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French Basque Country

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© Lonely Planet Publications
687

French Basque
Country
Gently sloping from the western foothills of the Pyrenees into the deep sapphire-blue Bay
of Biscay, the Basque Country (Euskal Herria in the Basque language; Le Pays Basque in
French) straddles modern-day France and Spain. Yet this feisty, independent land remains
profoundly different from either of the nation states that have adopted it.
The French side (or as it’s diplomatically referred to here, the ‘northern side’; ‘Iparralde’ in
Basque) accounts for roughly 20% of the Basque country, and is famed for its glitzy beach
resort, Biarritz. Bronzed surfers zoom around Biarritz’s hilly coastline on mopeds, and oiled
sun-seekers pack its beaches like glistening sardines.
Together with sprawling Anglet and Bayonne, 8km to the east, Biarritz forms an urban area
often called BAB, with a population around 110,000. Biarritz, however, is the least Basque of
the trio. Easily the most Basque is the French Basque Country’s cultural and economic capital,
Bayonne, whose authentically preserved old town is bisected by bridges arcing over its confluence of rivers. Traditional Basque music, sports and festivals are an integral part of Bayonne’s
local culture, and its good transport links make it an ideal base for discovering the region.
To the southwest of this conurbation is St-Jean de Luz, a delightful seaside township and
working fishing port.
Up in the French Basque Country’s lush hills, little one-street villages and green valleys
traversed by hiking trails are easily explored from the walled town of St-Jean Pied de Port,
an age-old pit stop for pilgrims heading over the border to Santiago de Compostela.

HIGHLIGHTS
„ Discover just what makes the local chocolate so

scrumptious during a behind-the-scenes factory
tour in Bayonne (p691)
„ Chug up the scenic mountainside railway, Le

Petit Train de la Rhune (p704)
„ Watch world-class surfers from fashionable

Bayonne
Biarritz
St-Jean de Luz

„ Taste traditional Basque dishes incorporating

freshly caught seafood at St-Jean de Luz (p702)

La Rhune

„ Browse local produce and handmade products

St-Jean
Pied de Port

at the farmers market in the age-old pilgrims’
outpost, St-Jean Pied de Port (p704)
„ POPULATION: 600,000

„ AREA: 13,400 SQ KM

FRENCH BASQUE COUNTRY

café terraces or ride the waves yourself in and
around Biarritz (p694)

688 F R E N C H B A S Q U E C O U N T R Y • • B a y o n n e

FRENCH BASQUE
COUNTRY Hossegor

10 km
5 miles

0
0

Capbreton

BAY

OF
...
FRENCH BASQUE COUNTRY
Gently sloping from the western foothills of the Pyrenees into the deep sapphire-blue Bay
of Biscay, the Basque Country (Euskal Herria in the Basque language; Le Pays Basque in
French) straddles modern-day France and Spain. Yet this feisty, independent land remains
profoundly different from either of the nation states that have adopted it.
The French side (or as it’s diplomatically referred to here, the ‘northern side’; ‘Iparralde’ in
Basque) accounts for roughly 20% of the Basque country, and is famed for its glitzy beach
resort, Biarritz. Bronzed surfers zoom around Biarritz’s hilly coastline on mopeds, and oiled
sun-seekers pack its beaches like glistening sardines.
Together with sprawling Anglet and Bayonne, 8km to the east, Biarritz forms an urban area
often called BAB, with a population around 110,000. Biarritz, however, is the least Basque of
the trio. Easily the most Basque is the French Basque Country’s cultural and economic capital,
Bayonne, whose authentically preserved old town is bisected by bridges arcing over its conflu-
ence of rivers. Traditional Basque music, sports and festivals are an integral part of Bayonne’s
local culture, and its good transport links make it an ideal base for discovering the region.
To the southwest of this conurbation is St-Jean de Luz, a delightful seaside township and
working fishing port.
Up in the French Basque Country’s lush hills, little one-street villages and green valleys
traversed by hiking trails are easily explored from the walled town of St-Jean Pied de Port,
an age-old pit stop for pilgrims heading over the border to Santiago de Compostela.
French Basque
Co u nt ry
© Lonely Planet Publications
POPULATION: 600,000 AREA : 13,400 SQ KM
HIGHLIGHTS
Discover just what makes the local chocolate so
scrumptious during a behind-the-scenes factory
tour in Bayonne ( p691 )
Chug up the scenic mountainside railway, Le
Petit Train de la Rhune ( p704 )
Watch world-class surfers from fashionable
café terraces or ride the waves yourself in and
around Biarritz ( p694 )
Taste traditional Basque dishes incorporating
freshly caught seafood at St-Jean de Luz ( p702 )
Browse local produce and handmade products
at the farmers market in the age-old pilgrims’
outpost, St-Jean Pied de Port ( p704 )
St-Jean de Luz
Pied de Port
St-Jean
La Rhune
Biarritz
Bayonne
687
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