The lighthouses of the Basque Country

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Discover and visit the lighthouses of the Basque Country. There are 3 of them on the French coast, but they are much more numerous in the Basque Country on the south side ! For an original, educational and sporting activity, the ascent of a lighthouse, with all its steps, is the pinnacle! But once you reach the top, you will be dazzled by these breathtaking views and exceptional 360° panoramas. You will be able to breathe deeply this sea and iodized air, so invigorating, and listen to the captivating music of the waves crashing on these stone buildings. You will see, it is truly a gripping experience, which is well worth this effort.

Here is a good opportunity to survey the Basque coast, from north to south, from Anglet to the Spanish Basque Country and admire these architectural wonders, capable of withstanding the fury of the oceans. Some of these monuments will open their doors to reveal their history and scientific challenges they caused, these innovations of the 19th century in the field of optics. We take you to discover this unusual and typical maritime heritage of the Basque Country.

Opening photo : © LabbePhotography / Adobe Stock


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Anglet lighthouse, the Signal Tower

Anglet Lighthouse is more of a traffic light than a lighthouse. Its name " Tour des Signaux " refers to its green or red light which authorizes or denies access to the Adour. The mouth of the river is narrow and the traffic is heavy. Previously, navigation was therefore difficult for ships going to the nearby Brise-Lames marinas, but also to the ports of Bayonne. Operators still operate it and it cannot be visited. However its architecture is original and deserves to linger there. Indeed, it was built in 1861, but a floor, on the same model as its base, was added during World War II by the Germans.

Did you know Each lighthouse is identified by a “ light signature ”. It is made up of a series of " bursts " of light, short, long or flashing, following a unique rhythm. In this case, when a boat presents itself, a series of three green signals allows entry. On the other hand, a series of three red signals prohibits the exit.

the good idea

To see the lighthouse from another angle, we tried out the promenade de la Barre, on the coastal path (fr).

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The bar promenade in Anglet Photo : @ Guide du Pays Basque

The Biarritz lighthouse, on Pointe Saint-Martin

Pointe Saint-Martin is a cape that separates Biarritz and Anglet. It is a very high lighthouse, with 248 steps, which gives it a great luminous range. In addition, it is equipped with Fresnel optics. It is therefore classified as first-rate. If the climb is steep, from the top of its footbridge, you will have a magnificent view to the Pyrenees ! It is accessible all year round and it is a must-see tourist site on the Basque coast. So plan to wait a bit during the summer season.

Did you know Lighthouses are classified according to their luminous range : The first-rate lighthouses have a range of 60 km ; 40 km for those of second order ; 28 km for those of third order. It is the engineer Augustin Fresnel invented in the early 19th century a revolutionary lens. It considerably increases the light range of the headlights.

the good idea

A magical walk on the coastal path of Biarritz.

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The Biarritz lighthouse at sunset Photo @Lesley Williamson

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Photos @ Guide du Pays Basque

Socoa lighthouse

In the extension of the Fort, the Socoa lighthouse is a landing light that signals the coast. It has the particularity of being a " flagship house ", but it has not been occupied since 1970. Located on the coastal path, it is one of the remarkable points of view of the walk, but it cannot be visited.

Did you know Lighthouses are also listed by their function : the landing light signals the approach of a coast ; that of staking marks the course of a sea route.

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The flagship house of Socoa ; Photo @VVVF   CC BY-SA 4.0

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The lighthouses of Ciboure and Saint-Jean-de-Luz

These are range lights. They indicate the access zone to the channel of the port of Saint-Jean-de-Luz. The Ciboure lighthouse has a green light. Her twin in Saint-Jean-de-Luz has a red light. They are not open to visitors, but are both on the coastal path.

Did you know The light of a lighthouse is most often white. If it is red, it signals a danger and if it is green, a passage. The light beam is positioned directly on the zone to be signaled. It is therefore called a "sector light ". When they work in duo, one lighthouse shows the way in green and the other, the dangerous area in red.

the good idea

Read our article on Saint-Jean-de-Luz, a very nice walk !

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The Lighthouse of Ciboure at the entrance to the port ; Photo @Lesley Williamson

The lighthouses of the Spanish Basque Country

The Basque coast does not stop at the border with Spain. In the south of the Basque Country, on the Spanish side, you will also find more lighthouses :  

  • The Higuerse lighthouse is located just on the border, near Hendaye. He pointed out the dangers of the cape and the mouth of the Bidasoa.
  • The La Plata lighthouse protects the Cap de la Plata. It sits on the flat roof of a small castle, inhabited by the guards.
  • Senokozulua Lighthouse is the entrance lighthouse to the port of Pasaia. He guides the boats in the narrow channel that leads to the port.
  • The Santa Clara Lighthouse is an island lighthouse. It is located on the small island of Santa Clara, in the heart of the bay of San Sebastien.
  • The Igeldo lighthouse is no longer in operation. At the top of Monte Igueldo, it offers a beautiful viewpoint over the bay of San Sebastien.
  • The Getaria lighthouse is located on Mount San Anton which juts out into the sea. A red light signals the danger zone.
  • The Zumaia lighthouse indicates the Urola estuary, from Mount Atalaya.
  • The Santa Catalina Lighthouse is the entrance lighthouse to the port of Lekeitio. It culminates on the impressive Cabo de Santa Catalina cliff.
  • The Matxitxako lighthouse is one of the largest lighthouses in Spain, but also the most powerful. He indicated the very dangerous heading near Bermeo.
  • The Gorliz Lighthouse is one of the Bilbao Lighthouses. It is equipped with a Fresnel lens.
  • The Galea Point lighthouse marks the entrance to the Bilbao estuary and its port.

All these lighthouses are on the coast and are therefore paradises for their keeper...

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Pasaia Bay   Photo @ Guide du Pays Basque

Did you know Life on a lighthouse can be " hell " or " heaven " ! In fact, this is a small qualifier assigned by lighthouse keepers. Indeed, depending on their location, the quality of life is very different. The open sea lighthouse, isolated and without the possibility of going out, is a " hell ". The one built on an island, which allows you to go out and sometimes enjoy a garden is a " purgatory ". Anyone on land or on an inhabited island is considered " paradise ". Guardians usually start their careers in Hell and end it in Heaven !

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This walk along the coast, through the lighthouses of the Basque Country, comes to an end and we hope you have made you want to visit these unusual monuments and typical of Basque heritage.

Did you like our article ? Find more on our Blog.

Follow us on the Guide du Pays Basque Facebook page and on Instagram @guidedupaysbasque.

 

Article written by Stéphanie Tempier for the Guide du Pays Basque.


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