Our hiking journey from France to Spain explores some of the best parts of Basque Country, a unique realm that truly is a world unto itself, with its own language, culture, and cuisine. One of our travelers shared some photos from their recent trip, From France to Spain: Hiking in the Basque Country in May 2022, where the group hiked part of the Camino de Santiago, enjoyed wonderful days in Bilbao, and savored fantastic cuisine from the mountains and the sea.
Our walking adventure begins in Biarritz, France, a seaside resort town infused with California surf culture. The first hike is alongside Nive River’s left bank (Errobi, in Basque), which leads to a small village. El Camino de Santiago, the trail to the holy city of Santiago in Spain, was the most important Christian pilgrimage during the Middle Ages and still draws thousands of pilgrims each year. It’s common to see walkers on their pilgrimage on the Santiago de Compostela in this area.
Before starting our hike on Day 3, we visit St. Jean Pied de Port, the gate of the Spanish Camino, and have our “pilgrim passports” stamped. From St. Jean Pied de Port, the beautiful French town, we head to Pamplona. Ernest Hemingway came here regularly with his band of Bohemian ex-pat friends in the 1920s to attend the city’s annual Festival of San Fermín and the “running of the bulls.”
Our hike continues through ancient Basque lands of wine and grain to reach the town of Puente La Reina, where we’ll meet and mingle with pilgrims. Two of the main pilgrim trails, the Camino Frances and the Camino Aragonese, meet at the thousand-year-old “Bridge of the Queen,” which crosses the Arga River. It’s a beautiful bridge built around the 12th century.
We pass a wide variety of terrain, from poppy-covered hills to ancient forests (and idyllic settings for a trailside lunch).
One of our hikes is along the Bandits Trail, a road frequented in the past by warriors, smugglers, and murderous bandits, and leads to a lost and abandoned 11th-12th century monastery in the heart of the mountains.
From the forests, we head to the coast and spend the remainder of our journey exploring Bilboa’s famous Guggenheim museum, and stops at quaint fisherman’s towns along the Bay of Biscay, San Sebastián (“Donostia” as it’s known in Basque), and Playa de la Concha. It’s amazing how much you can experience on this adventure, which is only eight days long!
—Photos by WT adventurer Jim Martellotti. Learn more about this hiking trip, From France to Spain: Hiking in the Basque Country.