Bordering Spain and the Pyrénées to the south and with Gironde to the north, these three regions are full of both contrasts and surprises. Beyond the endless sandy beaches with their spectacular Atlantic surf, there are some of the most peaceful pine forests on earth. The area’s natural attractions range from wonderful mountains to the world’s biggest sand dunes, with cuisines that range from the simplicity you will find in the Basque country to the sophistication of Bordeaux and the elegance of Cognac.
This part of France probably has more contrasts than any other. It is a stunning region with some fantastic cities such as the fabulously trendy Biarritz and pretty Labenne, Messanges and Biscarrosse all of which are on the Atlantic coast and offer some of the best beach locations in France. Then, by contrast there’s stunning Luz St Sauveur, only a short drive away, right in the heart of the Pyrenees themselves. The town is in the Pyrenees national park and is a great place for hiking and cycling holidays where you can soak up the wonderful views.
Whichever way you take your Pyrenees you can’t get away from the fact that this is Basque country and you don’t have to look hard or far to see signs of it. The Basque language and culture are very strong in this part of the world and give a distinct un-French flavour to this part of France.
High season sees all coastal resorts here being very busy yet they are all quality resorts with Biarritz being particular favoured by the great and good. It used to be a fishing village but was transformed by Emperor Napoleon in hour of his wife, the Empress Eugenie. As this is an Atlantic resort, as with the other local ones, expect good surf here. It’s a bit of a Mecca for surfers which makes for a great contrast with the fashionable Parisians who come here in their droves during the summer.
The region has its own cuisine, well perhaps two distinct cuisines. The coastal region is very Basque influenced and serves very good seafood and tomato and pepper sauces feature on the many menus with lots of local rose wines. In the more mountainous areas expect to see food based on the local delicacies of mountain beef and Brebis cheese.
Like no other region in France, the Pyrenees offer two holidays, sophisticated resort elegance and rugged fresh mountain air from one campsite which makes it a regular destination for many families.