The French Basque Country or Iparralde as it’s known in Basque, is enjoying a renaissance, as people discover the appeal of this aristocratic resort on the Bay of Biscay. The golden shores are now shared by everyone from elegant Parisians in designer sandals to tousled surfers in frayed flip-flops. Don’t miss the the historic villages, Basque architecture, delightful town squares and and of course amazing food. In recent years, a younger generation has emerged, opening design shops, re-jiggering the food scene and sprucing up classic red-and-white farmhouses that dot the countryside. The best thing about this part of the Basque Country is that everything is relatively close so you can visit several charming towns without having to change hotels.
Day by Day
Arrive in Biarritz airport or train station.
Settle in and get the lay of the land. Tour the town, go to the lighthouse, and visit the grand Hôtel du Palais for drinks before a welcoming dinner in glitzy Biarritz. Up until 1650, well before it became a storied summer playground for European royalty, Biarritz was a significant whaling port on the Bay of Biscay.
Visit Biarritz’ charming neighbouring town: Saint Jean de Luz
Start with a morning Market tour and enjoy some fresh oysters -it’s never too early for oysters!-
Discover the town with a pause for lunch. Stop in Louis XIV’s square where the King married Marie-Therese, Infanta of Spain, in 1660, sealing the peace between France and Spain. Enjoy some leisurely shopping in town, from their classic Linge-Basque tea towels, linen tablecloths, and handmade espadrilles to specialty chocolate shops and french gourmet goods.
Bayonne & Guéthary
Bayonne, with its fortified walls by Vauban and set on the Rivers Nive and Adour was the birthplace of the bayonnet and the bonbon. A haven for Jewish chocolate makers in the 16th century it still has coquettish confectioners and a fascinating museum of Basque history.
Low-key, gorgeous Guéthary has always been a discreet spot for visiting celebrities from Charlie Chaplin to Madonna seeking privacy. Take a surf class or afternoon tea in a quiet cafe.
Espelette and French Gardens
Spa town Cambo-les-Bain has a beautiful art deco spa but more so it was the chosen home of Edmond Rostand Cyrano de Bergerac who built his stunning neo Basque estate Villa Arnaga in 1906 surrounded by classic French gardens. Call in for a visit on your way to Espelette, a traditional village where Basque houses are festooned with the red pepper is a busy little hub of pepper farmers, cheese makers and chefs.
St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port and The Pyrenees
Meander through green hills dotted with farmsteads and blond d’Aquitaine cows, into the province of Basse Navarre to St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port where you will spend the night. Set at the base of the Pyrenees the village is the start of the Camino de Santiago for many pilgrims starting their month long journey on foot to Santiago de Compostela. It’s a lovely evocative place with cobbled streets, medieval bridges and vibrant markets and a Michelin starred restaurant for your dinner!
Basque Village and farewell!
Return to the coast via the pretty Basque village Ainhoa with it’s 16th century main street lined with artisans and craftsman. We would be happy to help you continue your journey back home or the next leg of your trip!