Atlantic Pyrenees

Region Info

Why Pyrénées-Atlantique ?

  • A blend of glamour and sophistication with Basque Country warmth.
  • Sheltered sandy beaches and quite coves of the stunning Basque Coast
  • Popular for water sports and golf
  • Rich in cultural, historical and natural attractions

The Pyrénées-Atlantique is a department in south-western France and is part of the Aquitaine region.

The Pyrénées-Atlantique’s principal cities and towns include Biarritz, Bayonne, Anglet, Urrugne, Saint-Jean-de-Luz and Hendaye. Just like the Catalan Pyrenees, being so close to the border with Spain, there is a heavy influence from its cross border neighbour. Here you will find a strong Basque influence in everything from fashion to cuisine and Basque languages are still indigenous to the region.
The Pyrénées-Atlantique, as its name implies, stretches up the Atlantic coast from the border town of Hendaye, near Spain, all the way to Biarritz and Bayonne. It is a coastline peppered with luxurious seaside towns and pretty fishing villages; with its temperate climate and sandy beaches, it is popular with international visitors.
The most famous city along the coast is Biarritz. This luxurious seaside town, on the Bay of Biscay, was once considered a playground for the aristocracy. Now, this pearl of the Atlantic surfs on a wave of effervescent youth, awash with unselfconscious luxury and the slightest hint of glam rock. With breathtaking panoramas of celebrated beaches and its curved inlets, punctuated by rocky outcrops, it is an enchanting destination at any time of the year.
During the summer months the coastal towns of the Pyrénées-Atlantique are a great draw for water sports lovers. The huge waves of the Atlantic Ocean that roll into the Bay of Biscay make this area a Mecca for surfers. Biarritz is widely regarded as the historic surfing capital of Europe and attracts surfers from all around the world who come to compete in the prestigious surfing events.

Besides surfing, the Pyrénées-Atlantique offers many water sports from windsurfing to sailing and scuba diving to sea kayaking and canoeing. If you’ve ever dreamed of owning your own yacht but never had enough spare change in your pocket, you can charter your own vessel or even take the simple option of a pleasure cruise along the stunning Basque coastline.

For those that prefer to keep their feet on 'terra firma' the Basque Coast is a popular golfing destination. There are a number of nearby golf courses, perhaps the most famous being Le Phare. Basque Pelota is a huge sport in the area that you should try to catch a glimpse of during a visit. There are more than 20 variations of the sport; however, the most spectacular version of the game remains la Cesta Punta which can be watched in the surroundings of the Jaï-Alaï Stadium during the highly passionate tournament of the Gant d’Or/Golden Glove. Sound too energetic? You can also partake in some retail therapy in the fresh sea air at the bounty of boutique shops that are open all year round. If you buy one thing to complement your summer attire make sure it's a pair of the famous Espadrilles!

Hikers should pay a visit to the 905m high mountain of Larrun. Sitting at the western end of the Pyrenees, Larrun holds an iconic place in Basque culture. Just like the Albères Mountains on the Catalan Mediterranean coast, it is covered in dolmens, stone circles and other Neolithic monuments and as such was regarded to be a sacred place in their mythology. Larrun was a popular route for smugglers. Today, these smuggler's routes are populated with walkers and hikers and you are more likely to come across a red headed Manech sheep or a Pottok pony than a pot of gold!

Land lovers in need of some pampering can benefit from a plethora of renowned thalassotherapy spas. Louison Bobet, the famous French Tour de France champion, created this concept in the seventies after he became badly injured in a car crash. He was convinced of the benefits which a maritime climate and sea water brought to the human body - in thalassotherapy, trace elements of magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium, and iodide found in seawater are believed to be absorbed through the skin. Thalassotherapy in the area is internationally recognised both historically and in terms of expertise.

The Pyrénées-Atlantique has a wealth of natural, historical and cultural attractions. The area is famous for its historical personalities from all periods who have stayed here: King Louis XI, Louis XIV, Marshal Soult, Wellington, Napoleon and Princess Eugenie, Queen Victoria, King Edward VII and the Spanish king Alfonso XIII, were frequent visitors! The department also played a huge role in the Treaty of the Pyrenees. In the 17th century, Cardinal Mazarin would embark on almost daily trips to the island of Bidassoa (near Hendaye) for Franco-Spanish meetings that resulted in the. One such clause of the Treaty was the marriage of Louis XIV to Maria Theresa, the Infanta of Spain. Saint Jean de Luz and its church were chosen to host the royal wedding on 9 June 1660.

Historical and cultural towns like Bayonne (City of Art and History), Biarritz, Saint Jean de Luz, Anglet and villages like Sare Basque, Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, Espelette, Urrugne and Ciboure are all within reach wherever you decide to make your base. Here it is possible to see traditional Basque and Labourd-style buildings along with major sights such as the Fort of Socoa, Château d’Urtubie, Église Saint-Vincent, The Imperial Chapel, Église St-Martin, Villa Arnaga, Citadel of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and the Maison Joanoenea to name but a few.

Gourmet lovers will have the palates pampered to in the many excellent restaurants and bars. It's not a case of where to eat, but what to eat - your taste buds will be spoilt for choice! Why not start the evening with a brimming pitcher of Sangria along with an Assiette de charcuterie Basque (Basque meat platter) to get the gastric juices flowing? Maybe follow this with a local grilled hake, octupus with peppers or an Iberian parillada washed down with a cold glass of Estigar Basque cidre?

Many cultural and sporting events are held throughout the year such as the public concerts of classical music organized by the Académie Ravel, a film festival dedicated to young filmmakers, a surfing film festival and Basque Pelota championships.

Biarritz is a luxurious seaside town on the Bay of Biscay, on the Atlantic coast in the Pyrénées Atlantiques department. Situated in south-western France with a temperate climate, it is popular with international visitors and surfers - once considered a playground for the aristocracy.
Saint Jean de Luz
Saint Jean de Luz is located on the French Atlantic coast, south of Biarritz, just a few kilometres from the border with Spain. It is the ideal starting point to discover the Basque Country and coast, with the nearby historical and cultural towns like Bayonne, Biarritz, Anglet and villages like Sare Basque, Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, Espelette.

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