Home > Rural and Coastal Basque Country
Explore the magical realm of Basque country, a special region whose culture can’t be contained by borders — it’s part of both France and Spain! Blessed with an abundance of varied topography, this is one of those rare bicycle tours that allows you to enjoy coastal beaches and sky-touching mountains.
Beginning and ending in Biarritz, France, this tour takes you into popular coastal resort towns (Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Hondarribia, Bidart) and sleepy interior villages (Ainhoa, Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, and Espelette). Along the way, you’ll encounter Gothic cathedrals dating back to the 12th and 13th centuries, as well as protected heritage sites.
You’ll enjoy the Basque region’s amazing gastronomic temptations — there are more Michelin-starred restaurants per capita here than anywhere else in the world — while lodging each night in either 3-star hotels or local guesthouses. The short daily rides make this an ideal bicycle tour for all riding levels.
For travel and cycling tips to the Pyrenees, visit our "Travel and cycling tips" section.
The earlier you arrive, the more time you’ll have to enjoy this popular seaside resort. Located on the Bay of Biscay, just above the border with Spain, Biarritz boasts a show-stopping coastline. The city’s largest beach, La Grande Plage, is one of the greatest surfing beaches in the world, making it perfect for relaxing and people watching.
The Russian Orthodox Church and St. Martin’s Church (built in the 12th century) are architectural icons. And, like any good seaside resort, Biarritz offers plenty of restaurants and cafés.
You’ll ease into the riding portion of your bicycle tour with a relatively short ride along the Basque region’s famed coast. Pedaling south, you’ll wheel through Bidart, a small cliff-top village overlooking the bay, and then, eventually, into Saint-Jean-de-Luz. This scenic resort town is popular with vacationers, thanks to its protected sandy shore, but it also doubles as an art colony.
Further down the coast, you’ll reach Hendaye, site of the famous “Great Cross of Hendaye,” and take a short river shuttle across the Bidassoa River to Hondarribia, Spain. This fortified city, your home for the night, is a classified Historic and Artistic Monument. And as an added bonus, Hondarribia is world-recognized for its gastronomic offerings.
Today you’ll cross back into Hendaye and begin pedaling into interior Basque country. Just beyond the village of Ascain, you’ll board a train (the Train de la Rhune) for a ride to the peak of La Rhune, the Basque region’s highest point (905 meters/2,969 feet). Stone circles and Neolithic monuments dot La Rhune’s summit, adding weight to mythical status assigned to it by locals. Have your camera ready! The views of the Atlantic Ocean and surrounding Pyrenees are the kind you’ll want to frame and stare at longingly every day.
Once off the train and reunited with your bike, pedal into Sare, a picturesque hilltop village, before continuing on to Zugarramurdi, the village of witches. In the 17th century, approximately 50 of its residents were tried for witchcraft. The village fully embraces its somber past. You can visit Zugarramurdi’s Withcraft Museum and a nearby cave where the witches allegedly gathered. From here you’ll bicycle into Ainhoa, one of France’s classified “most beautiful villages.” Half-timbered homes with window shutters painted red and green — the colors of the Basque flag — line Ainhoa’s main street. The 13th Century Ainhoa Church and its neighboring ancient cemetery are both main attractions.
Today’s ride begins with a 5.6-kilometer climb up Col de Pinodieta (176 meters/577 feet). It never gets very steep and can be managed slowly and steadily at a low gear. After snapping photos at the top, you’ll glide into the market town of Espelette, famous for its dried red peppers and small wild horses, or pottocks, which roam the surrounding hillsides.
You’ll then meet up with the Nive River and follow its winding path along quiet, rural roads through the green folds of the Pyrenees Mountains. This portion of the ride is pure Basque country — remote and timeless. At night you’ll lodge just above the Spanish border in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. This sleepy village is the starting point for Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James), one of the largest Christian pilgrimages (most popular during the Middle Ages). Christian pilgrims still annually flock to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to make the journey. The village’s city gate is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Choose wisely today: tour the Basque countryside by bike or by train. If you opt to pedal, you’ll enjoy a scenic ride over a timeless landscape of rolling green hills checkered with thick forests and ancient family farms. You’ll pass through tiny pastoral villages — Ispourre, Irrisarry, Helette, Mendionde — full of Old World ambiance, making for ideal ride breaks. The rural nature of this ride makes it perfect for carefree bicycling.
If you travel by train, you’ll steam into Cambo-les-Bains and then pedal from the train station to your hotel. Depending on availability, you’ll lodge in either Cambo-les-Bains or Itxassou (regardless of your transportation mode). These villages share a border, allowing for easy access to Villa Arnaga. Once the home of Edmond Rostand, author of Cyrano de Bergerac, it is now a heritage site highlighted by an elaborate French-style garden adorned with pools, flowers, manicured trees, flowers, gravel paths, flowers, and more flowers.
Return to the coast on today’s ride. You’ll pass through the red-shuttered village of Ustaritz before reaching Bayonne. Attractions abound in this historic city that dates back to the third century when it was part of the Roman Empire. The Gothic Sainte-Marie Cathedral, built in the 12th century, will make your jaw drop. It’s one of those cathedrals whose interior competes with its exterior for top mind-blowing honors. Château-Vieux, another 12th-century marvel, is worth a look as well.
In Bayonne, you’ll also find many dining options for enjoying some of the area’s spectacular cuisine. From here, you’ll ride into Anglet, a city that takes immense pride in its flower displays, and then continue into Biarritz. You’ll follow the scenic Anglet Coast featuring 11 beaches, each one more inviting than the last. You’ll spend the final night of your Basque bicycle tour where it began, in Biarritz.
After breakfast, depart at the time of your choice.
6 nights' accommodation in 3-star and 4-star hotels and guesthouses of character