Unveiling the French Side of the Basque Country -
Panoramic View of St. Jean de Luz

Unveiling the French Side of the Basque Country

Escape the ordinary and hop over to the French Side of the Basque Country. This vibrant region offers an unequaled blend of unforgettable experiences, rich history, and stunning landscapes. Immerse yourself in a land steeped in tradition. Explore charming villages adorned with distinctive architecture, dating back to pre-Roman times. Witness the enduring spirit of the Basque people, evident in their rare language (Euskara) and vibrant culture. Embark on a culinary adventure unlike any other. From the fresh seafood of the Atlantic coast to the delicious wines from the interior, the French Basque Country offers a feast for the senses.

French Side Travel invites you to discover this captivating region.

Welcome to the Basque Country

Map of the Basque Country Courtesy of the Basque Cultural Institute

Beyond the familiar shores of Spain lies a hidden gem: the French Basque Country. Often overshadowed by its larger southern neighbor, this captivating region offers a unique blend of unforgettable experiences, rich history, and vibrant culture.

Straddling the border between France and Spain, Euskal Herria, the heart-shaped land of the Basque people, is a tapestry of lush landscapes, dramatic coastlines, and picturesque villages. While the Spanish Basque Country may be renowned for its vibrant festivals and Michelin-starred restaurants, the French Basque Country, known as Iparralde (“the north country” in Euskara), boasts its distinct charm.

Immerse yourself in a land steeped in history. Dating back to pre-Roman times, the Basque Country boasts a striking cultural identity and a strong sense of community. Explore historic towns adorned with distinctive architectural styles, and witness the enduring spirit of the Basque people, evident in their traditions and warm hospitality.

French Side Travel invites you to discover the untamed beauty of the French Basque Country. With our curated experiences and expert guidance, we’ll help you create unforgettable memories in this captivating region. Beyond the shops and souvenirs, discover the true essence of Iparralde.

Cities in the Basque Country

Biarritz (Miarritze)

Biarritz boasts a captivating blend of historical appeal and vibrant energy. In the mid-19th century, Empress Eugénie’s presence transformed this Basque town into a fashionable seaside resort for European royalty. Today, Biarritz continues to captivate visitors with its sophisticated elegance, oceanside wellness, and thriving surf scene.

Beyond its glamorous facade lies a rich past. Biarritz’s slate-roofed villas whisper tales of its whaling heritage, dating back to the 17th century. The town’s southern coast, Côte des Basques, holds an even more memorable distinction: the cradle of French surfing. In the 1950s, American influence ignited a passion for riding the waves, forever changing Biarritz’s cultural landscape.

Biarritz’s allure extends beyond its shores. The Atlantic coastline boasts exceptional surfing conditions, making it a European surfing haven. Whether you’re seeking a luxurious escape or an adrenaline-pumping adventure, Biarritz offers an unforgettable experience for every traveler.

Bayonne (Baiona)

Courtesy of Guide du Pays Basque

Step into a world of tantalizing flavors in Bayonne, the heart of authentic Basque cuisine. Wander idyllic alleys lined with shops and bakeries overflowing with regional specialties. Savor mouthwatering dishes like axoa, a savory veal or duck ragout infused with Espelette peppers, and chipirons à l’encre, tender squid cooked in their rich ink. Uncover Bayonne’s legacy as France’s chocolate capital, where centuries-old traditions meet exquisite craftsmanship. Treat yourself to a hand-whisked chocolat mousseux at the iconic Cazenave tearoom, and delight in exceptional Basque treats like biskotx, a black cherry jam-filled cake, and the city’s renowned cured ham.

Saint-Jean-de-Luz (Donibane Lohizune)

Courtesy of En Pays Basque

Between Biarritz and Hendaye along the Côte des Basques lies the tranquil coastal town of Saint-Jean-de-Luz. Immerse yourself in its rich maritime history, evident in the enchanting harbor and fortified walls. Explore pedestrian streets lined with elegant boutiques, savor exquisite Basque cuisine, and relax on the sun-drenched beaches.

Hendaye (Hendaia)

Courtesy of En Pays Basque

Bask in the natural beauty of France’s most southwesterly town. Its landscape paints a captivating picture of the Basque Country’s past, before the arrival of summer homes and surf shacks. Walk the Basque Corniche, a path winding over breathtaking sea cliffs, and see the region as it existed centuries ago. Basseri, adorned with sloping rooftops and oxblood-red timbers, dot the prairies. These traditional farmhouses stand as testaments to the enduring Basque culture, preserving its legacy amidst adversity.

Sunset Sail along the Basque Coast

Escape the ordinary and embark on a magical sunset sail along the Basque Coast, departing from Hendaye. Leave the landmarks behind and lose yourself in a breathtaking display of ever-changing colors, both in the sky and reflected on the shimmering sea. This unforgettable experience offers a moment of pure relaxation as you share the beauty of the setting sun with family and friends. Guided by a state-qualified instructor, you can simply sit back, soak in the breathtaking scenery, and create lasting memories under the Basque sky. This elevated escape from the every day is the perfect way to end your day, leaving you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

Things to Do in the Basque Country

Explore the Basque Coast

Courtesy of Bidart Tourisme

Unwind on a captivating coastal journey through the French Basque Country, a colorful tapestry of seafront villas, surf lodges, and rustic Basque farmhouses. Witness the birthplace of French surfing on Biarritz’s Côte des Basques and delve into Bidart (Bidarte), a quintessential Basque village. Experience the magic of the Sentier du Littoral, a 15-mile coastal trail offering breathtaking panoramas. Beginning in Bidart, the path weaves through the fishing villages of Guéthary, Saint-Jean-de-Luz, and Ciboure, culminating in a spectacular corniche and ending in enchanting Hendaye by the Franco-Spanish border. Immerse yourself in the landscape’s beauty and discover the hidden cultural secrets of this captivating region. This journey promises breathtaking views, rich history, and the captivating spirit of the Basque Country.

Surfing Initiation Class

Courtesy of Caroline Hernandez

Unleash your inner surfer in Hendaye, the French Basque Country’s year-round surfing haven. Ideal for beginners, Hendaye’s sheltered location offers calm summer waves perfect for learning, while its winter swells provide a challenge when other spots get rough. Experience consistent surf and discover the ideal learning environment, no matter the season.

Visit the Villages of the Basque Interior

Courtesy of Biarritz Pays Basque

Immerse yourself in the picturesque villages of Ainhoa and Espelette, where Basque heritage shines bright. Ainhoa, listed amongst France’s most beautiful villages, invites you to explore its traditional architecture, vibrant culture, and historical significance as a stopover for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago. Delve into the rich social fabric of the Basque people with your local guide.

Continue to Espelette (Ezpeleta), a quaint village where Basque houses are decorated with the iconic red peppers. Traditionally, the piments d’Espelette dangle on strings to dry, practically forming curtains, and frame windows and doorways. Discover the inimitable production process that gives these peppers their distinct flavor, a staple in Basque cuisine worldwide.

Your Basque adventure doesn’t end there! Explore further and uncover hidden gems nestled within this captivating landscape. Each village offers a unique tapestry of cultural experiences, breathtaking views, and culinary delights waiting to be unveiled.

Try Sagardoa (Basque Apple Cider) & Txakoli (Basque White Wine)

This traditional cider is made from fermented apples. It is a dry, slightly sparkling cider that is typically served in large glasses. Traditional production involves storing the cider in large oak barrels called kupela. These barrels impart subtle woody and earthy flavors to the cider. Txakoli is an AOC wine produced in the Basque Country, along the Atlantic coast. It is a dry, white wine that is made from the Ondarrabi Zuri grape variety. Learn more about AOC wine here.

Courtesy of Visit French Wines

Private Guided Tour of Basque Vineyards

Discover the rich flavors and history of the French Basque Country on this captivating tour. In the village of Espelette, taste its renowned peppers, and delve into the secrets of Basque cider making. Visit the picturesque town of Saint Jean Pied de Port, a pilgrimage landmark, and immerse yourself in the vineyards of Irouléguy, known for its distinct wines. Uncover the fascinating history of Navarre and learn about the region’s traditions on this unforgettable journey for history buffs and food lovers alike.

Tasting of Underwater-Aged Wine

Dive into an uncommon wine experience in the French Basque Country. Discover a historic winery overlooking Socoa Beach, where exceptional wines are matured and bottled. Explore the innovative process of underwater aging, where the ocean’s natural elements like swell and tides infuse the wines with distinctive aromas. Embark on this luxurious French adventure and taste the extraordinary results of this patented technique.

Where to Stay in the Basque Country

Hôtel du Palais

Courtesy of Hotel du Palais

Step back in time at the Hôtel du Palais, a historic gem overlooking the Atlantic. Built for Empress Eugénie, this luxurious hotel has hosted royalty, including King Edward VII, who famously visited annually, and celebrities like Coco Chanel, who opened a boutique in Biarritz during the First World War. Experience impeccable interiors reminiscent of the Napoleon III era and breathtaking ocean views. French Side Travel invites you to discover this iconic landmark.

Brindos, Lac & Château

©Mathilde Ranchon

Nestled on the shores of a legendary lake, Brindos, Lac & Château offers an unforgettable escape in the Basque Country. Luxuriate in nature with lake-view rooms or distinct floating lodges named after local fairytales. Embrace Basque culture through the hotel’s elegant décor and peaceful setting. Step into a haven of timeless elegance at Brindos Lac & Château

Les Hortensias du Lac

Courtesy of Les Hortensias du Lac

Just north of the Basque Country, in the stunning Landes region, lies Les Hortensias du Lac. This luxurious surf lodge hotel offers a laid-back atmosphere reminiscent of the Hamptons, with most rooms boasting stunning lake views. Indulge in fresh seafood and plancha cuisine at the panoramic restaurant, or unwind at the spa designed to echo the surrounding landscape. For a beachfront escape, head to La Cabane des Estagnots just minutes away. French Side Travel invites you to experience Les Hortensias du Lac, just a 30-minute drive from Bayonne along the breathtaking Landes coastline.

Ready to discover the untamed beauty of the French Basque Country? Let our travel experts craft a tailor-made itinerary that perfectly captures your interests and desires. Contact French Side Travel today and embark on an unforgettable adventure!

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