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  • Writer's pictureGreen Traveller

Walking the French Pyrenees to the Spanish coast

Nicola Forsyth describes this 9-night self-guided, walking holiday taking you across the Atlantic Pyrenees to the Spanish Coastal city of San Sebastián.

In a nutshell:

Make your way across the French Pyrenees to Spain’s stunning coastal city of San Sebastián, enjoying the stunning mountain views, Basque villages and delicious cuisine en route, while your bags are transferred ahead. You may even spot a bird of prey as the journey takes in their migration route.

Nights: 9

Price: £1,380 per person

What's included: 9 nights at eight selected hotels (one country inn; two 2-star hotels; two 3-star hotels; three 4-star hotels); your luggage transported for you from hotel to hotel; route notes and maps; transfers to the start of the walks on two days; 6 dinners; 6 picnics; 9 breakfasts.

Departures: May, June, July, September, October.

Nearest station to start of trip: Bayonne

Nearest station to end of trip: Hendaye (at the Spanish border)

How to travel by train to Bayonne: It's easy to travel from London to Bayonne by train. You have to change stations in Paris from Gare du Nord to Montparnasse, which can take about half an hour on the Paris metro (though we recommend you leave at least 50 minutes for the entire transfer - see our guide to How to transfer between train stations across Paris). For more details on the train journey from London to Bayonne, including some suggestions for where to stay near the train station in Paris if you want to break up the journey and spend more time in Paris, see our flight-free journey planner: Train from London to Bayonne.

Optional extra: Shorten the journey to 7 nights (from £1,075pp).

What's the trip like:

Start your walking holiday, with a choice of two routes (12.5km or 13.5km) from your start point of St Etienne to Bidarray. The longer route (6hrs; ascent/descent 1000m) starts with an ascent through woodland to the Harietta Pass (on the border with Spain), which gives way to stunning views of the Pyrenean chain before descending to Bidarray where you will reach your destination, Hotel Barberaenea. The shorter option (5hrs; ascent/descent 640m) is a lower level alternative to the east of the Iparla ridge, taking you across open moorland through connecting hamlets and farms with pretty views of the valleys.

Day 2 offers two routes from Bidarray to Itxassou (19.5km, 7.5hrs; ascent 1105m/descent 1160m; shorter option: 14km, 5.5hrs; ascent 685m/descent 740m) taking you towards to the summit of Mount Artzamendi (926 metres) where the High Pyrenees can be seen on clear days. Pass along the River Nive to Itxassou, passing the Pas de Roland, a hole in the rock - which was allegedly carved out by Roland to let Charlemagne's army pass through - before arriving at the Hotel du Fronton. The shorter option bypasses the climb to Artzamendi. On Day 3 you will leave Itxassou by walking the route to Ainhoa (14.5km, 5.5hrs; ascent 715m, descent 695m), which passes under the Pic de Mondarrain (749 metres). The descent offers beautiful views of villages and the Atlantic before arriving at Hotel Argi Eder in Ainhoa.

Leaving the pretty Basque village of Ainhoa on Day 4 you will take the gentle walk to Sare (13km, 4.5hrs; ascent 330m/descent 405m). Follow country lanes, passing tiny hamlets, to reach the Hotel Arraya. The next day (Day 5) you will continue to Biriatou (18km, 6hrs; ascent 460m/descent 1250m) where a cog railway will take you to the summit of La Rhune (900 metres), for views of the Bay of Biscay, Les Landes and the Pyrenean chain. From here you will cross into Spain before crossing the Ibardin Pass back through France before resting up at Les Jardins de Bakea for the night.

On Day 6 make the journey through coastal paths to Hondarribia (17.5km, 6hrs; ascent 395m/descent 830m) where you will stay at the Hotel Obispo. Marvel at the old Basque houses of the Old Town and explore the Barrio de la Marina district in search of the delicious array of tapas and seafood on offer. The next day (Day 7) you will walk to your final destination of San Sebastián (21km, 7.5hrs; ascent 865m/descent 995m), ending at Hotel Niza, a stones throw to the Playa de la Concha. Make the most of this gastronomic city that boasts the highest number of Michelin stars per capita, making sure to book ahead - or try a txititeo (pintxo crawl). Afterall, you’ve earned it! Day 8 involves a full and final day exploring the coastal city - that’s if you can tear yourself away from the gastronomical delights!

How to enquire/book this holiday:

This holiday is provided by Inntravel, one of the founding tour operator members of Green Traveller. One of the great things about this holiday is its flexibility: you have a choice of start/end dates and you can add additional nights on to the itinerary. If you'd like to know more about this holiday, please see more details on the relevant page given below and if you'd like to book it, do contact them directly or complete their booking form and a member of their team will be in touch with you.

Bon Voyage!


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