The Pays de Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, also known as the Pays de Cize, is the Basse Navarre region surrounding Saint-Jean-Pied-Port village, listed as one of the “Loveliest villages in France”.
With the Spanish border on one side, and the valley of Saint-Etienne-de-Baïgorry on the other, the 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.
Land of heritage and gastronomy
Ondarea eta gastronomia
The Pays de Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is the southern region of the Basse Navarre province. With the valley of Saint-Etienne-de-Baïgorry to the west, Spain to the south and the Pays of l'Ostibarre to the east, this is AOP Irouléguy wine country. One of the main attractions is the town of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and its citadel. The Camino Francès (GR 65), towards Santiago de Compostela also passes through the region.
A strategic location
Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port was founded during the 12th century. At that time the village was part of the Kingdom of Navarre, the capital of which was Pamplona. The village had a strategic location at the foot of the Pyrenees, enabling watch to be kept over the north of the kingdom and its borders with the Kingdom of France. The Pays de Cize was known as far back as Roman times, as is demonstrated by the artefacts and ruins found in Saint-Jean-le-Vieux village, and the Urkulu tower, an ancient guard tower built by the Romans near the Arnostéguy pass. Irissarry village is also home to the ancient commandery of the Order of the Knights Hospitaller of Malta (Knights-Templar).
Proximity to the mountains and the river Nive, which passes through the region, makes it the perfect place for canyoning and potholing (also known as speleology). There are also many hiking trails. Starting from the villages of Jaxu and Ispoure, you can go for a stroll through the Irouléguy vines and up to Arradoy peak. The GR 10 trail starting at Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port allows you to join both Estérençuby and Saint-Etienne-de-Baïgorry. Starting at Arnostéguy pass, you will be able to visit the ruins of the Roman Urkulu tower, situated at an altitude of more than 1,400 m. At the Spanish border, near the Orgambidé pass, the Harpea Cave is easily recognisable by its unique shape.
The Pays de Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port consists of two valleys. One is the valley of Ergaray, where the villages of Mendive, Béhorléguy and Lecumberry are located. Due to their proximity to Iraty Forest, these villages are ideal for hiking and discovering more about the farmers who produce the famous Ossau-Iraty sheep’s milk cheese. The valley of Estérençuby, through which pass the GR 10 and the GR 65, is home to the villages of Saint-Michel and Estérençuby.
How to come there
All means are good to come and spend a few days in the Basque Country: by train, by car, by plane and even on foot for some!How to get there?