“The week of walking and gastronomy had it all, great scenery, invigorating hikes, delicious food, cultural immersion and best of all great fun. After a week with Georgina we have probably been spoiled for any other walking programs. This was everything a vacation should be!” Don. N.Y. Attorney.

Walking, Basque Culture and Gastronomy Holidays

Clandistine Pathways of the Pyrenees
The paths of the Basque Pyrenees echo with the footsteps of pilgrims, smugglers, witches, allied pilots and political refugees. But NOT with the sound of tourists. Due to previous political tensions (and the reserved nature of the Basque people) walkers find the hills to themselves and a living mountain culture of ancient traditions and human integrity.

Walking with Basque Culture and Gastronomy in the Basque Pyrenees

These weeks offer a once-only experience of the beautiful fairy tale landscapes of the Basque Pyrenees and their raw and pagan souls. We walk the hills and celebrate feasts and fiestas with farmers, millers, cooks, musicians and personal friends who offer us a backstage entrance to Basque traditions and its delicious, world-famous cuisine.

Putting my hand in the fire (and there are fires to put hands in!) I promise guests some of the most charming and uncharted walks in Western Europe.

Walks

Basque Walks

Smugglers and shepherds have donated a labyrinth of paths to the Basque borderlands of the Spanish Pyrenees. Lined with dry-stoned walls which ford fast-flowing streams with steeply arched bridges, these paths link isolated mountain crofts with the mediaeval villages along the valley floor.  Each morning, to the sound of sheep's bells and the cries of vultures, we step our from the door onto the grassy mountain ridge tops that lead away from the house. These walks then lead slowly downhill past crumbling barns and chestnut groves, curling their way around fields and vegetable gardens, water mills and washing stones and on into ‘town’.

The walks on our Walking with Basque Culture and Gastronomy weeks cover between 12 – 16 kms a day (some 4 – 5 hrs) with ascents / descents ranging from between 300 – 500 metres. However, this is not dangerous walking terrain and the walks are taken at a very relaxed pace with never an opportunity missed to stop for a cool beer in a village bar. During the walks we explore the history, culture and folklore of these mysterious mountain villages and offer our guests an array of anecdotes taken from our personal adventures of life here in the Basque Pyrenees: an area hailed as the very cradle of Basque culture; one of the oldest cultures alive in Europe today.

Independent walkers may be interested in exploring the 200 km of circular walks documented from the farmhouse door on one of our Self-Guided Walking & Basque Culture Holidays. 

Delicious!

Basque Gastronomy

It is impossible to sever the delights of Basque gastronomy from its Basque cultural origins, and although many associate Basque cuisine with the more sophisticated Basque cities (such as San Sebastian) our Walking with Basque Culture and Gastronomy weeks take Basque food and drink back to its rural origins. During these weeks we walk passed the farms where the animals are reared and the crops are grown. We meet the shepherds who make sheep’s cheese and quince jam and the millers who grind corn in 16th century watermills in the valley. We enjoy a range of local Basque cuisine, wines, ciders and liqueurs from rustic peasant lunches to the sophisticated flavours of our favourite Michelin-recommended restaurant by the river where Lorea and Haizea unlock the secrets of Basque cuisine (and, if you ask, may even tell you the reasons why they turned down a Michelin star!). During our Walking with Basque Culture and Gastronomy weeks we also join the locals for their village fiestas and pagan ceremonies.

Magic!

Basque Culture and Pagan Festivals

Our mountain hamlet of Ituren on the outskirts of the Baztan Valley in northern Navarre has been the subject of many anthropological studies on the pagan origins of its festivals which lie at the very core of our village identity. The solemn rituals of the Joaldunak, (see blogs below), with their whips, lace, bells and petticoats - said to be among the oldest in Europe - are the protagonists in our village carnivals and can be seen – and joined – on a couple of other occasions in our village’s private cultural calendar too. Some of our Walking with Basque Culture and Gastronomy weeks tie in with these festivals and their village feasts – while others lead us out to the Baztan valley for the pagan midsummer’s bonfires in Arizkun. As the mellow autumn sunshine changes the landscapes into a kaleidoscope of reds, oranges and golds, the figs ripen on the trees and the walnuts fall to the ground - so  other charming festivals erupt in the villages before winter sets in

Walking with Basque Culture and Gastronomy House Parties

Dates 2017

Pagan Midsummer´s Fiestas

Saturday 17th - 24th June

  • During this week the Basque valleys of the Spanish Pyrenees erupt with fire and pagan fiestas as they celebrate the summer solstice of San Juan on the 23rd June. Our walks weave in and out of the local villages to take advantage of the festive atmosphere.
  • We stop in the village squares for a drink and watch the traditional dances and Basque rural sports before heading up again into the hills and on to the following village.
  • Having lived here for almost two decades (and working with small, select groups of guests at any one time) we are able to introduce our guests to friends and village ceremonies at a personal level. During the walks the themes of smuggling, witchcraft and ancient Basque herbal remedies all enter into the plot!

The Day of the Joaldunak

Monday 18th - 25th September

  • This - now famous - walking week coincides with the 'Day of the Joaldunak' (Bell Wearers): the mysterious carnival personalities of Ituren which is thought to have possibly the oldest pre-Indo-European carnivals in Europe.
  • Although the carnivals of Ituren and Zubieta are in early spring this far more private ceremony is less well-known. It is dedicated to the Joaldunaks' ancestors who stomp en masse, in trance-like state, blessing my neighbours' mountain farms. Whips, lace, petticoats and bells enter the stage during these visceral and primordial pagan rituals.
  • During the day we join my neighbours and Joaldunak for tapas on their farms and the village celebrations.

Autumn Colours and Celebrations

Friday 29th Sept. - 6th October Wednesday 18th - 25th October

  • The scarlet, marigold and tangerine colours of the Basque Pyrenees in October are so beautiful that it is a sacrilege to keep them to myself. Villages also erupt with ancient pre-christian autumn festivals throughout the valley as we wander through the Basque villages, over hill and dale from restaurant to restaurant. Farmers forage for walnuts, figs and mushrooms; cider kegs are uncorked; stone walls are mended and quince preserves bubble away on farmhouse stoves. As the morning mists clear, you may surprise our neighbours out mushroom hunting nearby (local secrets we should to keep to ourselves!).
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