Espelette is indeed a village full of colour and flavour, with superb facades, crumbling with ropes of red chillies. It must be said that the village has acquired a worldwide reputation for its peppers. A production highlighted during the Pepper Festival which takes place every year at the end of October (on 26 and 27 October for the 2019 edition). A perfect opportunity to discover this typical and charming little village.
A stone's throw from the ocean and close to Navarre, Ezpeleta (in Basque: a place planted with boxwood), formerly a fortress and seigneury attached to the Kingdom of Navarre, today a village of 2,000 inhabitants, is a pretty village whose tourism has changed the economy in recent decades, initially agricultural (sheep farming, corn). Indeed, it has acquired a worldwide reputation for its famous red peppers drying on the facades of houses. And then Espelette also knows how to seduce by a charming environment: a typical habitat made up of white flowered houses, neat, with green or red woodwork scattered around its beautiful church and an unspoilt nature around since the village is layered on a nipple with, in the distance, Mount Urzumu (216 m), Ereby (583 m), Artzimendi (936 m), Ezcondray (550 m), and Mondarain (749 m) and in the south, on a clear day, the Rhune and its 900 m altitude. The small watercourse is the Latxa, it joins the Nive at Larressore.
A thousand-year history
Ezpeleta is therefore a place planted with boxwood, but it is also the name of this castle that comes from a noble family of Navarre, the barons of Ezpeleta, who built this building around the year 1000. A series of adventures invaded the castle over the centuries. Here are some key dates to understand its evolution. We will therefore simply recall that when the 30-year war (1618-1648) broke out, the King of France (Louis XIII) found himself opposed to the King of Spain while the Barons of Ezpeleta were fighting against the King of France. In 1637, Cardinal Richelieu confiscated the lands of Baron Bertrand II of Ezpeleta and the inhabitants destroyed the castle. Bertrand II died shortly afterwards, around 1640, leaving his sister Barbe all the possessions he had in France. One of Barbe's first acts was to claim from parliament the confiscation of his brother in order to be placed in possession of the barony. When the Baroness died in 1690, King Louis XIV, by right of chance, gave the seigneury to Antoine de Gramont, sovereign of Bidache. From then on, Doña Juliana Henrique, grand-niece of Barbe, protested and reclaimed the land and the castle, leaving the other properties to the Duke of Gramont. Baroness Juliana, who died without descendants, had made the decision to bequeath the castle and the seigneurial rights attached to it to the inhabitants. And it was not until 1937 that the corner tower was included in the Inventory of Historical Monuments and the entire castle in 1993. And in 1998 the complete renovation of the castle began. In short, this is a beautiful insight into the town's past and a charming heritage.
The Church of St. Stephen is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the Basque Country. Its location near the small Romanesque bridge and the charming wooded cemetery (see the discoidal steles) that surrounds it already make it a jewel. Its Renaissance bell tower is particularly remarkable. In the church, do not miss to observe how the nave (large buttresses), the pulpit with panels, the gilded baroque altarpiece with twisted and alcove columns (17th century) and finally the three floors of galleries are supported.
Souraïde, a charming village
About 2 minutes from Espelette is Souraïde. Nestled in a wild nature at leisure, this village of some 1,200 inhabitants offers a magnificent view of the surrounding mountains, Ursuya, Baigura, Mondarrain, la Rhune, etc.. And since 1249, it has been mentioned on one of the most beautiful roads of Santiago de Compostela. At that time two priories depended on Souraïde, that of Gostorro and that of the Madeleine of Otxantz. Today we find the first one under the name of Gostorro Eliçaldea, in front of the church. As for the second, under the name of Hospitale Paradis, it was at the time the centre of an important agricultural operation. But since the regrouping of 1969, the ruins of the chapel have been located on the territory of Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle. The church, restored in the 17th and 18th centuries, has very beautiful galleries, an altarpiece containing the statues of Santiago in pilgrim's clothing, Saint Peter and Saint Paul and numerous bas-reliefs representing Saint Luke and Saint John. In the same way, it is illustrated by a beautiful tapestry of the monks of Bellocq still representing the pilgrim of Saint-Jacques. Until the Revolution, all the land belonged to the Barony of Espelette, its neighbour with an indescribable reputation. Today, this pretty village can boast of having, in its heart, in addition to beautiful landscapes, a quality hotel and restaurant, Hotel Bergara, a recommended stopover for pilgrims, but also for tourists who love peace and quiet.
Interpretation Centre and Chilli Festival, a spice in the spotlight!
The InterpretationCentre is the showcase of the Espelette chilli pepper PDO: as part of its PDO promotion activity, the Espelette chilli pepper producers' union created it to promote the pepper. The aim of this space is to highlight, through the work of men and women, the terroir, the reputation and its organoleptic characteristics. This attractive, aesthetic and playful place presents this spice as a unique exceptional product.
Admission to the centre is free and open to all and the exhibition is available in French and Basque. An animator will always be present to accompany the visitors. Very nice presentation initiative where you will find Espelette chilli pepper in its forms (powder, rope or fresh)
The Pepper Festival begins on Saturday (October 26th this year) with the sale of peppers and regional products. Tamborrada in the streets and Basque dances on the pediment, it continues in the evening with a typical aperitif-dinner in all restaurants, followed by a concert with a male choir. On Sunday, October 27th at 10am, Mass begins with the blessing of the peppers. At around 11:30 am, the induction ceremony takes place at the castle before a gourmet meal in all the restaurants, with the Espelette chilli pepper in the spotlight. All day long in the streets of the village, bandas follow one another in the gastronomic and artisanal stands. At 3pm concert at the Jeu-de-Paume square. At 4pm, pelota game with bare hands, followed by Souletines dances.... An unmissable event!
When? When? Of course, you can visit Espelette all year round, even if the arrival of the sunny days or the Indian summer are the most pleasant periods. To attend the Espelette Pepper Festival, come and visit us on 26 and 27 October 2019.
Getting there. By plane (Biarritz or Fontarabie airports), by train (Bayonne or Combo-les-Bains stations) or by car (A64 or A63 motorways).
Find your flight at the best price - Compare
Rent your car at the best price - Compare
Useful. To better organize your escapade.
OFFICE OF SPELETTE TOURISM - More information on the website
THE SPELETTE PILOT FESTIVAL - More information on the website
Book your accommodation at the best conditions - Compare
Get a quote from a local agency for a custom trip - Request a quote
Find a cultural or sporting activity - Find
Organize a group trip - Request a quote