France: The Pyrenees 2019

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Trip duration: 8 days/7 nights
Trip grade: Moderate: (4 – 5 hours of walking each day)
Trip Dates: TBA September, 2019
Tour Cost ex Dax: $TBA, double/twin share with shared bathroom, and, $TBA per person per week, double/twin share with en suite bathroom.
Single room supplement, $TBA
Maximum group size: 12 places only

About the tour

Our 2019 Pyrenees walking tour will again be based in the foothills of the Western Pyrenees, but almost certainly for the last time. This is the area known as the Pays Basque – the country of the Basques- a quiet corner of France on the Spanish border, and within an hour’s drive of the Atlantic Ocean. The region is sparsely populated and is a bastion of the ancient and unique Basque culture, which maintains its own language and customs.

Beautiful farmland, rich valleys with fast flowing streams, beech forests, ancient villages and cultural sites are the destinations of our walks. We will discover all these as we walk sections of the GR10, the famous long distance footpath that follows the Pyrenees from Atlantic to Mediterranean and local trails.

Pilgrims have crossed this area for over 1000 years, traveling from all over Europe, over the Pyrenees on their way to the magnificent church and shrine at Santiago de Compostela in north-western Spain. We follow parts of this ancient but still used path, the GR 65, on some of our walks, visiting ancient chapels and the lovely old town of St-Jean-Pied-de-Port.

A mid-week rest day provides an opportunity to travel to nearby sites; an ancient abbey, the elegant spa town of Salies de Béarn, Château Laas, or the medieval town of Sauveterre perhaps. One evening is free to dine out at a nearby town.

With a combination of unbeatable walks, superb cuisine and our unrivalled knowledge of the Basque region of France, you will have a holiday to remember.

Dax is on a direct TGV (train) route from Paris.

Sample Itinerary

Walks involve vehicle shuttles which take us through a variety of Pays Basques landscapes. The choice and/or order of walks may change to suit conditions.

Day 1
Meet at Dax railway station at 16h30 and transfer to ‘Etxexuria’, our comfortable Basque farmhouse in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Time to settle in and a short stroll before dinner. (DBB)

Day 2 – Ostabat (4 hours, 12 kms)
A fairly gentle start to the week. This walk starts from a saddle within view of the house and heads north along the edge of the Lantabat valley. Winding through gentle farming country, our route joins the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela (the GR65) and passes a 12th century chapel which was once a sanctuary for those on the pilgrimage. We end the walk at a café in the village of Ostabat, a former meeting point of several of the routes leading to Santiago. (DBBL)

Day 3 – Urdos (4 hours, 8 kms)
Urdos, a tiny hamlet with an ancient château and a 17C chapel, is the starting point for one of our shorter walks, some 40 minutes drive from Etxexuria. We climb up by the river under the shade of chestnut and oak woodland, past picturesque old barns, shepherds’ huts, craggy rocks and lush vegetation. We have the option of walking up to the Iparla ridge and the Spanish border before descending towards Urdos. (DBBL)

Day 4 – Source of the Bidouze (5 hours – 12 kms)
We start with a long but gentle uphill in shady beech forest by the River Bidouze. Arriving at a vertical limestone cliff face below a hanging valley, we are faced with a dark cave containing the source of the River Bidouze, and if one is to believe Basque legend, the home of a “laminak” or two (Basque equivalent of leprechauns)! From here a track takes us to our lunch spot above the hanging valley, where we enjoy wonderful views of surrounding forest and mountains. After lunch, we continue the circuit past a wood pigeon netting site (only active in October), eventually dropping down and through lush farmland surrounded by hills, to be collected. (DBBL)

Day 5 – Col d’Ispéguy (5 hours – 12 kms)
One of the most attractive villages in the Pays Basque is Saint Etienne de Baïgorry, on the road to Spain from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port. Starting from the Col d’Ispéguy (one of the Pyrenean crossing points for that mother of all cycle races, the Tour de France), this walk traverses forest and mountain pastures, and offers superb views into both Spain and France. The last optional phase of the walk features a descent valley through shaded woods and by the side of a fast flowing mountain stream to a cafe. (DBBL)

Day 6 – Salies de Béarn (0 kms!)
As a rest from walking; today we drive north out of the Basque country to this charming mediaeval Béarnaise town. We typically visit the lovely Chateau Laas and then you can wander around a typical French market before lunching in a local cafe. In the early afternoon you can visit the town’s famous spa baths to relieve any aching muscles. We take you to a local restaurant this evening. (B&B)

Day 7 – Sommet d’Occabé (5 hours, 12 kms)
This walk climbs up through the beautiful Iraty beech forest (the largest in western Europe) to a large open plateau and the summit of Occabé. At 1456m this is the highest in the area accessible on foot. Here we pass a formation of 26 cromlechs (stone circles) dating back to the Iron Age. After lunch we descend through forest to our pickup point. (DBBL)

Day 8
Pack and transfer to Dax railway station by 09h00 in time for the TGV to Paris. (B)

Included:

  • 7 nights twin/share accommodation
  • All breakfasts, 5 lunches, and 6 evening meals
  • Wine/beer with evening meals
  • Professional driver/guides
  • Local transport to walks and attractions
  • A fully organized program of walks and visits
  • Transfers to/from Dax

Not Included:

  • Travel to Dax at the beginning of the tour, and from Dax at the end
  • One evening meal and one lunch
  • Admission to spa baths in Salies de Bearn
  • Travel insurance (required)
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