Find paradise in Pays Basque

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Pays Basque is a surfer’s paradise, a cultural pearl and a rural beauty rolled into one.

Pays Basque or ‘French Basque Country’ is a region rich with history and culture. A passionate pairing of pastoral scenery and roaring coastlines.

If you’re looking for somewhere new and exciting within France, the region is the perfect destination. It differentiates itself while maintaining typical French beauty.

Pays Basque

Where in France: South, between the Bay of Biscay and the Pyrenees.
Drive from Calais: 1,091km / 10h 15m

Much like the scenery that comes to mind when imagining Marseille, Nice or Southern France in general, Pays Basque is equally as idyllic with miles of stunning, untouched coastline, delightful hotels and great surf spots. But, the 500-mile distance and the Pyrenees mountain range are but a few factors that separate Pays Basque from the quintessential South of France.

Pays Basque countryside, with the Pyrenees in distance
Pays Basque countryside, with the Pyrenees in distance.

Although French in Nationality, the people of Pays Basque and their ways are far more akin with those of the Southern Basque Country, found in Northern Spain. The entirety of the Basque region shares a language and a heritage that is said to be one of the oldest in Europe, predating even the Romans.

History states that after conquering the Celts in Gaul (the Roman term for what is now regarded as mainland Europe), Julius Caesar found the Basque people south of the River Garonne. The Roman’s originally dubbed them the ‘Aquanti’ people. The sport of ‘pelota’ is a passion of the people and an invention that seems to be exclusive to the region. It resembles both Lacrosse and Squash and its nature was outlined in a documentary made by Orson Welles entitled, ‘Land of the Basques’. The French Basques are even credited with the design of the modern-day beret.

French Basque men wearing ceremonial dress
French Basque men wearing ceremonial dress.

Biarritz

Where in France: Nouvelle-Aquitaine
Drive from Calais: 1,065.8km / 9h 30m

The French Basque country is considered to be more rural and unaffected than its Spanish counterpart, with less industry and more agriculture. The jewel in the crown of France’s Basque coast is undoubtedly Biarritz. The seaside city is the glistening cocktail of half ritzy coastal resort and half summer surfers’ hang-out. It was also once the preferred getaway for Napoléon III and his Spanish-born wife, Eugénie de Montijo during the mid-19th century.

The feeling in the air is of La Belle Époque (The Beautiful Era) with a lot of the architecture hailing from this period of 1871-1914. The region seems to have kept up the optimism and economic prosperity brought about the flourishing art scene.

This coupled with a healthy dose of art deco can leave you feeling as though you’ve travelled back in time. Biarritz also has its fair share of Brutalist and Modernist buildings. The movement seemed to sweep across France in the mid-20th century with concrete being a cheap and reliable material, ideal for rebuilding a war-torn Europe. Whatever your architectural taste, there is plenty of beauty to behold with the white sand beaches, azure waters, delightful cafés and enticing restaurants.

The marina at sunset, Biarritz
The marina at sunset, Biarritz.

One experience unique to Biarritz is tasting the delicious, ‘Le Beret Basque’ from Miremont Patisserie. The small and deliciously indulgent mousse-filled treat is a must for first-time visitors. The name comes from the cake’s likeness to a beret, and it was inspired by local men being recruited as soldiers during WW1. The men would leave their berets behind for their wives and girlfriends before adorning helmets and heading for the front line. The owner of the patisserie, Joseph Miremont had the idea to create the cakes to console the heart-broken women.

Surfing in Biarritz

With favourable and steady sunny weather, Biarritz throngs with tourists during the summer months. Many flock to the city to take advantage of the perfect surfing conditions the Bay of Biscay has to offer. The city is blessed with sizeable swell all year round and is regarded as one of Europe’s most famous, exciting and reliable surfing destinations. An experience that lives forever with those who indulge, is to brave the waters during the early evening. With the sun setting over the Atlantic Ocean and the Pyrenees silhouetted in the far distance, you’ll think you’ve paddled out to heaven itself.

A surfer heads out into the water
A surfer heads out into the water.

Biarritz Surf Training, Côte Des Basques

Whether you’re a seasoned pro or someone looking to try their hand, Biarritz has you covered. Plage de la Côte des Basques is a beautiful beach just south of the city centre and home to the Biarritz Surf Training surf school. They’ve been teaching on the beach for 30 years and cater for all levels, as well children as young as 5. The months of July and August are usually best for newbies, with good waves but nothing too monstrous. Although, be advised that this is also the busiest period.

For the daredevils among you looking for the most thrilling experiences, we suggest visiting during September. The water is still warm from the beating summer sun, the tourists are in small numbers and the waves start to pick up the power. They usually reach around the 6-foot mark as the Autumn creeps in and a 3/2 full wetsuit is the norm. The neighbouring beaches of La Milady, Plage des 100 Marches and Plage de la Petit also provide the same conditions, meaning a short walk in either direction could grant you with a secluded surf spot.

So, if you’re looking to experience exceptional natural beauty, age-old and unique culture as well as guaranteed good surf, Pays Basque is the destination for you! Book your next adventure with us now to take advantage of the best fares.