Ascain is a peaceful village 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.
A village in nature
The village of Ascain has developed at the foot of the mountains and along the edge of the River Nivelle.Indeed, the river crosses Ascain in several places. The ambiance of the village is both peaceful and natural. It has all the qualities of a village in the heart of the countryside but is only a stone’s throw from the ocean and seaside resorts.
Ascain has a lively village centre with its particular feature being the small fronton that fits perfectly between the imposing church and beautiful half-timbered Basque houses. Pelote players gather here very often and the sound of the ball hitting the wall sets the tempo for life in the village.
An inland port
Portu bat barnekaldean
Even though the village is situated inland, it is only 6km from the ocean and for many years it was a flourishing port.
Scows, a type of flat-bottomed barge, descended the Nivelle to the port of St-Jean-de-Luz. They transported wood, stone from La Rhune and minerals extracted from local quarries. Around the 17th century, it was a major commercial port and many shipbuilding workshops set up here. It was operating up until 1920.
Today, it is a beautiful place ideal for a stroll along the banks of the River Nivelle where fishing enthusiasts come to cast their lines.
A village of traditional craftmen
Ascain has since turned the spotlight on promoting traditional Basque crafts and know how.
The artisanal zone of Larre Lore provides premises for many renowned Basque enterprises. For example, the Ateliers Lartigue 1910 known for making Basque fabric in both modern and traditional styles. Just next to them are the workshops of the Laffargue family who came to make their studded leatherwork products. More unusual is the pearl workshop of Simon and Simon who make pearly beads using technical know-how dating from the 17th century.
When it comes to food and beverages, Akerbelz brewery produces its beers in Ascain and Txopinondo cider house will be pleased to give you the opportunity of discovering sagarno (Basque cider). Just opposite you will find Confit d’Ascain that produces quality local farm products.
As the village is at the foot of La Rhune Mountain, Ascain is certainly the most well-known point of departure for climbing up on foot.
You could also choose to set off from the quarries in the Olhette district. Whichever you choose, it takes approximately 2 hours to climb and 1 and a half hours to descend. Walking shoes and lots of water are strongly recommended as there is nowhere on the way to renew supplies.
At the summit there is a 360° view of the Basque country and 3 ventas (Spanish shops or restaurants) where you can eat and drink. However, there is generally only one open in low-season. For those who do not want to climb on foot, the La Rhune train is just 2km away at the pass of Saint Ignace and it will take you up in just 35 minutes without any effort.