What if the good weather was an opportunity for bikers to put on boots and gloves and head for the South West of France? That's where the Basque Country is located, an area renowned for its wide range of landscapes. One thinks of course of its rugged coastline overlooking the Atlantic, but also of its green and hilly areas bordering the Pyrenean mountain range. The Basque Country is a natural environment of breathtaking beauty, but also a strong cultural identity, a generous gastronomy, a hinterland conducive to beautiful pastoral walks and villages among the most beautiful in France, famous for their half-timbered and corbelled facades. Here is a motorcycle itinerary leading to some of the treasures of the French Basque hinterland
In the unmissable city of Bayonne, it is possible to rent a motorbike from the Yamaha Rent Bayonne agency, which provides comfortable and safe motorbikes and scooters for long rides in the heart of the Basque hinterland and its hilly landscapes. Before hitting the road, you can of course take the opportunity to discover its heritage, such as the Sainte-Marie cathedral, but also to stroll through the narrow streets with their colourful, timber-framed facades and along the Adour river. If you are lucky enough to spend a Saturday here, you can also go to the traditional market to stock up on good local produce: vegetables, seafood, charcuterie and other tasty cheeses such as the tome de brebis des Pyrénées. If the weather allows it, a short trip to Anglet will be ideal for a moment of relaxation at the beach, between total idleness and swimming in the waves while the motorbike rests safely on one of the many car parks. You can also rent a motorbike at the Yamaha Rent Anglet agency
In Bayonne, the Goxoki restaurant is located in a former convent and offers a mastered gastronomic cuisine. You can eat pan-fried langoustines or venison stew for meat lovers. The cheeses have character and are of a great variety. One always comes out satisfied. Before hitting the road, bikers can also treat themselves to an unusual night on the Adour on the barge Djebelle. There are books, music, the essentials for a good night's rest and to keep your strength up.
The next day, the motorbike route leads to the town of Ustaritz, capital of Basque pelota! There you will discover the Lopta castle, listed as a historical monument, but it is certain that the motorcyclists will also want to learn about the local sport, alongside professionals in the discipline. Later on, it is the small, quiet village of Itxassou that awaits backpackers to admire the beautiful Basque houses, the pretty white-walled church of Saint-Fructueux and the surrounding hills in the background. The plain of the Urzumu, Mondarrain and Artzamendi mountains is ideal for walks in communion with nature, between the white waters of the Nive and the green valleys.
As far as cuisine is concerned, you should not fail to stop off at some of the fine restaurants in the Basque hinterland. Start with the Auberge du Fronton in Ustaritz, where the chef prepares affordable and generous cuisine. The fresh cod with chorizo is divine!
Along the route, there are also some very nice B&Bs for motorcycle travellers. In Itxassou, the Maison Gure Gostuan has very cosy rooms in a neo-Basque style house. The garden is superb and the view from the windows is breathtaking. A place of perfect serenity.
After a night's rest, the road leads to the foot of the Iparla, a Pyrenean peak that hikers will love to climb. It is in this area that we find the charming village of Bidarray, located on the GR 10. Crossed by the river Nive, adventurers on motorbikes can enjoy a wide range of activities, thanks to the leisure centres which offer climbing, canoeing and rafting. As for the cuisine, the Auberge Iparla, located at the foot of the eponymous mountain, offers a beautiful view. The products are fresh, local, and the Galician beef rib is a treat.
You are then only 15 minutes away from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port and its citadel, where a stopover for a day or two is a must. As the last French stop on the way to Compostela, motorbike riders will have no trouble finding parking spaces to explore the city on foot, starting with the pink sandstone ramparts. The Basque houses on the waterfront, the old bridge over the Nive, the entrance to the citadel and its breathtaking panorama, everything is conducive to reverie. The other interest of the city, is to shelter a medieval heritage of any beauty.
If Saint Jean-Pied-de Port is a perfect place to spend a few days and rest, it is thanks to the presence of an amazing place that overlooks the city. The Villa Harriet awaits travellers in rooms with contemporary decor and windows that offer a view of the green hills
The journey then takes us to Espelette. Not only because the village is typical, but also because its emblematic chilli pepper is appreciated in good restaurants and in dishes such as omelette and Basque chicken. Nearby, a beautiful discovery is the gardens of the Arnaga villa, which is located in the sublime home-museum of Edmond Rostand. Chilhar is the name of a hotel-restaurant not to be missed in Espelette. A place where the presentation in the plates is worked with the greatest care, and where the emblematic recipes of the Basque Country are concocted with products from local producers. An inventive cuisine that leaves sweet memories
Once you have left Espelette and returned to the hilly landscapes of the Basque hinterland on a motorbike, the next stops promise an immersion in a most picturesque atmosphere. Ainhoa is indeed one of the most beautiful Basque villages, renowned for its sublime red and white facades and for its slate stalls filled with local offerings. The same atmosphere can be found in the sublime neighbouring village of Sare. Situated at the foot of the Rhune and Axerai mountains, an environment conducive to beautiful walks, it also has a prehistoric cave leading into a megalithic park with countless rocky cavities.
For another night or two, the Maison Tartea in Ainhoa is a haven of peace, with rooms in soothing colours and a beautiful outdoor swimming pool. The breakfast is complete, generous and gives you a good start to the day
Before heading back to Bayonne, by the coast or inland, a final stop at Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle seems perfect for a stroll around the pelota ecomuseum, and then to go to the banks of its lake to sunbathe and enjoy the leisure activities. To sleep, don't miss the Auberge Basque, a sublime 4-star hotel with cosy rooms, a heated swimming pool and all only a few kilometres from the beaches and gulfs of the Basque coast. The place also offers a starred restaurant where the chef Cédric Béchade concocts a refined and colourful cuisine, made with the emblematic products of the Basque Country.
Motorbike road trip enthusiasts on their way to the Basque hinterland will have several places to stop to get valuable information on where to sleep, where to eat and what local sights to see. These include the Bayonne Tourist Office and the tourist offices in Espelette, Sare, Ainhoa and Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.
For more information on motorcycle hire in Bayonne, visit the Yamaha Rent website