Discover the Basque country
In what was the ancient kingdom of Navarre, the Basque country is spread over both sides of the Pyrenees, French and Spanish. A strategic routeway between the north and the south, it has been attacked a thousand times. This may explain the distinctive character of the Basque people who have maintained their unique identity through the ages.
It is why the seven provinces which make up today’s Euskal Herria, the Basque name for the region, are so multifaceted. Eskualduna, the Basque language is spoken throughout the region and is the cement that binds its people together.
Come to the colourful villages of the Basque country to learn about its people and their customs!
- Ainhoa: A C17th bastide town of timber-frame houses with a galleried church. The gallery was added later to provide more space and was used by the men.
- Espelette: Built around the chateau of a baronial family. With no descendants, the last baroness left the town to the inhabitants. Today it is known for its red peppers, the cultivation of which was introduced 1500’s.
- Cambo-les-Bains: Villa Arnaga, near a thermal spa is where Edmond Rostand came in search of peace and to recover his health.
- Saint-Jean-de-Luz: Famous for the wedding of Louis XIV and princess Maria Teresa of Spain in 1660. Wealthy ship-owner’s houses surround the harbour, their red and black colour reminds us that this town was known for its pirates.
- Wherever you are, the view is dominated by the Rhune mountain at 905 m. Since 1924 its summit has been accessible thanks to a rack railway.
- Saint-Jean-de-Pied-de-Port: On the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostella should not be missed, the shops on the bustling rue de la Citadelle have been serving travellers for centuries.
- Back on the coast is Biarritz. Once a fishing village, it became one of the most popular C19th seaside resorts when Eugene de Montijo, wife of Napoleon III built a house here. Later came the casino and art deco architecture fronting the wonderful beach where huge turquoise waves crash onto the sand. It’s heaven for surfers who have been coming here since 1957.
- Further along the Cote d’Argent is Bayonne, built on a promontory at the confluence of the Adour and the Nive rivers. The streets of Bayonne have many pretty timber-frame houses painted in the colours of the Basque flag, green and red. You will find numerous treasures within the medieval city walls including the only gothic cathedral in the Basque country and everywhere are the chocolate makers, for which the town is famous.
Come and explore the region with a guide to learn about its long history and its people!