Pyrénées-Atlantiques is a department in the most south-western part of France. It is located in the Basque Country at the Atlantic Ocean and is very popular with surfers. Important cities are Biarritz, Bayonne and Pau. Sun and beach lovers can enjoy a wonderful holiday near the coast, while nature and hiking enthusiasts can indulge themselves inland. The Pyrenees National Park is beautiful and offers many activities.
Biarritz is the main surfing spot in France. This town is located near the coast of Spain, in the Basque Country. Besides surfing, there is also plenty to see and do. For example, climb the lighthouse where you can get a super nice view of the ocean. Biarritz also has a large aquarium, which is fun to visit with children. And of course the sunset is not to be missed.
Bayonne is considered to be the capital of the French Basque Country. The city is known for its quay of light-colored houses with shutters painted in the national colors red and green. During the Fêtes de Bayonne (in July) everyone gets into the streets with clothes colored in red and white and there is a lot of music and dancing.
Saint-Jean-de-Luz is a nice fishing town and has a pleasant harbor. There is a beautiful hiking trail along the coast which is 25 kilometers long and definitely worth it. In addition, a house of Louis the 14th can be visited, a king who ascended the throne at the age of 4.
Pau is a big and busy city. As the city exists since a long time, many historical sites can be found, including the castle of Pau. The castle is built on a hill and has a special architectural style. The king of France who ruled from 1589 to 1610 was born in this castle. Pau is a beautifully set up city and definitely recommended to visit.
Sare, Ainhoa and Bastide-Clairence
Not one, but three cozy villages. I put them together because they look alike and are all part of the list of most beautiful villages in France. The villages consist of cute houses in beautiful surroundings. Near the villages you can enjoy hiking, horseback riding and visiting caves.
Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is an old pilgrim town and is certainly fun to visit. You can walk up to an old citadel from where you can get a nice view. In the many restaurants you can enjoy the typical Basque dishes.
Gorges of Kakuetta Nature park
At the gorges of Kakuetta you can take a hike on a special laid out path along rivers, over bridges and suspension bridges and along waterfalls. You must have a good mobility and balance as you’ll sometimes walk on slippy rocks. Not recommended during rainy season.
Nationaal park des Pyrénées
The Pyrenees National Park is a large park that extends over several departments in the Pyrenees. It’s an area of rugged nature, mountains, mountain lakes and various wild animals and plants. You can encounter different animals in the mountains. Even bears and wolves! The bear was almost extinct as it was hunted. Fortunately, there has been put a stop to that. But there is a small chance you’ll get to see them, as they live very high in the mountains. If you really want to discover the area well, I advise you to take hiking tours with a guide. And might you spend the night in a mountain hut, stay up until late to see the beautiful stars. They are very bright as there is very low pollution in this area.
The caves of Bétharram
The Bétharram cave is a beautiful stalactite cave. There is an audio system available with explanation in English. The cave is quite large, you’ll get to walk for about 2 kilometers. The unique thing about this cave is that it’s partly visited by train. In summer period it can be quite busy.
The Isturitz and Oxocelhaya caves
These caves are very large and impressive. The guide will take you along the most beautiful chalk formations in about 45 minutes. It’s given in French, but you can get an explanation in English which helps you to follow the tour.
The Pyrenees are very beautiful to explore by bicycle. The cycle opportunities are huge with the beautiful mountains, valleys and mountain lakes. But you’ll have to be quite sporty to be able to master the mountains! If you are that well trained, I would recommend renting an electric road bike or mountain bike.
The Pyrénées-Atlantiques coastline is the best place for surfing. You can take surf lessons or, if you already have experience, go outby yourself. One of the best surf spots is Anglet, a seaside resort with no less than 11 beaches over a length of 4.5 kilometers.
Petit train de la Rhume
This train takes you up in about 35 minutes to a beautiful view of the mountains. Once at the top you’ll have some time for yourself to take a walk or eat something. Tip: Book the ride in advance via the internet and arrive early as there is limited parking space.
This train takes you through the mountains to a height of 2000 meters. You shouldn’t be afraid of heights! The train track runs along the mountain side and offers a breathtaking view of the landscape. The ride takes about two hours in total.
Passerelle D’Holzarte is a challenging trail through the gorges of the Pyrenees. Via a suspension bridge you’ll walk over the gorge from one side to the other. You’ll also walk along small waterfalls and look out over green plains. There are several hiking possibilities (minimum is 2 hours). You ‘ll need to be a bit sporty as you will have to climb some of the trail. Put on good shoes!
Sentier du Littoral
The Sentier du Littoral is a beautiful trail along the ocean, running from Bidart to Hendaye. The path is 25 kilometers in total and you can start at different places along the trail. You’ll pass several viewpoints and harbors.
Canyoning is a sport which consist of following a river that runs through a gorge. The Pyrenees are very suitable for this. By walking, climbing, jumping and swimming you’ll make you’re way through the gorges. There’ll also be some possibilities to do abseiling. Never go out alone as canyoning is certainly not without its dangers. There are several tour operators that are offering Canyoning for both kids and adults.
Speleology is an activity during which you will discover caves. Together with a guide, some equipment including helmet and flashlight you’ll walk through the caves and over the rocks. Along the way the guide will give you information and you will encounter stalactites, stalagmites and underground water. There are often different “levels”, from beginner to advanced.
We don’t see them that much in this part of France, but this castle is worth it. It is a huge eccentric castle built in the Neo-Gothic style. You can visit the castle from the inside and walk through the furnished rooms, even the books are still in the bookcase.
Discover the Basque culture
It doesn’t really matter where you go, you will certainly get in contact with some Basque culture. In the restaurants you can enjoy the typical Basque dishes. In most villages you can also attend dance performances of typical Basque dance styles. The locals also love traditional singing.
This beautiful bed & breakfast is only a 15 minutes drive from Biarritz and the beach! It lays in a beautiful environment and has a nice refreshing pool.
Pretty renovated bed & breakfast in a small village between Pau and Bayonne. The owners are very nice and they serve a great breakfast!
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