Ideally located, equidistant from Biarritz and Saint Jean de Luz, its prestigious and well-known neighbours, Guéthary is the smallest village on the Aquitaine coast. Indeed, it’s so small that you may inadvertently go through it on the D810 road without noticing it. What a shame! As soon as you enter the main street, after exploring the centre of the village, the salty air will draw you irrevocably towards the ocean as the ultimate goal of your visit, but before that, take some time for a little tour.
A village facing out to the ocean
Herri bat itsasoari begira
The port has not changed since yesteryear
In the past, fishermen and whale hunters
Formerly Guéthary was mainly focused on fishing. From the 11th to the 19th century, whaling was an activity on the coast of the Basque Country. It is difficult to imagine the life of the whale hunters looking out from the coast to spot the passage of whales. As soon as whales were reported, everyone would get ready in haste and embark on small boats to go and harpoon the sea monsters. Such risk-taking is quite inconceivable today.
A small, dry-dock port
The port of Guéthary, in addition to being the smallest on the coast, has the particularity of being in dry dock; in other words, all the boats are hoisted out of the water using a winch after each trip to sea. Considering its size, it can only accommodate a few boats and the docks are booked for years making it is very difficult or even impossible to obtain a mooring ring (or a dock). The port is protected by a short seawall and has an unsupervised beach.
There are three of them, and they are sometimes inaccessible because of the tides but the "wild cove" side of the Alcyons and Cenitz beaches guarantee calm conditions and are, at low tide, places for kids to discover marine life. Sea urchins, crabs, shrimps and other strange animals live in the rock pools. In order to preserve the ecosystems you are asked to observe without touching. The size of the animals will not enable you to make a good seafood meal, so you might as well let them thrive in their natural environment. Please note that only Parlementia beach is supervised.
Guéthary, the Mecca of international surfing, is privileged to have 2 legendary waves. The "Right” wave -"Parlementia" - which forms in Guéthary and runs aground in Bidart, with access via the port of Guéthary and the "Left" wave - "Avalanche" - with access via Alcyons beach. Right or Left indicates the direction in which the wave rolls.
Parliamentia : the Basque Country’s legendary wave
It has been known ever since the early days of surfing. Its perfect way of rolling, its size and its dangerous aspect have made its reputation: it is a legendary BIG spot on a par with the Hawaiian spots. As it is located offshore, it is difficult to estimate its size and to realise, from the shore, that it can easily reach 5 metres high. Parliamentia is a sumptuous straight line that hypnotizes all surfers.
Avalanche : a rare wave for experienced surfers
The Avalanche spot is located opposite Alcyons jetty at the end of the port. It's a long, BIG spot that only appears in certain, very specific weather conditions: a complex combination of wind, tides and swells.
This wave is really reserved for experts and professionals because the surrounding rocks at water-level are invisible to untrained eyes. However, the view is spectacular seen from Alcyons jetty or the beach.
A Basque village spirit on the Basque coast
Euskal herri bat euskal kostaldean
Guéthary covers 351 acres and has 1,356 permanent residents.
Traditionally a village of fishermen and farmers, it was in 1864 with the arrival of the train and the fashion for sea bathing launched by Empress Eugenie that Guéthary turned to tourism and developed.
The fronton : the central square in Guéthary’s social life
A lively village around the central square
The Basque soul of the village is best felt at the Place du Fronton adjoining the beautiful town hall. This is the beating heart for village events and Guéthary’s very active community life. Local festivals, pelota games and shows take place here all year round. Besides the tourist attraction to the place, for Basque people the fronton remains the central point of the village with its moments of joy and conviviality, but also serious moments and endless discussions. There is not a resident of Guéthary who has not once said: "See you at the Fronton!".
The town hall : a beautiful Basque house
The neo-Basque-style town hall is listed in the inventory of historical monuments; there are traditional sculptures of Amatxi and Aitatxi (grandmother and grandfather) which often adorn the facades of town halls, a testimony of the respect paid to the wisdom and knowledge of elders.
The Terrace : a "V.I.P." observation deck in Guéthary
Panorama of the infinite ocean horizon
The terrace, an essential part of your walk, offers the most beautiful panorama in Guéthary stretching from Biarritz to Hondarribia. In addition to being must-visit spot to enjoy the sunset and watch the surfers' performance, the terrace is a place of tranquillity that is perfect for meditation. Often when the sun goes down, silence sets in and everyone can enjoy this moment of eternity while waiting for the legendary ‘green flash’ sunray.
From the Terrace to the terraces ...
Easily accessible on foot from the town centre, it is a stone’s throw from "La Terrasse" to the lively terraces of the bars in Guéthary !
Bars and restaurants
Indeed, these high-quality bars and restaurants are renowned for the quality of their cuisine; the bars for their "Chic and trendy" style. People happily meet along the pier for a drink and a selection of tapas or local specialties.
The coastal path passes through Guéthary
For keen walkers, the coastal path offers you the possibility of a beautiful hike. The 15.5 mile (25 km) coastal path between Bidart and Hendaye crosses the lower part of the village. The trail never goes down on the sand but always stays as close as possible to the water. If you go in the Bidart-Saint-Jean-de-Luz direction, you will go along Parlementia promenade to the port, to Alcyons jetty, then a path goes up the cliff and leads you to Cenitz beach and hill, listed by the coastal preservation authorities.
All the way along, such beautiful sea views accompany you
A rich cultural life
Bizi kulturala aberatsa
Getari enea : a cinema with many artistic activities
After being closed for decades, this cinema has reopened, beautiful and brand new. More than a mere cinema, the Guéthary-Résidences-Arts-Ateliers-Cinéma (GRAAC) project is the idea of blending artistic disciplines and making it a place with collective cultural experiences for everyone. It is, first and foremost, an arthouse cinema with national releases, heritage films, rare films, independent films but also different formats and sound creations, for all audiences. With its associative café, evenings at Getari Enea will be accompanied by events directly linked to the films: cine-dinner, cine-snacks, cine-workshops, cine-debates. Other cultural events will complete the magic of a new place to share, accessible to everyone, to the aficionados but also to cinema fans, the curious and connoisseurs.
The museum was created in the fifties to accommodate donations from sculptor Georges Clément de Swiecinski, a sculptor who was keen on direct sculpting and an excellent portrait painter from the beginning of the 20th century. This collection includes sculptures, ceramics and numerous drawings.
A second part is devoted to Roman remains found in Guéthary. Excavations have revealed the existence of a salting factory as well as an exceptional funerary epitaph, unique in southern Aquitaine.
The third part presents the history of the village and its evolution from a small fishing port to the current seaside resort.
Finally, temporary exhibitions allow you to admire the work of local and international contemporary artists. Guéthary, while keeping its identity, often has the desire to open up to others and to stand out through the originality of its choices.