The Most Beautiful Villages of France in the Basque Country

La Bastide-Clairence
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The Most Beautiful Vi ...

Among the countless treasures hidden in the Basque Country, some villages of character offer a real step back in time. Four of them stand out in particular: they are classified among the prestigious "Most Beautiful Villages of France", rich in their heritage, their emblematic regional architecture and the beauty of their landscapes. Real nuggets, guardians of the land, witnesses of history, they are called Sare, Ainoha, la Bastide Clairance or Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and are admired by tourists who explore the Basque Country. Pretexts for beautiful walks with family or lovers, discover these timeless places in pictures for an initiatory journey before fully appreciating their authenticity and their incomparable charms on site!


Sare, at the foot of the Pyrenees

Sare, at the foot of the Pyrenees

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Another look at heritage

If the Basque Country inevitably evokes the raging ocean and its seasoned surfers, it is however not only a mythical maritime territory. Its rural face, less known, is just as fascinating. In its verdant countryside, centuries have spared countless hamlets, towns and villages nestled in the hollow of wild and picturesque valleys. In addition to their architectural treasures, these 4 villages are home to artisans, shops, cafes and restaurants that enliven their winding streets. Here in the Basque Country, heritage is an adventure that awaits you around the corner and that can be experienced around the bend in the road.

Sare, at the foot of the Basque mountains

Sare  Sare
Sare


Charming typical little village with regard to its old residences, Sare is an interesting stopover during your stay in the Basque Country. Surrounded by a natural setting, Sare peacefully dominates the country of Xareta in a setting alternating valleys and pastures, at the foot of the Pyrenees. The surroundings of the village offer unique attractions: the train of the Rhune (fr) and the caves of Sare where interactive visits propose to discover the history of the prehistoric life of the region.

On the heritage side, Sare (fr) reveals its majestic Saint-Martin church with a five-storey tower, one of the most beautiful in Labourd, now protected as a Historic Monument. Stroll through the village to discover the traditional houses and remarkable buildings, witnesses of the great wealth once derived from whale and cod fishing, its pelota pediment, its narrow streets and its preserved environment. Dating from the 17th century, the Ortillopitz house invites visitors to discover Basque life in the past. Follow the Galtzada footpath to explore the town and its surroundings: a medieval route once used to access Spain.


The good idea Just next to Ascain, visit the Lartigue 1910 workshop in Ascain.

Ainhoa, bastide on the Spanish border

Ainhoa
Ainhoa  Ainhoa
Ainhoa  Ainhoa


With its typical labourdine half-timbered houses rebuilt in the 17th century, Ainhoa is a real postcard of the Basque Country. This village in the cross-border valley with Spain has a very marked culture and history! This village, surrounded by mountains, has preserved its historical remains, in particular its church (listed as a Historic Monument) built on an old house dating from the 12th century and its old communal washhouse. Don't miss its pediment located on the wall of the cemetery since 1849 to attend a game of Basque pelota! A superb hike allows visitors to climb up to the Notre Dame de l'Aubépine chapel to admire the entire Xareta valley, the Rhune and the ocean on the horizon. At the top, the discoidal and tabular stelae offer a fine example of Basque funerary art.


The good idea Read our article on the Chapelle de l'Aubépine hike in Ainhoa. If you like hiking, check out our article on the most beautiful hikes in the Basque Country.


Summit of Mount Azulai

At the top of Mount Azulai, around the chapel of Aranzazu, or Our Lady of Hawthorn

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Saint-Jean-Pied de Port, village of pilgrims

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port

Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port  Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port
Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port


Located on the way to Santiago de Compostela, the charming village of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port is a center of pilgrimage for visitors from all over the world. Renowned for its citadel built in the 17th century at an altitude of 80 metres, this fortress in Lower Navarre once watched over the river activity of the Nive and the crossing point of the Pyrenees via the road to Roncesvalles. An architectural gem, the village is distinguished by its rich religious heritage combining several styles, the Romanesque church of Saint-Jean-le-Vieux and the Gothic church of Notre-Dame-de-Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. Its small cobbled streets, its culinary specialties, the unparalleled hospitality of its inhabitants are all assets that make Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port one of the most beautiful villages in the Basque Country.


The good idea Read our report on the visit to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (fr), to prepare your visit to this charming village. We also have something to invite you to come and visit Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port after dark...

La Bastide Clairence, at the crossroads of civilizations

The Bastide Clairence
The Bastide Clairence  The Bastide Clairence
The Church of Our Lady of La Bastide Clairence  The Bastide Clairence
The Bastide Clairence


Lovers of heritage and old stones, let yourself be told 700 years of history by exploring this picturesque village founded in the Middle Ages under the name of Bastida de Clarenza. Extraordinarily well preserved, its narrow streets are lined with half-timbered labourdin-style houses and Navarrese-style stone houses. Its superb square central square, Place des Arceaux, gives it a unique cachet. Do not miss to discover the Notre Dame de La-Bastide-Clairence church, consecrated in 1315 by the Bishop of Pamplona, or its old Jewish cemetery, witness to the presence of a large community of Sephardic Jews who fled the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisition. Many artists and craftsmen are installed in the village, under the arcades and in the house of the Darrieux park for our greatest happiness.


The good idea Read our article on visiting the village of La Bastide Clairence. And to go further in your discovery of the beautiful villages of the Basque Country, do not miss our article on 10 villages of the interior Basque Country that will leave you speechless!


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Article and photos prepared by Lesley Williamson for the Basque Country Guide


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