The Basque Country: Beaches & Mountains

The Basque Country (called Euskadi in the Basque language, and in French Pays Basque) spreads from southwestern France into northern Spain. As well as having its own language, it also has a unique climate and a very distinct cultural identity. We think our travelers will be enchanted with this region!

The French Basque Country is unlike the rest of France. The Basque people (who call themselves euskaldunak) are very proud of their history and heritage. Although people in the French Basque country can speak French, many people also speak Euskara.

 

5.0
Jan & Ray
We were overwhelmed by the wealth of information available when attempting to plan our 6 week self drive holiday in France. Never having been to France before we found the task …
Duration
16 days
Price
US$ 4250

The Authentic South West of France

Region
in Basque Country, Dordogne & Bordeaux

This self-drive itinerary will take you to the South West of France, from the Basque coastline to the authentic Dordogne, ending in the bustling Bordeaux city.

Villages & Markets
Gourmet Experience
Sceneries
Duration
13 days
Price
US$ 3320

Southern France from West to East

Region
in Basque Country, Carcassonne & Provence

This unique self-drive itinerary will have you cross the South of France from the West coast of the Basque Country to the beautiful Provence, its cicadas and lavender fields.

Wine Tasting
Heritage & History
Sceneries
Duration
10 days
Price
US$ 2940

Focus on the South West of France

Region
in Bordeaux, Basque Country & Carcassonne

From Bordeaux Unesco city and its worldwide famous vineyards, to Biarritz and St Jean de Luz mythical beach towns…feeling the fresh air in the Pyrenees foothills…ending in Carcassonne medieval town....what a program.

Wine Tasting
Villages & Markets
Sceneries
Duration
20 days
Price
US$ 4780

From Paris to Biarritz on the back roads

Region
in Paris, Loire Valley, Dordogne & Basque Country

From Paris to Toulouse, this trip will take you on the backroads. Take the time to visit some of the hidden castles of the Loire Valley, enjoy duck confit in Dordogne, and drive on the scenic roads of the Basque Country.

Villages & Markets
Sceneries
Duration
20 days
Price
US$ 4780

Traditions & Heritage of the SW of France

Region
in Bordeaux, Basque Country, Carcassonne & Dordogne

This loop from Bordeaux will take you on a journey to the South West of France: vineyards, mountains, cliff-hanging fortresses and rolling hills: you will enjoy all the diversity of this part of France.

Wine Tasting
Villages & Markets
Duration
16 days
Price
US$ 4360

From the Atlantic to the Mediterranean

Region
in Basque Country, Carcassonne & Provence

From the Atlantic coastline to the Mediterranean Sea – experience the South of France diversity.

Wine Tasting
Villages & Markets
Art & Museums
Duration
13 days
Price
US$ 3480

A Genuine Trip to the South West of France

Region
in Carcassonne, Basque Country & Dordogne

Explore the South West of France: its cliff hanging fortresses in the Cathar Country and Dordogne, “most beautiful villages of France” and very rich and unique gastronomy.

Heritage & History
Gourmet Experience
Sceneries
Duration
26 days
Price
US$ 6450

From Provence to Paris - Immersion into the "Real France"

Region
in Provence, Basque Country, Dordogne, Loire Valley & Paris

This itinerary will take you from South to North over some of the most typical and beautiful French scenic roads. We recommend flying into Marseille airport.

Heritage & History
Villages & Markets
Duration
26 days
Price
US$ 6120

Southern France from Bordeaux to Avignon

Region
in Bordeaux, Dordogne, Basque Country, Carcassonne & Provence

When we mention Southern France, many travelers think of Provence...but there is much more to discover between the South-West and the South-East of France. This 26 day itinerary is designed to give you a very complete tour of the South part of France, enjoying the gastronomy, heritage, wine, villages, scenic roads...everything France has to offer.

Wine Tasting
Gourmet Experience
Basque Country Basque Country

Basque Country Geography

A beacon of beauty, the Basque Region captivates all who visit. Every landscape is like a postcard, from the dramatic cliffs to the sandy beaches of the Bay of Biscay. In just one hour you can go from the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains to the Atlantic Coastline. The Basque coast gets some strong waves, making it a popular spot for surifing and other watersports. Biarritz, Hendaye, Anglet, Saint-Jean-de-Luz and Ciboure are among the most famous surf beaches in France.

surfers in biarritz

Surfers on Biarritz beach - surfing is part of the Basque culture

 

Straddling the Franco-Spanish border, the widest part of the Basque country lies on the Spanish side, including the Pais Vasco and Navarre. Most of the places in our self-drive tours will be in the French Basque Country or close to the French border. A stay in the French Basque country therefore allows you to tour the entire region, from Bayonne to San Sebastian.

From the area of St Jean-de-Luz, you are less than 30 minutes by car from the beautiful seaside town of San Sebastian. This town is famous for its promenade, which is home to numerous gourmet restaurants and high-end boutiques.

With regards to climate, the Basque Country is a mixture of sunshine and rain, which is why the vegetation here is always such a lush, vivid green. You’ll need to bring a hat, sun cream and a waterproof jacket on any excursions you do.

 

Getting to the Basque Country

The main stations on the French side of the Basque Country are Biarritz and Saint Jean de Luz. Both of these stations are accessible via TGV from Bordeaux and taking between 2 and 2.5 hours. There is also a small airport in Biarritz, which sees a few seasonal international flights. For a more reliable connection, it is better to fly in to Bordeaux or Toulouse and then travel by car.

We are sure that once you have finished in the Basque Country, you will want to see more of France. Why not consider adding DordogneBordeaux or Carcassonne to your itinerary? These are all less than a half-day drive from the Pays Basque.

basque landscapes

Basque Country Landscapes

 

Basque Culture and traditions

The Basque cultural identity is very distinct and on our tours you'll learn more about the Basque customs and traditions. The first notable feature of the Basque Country is its language, Euskara. Although stretches across the Franco-Spanish border, Euskara bears no similarity to French or Spanish. In fact, it bears no proven relation to any other language, and as such is Europe's only language isolate. There were fears of the language dying out but conservation efforts have increased language use through extra teaching in schools. Unlike other parts of France, English is not widely spoken in the Basque Country. It will therefore be a good opportunity to practice your French and Spanish. That said, all of our B&B hosts speak conversational English.

 

Another interesting feature of Basque cultures is its plethora of colorful festivals. Both religious festivals and other festivals include plenty of music, dancing, singing, force basque and pelote basque games. These are a wonderful way to experience Basque culture if you are in the area when there's a festival.

beret basque

Traditional Basque Beret

 

If you would like to learn more about Basque culture and traditions, we recommend the Basque Museum in San Sebastian. The museum has thousands of artefacts dating back millennia, showing how the Basque people's daily life has evolved.

 

The Basque Cuisine

If you consider yourself a foodie then you’re in for a real treat when you visit the Basque Country. This region has an exceptionally high concentration of restaurants with Michelin stars, making it a truly gourmet destination. The local gastronomy of the Basque Country is a combination of French and Spanish dishes, including pintxos (tapas). 

pintxos basque country

Traditional Pintxos (Tapas) you enjoy with a glass of wine in bars

 

You will soon discover that the food served in Basque restaurants is mouth-watering. This is partly thanks to the Basque Country's fantastic markets and local food stores. Local produce includes pork from the Aldudes Valley, Ossau-Iraty sheep cheese and Espelette peppers. 

The Basque region even has its very own wine with a small appellation called Irouléguy. The micro-climate in the Basque Country produces grapes that result in a rather characteristic wine.  We warmly recommend trying a glass or two on your trip. We will tell you the best places to go for Basque wine-tastings in the area.

 

Typical Basque Villages

San Sebastian is incredible, but we want to give you an insight into Basque culture away from the tourist crowds. A day trip to one of its beautiful villages is a wonderful way to experience it. Espelette is one of the most well-known villages, due to its famed peppers.The houses here are built in the traditional Basque style and the streets are lined with boutiques and artisanal markets selling homemade chocolates, among other delights.

 

ainhoa

Basque houses in Ainhoa 

 

Saint-Jean-de-Luz is another village worth visiting if only for its beautiful beach. This golden, sandy beach is centrally located and perfect for enjoying the sun and the gentle sound of the sea. Golf fans will be pleased to know that this region is one of the best in France for golf. There are various courses within close proximity of Saint-Jean-de-Luz which we can recommend.

Around 40km (30 miles) east of Saint-Jean-de-Luz is Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. This town is historically significant because it's a strategic point on the Camino de Santiago de Compostella pilgrimage route. The town is relatively quiet and specializes in catering to the pilgrims who pass through.

We will also take our travelers off the beaten track to lovely villages they would not find on their own. Some examples include Sare and Zugarramurdi, which are in breath-taking valleys away from the main tourism routes. You will see some beautiful traditional architecture and magnificent decorative facades. We're confident that you will love these villages as much as we do.

 

Handicrafts from Pays Basque

Do you want to take some unique souvenirs home with you after your trip through France? The Basque Country has you covered.

There is a strong weaving tradition in Euskadi and a popular gift to take home is a pair of authentic Basque sandals or some traditional household linen. You will even get to visit the workshop where they are made.

household linen from basque country

Traditional household linen fabric

 

Alternatively, there are a number of other local traditional handicraft places that open their doors to travellers and help you to better understand the way they work and their history.

Products available in these boutiques include include leather goods, ceramics, pottery, cutlery and food of course. Buying a traditional product in the Basque Region allows you to take a part of this fascinating region home with you, together with great memories from France.

 

Where to Stay in the Basque Country

Whether you like cities or the countryside, we will plan for what suits you best. If you wish to stay in a bigger town, Saint Jean de Luz is without a doubt, your best bet. Now, during the very high season, it is impossible to park and drive around.

For those who like the quietness of the countryside, we have selected several welcoming B&Bs where you will feel at home and appreciate the calm after a busy day visiting.

Our Travelers’ Reviews

Robert
My wife and I completed a 3 week driving trip out of Bordeaux which was organized by France Just for You. The Bed and Breakfast accommodations were superb, the personalized guidebook comprehensive and well-organized, and the booked activities were high quality. Having the rental car booked for us was a major advantage (Don’t drive in France without …
Ricki & Craig
There are not enough superlatives, or kind words, to describe the level of service Emilie, with France Just for You, provided us from the moment we contacted her, throughout our trip, and even her thoughtful emails upon our return. We contacted Emilie with a list of all the places we wished to go, the things we hoped to do, and our budget. We …
Maroun
I cannot say enough good things about Emilie and "France Just for You". We spent 15 days in France in June to celebrate our special anniversary and it was more than perfect. I found this superlative agency while browsing online, looking for a custom made trip to France that does not involve hopping on a tour bus with a large group of people, being …

Our Travelers’ Photos

Scott & Linda
From Australia
In Mont Saint Michel
Christina & her niece
from Australia
In the Wolves Sanctuary in Guéret
Yvette & David
from the US
on the French Riviera, near Nice
Amy
from the US
Enjoying a great view in Burgundy
Scott
From Australia
Making "chou" buns in the Loire Valley
Ann & Jim
From the US
In Amboise castle by the Loire river
Michele, Jacques, Nicole, Gaetan, Joanne & Keith
from Canada
In the Loire Valley
Bob & Naomi
From the US
In Monet's gardens in Giverny, Normandy
Deborah & Richard
from the US
On Omaha Beach, Normandy
Tonia & Peter
from Canada
at the Louvre Museum in Paris
Nancy & Paul
from Canada
On the French Riviera
Kathy & Mark
from the US
Truffle Hunting in Provence