Basque Mountain Experience Walking Holidays in the Pyrenees
Holiday Highlights

Pyrenean Experience house icon

Farmhouse

Stunning Basque farmhouse with guided walks in the Pyrenees stepping our from the farmhouse door

Cultural Events

Dinner parties with private cook, wine seminars and music recitals

Insider

Meet mountain shepherds and local experts and learn about the age-old traditions and pagan beliefs still alive in the area

WW2 Escape Lines

Explore Basque culture and traditions and the local stories of smuggling and resistance

Basque Flag icon

Tradition

Family business with over 20 years of experience working with local Basque people

The Basque Borderlands of the Pyrenees Explained

Expert-led culture walks in the Pyrenees for solo travellers and groups

Georgina Howard

Autumn in Ituren

Backstage in the Basque Pyrenees

Step backstage into the mythical Basque landscapes of the Pyrenees on our exclusive Total Basque Mountain Experience walking weeks. 

I have lived and worked here for over 20 years, been a freelance journalist for The Sunday Times on the Basque Culture and guide to Michael Portillo in his documentary 'The Pyrenees'. My personal passion is the history of smuggling and resistance in these mysterious Basque borderlands and the code of honor which makes everything possible. Each guided walk in the Pyrenees digs deep into the culture and traditions of the area, visiting my neighbours on their Basque mountain farms and exploring the idiosyncrasies and pagan beliefs of the villages along the valley floor. 

Joaldunak of Ituren and Zubieta carnival
Basque music and tapas on the terrace
Basque ox and cart in Ituren
Georgina Howard walking guide Pyrenean Experience

Basque Smuggling & Resistance Walks in the Pyrenees

Georgina Howard

A passion for landscapes and languages, and a large dollop of serendipity, brought me to this mountain top over two decades ago, and into the fold of the  Basque farmers and shepherds of the Pyrenees.  While I built up Pyrenean Experience from the attic of my renovated sheepshed, my neighbours helped me to raise my Basque daughter and, in so many ways, they helped to raise me too. We all became one big family here in my mountain hamlet of Ameztia. 

The Basque Pyrenees are exceptional. Why? In many parts of the Pyrenees the villages are slowly being abandoned but this is not so here. The Basque people live here in heart, body and soul.  Here, village schools are full, and the Basque language, ancient festivals and farming traditions are thriving.

Let me take you backstage into my home community and enlighten you to the history, traditions, ethics and language of these noble Basque mountain farmers. A culture very few outsiders ever really get to know.

Basque Underground Resistance

During my culture walks in the Pyrenees we explore the Basque villages and mountain architecture, meet friends and neighbours while I entertain you with stories of the land – some of which have never been formally documented before and are the subject of my book ‘Life on a Basque Mountain’. Tales of witchcraft and paganism enter the plot. My fascination for - and study of - the local history of smuggling and resistance becomes the focus of some of these walks. During World War II, the Basque smugglers of the Pyrenees played a vital part in the COMET line resistance network helping Allied pilots to safety into Spain. The Basque language - an unbreakable code - together with their word of honour became cornerstones of the resistance movement. Let me tell you more.

comet line and carlist towers

FURTHER DETAILS

The Lie of the Land

Smugglers and shepherds have forged a labyrinth of paths through 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 ridgetops that lead away from the house. This is gentle, enchanting walking terrain.

These walks into the Pyrenees wind their way over hill and dale, curling past crumbling barns, chestnut groves, vegetable gardens, water mills and washing stones, on towards the medieval villages along the valley floor. A different picture postcard of Basque mountain life greets us at every turn.

Making Hay in the Baztan Valley

The Length & Distance of the Walks

Our small family-run company, with more than two decades of experience in this area, has developed a network of over 200 km of paths straight from our farmhouse door which allows us immense flexibility when planning our walking weeks. These informal and companionable walking weeks mean that there is time during the day to curl up on the terrace with a good book or a cup of tea.

All walks are taken at a relaxed pace too, the aim being to cover between 12–16 km a day (some 4–5 hrs) with ascents/descents ranging from between 300–500 metres. An opportunity is never missed to stop for a cool beer in a village bar or chat with the farmers and villagers that we meet on our way.

Georgina guiding her private walking holidays in the Pyrenees
Walking above the mists in Ameztia

The Week's Itinerary

As spontaneity is vital in making the most of these dynamic, everchanging landscapes, unlike larger tour operators, we have taken the decision not to pre-determine a daily itinerary. With a very reduced number of guests joining us each week, we are in the privileged position of being able to tailor-make each walk to our guests’ specific interests. In this way can we adapt to the current walking conditions and the local cultural calendar and make the most of each opportunity as it arises.

During the week there are five guided walking days. One day is free for us to help our guests organise the day as they will, many people choosing to visit the nearby towns of San Sebastian and Pamplona. In the evenings we have a sociable, cultural and gastronomy programme.

Due to traditional political differences between Navarre and the Basque Country, these peaceful borderlands of the Basque Pyrenees still lie off most tourist trails.
Welcome to the 'Bermuda Triangle' of the Basque Country!

foal in the Basque Pyrenees
kitten hitching lift on rucksack
Goats near the vulture breeding grounds of Itxusi

Ancient Basque Festivals

Whenever possible we try to tie in our walking weeks with the numerous festivals and traditions in the area. The pagan origins of Ituren carnival is the subject of many anthropological studies and lie at the very core of our village identity. The protagonists of these carnivals (and of several other village festivals during the year) are the Joaldunak (bell-wearers). The solemn rituals of the Joaldunak, (Guardian report 2018), with their whips, bells and lace petticoats are some of the oldest in Europe.

The Joaldunak can be witnessed on several occasions during the year and - when 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 every 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!

Zubieta and Ituren carnivals and the Joaldunak holidays in spain
Walking the Pyrenees escape lines with friends and relatives of the Basque resistance
Walking along the mountain paths of my Basque hamlet in the Spanish Pyrenees
Walking group in the Basque Pyrenees above the mist
Aperitifs in the garden at Donamaria restaurant

Local Gastronomy & Basque Secrets

After each day of walks in the Pyrenees our guests are invited to join us at our relaxed dinner parties 'en famille' around the kitchen table. On several evenings we organise an exclusive programme of cultural and culinary events, local wines, cheeses, music and drama enter the plot.

And as the evening unwinds we reveal secrets of these Basque medieval landscapes (and, at times, other secrets too!).

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

table set for dinner at pyrenean experrience

Home-from-Home at the Farmhouse

Guests are invited to help themselves to coffee, tea, beer, wine and biscuits etc.  The house is always full of bread, cheeses, fruit, salad and wine, so no one need ever go hungry! We provide:

  • Full continental breakfasts
  • Lunchtime meals and hand-picked local inns and restaurants.
  • Tapas and picnics.
  • Full three-course evening meals with wine, private chef and an evening cultural and culinary programme. Read more about our house party ethos.
Guesthouse gardens in the Pyrenees

Farmhouse Accommodation in the Pyrenees

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 run 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.

The bedrooms are suitable for both couples or solo travellers and there is no single supplement. 

Read more about our farmhouse accommodation.

Views from our farmhouse on our creative retreat in the Pyrenees
Pyrenean Experience bedroom with garden terrace in the Baztan Valley
Pyrenean Experience B & B in Ituren views of our terrace

The Total Basque Mountain Experience Guided Walking Weeks: Dates 2022

Price 1500 Euros

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 guest rooms meaning these are very personal and exclusive holidays). All food, all wine, all restaurant meals. A unique 5 day walking/cultural/gastronomy programme. We also provide a free pick-up travel service from our nearby village at specific times.

Culture Focus: Walking & Ancient Midsummer's Festivals

Tuesday 21st - 28th June 2022

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.

Culture Focus: Walking, Basque Festivals & Wild Swimming

Tuesday 9th - 16th August 2022

This week coincides with the main Basque summer fiestas and offers an incredible opportunity to witness the ancient Basque festivals, Basque sports competitions and pagan traditions. The many woods, river valleys and lakes in the area offer shady walks and wild swimming opportunities.

Culture Focus: Walking & Ancient Basque Traditions

Monday 12th - 19th September 2022

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!

Culture Focus: Walking & Autumn Colours 2022

Monday 26th September - 3rd October & Thursday 6th - 13th October & 17th - 24th October 2022

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.

Further information

The Total Basque Mountain Experience Walking Holidays 2023

In 2023 our walking weeks celebrate the very best of our independent and guided walking weeks, fusing the two walking experiences with our inimitable open-house ethos and private culinary and cultural programme.

Blog

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.

Press Releases

Tripadvisor  certificate of excellence 2017
certificate_of_excellence
certificate_of_excellence
TOP