Every­one has heard about the Basque Coun­try … But not every­one knows it: it is green, the hous­es are white with red shut­ters and roofs. These colours can be found in their flag. The Basques are proud, friend­ly, reli­able and welcoming.

It is a spa­cious coun­try with its hills and moun­tains, gorges, caves and canyons. One can admire the beau­ty of nature in addi­tion to the authen­tic and orig­i­nal Basque traditions.

A trip through the Gorges de Kak­ou­et­ta’ or the Holzharté’ sus­pen­sion bridge gets you acquaint­ed with the ver­sa­tile nature of the Basque Pyrenees.

Three Basque Provinces

The French part of the Basque coun­try con­sists of three provinces. The provinces are not rec­og­nized by the French state and have no finan­cial or admin­is­tra­tive sig­nif­i­cance but the Basques are proud of their coun­try and its rich history.

Labourd

The ocean has always played a very impor­tant role in the his­tor­i­cal devel­op­ment of this region. Bay­onne is since the 12th cen­tu­ry, cap­i­tal of the province. The Labourd was in 1152 in Eng­lish hands (after a mar­riage). The con­nec­tion with Eng­land sub­se­quent­ly last­ed three centuries.

The his­tor­i­cal and eco­nom­ic impor­tance of the ocean is found back in the diver­si­ty of cities and towns along the coast. More on the coast.

Basse-Navarre

Until the end of the 16th cen­tu­ry this province of the Basque Coun­try was part of the King­dom of Navarre. This king­dom had its cap­i­tal at Pam­plona with Saint Jean Pied de Port as a cen­tre. Navarre had already been part of France for two cen­turies. How­ev­er the French sovereign’s offi­cial title King of France and Navarre” last­ed until the French Rev­o­lu­tion (1789).

Saint Jean Pied de Port, a new town’, was found­ed in the 12th cen­tu­ry. In the 13th cen­tu­ry the King of Navarre made it into a for­ti­fied town. We can still see the impres­sive walls. Nowa­days the town is an impor­tant stop on the route of Saint Jacques de Com­postel­la, the city lies on the via Podi­en­sis” and is the last town before the Pyre­nees and the Span­ish border.

Saint Palais, also locat­ed on the Com­postel­la route, was found­ed at the end of the 13th cen­tu­ry by the king of Navarre. The city was built around the impor­tant cour­t­house and was sur­round­ed by walls and moats.

Soule

Mauleon is the cap­i­tal of the Soule province, the small­est of the sev­en Basque provinces. The econ­o­my of this province relies main­ly on tourism, agri­cul­ture (sheep cheese) and small tra­di­tion­al crafts such as the Espadrille factories.

The south­ern part of the province (Pyre­nees) is known for its gorges Gorges de Kak­ou­et­ta’ at Sainte-Engrâce (beau­ti­ful walk through the gorge) and Holzarté’ at Lar­rau (with the famous sus­pen­sion bridge” walk). It is a well known area for Canyoning.