LA RHUNE MOUNTAIN

La Rhune summit —905 metres high — is highly popular, and for good cause. The hike can take between 3 hrs 30 min and 4 hrs 50 min depending on the route you take, but the view is the same for everyone once you get there: an extraordinary 360° panorama. The weather can be quite changeable, but on a clear day you can make out the ocean, the bay of Saint-Jean-de-Luz, the Landes forest, the Basque mountains and, to the south, the Bidassoa Valley. The walk runs along the Franco-Spanish border.

The starting point for the hike from Ascain is undoubtedly the most popular. There are quieter alternatives. The itinerary along the west ridge from the Olhette B&B is less travelled and you will come across an impressive, atypical cairn built on the Petite Rhune. The south face and the starting point in the village of Sare and the Lizuniaga pass are all lesser-known routes for a peaceful walk enjoying flora and fauna typical of the region. You will see pottoks — Basque ponies, manech ewes with russet heads, and vultures. The presence of a cayolar, or traditional sheepfold, provides another authentic touch.

You can also ride either up or down on the legendary little train: one of very few rack-railways in France. Dating from 1924, it links the Col de Saint-Ignace to the summit with a 4 kilometre ride, and a difference in altitude of 736 metres. This 35-minute trip is pure bucolic fun!

For winter and summer visitors alike, the magical site of Iraty will astound you. Trails have been blazed in this gigantic cedar forest for snowshoeing and cross country skiing. Enjoy the flora and fauna as you walk. You can retire to a wooden chalet for a break in the peace of the mountain.

Soule is the smallest of the seven Basque provinces, but no less attractive for that. There are two walks you can do in one day, a 35-minute car ride from each other. One takes you through lush green canyon and the other over a bridge suspended at a height of 140 metres!

Labourd province features a mountain with a distinctive peak, with cliffs forming a rocky wall that’s easy to identify. You can admire a fantastic 360° view of sea and mountains, and traditional discoidal steles at the start of the hike from Aubépine chapel.