Explore Biarritz and the Basque Country, France and Spain - Itinerary
Below is our planned itinerary. Please keep in mind that it could change due to weather conditions, or other circumstances beyond our control. Description of each day’s hiking is mileage/elevation change/estimated hours of walking/grade. These are approximate. Included meals shown by B - breakfast, D - dinner.
Day 1 Tues May 10 Arrival day
Settle into our hotel, in the center of Biarritz from 5pm, or from 8pm if you are connecting from the Provence trip. This is our home for the full trip. We will have optional welcome drinks at 9 pm in the hotel bar.
Day 2 Weds May 11 Biarritz 6 miles +400 feet 4 hr Easy
Before setting off on our tour of Biarritz, we start with our welcome talk and to answer last minute questions. Biarritz is a stylish beach town on France’s southwestern coast in the French Basque Country. It is a luxurious seaside tourist destination and Europe’s surfing capital. From the 12th to the 16th century, whaling was the principal local industry. The town’s coat of arms features a whale below a rowing boat manned by five sailors wearing berets. In the 18th century, doctors claimed the ocean at Biarritz had therapeutic properties, inspiring patients to head for the beach to cure their ailments. Biarritz truly became renowned in 1854 when Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III built a palace on the beach (now Hotel du Palais) and European royalty were frequent visitors. We start with a tour of the lively and colorful indoor market to see and smell some of the fabulous Basque Country regional specialties and to buy food for our sack lunch. Our walking tour encompasses the most famous landmarks and attractions in Biarritz including the Belle Epoque and Art-Deco hotels and casinos, the ports, the Virgin’s rock, the beaches and the lighthouse. By the end of the afternoon, we come back to the hotel to freshen up, before heading out to a lovely bistro style restaurant for dinner. B D
Day 3 Thurs May 12 La Rhune - Suhalmendi – Sare 6 miles ±600 feet 4 hr Average
After a 30 minute ride from Biarritz, we start from the pass at St Ignace. We board the elegant wooden carriages of the rack railway and climb through the woods to reach open ground and the steep craggy summit of La Rhune, hoping to spot griffon vultures taking advantage of the thermals produced by the landforms in the warming sun. A terrace offers panoramic views over the Basque Country, the ocean and the Pyrenees. Back at the pass, we have the opportunity to buy drinks and sandwiches at one of the ventas (tourist shops/ bars), before crossing the road and heading up on the track opposite to reach the “Redoute” (an old fortification built by the French to defend the border with Spain). On the way, we might come across semi-wild ponies called Pottoks, Kintoas, the pigs of the Basque Country particularly appreciated by the amateurs of ham and local charcuterie, and the Manechs, the local red-faced sheep. We then follow a small path on the edge of the forest and ascend to the summit of Suhalmendi to enjoy a complete 360 degrees view towards the Pyrenees, the countryside and the Atlantic Ocean. The descent follows a wide track across pastures to the pretty village of Sare, 2 miles from the Spanish border and a major prehistoric site with traces of human occupation dating back 200,000 years. Sare is home to a museum of regional specialities and if you don’t fancy the charcuterie after seeing the kintoa, you might want to try the Gateau Basque instead. Dinner at a typical small restaurant serving local cuisine, vegetarian and vegan dishes. B D
Day 4 Fri May 13 Hendaye - St Jean de Luz 8½ miles +330 feet 4½ hr Moderate
Due to its proximity to the Spanish border, Hendaye is a melting pot of both cultures and has been the scene of many border disputes. If you want to visit Spain, there are no checkpoints or passport controls, all you need to do is walk over one of the several bridges to Irun: since 1660, the river has been the official border between France and Spain. Both the GR10 hike that runs the whole length of the Pyrenees from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean and the picturesque Sentier du Littoral (Coastal Path) start here. From the train station, we head into town and explore Hendaye. Then, we walk along the bay, sheltered from the powerful swell of the Atlantic Ocean and along the beach. We hop on the passenger boat to Spain to visit Hondarribia, a medieval walled town with a maze of cobblestone streets, old baroque buildings and a colorful fishing port where you can enjoy lunch in one of the welcoming bars and restaurants. Back in France, we follow the coastal path along the beach, the longest in the French Basque Country, to the little cape of “Gros Jumeau” and continue between cliffs and ocean with wonderful views of the Bay of Biscay all the way to the small port of Socoa and the beautiful town of Saint Jean de Luz, with time to explore the town before dinner. B D
Day 5 Sat May 14 Dantxarria – Ainhoa - Espelette 7½ miles +1800 feet 4½ hr Moderate
We start in the village of Dantxarria located in a peaceful valley at the bottom of the peaks of Iparla, then over the river and through predominantly beech woods and pastures to Ainhoa, ranked one of the most beautiful villages in France. We take time to explore the village, the chapel and the famous 16th–17th century disc-shaped gravestones. We regroup after enjoying lunch, and ascend the oratory path and its many switchbacks to a little chapel with impressive vistas. We follow the ridge path, past 3 crosses and up to the small summit of Errebi. We descend on a large ridge past woods, pastures and meadows, with numerous shepherd huts and traditional pigeon shooting butts along the way to the little town of Espelette, famous for the surprising sight of red peppers drying on the walls of the houses. Dinner in a lovely traditional Basque restaurant. B D
Day 6 Sun May 15 Spain: Pasaia – San Sebastian 8 miles +1100 feet 4½ hr Easy
A delightful clifftop hike for a lovely day in Spain, followed by an evening in old San Sebastian (Donostia in Basque). To get to the trail head, we take the train called “El Topo” (“The Mole”) from Hendaye station and get off at Pasaia station. From the station, we head in the direction of the port, along the quayside and on a path up to the top of the cliffs to a beautiful viewpoint over Pasaia bay where we enjoy our sack lunch. We continue on the long-distance path GR 121 through a small wood to the lighthouse Faro de la Plata and onto San Sebastian bay and the “Gros” (big) district of San Sebastian with many buildings of Belle Epoque grandeur. A brief walk up a little peninsula gives us spectacular views of Concha Beach, before heading down to old San Sebastian where we will have time to wander the streets a while and enjoy the Spanish way of life and the festive atmosphere of this beautiful location with an evening meal in one of the many friendly tapas or pintxos bars. B D
Day 7 Mon May 16 St Etienne de Baigorry - Saint Jean Pied de Port 9 miles ±2000 feet 5½ hr Hard
Fantastic day on the nationally renowned long-distance path GR10, traversing over small summits where graceful birds of prey and impressive vultures can be spotted and visiting typical Basque villages. We start above Saint Etienne de Baigorry, between the hamlets of Munixta et Legarre (Alt 1800 feet) along the road then on a good track until we reach the ridge leading to the summit of Oilarandoi towering a thousand feet above us. We contour the summit on a balcony path before rejoining the South ridge above a beautiful valley. Weather permitting, we stop on the ridge to enjoy our sack lunch. A short ascent takes us to the summit of Munhoa. Afterwards, we descend steadily, on open pastures at first then on quiet tracks and minor roads to Saint Jean Pied de Port, a beautiful bustling French market town. Former capital city of the region of Navarra and gateway to the Pyrenees, Saint Jean Pied de Port is the traditional starting point of the Camino de Santiago, known in French as “Le chemin de Saint Jacques de Compostelle”, or “The Way of St. James”. There is a large market every Monday, and at 5 pm you can join a game of bare hand Pelota if you have got very strong hands. There is plenty of interesting architecture, from as far back as the 15th century. The main street is filled with nice restaurants and little shops, probably the best places to buy the famous “bérêt basque”. We dine at a local favorite serving traditional Basque cuisine. B D
Day 8 Tues May 17 St Jean de Luz to Biarritz 9 miles +500 feet 5 hr Easy
Saint Jean de Luz is a traditional fishing town proud of its history and culture. It hosts a couple of festivals in June with lots of dancing and street parades and celebrates the Fetes de la Saint-Jean every year with a tuna and sardine festival. Nowadays, tourism is the main source of income with world class golf courses, spas, casino and a calm golden beach. The fastest ball sport in the world is played here, in a dedicated Jai-alai indoor court. Passing through the town is the Sentier du Littoral, the coastal path that we followed on Friday.
Arriving in Saint Jean de Luz by train, we have a bit of time to explore more of this beautiful town, where many buildings date back to the 17th century, head to the beach for a swim in the chilly rejuvenating waters of the ocean, or enjoy the view of surfers on the waves. After lunchtime, we aim for the lighthouse and on to the coastal path towards Pointe Sainte Barbe and a little chapel. Enjoying views of the rocky coast alongside many beautiful sandy beaches, we reach the lovely village of Guéthary, made famous for its whaling community in the 13th century, where we might stop for refreshments and ice creams. We continue on the coastal path to Bidart, another charming clifftop village full of typically Basque half-timbered houses with whitewashed façades, red shutters and red pan-tiled roofs, overlooking the Bay of Biscay and the two famous beaches Ilbarritz and Uhabia. Finally, we reach Biarritz and our hotel before our farewell dinner in a lively brasserie. B D
Day 9 Weds May 18 Farewell
Departure day after breakfast, check-out time 10 am. B
The trip leader will provide 4 trip bulletins prior to departure with more detailed and specific information to help you prepare for your adventure.
Trip Date May 10 - 18, 2022 | 9 day trip
Special small group size limited to 10 participants - waitlisted
Trip Price and Deposit: $3,200 per person | Deposit: $800 | Single supplement fee $429
Remainder to be paid by February 9, 2022
SPECIAL! Extend your vacation in Europe and join us on our prior trip, A Walking Tour in Provence, May 3 - 10 and secure a $300 discount** on the combined two trips. Relax in style and comfort on the included first-class train journey across France from St Remy to Biarritz and enjoy the passing French countryside, towns and villages.
Alternatively, extend your European vacation to include England and join us on our follow-on trip, Valleys & Lakes of the Lake District, Northern England, May 20 - 27 and secure a $300 discount ** on the combined two trips.
** Note - may not be combined with other trip discounts.
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