Sailing, Resistance & Smugglers' Tales on the Basque Coast

Private, guided one-day sailing tours along the Basque coastline for small, exclusive groups.

Port of St Jean de Luz

The Port of Saint Jean de Luz.
Copyright: office de tourisme pays basque - Benat

From the Republicans escaping the horrors of the Spanish Civil War to the WW2 Allied pilots fleeing Nazi-occupied France with the famous resistance network 'The Comet Line', these Basque borders are alive with tales of ingenuity, resistance and courage.

Combining these stories with lighter anecdotes about the smugglers - and their colourful ruses to escape taxes - you have the perfect ingredients for a beautiful and entertaining day's sailing along the Basque Coast.  

We sail north from Hendaye (situated on the Spanish/French border near San Sebastian) along the coast to Saint Jean de Luz (Donibane Lohizune) a beautifully preserved fishing port and example of 16th & 17th Basque architecture.

Depending on the winds, the journey can take one to two hours. We then dock here for a couple of hours giving you the time to explore the old streets of this picturesque fishing port and view some of the buildings that played a key role in the Comet Line underground network. 

Built by whalers who took up the rather spurious profession of pirating, the town's spirit of rebellion against authority surfaced once again in the 20th century with slightly nobler aims.  

During World War II, Saint Jean de Luz and Ciboure became important centres for anti-fascist underground movements such as the Comet Line (Le Réseau Comète) and local people opened their homes and risked their lives to hide Allied pilots, soldiers and civilians fleeing south over the Pyrenees.

Aided by Basque guides and smugglers, this Belgian/French network hid Allied pilots here in safe houses before they were smuggled out of the town, over the mountains and the ravines of the Bidasoa River into Spain. 

Saint Jean de Luz fishing port and sailing tours

The old whaling port of St Jean de Luz
Copyright: office de tourisme pays basque Benat

Jon Zangitu

Jon Zangitu is your skipper and guide for the day. A fireman and mountain rescue trainer, he is also the grandson of an anti-fascist Basque fisherman who sailed fugitives to safety over the border at night. Unsurprisingly, it is at sea in his 30-foot sailing boat (Itsas Izar) that Jon finds himself in his true element.

The Bay of Biscay and the spectacular Basque coast

The Bay of Saint Jean de Luz/ Donibane Lohizune

The old whaling port of Saint Jean de Luz
Copyright: office du tourisme pays basque - Benat

Sailing towards Ciboure and Saint Jean de Luz

Sailing out of Hendaye on Itsas Izar towards Saint Jean de Luz

Horses on Basque Coast

Horses grazing along the wild Basque coastline near the border

Sailing, Smugglers & Resistance Tales along the Basque Coast.

Meet your skipper and sailing boat in Hendaye

Direct transport from Pyrenean Experience (Ituren). Easy local connections from San Sebastian and Irun to Hendaye train station from where you will be picked up and taken to your boat in Hendaye Port.

Spend 6 - 7 hrs sailing along the stunning Basque Coast

Learn about the centuries of resistance and smuggling along the Basque coastline and visit the fishing ports of Saint Juan de Luz and Ciboure. See some of the places central to the WW2 Comet Line underground network and view the full dramatic landscapes of their escape routes from the sea.

Enjoy a traditional Basque picnic of local hams, cheeses, cider and wine

The sailing boat has a small kitchen and bathroom, and there are always refreshments and snacks aboard.

Swimming

There is the chance to swim from the boat, or to bathe from one of the glorious beaches in Saint Jean de Luz.

Return to Hendaye Port

From Hendaye Port you will either be returned to Pyrenean Experience or returned to Hendaye train station from where there are easy local connections to San Sebastian.

Additional Information

Price

Price starts at 200 euros per person (max. group of 4 people). Price includes 3 - 4 hrs sailing time and a couple of hours to visit Saint Jean de Luz. We also have a Basque picnic on board the boat. Transport from Hendaye train station or Pyrenean Experience (Ituren). NOTE: These tours are - understandably - weather dependent. If we have to cancel due to inclement weather conditions or sea currents, deposits will be returned.

Our Total Basque Mountain Experience Tours & Walking Holidays

The research that forms the backdrop for these tours comes from our personal contact with the family members of the COMET LINE resistance network, and with former smugglers from the Baztan and Bidasoa Valleys. Special thanks go to Madeleine Larreche from the safe house Jatxou Baita (Urrugne), Paco Iriarte from the safe house Sarobe (Oiartzun) and Juanbi Milhura (grandson of Xan Milhura) from the safe house Jauriko Borda in the Baztan Valley.  The historian 'Juan Carlos Jimenez de Aberasturi ' and his meticulously documented book  'Camino a la Libertad'  have been an invaluable source of up-to-date information.

My memoir 'In the Footsteps of Smugglers', published by Bradt in the UK and US in 2024 comprises both my work with the Comet Line members and their families but also my years of experience living here among the noble Basque mountain shepherds and smugglers of the Pyrenees.  Georgina Howard

Further information

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