January 18, 2018

Off the Beaten Path – The French Basque Region

I have been fortunate to travel in some wonderful areas of Europe.  Some  are the tried and true tourist areas and others are lesser known and less traveled areas, at least to Americans.

A few years ago I had the opportunity to visit one of these “off the beaten path” destinations in France. The French Basque Region is an area not regularly frequented by Americans.  I find it interesting that Americans tend to spend their time in more well-known destinations – Paris, Rome, Florence, London or Munich – but don’t venture to some of the lesser known areas. I really have no clue why this is but wonder if US travelers view their European trip is a once in a lifetime event and must cram as much in as possible and, therefore, only hit the highlight.  Or is it because they are trendy spots and ones they must visit or they are just not “with it”?

No matter the reason, I truly enjoy getting “off the beaten path” and enjoy areas not on the usual tourist track.   It is one of these that I want tell you about.

I had the pleasure to spend a week in the French Basque region specifically the area between Bayonne and St. Jean de Luz a few years ago with the French Government Tourist Bureau. This trip was busy and I didn’t get do some extensive exploring but I definitely came away wanting to spend more time in this beautiful less traveled area.

Basque vista Southwest France

Basque Hills

The Southwest corner of France, from Bayonne to St. Jean de Luz, offers something for everyone. Whether you want beautiful beaches or rolling green hills, sleepy villages or towns of international renown; you can find it all in this striking region. The coastal villages offer dramatic sandy beaches, fishing ports, beautiful architecture and storied histories.

Bayonne France


Bayonne is the capital of the region and is known for its narrow streets, cathedral and chocolate. Bayonne was the first city in France to make chocolate  dating way back to the early 1600’s. Wandering the streets will offer ample opportunities to sample the wonderful chocolate of Bayonne.

Biarritz Seaview France


Once a whaling village, Biarritz is now a resort to the rich and famous. Biarritz was the summer home of Eugenie and Napoleon and you can still see the impact of this in the stunning Hotel du Palais. Biarritz offers shopping, scenic views, museums and more. You will enjoy wandering the charming old town. After enjoying the sights which include a lighthouse and a Chocolate museum, you may want to spend some time in the casino before turning in for the night.

St Jean du Luz French Basque region

St Jean du Luz by marsupilami92, on Flickr

St. Jean de Luz is an enchanting town offering a sandy beach, picturesque harbor, outdoor cafes, architectural gems and a quaint town square. St. Jean de Luz is another great strolling town with beautiful narrow streets.

Basque Farm in Southwest France

Basque Farm

The French Basque have a well preserved culture and once you start moving inland you sense a more Basque feel to the environs. Moving inland you will find rolling green hills, peace and quiet, tradition and villages called “most beautiful villages in France.”

Scenic Basque Country France

Scenic Basque Country

Driving inland you will meet charming villages like Ascain, Sare and Ortillopitz. The storybook quality of this area make drives through the region an amazing journey. The discoveries you will find include churches, distinctive Basque architecture, lush countryside, vineyards, farms, pilgrimage routes and spectacular vistas. If you are a walker, you will be able to find many walking routes.

This section of France left a definite impression on me and I intend on returning.


What “off the beaten path” destinations have impacted you?

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  1. Concepcion says:

    These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
    Concepcion recently posted..Concepcion

  2. Debby says:

    I’ve been to Paris before, but I’ve never known about the Basque region. The next time I visit France, I really need to go there. Your photos have blown me away. The nature looks beautiful, and the town looks really pittoresque.
    Debby recently posted..Is The Ziering Hair Transplant Method Suitable For Women?

  3. Love discovering little villages and hamlets off the beaten path. Great way to see the culture as it truly is! Great information!

  4. Robin says:

    Hi Debbie…Photos captured here are all awesome!!Anyway, I am glad you have enjoyed your trip…
    Robin recently posted..Thinking of bringing an Asian Arowana home?

  5. Sherrie says:

    The photos are awesome and I think I have to visit them and looking forward to enjoy the trip…
    Sherrie recently posted..How to Avoid Hip Replacement Infection

  6. Michelle says:

    WOW!!Nice place!!I am hoping that i can visit the places you have already visited and I know they are all awesome…
    Michelle recently posted..Tips about How to fix a Computer

  7. Emily says:

    I can’t wait to read your next blog Debbie because this post alone is very interesting…
    Emily recently posted..Several at Home Hair Removal Methods

  8. I am definitely adding the Basque region to my bucket list, especially Bayonne, home to the masters of chocolate. This area looks lovely. And, I totally agree with you as far as visiting off-the-beaten-path areas to really discover and explore some of the most beautiful areas in Europe!
    Jeff Titelius recently posted..Postcards from Paris, France—A Tour Through the ‘City Of Light’

  9. Letty says:

    I love the story Debbie…I hope I can read more of your blogs…Thanks for the inspiration!!
    Letty recently posted..Things You Need to Know When Apply Auto Loans

  10. Claire says:

    I agree with you here Debbie. Those are the places that either I would love to go and spend vacation. I love the pics but I was really fascinated with the Basque Hills. Thanks for the share. 🙂
    Claire recently posted..play angry birds online

  11. Good story, Debbie.
    Off the beaten path, for me, is the only way to go.
    Why would I just want to sit around with fellow traveler is a place that everyone in the world knows about?
    Hidden gems are great to find and enjoy.
    John D. Wilson
    John D. Wilson recently posted..I bet you didn’t know that! 10 facts about Nicaragua


  1. […] at least by US travelers.  I have had the fortune to visit some these less discovered areas. The French Basque region, Biarritz and St. Jean de Luz come to […]

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