The Northern Basque Country, or Iparralde, in Basque, is made up of three provinces: Labourd or Lapurdi (capital: Bayonne), Lower Navarre (capital: Saint-Jean-de-Pied-de-Port) and Soule or Zuberoa (capital: Mauleon). They are located in the French department of the Atlantic Pyrenees.
City of art and history.
What to see: the historic city center and the Sainte-Marie cathedral and its cloister, the Saint-Esprit district, especially Sainte Catherine Street, for its architecture.
What to do: Learn about the Basque culture at the Basque Museum, drink or eat chocolate* at the Cazenave tea room, visit the food market, the bullring (les arènes de Bayonne), stroll along the streets to admire the local architecture.
*Bayonne is Europe's unsung capital of cacao, it is where the secret of chocolate-making first came to France, brought by Sephardic Jews driven from Spain and Portugal by the Inquisition.
Tel. + 33 5 59 46 14 94
Surf, golf & thalassotherapy with a superb seaside promenade. A cosmopolitan city, a pleasant mix of styles!
What to see: the Grande Plage, the Port des Pêcheurs, the beach of Port Vieux, the Rock of the Virgin, the Imperial Chapel, the Orthodox Church.
What to do: wear confortable shoes and walk from the lighthouse (you can climb the steps to the summit to admire the view!), to the Côte des Basques (you will pass in front of the most beautiful sites of the city) . Visit the food market and eat at one of the neighborhood's bistros and tapas bars. Near the market, rue Broquedis, located in Saint Andrews church, a little cultural visit is required: the Historical Museum of Biarritz.
Tel. + 33 5 59 23 13 68
Seaside resort with more than 4 km. beaches, the paradise of surfing.
What to see: its beaches, such as Chambre d'Amour, perfect if you are with your family, la Madrague, lined with green areas, and Cavaliers for surfers.
What to do: Take a surf lesson, play golf, wander through the Chiberta forest, have a drink at Kostaldea (beautiful coastal panorama) or at Lagunak.
Tel. + 33 5 59 15 27 17
Espelette is a picturesque village located in the Basque province of Lapurdi nestled at the foot of the mountains and 20 minutes away from the coast.
What to see: the facades of the houses, covered with red peppers, the typical and emblematic product of this area.
What to do: If you visit the village on a Wednesday morning, do not miss the local products food market. You can also discover and admire the countryside by hiking. The Tourist Office of Espelette organizes different outings throughout the year. For more info click here.
Tel. + 33 5 59 37 91 91
Seaside resort with a sandy beach of 3 km, paradise for surfers but also swimmers, located very close to the Spanish border. It benefits from exceptional panoramas, one can admire abrupt limestone cliffs which border the littoral.
What to see: Abbadia Castle and the seafront.
What to do: go to the marina and take the sea shuttle to Hondarribia, Spain. For schedules, click here.
If you like to walk, take the Sentier du Littoral, from the thalassotherapy center in Hendaye to Erretegia in Bidart. It's 25 km (7 hours), but it can be done in different stages. A great way to discover this part of the Basque coast! Exceptional panoramas! The details >>> here.
Tel. + 33 5 59 20 16 29
SAINT JEAN DE LUZ
Old haunt of Basque privateers, Saint-Jean-de-Luz is today a charming seaside small village which has been able to preserve its identity and its authenticity. Located in the heart of a bay of fine sand, its architecture with colorful Basque houses worths the detour.
What to see: Its picturesque tiny streets, its charming fishing port, the house of Louis XIV and the beautiful church of Saint-Jean Baptiste.
What to do: Stroll along the streets to admire the local architecture, sit in one of the terraces of the Place Louis XIV, walk along the seafront to Pointe Sainte-Barbe. Regarding the beaches, the Grande Plage of Saint-Jean-de-Luz is perfect if you are with children, if you are seeking relaxed atmosphere, head to Erromardie, with its beach bars; Mayarco and Lafitenia, are two charming creeks in the district of Acotz, that you will always remember!
For foodies, during the Summer, visit the food market, specially Tuesdays and Fridays morning, when local producers directly sell their products outside the market building.
Tel. + 33 5 59 26 35 36
SARE - AINHOA - LA BASTIDE CLAIRENCE
The villages of Ainhoa, Sare and La Bastide Clairence are listed in the Most Beautiful Villages of France*.
Aïnhoa - XIIIth century bastide, 3 km away from the Spanish frontier
Sare - Prehistoric caves and a lovely village with beautiful local architecture, from where you can climb la Rhune
La Bastide Clairence - beautiful bastide with its church and handcraft
*The Association Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (literally, Association of the Most Beautiful Villages of France) is a French association created in 1982, with the aim of promoting the tourist attraction of small French rural municipalities, based on their artistic and historical heritage.
Tel. + 33 5 59 29 92 11
SAINT JEAN PIED DE PORT
Saint-Jean-de-Pied-de-Port - Donibane Garazi in Basque, is the last French stage of the Way of Saint James, with its medieval streets and its fabulous citadel.
Saint-Etienne-de-Baigorry - Small cross-border village of Lower Navarre, in the heart of the Aldudes valley, surrounded by the vineyards of Irouléguy, a haven of peace. His church, built with local pink stone, is a small jewel. Other visits: the Roman bridge and the castle of Etchauz (1555). It is also a starting point for many hikings: the Auza (1306m), is located on the Spanish side, the Iparla (1049m) with its beautiful ridges, the Oylarandoy (935m), among others.
Hiking info here
Tel. + 33 5 59 37 01 01
Straddling France and Spain, the Iraty Forest is one of the largest beech forests in Europe. The Iraty massif is to discover in all seasons, each period offers majestic natural landscapes of a great variety. Hiking, mountain biking, trout fishing, horseback riding, snowshoeing, archeological sites ... you will find a multitude of possibilities in an unusual place. Plan your visit here.
Where to sleep: Chalets d'Iraty
Tel. + 33 5 59 37 01 01
Wild and unique place, located in the province of Zuberoa/Soule, in the heart of the Basque Country.
What to see: La Verna caves and the Kakuetta gorges: a turquoise lake, a canyon, a waterfall of more than 20m, vertiginous walls glistening with fresh water, lush vegetation. The village of Sainte-Engrâce, has kept the particular authenticity of the hamlets of the Haute-Soule in the heart of the Basque mountains. Its Romanesque church is an architectural jewel of the eleventh century.
What to do: the visit of Kakouetta gorges is a must. Practical tips and details here.
Mauléon-Licharre is the capital of Zuberoa/Soule but also the capital of the espadrille*!
What to see & what to do: Two castles listed as Historical Monuments: the imposing 12th-century medieval hilltop castle of Mauleon, with its walkway offering a magnificent panorama of the Saison's valley and the Pyrenees; the castle of Andurain de Maytie, Renaissance style, pierced with mullioned windows and skylights (closed Thursdays, open from 11h to 17h40 from Monday to Saturday, Sundays from 15h to 17h40, from 1 July to 20 September) .
Don't miss the visit of the espadrilles workshops.
August 15th is the festivity of the espadrille in Mauléon.
Larrau is a mountain village on the road to Santiago de Compostela, located at the foot of the Pic d'Orhy.
What to see & do: The Holçarte footbridge and its impressive hanging bridge more than 180 meters heigth. Built in 1920, it is 70 m long and it still remains perfect. Access is from Logibar Hostel. You need 45 min / 1h to climb up to the bridge.
All details here.