foundations date back to the 13th century, and the bishops’ prison.
View of the citadel
If you have time, from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port you can stop at the Brana winery in the area, which offers tours and tastings.
You can also make a small detour to St Etienne de Baïgori to admire the vineyards of Irouléguy and the Aduldes valley, which offers breathtaking panoramas. You can see Basque pigs, black and white pigs raised in the open air.
On the way back to the Basque coast, discover the village of Espelette with its typical red and white facades, where it is worth stopping for the cultivation of its famous chilli pepper used by all the great chefs in the world. Visit the Lurretik house where you can discover and buy real local products!
As you descend slightly inland, make a short stop to hydrate yourself in the small village of Ainhoa, with its remarkable church.
Tip: put 1 € in the little box on the left in the church and everything lights up with music!
Church of Ainhoa
Before returning to the coast, stop at the village of Sare. Classified as “the most beautiful village in France”, it is a must-see in the Basque Country, with its 16th century Labourdine houses, its Basque cake museum, its 17th century Ortillopitz house, and its Sare caves, which are really worth a visit!
If you have time, make a detour to Spain to visit two beautiful stone villages that are well worth a visit, and where few people think to stop, Urdax and Zugaramurdi.