This article may contain compensated links. Please read disclaimer for more info.
The French Basque Country by Car
A guest post by Stéphanie from Ethno Travels
The best way to explore the French Basque Country is by car. This French Basque Country road trip, covering the coast and small villages, takes 5 days and it is the ideal tour of the Basque Country for those who love the ocean, mountain, history, small towns, local specialties, and good wine.
Tour Basque Country Overview
- Start: Biarritz
- Finish: Biarritz
- Duration: 5 days
- Region covered: Nouvelle Aquitaine.
- Best for: Sightseeing, landscapes, nature, small towns, food.
French Basque Country Itinerary & Map
DAY 1 | Arrival to Biarritz
Arrive at Biarritz Pays Basque airport or Biarritz railway station and stay in Biarritz for one night. Hotel Windsor Grande Plage, facing the Grande Plage beach, is ideally situated close to the main attractions. Located in an ancient private mansion, the hotel is eco-labeled.
Treat yourself at Michelin-starred restaurant l’Impertinent, combining local produce and creative cuisine.
DAY 2 | Biarritz – Saint Jean de Luz
After breakfast, catch the free bus Navette Saint Charles and go to Biarritz lighthouse (« Le Phare » bus stop). Climb the 248 steps and enjoy the panorama: the Landes beaches, Bayonne and Anglet on your right and Biarritz beaches, Rocher de la Vierge, Saint Jean de Luz and Spain on your left.
Then, enjoy a relaxing walk by following the ocean down to Côte des Basques Beach. Look at the numerous private mansions built after Napoleon III and Eugénie decided to have their summer residence « Villa Eugénie » on the Grande Plage beach. This palace Hotel now called Hôtel du Palais was the site for the G7 in 2019.
Continue to the Grande Plage beach that people often confuse with the Côte des Basques beach. Visit Sainte Eugénie church then take the stairs to Basta Rock. This is the location of the former fishermen village, Miarritze in Basque or « the two rocks », existing at the time of Napoleon III’s visit. Over the years Miarritze grew and became the city of Biarritz.
Walk to the fishermen harbor with its tiny beautiful houses. Walk up to the Atalaye Plateau and enjoy the view of the ocean and Pyrenees mountains before walking down to the Rock of the Virgin. This is the second rock, that marked the limits of the tiny Miarritze village. The Virgin was erected by Napoleon III after he failed in building a harbor here. She faces Bayonne’s harbor in order to bless the boats leaving it.
After the free visit of the rock, continue your walk along the ocean, through Port-Vieux, where whales used to wash up and where the members of the association « les ours blancs » like to swim every day.
Villa Belza is an ancient Russian casino now populated by showbiz people. You will then arrive at the Côte des Basques beach. This beach is the cradle of surfing in Europe. Catch the free bus « Navette Verdun » and stop in the center, or walk back to the Grande Plage beach through the commercial streets in front of Port-Vieux.
It’s time to start the tour of the Basque Country by car. In the afternoon, drive 15kms to Saint Jean de Luz by following the ocean road. Don’t miss the awesome view of Bidart beaches on your right!
Saint Jean de Luz is a beautiful coastal town with a rich history. It was a village of whale-hunters which became a privateers’ town. In 1660, Saint Jean de Luz hosted King Louis XIV and Infanta Maria Teresa of Spain’s wedding because of its ideal location right on the border of France and Spain.
First, visit the harbor with the view of the Rhune mountain on your left, Ciboure town and Maurice Ravel’s house on the opposite side, and the pink Maison de l’Infante and Place Louis XIV on the right.
Walk to Place Louis XIV and go to the square house. In front of you, the big white town hall was the house where Louis XIV spent the night before his wedding. On your right, the big pink house is where his future wife, the Spanish Infanta, slept.
The red and black facade on your left is the famous Maison Adam (4, Rue de la République). This family created Saint Jean de Luz macaroons for Louis XIV’s wedding. The recipe is still kept secret!
Enjoy a few macaroons and follow the street to the ocean. Walk to the right along the ocean, admiring the landscape and typical houses, then take the street leading to the church. Visit Saint Jean de Luz church (Église Saint-Jean Baptiste) with its wooden galleries, boat shape, and colorful altarpiece. Don’t miss the sign of the door Louis XIV used for his wedding.
Spend the night in Saint Jean de Luz. Recently renovated, the Grand Hotel Thalasso & Spa is ideally situated in the center, 200 meters from the beach. Treat yourself at the Michelin-starred restaurant Kaïku, which offers the best local produce.
If you want to spend a whole day in Saint Jean de Luz instead of visiting Biarritz in the morning, visit the market in the morning and drive along the magnificent route de la Corniche between Ciboure and Hendaye. Stop whenever you want to shoot pics with the ocean cliffs and Pyrenees mountains. Don’t miss Egiategia’s winery, using subsea vinification, and taste this delicious sparkling wine. Visit Abbadia’s Castle.
DAY 3 | La Rhune mountain – Aïnhoa
On day 3, drive 11kms to Col de Saint Ignace in Sare and take the little mountain train up to the Rhune mountain. Enjoy the 360° panoramic view of the ocean and mountains. Try to spot griffon vultures, Pottok (the Basque horses), and the wild cows.
In the afternoon, drive 12kms to Aïnhoa, a typical Basque village elected as one of the most beautiful villages of France.
Stroll around the church, cemetery with its Basque tombs, and the little streets with its beautiful little houses. Enjoy the view of the mountains.
Spend the night in Ainhoa. Ithurria Hotel Restaurant offers a Basque atmosphere with its wooden facade, ancient furniture, and Basque paintings. Enjoy the Basque cuisine at its Michelin-starred restaurant.
If you have more time, take the pilgrim route to the top of the mountain and Chapelle de l’Aubépine. You can also cross the border and visit the witches’ village, Zugarramurdi.
DAY 4 | Saint Jean Pied de Port – Espelette
The next day, drive 43kms to Saint Jean Pied de Port. This is where all the paths to Compostela join and from where the pilgrims cross the Pyrenees. Enjoy the town, its market and scenic views. Saint Jean Pied de Port also has its Michelin-starred restaurant « Les Pyrénées ».
In the afternoon, drive 42kms to Espelette via the Irouleguy wine hills. Visit the village famous for the AOC chili pepper used in Basque cuisine and its white facades decorated with chili. You can pay a visit to « l’Atelier du piment » then head to Bayonne, at 23kms.
Spend the night in Bayonne. Okko Hotels Bayonne center, at 650 meters from the cathedral, offers the best service in Bayonne.
DAY 5 | Bayonne
Before taking your flight in Biarritz or the train in Bayonne, visit Bayonne’s city center. The city of Bayonne ham is also the French capital of chocolate. Walk along the quays and watch the stilt houses, visit the magnificent cathedral and its cloister, drink a hot chocolate at Cazenave’s, (19, rue Port Neuf) buy some chocolates from the Masters.
If you have time, enjoy the free visit of L’Atélier Pierre Ibaialde (41, rue des Cordeliers, no booking necessary). You will learn the process of ham salting and will eat their products.
Stéphanie Langlet @ Ethno Travels. Passionate about Humans and autochthonous cultures, Stephanie Langlet spends her time between the Basque Country and Asia. Both a guide, trip planner and guesthouse owner, she mixes on her blog ethnography and helpful travel tips. Feeling social? Follow Ethno Travels on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.
Pin it now & read it later