Located between the ocean and the mountains, the ´Pays de Saint-Jean-de-Luz’ counts 11 towns and villages: Ahetze, Arbonne, Ainhoa, Ascain, Biriatou, Ciboure, GuÈthary, SaintJean-de-Luz, Saint-PÈe-sur-Nivelle, Sare and Urrugne. Behind the elegant windows of the seaside resorts, lulled by the waves along this rugged and beautiful coastline, are the gates tothe hinterland and its undeniable charm. The ´Pays de Saint- Jeande-Luzª is a land of contrasts and hidden treasures, chic,
festive, sporty and friendly.
The ancestral ports of Saint-Jean-de-Luz and Guéthary were once home to cod and whale fishing. Today they offer visitors a new image.
Travel between sea, mountains and Basque countryside. Behind the seaside resorts, dominated by the Rhune mountains, the villages of the hinterland reveal their charm. Discover the preserved environment of the Basque country.
Nestled in the heart of a wide bay between ocean and mountains, Saint-Jean-de-Luz is a charming and popular seaside destination on the Atlantic coast. Known as the Privateers’ city, it boasts a strong cultural heritage and has successfully retained its identity and traditions. Small pedestrian alleys run from the ocean to its historic centre. The town’s ancient dwellings bear witness to their fortuitous 17th century owners and conjure up memories of the Sun King, married here in 1660.
The Queen of Ports
With its recently renovated fish market and its multi-coloured boats, the port of Saint-Jean-de-Luz/Ciboure is an integral part of local heritage. Here one fishes for anchovies, tuna and hake. An important activity for the Basque economy, the port boasts active fishmongers and regular high sea trawlers. With its 40 boats, 130 fishermen, 600 jobs and 10,000 tons of fish, the fish market in Saint-Jean-de-Luz/Ciboure is ranked 6th fishing port in France.
Among the must-see events on the Basque coast are the firework displays on 14th July in Saint-Jean-de-Luz and Ciboure and the International Firework Festival in San Sebastian during the “Semana Grande”, from 8th to 15th August.
Guéthary, Getaria in Basque dialect, comes from the latin word «cetària» which means «salting place», in reference to the fish processing factory built by the Romans in ancient times. The fishing port of the smallest town along the Basque coast has become a reputed seaside resort. Its traditional architecture, its beaches renowned amongst surfers and its good addresses make it a sort after destination. Sipping an evening drink or enjoying a Ceviche of Banka trout opposite the ocean remains a unique moment. Today, the port is home to 20 colourful fishing boats securely moored to 29 holding rings.
Five thousand hectares bordered by the Rhune, the last mountain summit in the Pyrenees range, and the Atlantic ocean. On the coastal side, Urrugne offers fabulous views of the flysch cliffs from the Socoa Lighthouse to Hendaye beach. On the mountain side, explore the forest on foot, mountain bike or off-road scooter. Between the two, a Basque style village, the result of more than six centuries of history, of wars and peace treaties between France and Spain, of which the fortified castle of Urtubie stands witness today
The Basque hinterland deserves particular attention. Its unspoiled natural environment is an absolute must. After striding the countryside, it’s time to take to higher ground.
Located against the hill, at the foot of the «Xoldokogaina», departure point for the GR10 hiking itinerary, Biriatou is a base camp for keen walkers. The pink sandstone church, the pediment and the village houses are the backbone of the village itself, as is customary in the Basque region. Overlooking the Bidassoa, a river on the border with Spain, the charm of this picturesque village lies in its mix of cultures, traditions, cuisine, produce and sports.
A 50 kilometre cycle path (a section of the Vélodysée) enables visitors to discover the Basque coastline between Guéthary and Hendaye. Another possibility is a 70 km cycle path (l’Euroziklo) along the Bidasoa river, from Guéthary to the nature reserve in Bertiz en Navarre. An adventure for experienced cyclists who enjoy
jumping the border!
On a mountain bike
There are 9 MTB circuits for every level of cyclist. The more sporty can attempt to cross the Basque region in 6 stages. The last stage, Sare to Hendaye, takes you from one of the most beautiful villages to one of the most beautiful beaches in France. Between the two, a detour into Spain behind the Rhune, lunch on the Col d’Ibardin mountain pass and panoramic ocean views.
Distance: 37.5 km. Difference in altitude: 1115m. Duration: 6 hours (on a mountain bike). Level: difficult.
In the footsteps of Pottoks…
The Pottoks are part of the basque landscape. These small (1m30 high) horses have lived in semi-freedom on the flanks of the Rhune for the past 12,000 years. The best spot to observe them is along the trail leading to the Calvary. Departing from Biriatou accompanied by a guide, this hike is also an opportunity to discover the flora, geology and pastoral landscapes of the Basque countryside.
Ainhoa, awarded the coveted tourism label “Plus beau village de France”
In the first half of the 13th century Premonstratensian monks created one of their five vicariates along the paths of Santiago de Compostela. The bastide village of Ainhoa and its 600 residents boast the coveted tourism label “Plus beau village de France”. Here, the red and white facades of the traditional houses contrast with the green of the surrounding hills.
Designed by the famous British architect Harry Colt, this 18-hole course has established itself as one of the flagship courses in France. Renowned for the quality
of its course and the level of its competitions, this golf club was popular amongst numerous champions such as Raymond and Jean Garaialde, Bernard Pascassio
and Catherine Lacoste, and amongst celebrities such as Charlie Chaplin and HRH The Prince of Wales.
The Rhune in the news!
First summit in the Pyrenean mountain range, the Rhune overlooks the Atlantic coast from 905 metres atlitude. At the summit, on the border between France and Spain, the 360° panoramic views stretch from ocean to mountains. To reach the summit there are several options. The most popular option is the Rhune train. At an average speed of 9 mph, it takes 35 minutes to carry visitors to the heart of wild natural countryside, where Pottok horses roam in the company of manech sheep and tawny Pyrenean vultures.
New – La Rhune 2.0
Two different circuits enable visitors to discover the Rhune, its panoramic views or its history. To learn the secrets of this mythical mountain and access any multimedia content, simply scan the QR codes at the summit (with your smartphone).
The Sare caves are an atypical geological formation more than 2 million years old: large grottos of dizzying dimensions, a front porch listed among the biggest in the Aquitaine region and a prehistoric site of habitat. A visit of these caves takes young and old into the depths of the earth along a 900m long circuit with light and sound effects. Plus, visitors can also benefit from the explanation of a guide on the mythology and origin of the Basque people.
Did you know?
Bats have taken possession of the caves under the surveillance of the Regional Conservation Board for Natural Areas (CREN) and the Aquitaine Chiroptera Group (GCA).
Sare boasts the coveted tourism label «plus beaux villages de France»
Sare has successfully preserved its medieval past and its 17th century architectural heritage, originally designed for wealthy sailors and fish merchants. Local sheep or goats’ cheese, Basque pork, honey and cake can be enjoyed in the heart of the Spanish Navarre. From the fronton, where pelota and Basque games are regularly demonstrated, roads lined with century-old plane trees run between countless half-timbered farms, chapels and oratories.
Saint-Pee-sur-Nivelle is the birthplace of Xistera (a wicker glove used to play Basque pelota).Located in natural surroundings, this village of 5200 souls is also known for its 12 hectare lake and vast range of water sports: canoeing, kayaking, pedal boats, water slides, children’s playground, fishing etc.
Religious heritage in Arbonne
In the middle-ages, Arbonne was the summer residence of the Bishops of Bayonne. Today it is a residential village made up of houses with traditional facades, built around its church, its cemetery and its “benoiterie”, a registered historical monument.
This ancient halt for the pilgrims of Compostela has retained its surprising configuration with the Church of Saint-Martin and its cemetery perched on a small promontory. The church consists of a spectacular bell tower-pediment with two unequal bays. It contains an 18th century altarpiece, a statue of the Virgin Mary
and another of St. Jacques. In the cemetery, the disc-shaped headstones are decorated with lilies.
The houses of ancient Privateers
Unlike pirates, Privateers were captains empowered by the King to seize enemy ships and loot them. The Basque fishermen, converted into privateers, were so talented and their loot so abundant that the town was nicknamed «the vipers’ nest» by the English. Today one can continue to admire a selection of houses that belonged to the Privaters in the XVIIIth century, including the “ Corchu-Baita” located in Rue Mazarin.
La maison Ezkerrenea is the oldest house in Saint-Jean-de-Luz and the only house to survive the fire started by the Spanish in 1558. A very noble house with a tower, mullion windows, a Roman door and a spiral staircase, it is now listed as a historic monument.
La Maison Louis XIV is one of the most beautiful houses in the area. Built between 1643 and 1645, this house was listed on the supplementary inventory of historic monuments in 2003.
The Church of Saint-Jean-Baptiste (John the Baptist) dates from the XVth century and is dominated by an imposing bell tower-porch that culminates at 35 metres. In 1660 this church hosted the marriage of Louis XIV and the Princess Marie-Thérèse. It is listed as a historical monument since 1931.
La Pergola by Robert Mallet Stevens opened its doors in 1928 to meet the growing popularity of seaside tourism. The complex (built in the shape of a cruise ship) boasted a hotel, a casino, shops and a cinema! In the 1950s the building was disfigured by numerous transformations and elevations. The gardens, transformed into a mini-golf, later gave way to a hotel and Thalassotherapy centre in the 1980s.
With its protected bay, its watersports, its lighthouse, its port and its fish market, this ancient city of Privateers and the birth place of the composer Maurice Ravel, is also renowned for its art and history. With its Chapelle des Récollets , Tour Bordagain and Villa Leihorra, Ciboure boasts a rich cultural heritage that unfolds through intertwined alleys and traditional colourful facades – a constant source of inspiration for artists and painters.
The history of the Fort of Socoa in Ciboure, begins under Henri IV. Anxious to protect Saint-Jean-de-Luz from the Spanish enemy, he planned to build a fortress. Differences between the towns caused his project to fail before eventually being undertaken during the reign of Louis XIII. In 1636, the Spaniards took the fort. A few years later, French sovereignty was restored and the site was completed. In 1686, Vauban built a jetty to improve access to the fort. The work was completed in 1698. The site was home to a military barracks and a chapel.
11th century | First mention of the town «Sanctus Johannes de Luis”.
1150 | Saint-Jean-de-Luz was given to the cathedral chapter of Bayonne.
1558 | The town was burnt down.
1659 | The Pyrenees Treaty put an end to the war between France and Spain.
1660 | The union of Louis XIV and Maria Theresa of Austria, eldest daughter of the King of Spain, Philippe IV.
1707 | A wall was built to protect the city from the fury of the ocean.
1715 | The Treaty of Utrecht deprived France from its fishing rights in Newfoundland
1822 | 8 days of storms swept away more than a quarter of the town.
1864 | Napoleon III decided to build three dikes.
1843 | Baths were created to attract foreign tourists.
1864 | The arrival of the railway and the trend launched by the Empress Eugenie favored the development of tourism.
1880 | New baths were built on the beach and a Casino was built on boulevard Thiers.
1883 | The wooden Bandstand was built.
1893 | Creation of the first golf course in Sainte Barbe and Les Halles.
1910 | Saint-Jean-de-Luz became a very fashionable resort. Regular visitors included Alfonso XIII of Spain, the Prince of Bavaria, the Prince of Wales, the Maharajah of Kapurtala, the Grand Dukes Boris and Paul of Russia…
1912 | The town was officially classified as a spa town.
1928 | The Casino de la Pergola, designed by Mallet-Stevens, was officially opened.
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