The basque country
The Northern Basque Country (French) stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pyrenees. It is not a very extensive area but it offers different and original atmospheres and experiences.
Each area, town and village in the Basque Country has its own charm and specific features. As you will be able to discover!
Stretching along the Atlantic Ocean between the department of Les Landes and the Spanish border, the Basque coast is a treasure trove of diversity, curiosity and beauty just waiting to be discovered. The surfing spirit and Californian ambiance reigns throughout!
On one side of the Nivelle Valley are the first mountains in the Pyrenean chain and on the other the start of beautiful, green countryside.
Just a few kilometres from the main seaside resorts, life in the villages of the Nivelle Valley, like Sare, Ascain and Espelette, is agreeably tranquil; the tempo is set by the production of Espelette pimento pepper, agriculture and livestock farming, and leisure activities such as hiking, mountain biking and kayaking.
The Nive Valley is the link between the Basque coast and the hinterland of the Northern Basque Country. From Cambo-les-Bains, passing through Ustaritz and Bidarray, there are many different landscapes to be discovered.
The Mondarrain and Artzamendi mountains are a great place for hiking, as is the towpath that runs alongside the river for 15 kilometres from Ustaritz to Bayonne. The River Nive is the favourite place for white water sports.
The Pays Charnégou region is the most northern territory of the Basque Country.
Only a short distance away from Bayonne, you will find the first Basque villages such as Urt, Mouguerre, Briscous and La Bastide-Clairence, which is listed among the “Most Beautiful Villages of France”.
Let yourself go with the flow and you will discover an unusual area where both Basque and Gascon are spoken, and where kiwis are grown.
In the north of the Basque Country, from the River Adour, you can see Mt. Baigura from afar because it is isolated between the province of Labourd and the province of Basse Navarre.
At 897 metres high, its regular shape seen from the north is rather reminiscent of the harmonious Mount Fuji Yama.
The Valley of Saint-Etienne-de-Baïgorry and the Aldudes comprises five municipalities: Ossès, Saint-Etienne-de-Baïgorry, the Aldudes, Banca and Urepel.
Only 10 minutes from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, this valley offers the opportunity to discover our region’s traditional gourmet cuisine.
Also called the Pays de Cize, this is the Basse Navarre region surrounding the village of Saint-Jean-Pied-Port, listed as one of the “Loveliest villages in France”.
This region is also crossed by the Way of St. James and the GR10. It’s also home to AOP Irouléguy wine, whose terraced vineyards can be admired when you look across the mountain slopes.
The Bidouze Valley, also known as the Pays d’Ostibarre consists of four main municipalities : Iholdy, Ostabat-Asme, Saint-Just-Ibarre and Larceveau-Arros-Cibits.
The Pays de Mixe is the most northern region in the Basse Navarre province. The most famous villages in the area are Garris and Saint-Palais.
Many local producers sell gastronomic specialties throughout this part of the Basque Country, and open their farms to those who wish to learn more.
This Basque Country region is certainly the one where nature is most abundant. The inhabitants speak Souletin Basque, a particular dialect of the Basque language.
Mauléon is known as being the home of the espadrille.
The Iraty mountains are also known as the Haute Soule, Basabürüa in the Souletin Basque dialect. Here, you are at the highest altitude in the Basque Country.
The mountain villages, the Souletin dialect (a very specific version of the Basque language), the myths, the pastoralism, as well as the outdoor activities, make this small area an important place of cultural heritage.
Saint-Jean-de-Luz is an authentic Basque town with a particularly rich past that has shaped the character of this famous seaside resort. Indeed, events such as the marriage of Louis XIV, the presence of swashbuckling privateers and influence of the inhabitants’ historically seafaring lifestyle add to its charm.
It is the perfect holiday destination, offering a variety of activities, local gourmet specialities, and an impressive cultural and natural heritage, including its five beaches.
It was given the seal of approval as a town of artistic and historical interest with the label Pays d’Art et d’Histoire.
Listed as a city of artistic and historical interest with the “Ville d’Art et d’Histoire” seal of approval, Bayonne is considered as being the capital of the Basque Country. With its abundant traditions of good food and festive fun, Bayonne is both Basque and Gascon.
The Fêtes de Bayonne festivities have made the town famous around the world
Ciboure with its 6,250 inhabitants has always looked towards the sea. Until the last century, fishing and fish canning provided a livelihood for the entire population. The sea has influenced the life and history of the village and remains strongly-rooted in the character of its inhabitants, even though the economy is more focused on tourism nowadays. It has been given the “Pays d’Art et d’Histoire” seal of approval as a town of artistic and historical interest.
Espelette truly represents what one might imagine a typical Basque village to look like. Founded by a noble family, the village has especially gained worldwide renown thanks to the production of a spice that came from the other side of the Atlantic: the Espelette pimento pepper.
Guéthary is the smallest village on the Aquitaine coast.
As soon as you enter the main street and discover the village centre, the salty air will inevitably draw you to the ocean as the ultimate purpose of your visit, but take the time to first wander around the village before you head to the beach.
With its 5,000 hectares, Urrugne is the largest municipality on the Basque coast. Its borders stretch from the ocean to the first mountain slopes of the Rhune, and it even shares part of its border with Spain. The village is organised into separate neighbourhoods, each very different from the others.
This village’s stunning natural spaces, such as the mountains and the Basque Corniche cliffs, make this the ideal place to practice outdoor activities.
Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is the capital of Basse Navarre. A fortified town at the foot of the Basque Pyrenees, it was founded in the 12th century.
You’ll be able to enjoy strolling through the old town, with its cobblestone streets, overlooked by the citadel. Every year since the Middle-Ages, the town has welcomed walkers heading to Santiago de Compostela.
Listed as one of “the most beautiful villages in France”, Sare is also one of the most beautiful villages in the Basque Country.
Situated at the foot of La Rhune, Axuria and Ibanteli mountains, this village has a rich history and authentic local ambiance where traditions of the fête, sport and smuggling have spanned the epochs.
The small municipality of Tardets is ideally situated at the foot of La Madeleine chapel in Haute Soule, 20 minutes from the Kakuetta Gorges and the starting point of the Holzarte footbridge hike.
Many unique discoveries can be made at, for example, the Basque Mythology centre, where the history of this small town and its many Souletin legends will be revealed to you.
The walls of La Bastide Clairence recount 700 years of tales and history.
Founded in the Middle Ages under the name of Bastida de Clarenza, the village has retained the structure of south-western bastides with its main street and central square, the Place des Arceaux.
At the foot of the Iparla ridges, Saint-Etienne-de-Baïgorry is one of our favourite Basque villages. You can discover its history walking through the village.
The Nive des Aldudes runs through the village, and sports lovers will be thrilled with the large choice of hiking paths, the GR10 and mountain bike trails. Since 2016, Saint-Etienne-de-Baïgorry is also the first “Trail Station” in the northern Basque Country.
Situated between the Nive Valley and the Navarre border, Ainhoa is listed among the Most Beautiful Villages in France.
This bastide-street dates back to the 12th century and was created to welcome pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. The backdrop of green hills harmonises perfectly with the white and red façades of its houses. There are some beautiful walks in the surrounding countryside that provide an opportunity to discover the Aubépine Chapel, numerous streams and woods.
As a village, Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle is very spread out and divided into different quarters. It has experienced some major events during the course of its history and was the centre of witch hunts that were rampant at one time in the Basque Country. On a brighter note, Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle is also the home of the iconic willow chistera basket used to play a particular version of Basque pelote.
Today, Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle is a charming village with its lake that has become a popular spot for walking and other activities.
Saint Palais is, so to speak, the central point between the three provinces of Labourd, Lower Navarre and Soule.
As you walk through the streets, you will discover traces of its royal past, as the former capital of the kingdom of Navarre. The village has preserved many traditions, including its Basque strength festival, which is renowned throughout the region.
The wonders of Cambo-les-Bains can be discovered along the tree-lined streets bordered with flowers, typical Basque villas and Art Deco houses. All the gardens and streets brightened by magnificent hydrangeas have earned Cambo-les-Bains the reputation of being a Garden Town.
Cambo has all the peace and tranquillity of the Basque countryside while being a stone’s throw from the summer excitement on the Basque coast!
South of the River Adour, the Bidache region is at the crossroads of Gascon and Basque culture. It is also called Charnègou or Xarnegu country, a reference to the “melting pot” of cultures.
It is a river plain region that transforms into gently hilly terrain towards the south. In the distance you can see the Basse Navarre and Soule mountain ranges.
Located at the foot of Mt. Ursuia, Hasparren has beautiful half-timbered Labourdine houses.
Its name comes from the Basque words Ahaitz-barren(a): Ahaitz “height” and Barren “interior”. Over the years, popular tradition transformed ahaitz into haritz “oak”; this beautiful tree has thus become its emblem.
Ascain is a peaceful village, listed as a Station Verte ecotourism destination, on the banks of the River Nivelle. The centre of the village is concentrated around its small fronton.
Originally a small commercial port, little by little Ascain became home to many artisans with an array of expertise.
The village is situated at the foot of La Rhune Mountain and is a popular point of departure for hikers.
Situated at the foot of the Iparla ridges, Bidarray is one of the gateways into the province of Basse Navarre, in the Northern Basque Country.
Nature and hiking enthusiasts have found just the right place: rafting down the Nive, hiking along the GR10 or observing griffon vultures. Bidarray has also succeeded in preserving its local traditions and legends.
Arcangues is a neighbouring village of two seaside towns, Biarritz and Anglet.
An impression of harmony and calm emanates from these undulating green landscapes, just the right balance between nature and rural life. It is renowned for its golf course and as being the home of Luis Mariano.
Mauléon is overlooked by its Fortified Castle. The town developed around the castle but has long since spread down the hill and established itself near the “gave” (the name used in this neck of the woods to mean “river”).
This town is acknowledged as being the home of the espadrille and is well-known for its festivities that are even sung about in Basque songs.
Made famous by Empress Eugénie, Biarritz has a mild climate and a beautiful rugged coastline made up of jagged curves and rocky stacks. With its long-standing reputation as a health and recreational destination, its greens are open to those who love the little white ball, its rolling waves attract surfers from around the world and its thalassotherapy and fitness centres need no introduction.© K Pierret DelageAnglet
Referred to as Little California because of its atmosphere, art of living and boardsports culture, Anglet is a dynamic, sport-loving, nature-filled town. Its preserved, sandy coastline stretching 4.5km and its 230-hectare pine forest make Anglet an ideal playground for fans of wide open spaces and contrasted landscapes© Pierre ChambionBidart
In the heart of the Basque Coast, with a 5km coastline, Bidart is ideally situated to (re)discover the Basque country and to soak up the art of living specific to our destination.© OT HendayeHendaye
Hendaye is the ideal destination for family holidays in the Basque Country thanks to its bay that is protected from strong ocean waves and its array of entertainment during the school holidays!
If you prefer…
The Basque Country is a destination where culture is firmly anchored: festive culture with traditions, its own language, characteristic heritage, a wealth of local products and modern craftsmanship, but also culture entwined with nature, varied landscapes, outdoor activities and, what we call here, “living the good life”.
Which way will the wind blow you?
Jar zaitez gurekin harremanetan
Tourist Office of Pays Basque
20 Boulevard Victor Hugo