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Our guided walking holidays combine a series of relaxed 4 - 5 hour walks in the Pyrenees and the fairy-tale landscapes of the Basque homelands - far off the main tourist trail.
Not even Google Maps can find the road to the house! Many of our paths have never been documented, and it is only thanks to the Basque shepherds and smugglers who have worked these lands since ancient times, that we know that they exist.
There is no time pressure on our walks and the day is ours, and spontaneity is vital when we chance upon locals, shepherds and personal friends who tell us their stories and invite us into their homes.
I offer you a week which is far more than the sum of its parts, only available to my guests and unimaginable to the general tourist who ambles through this area. My family, friends, neighbours and villagers step into the plot, as do fine Basque restaurants and ancient village festivals. Back at the farmhouse experts give private wine tastings, music concerts and cooking classes and perhaps even a friendly poet, shepherd or smuggler will join us for a glass of wine or two?
You can only truely understand this area if you speak Basque!
Few walks in the Pyrenees get to the heart of the local culture because so many mountain villages are slowly being abandoned, but this is not so in the Basque Pyrenees, which are so loved by the Basque people. Here village schools are full, and the Basque language, ancient festivals and farming traditions are preserved.
During World War II the Basque smugglers of the Pyrenees played a vital part in the COMET line resitance network which helped allied pilots to safety into Spain. The Basque language served as an unbreakable code and their word of honour was a corner stone for the resistance movement.
The pagan origins of our festivals in our village of Ituren are the subject of many anthropological studies and lie at the very core of our village identity, and the protagonists in these carnivals (and in several other village festivals during the year) are the Joaldunak (lit. the bell wearers). The solemn rituals of the Joaldunak, (Guardian report 2018), with their whips, bells and lace petticoats are said to be some of the oldest rituals in Europe.
The Joaldunak can be witnessed on several occasions during the year and - where possible - we join the locals (my neighbours and friends) in these festivals. Midsummer bonfires, Autumn festivals, mushroom hunts and apple-blessing ceremonies all have similar pagan origins and we seize ever opportunity to join in, sampling the local Basque foods, cheeses, ciders and wines, and listening to the Basque music and Bertsolaris (rhyming bards).
Due to the vagaries of village life, fiesta dates do sometimes change, new festivals appear and the ever-changing social calendar is a constant source of surprise!
After a day of walks in the Pyrenees our guests are invited to join us at our relaxed dinner parties 'en famile' around the kitchen table. On most evenings we organise an exclusive programme of cultural events; wine seminars, cooking demonstrations and music concerts.
And as the evening unwinds we reveal the history, traditions and secrets of these Basques medieval landscapes (and - at times - other secrets too!).
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.
The walks on our guided walking holidays in the Basque Pyrenees cover between 12 – 16 km 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 personal anecdotes taken from our lives in the Basque Pyrenees: an area hailed as the cradle of Basque culture; one of the oldest cultures alive in Europe today.
Smugglers and shepherds have donated a labyrinth of paths to the Basque borderlands of the Spanish Pyrenees. Each morning - to the sound of sheep's bells and the cries of vultures - we step out from the door over mountain streams and onto the grassy ridge tops that lead away from the house.
These walks into the Pyrenees wind their way over hill and dale, past crumbling barns in chestnut groves, curling their way around fields and vegetable gardens, water mills and washing stones and on towards the medieval villages along the valley floor.
Guests interested in independent walks can enjoy our self-guided walks in the Pyrenees which open up 200 km of circular trails documented with over 14 maps from the farmhouse door. There is the gentle Ameztia Farm and Meadow Walk 4.2 km (Ituren) or the high-level mountain walk Ituren -Mt. Mendaur - Elgorriaga Walk 17.8km. Samples of our self-guided walks.
Many guided walks draw up for lunch at a local family restaurant / tapas bar or watermill and - of-course - our favourite restaurant in the village of Donamaria (which actually turned down a Michelin star!). Others may end with a picnic at a beauty spot high in the hills.
Each walk on our guided walking holidays comes with a different 'off-the-beaten' track gastronomy experience - and each culinary experience offers us a different insight into the local culture and traditions of the Pyrenees.
When there are local festivals we often sit down at the table with the villagers and shepherds and share their celebrations side-by-side.
Guests are invited to help themselves to coffee, tea, beer, wine and biscuits etc. The house is always full of bread, cheeses, fruits, salad and wine and so no one ever need go hungry! We provide:
Cooking demonstrations and wine tastings, Basque music concerts and select cultural events are part of our private house-party programme on our off-the-beaten track guided walking holidays in the Pyrenees.
Read more about our house party ethos.
Guests taking either our self-guided and guided walks in the Pyrenees options are accommodated in one of our 5 en-suite double rooms and each room has amazing views over the Pyrenees and the valleys below our house. Here, you can enjoy breakfast on our sunny south-facing terraces or an aperitif after the walk in our landscaped gardens. We ran an open-house and guests have full access to our well-stocked kitchen, library, living and dining spaces as well as a free self-service bar of tea, coffee, wine and beers. There is WIFI, central heating and a log fire.
These rooms are suitable for single and solo travellers and there is no single supplement.
Read more about our farmhouse accommodation.
Ituren is a small village in the western Pyrenees in northern Navarra. We are situated just 30 minutes south of the French border, an hour south-west of Biarritz, an hour south-east of the glorious seaside town of San Sebastian and an hour north of the medieval town of Pamplona.
You can arrive to our farmhouse by car, by public transportation from San Sebastian or Pamplona to our local village of Santesteban/Doneztebe (where we can meet you) and we also offer a free shuttle service from Biarritz airport at specific times. Find out more about travelling to the farmhouse.
Monday 21st - 28th June 2021
The nights are long and we can dine out on the terrace watching the sun set on the valley below our house. On the 23rd June, the eve of San Juan, the Basque mountain villages erupt with pagan fire festivals and dance offering us an opportunity of joining in.
Tuesday 11th - 18th August 2020 / Monday 9th - 16th August 2021
This week coincides with the main Basque summer fiestas and offers an incredible opportunity to witness the ancient Basque Joaldunak, Basque sports competitions and pagan traditions. The many woods, river valleys and lakes in the area offer shady walks and wild swimming opportunities.
Monday 14th - 21st September 2020 / 13th - 20th September 2021
This week virtually always coincides with the ancient Basque festival in my village of the Joaldunak - a festival dating back to pre-christian times, studied by anthropologists worldwide. Wine-tasting and Michelin-recommended restaurants enter the plot!
Monday 28 September - 5 October 2020 & Thursday 8 - 15 October 2020
Monday 27th September - 4th October 2021 & Friday 8th - 15th October 2021
In autumn the deciduous trees of oak, chestnut, walnut, ash and beech transform into a kaleidoscope of golds, reds and tangerines. Add the lively village calendar of harvest and mushroom festivals, and the opening of the cider houses, and this is a spectacular time to explore the Basque Pyrenees.
Prices are per person and include ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING and there are NO SINGLE SUPPLEMENTS. Price includes full-board accommodation with en-suite bathrooms at our family farmhouse. (We have just 5 / 6 rooms meaning these are very personal and exclusive holidays). All food, all wine, all restaurant meals. A unique 5 1/2 day walking/cultural/gastronomy programme. We also provide a free pick-up travel service at specific times.
Articles on the culture, languages, traditions and values of the Basque Pyrenees as well as stories taken from over two decades of our own, personal Pyrenean Experience.