What to see in France

La Rhune: dominating the Basque coast

Photo Oso
Photo Oso

At 905 m altitude, the Rhune (Larrun in Basque) dominates the Basque coast. When the weather is clear (yes, it is possible!) you can see San Sebastian from the Spanish side and from the French side you can see the whole bay from Saint-Jean de Luz to Bayonne. During the summer, it is one of the most visited places in the Basque Country with more than 340,000 people on the "Petit Train" alone.

There are three ways to climb the Rhune. You can use one of the many hiking trails that run through it. In recent years, more and more people are climbing the mountain by mountain bike, but the most common way is by rack railway.

On foot

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You like beautiful hikes, a little hard but not too much. You want to go and see the sheep or the famous Basque Pottoks horses and go through beautiful landscapes on both the Spanish and French sides. In these conditions, you can very well go on foot. Until a few years ago, there were almost a hundred paths of all kinds on the Rhune. Nowadays, although the number has decreased, there is still enough variety for all tastes and levels. In the tourist offices of Urrugne, Ascain, Sarre or even at the departure point of the little train, you will find all the necessary itineraries and advice. Depending on the path you choose, you should allow between two and three hours' walking. One of the most pleasant, but not necessarily the easiest, is the Sentier du Petit Train (Little Train Trail) which follows the route of the cogwheel railway from one end to the other.

By bike

In recent years, mountain bike routes have been developed. The climbs are often hard on the calves and the descents can be quite bumpy. In any case, what a pleasure it is to reach the top. Whatever the means used to get there, take a break in one of the Ventas on the summit to enjoy a tortilla or a few slices of ham, do some shopping... before coming back down.

The little train

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It is undoubtedly the most used means of transport with over 340,000 passengers per year. This small electric rack train dates from the 1920s and has been superbly restored. You will go from the Col de Saint-Ignace at 169 m to the summit at 905 m. Between the two, 35 minutes of pure happiness during which your eyes will not know where to rest as the landscapes are so beautiful. In addition to the Pottoks, you will also meet the Manex (pronounced manèche) black-headed sheep whose milk is used to make Ardi Gasna, a cheese that is accompanied by Itxassou black cherry jam. With a bit of luck, you will be flown over by large birds of prey and, if it is a bit hot, you will be assailed by all the smells of nature.

But such a moment of pleasure has to be earned, and you will probably have to wait a long time before getting into your carriage. To eliminate the long queues, you can now book your tickets online and a continuous sale gives you the opportunity to buy tickets at the ticket office in advance of the day.

Practical information

Return fare: Adults: 20€ Children from 4 to 12 years old: 13€ (free under 4 years old) Family package: 60€ (except July-August). Reservation recommended on www.rhune.com


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