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Biarritz & the Atlantic Pyrenees

A rail tour discovering unique Basque culture

From $ per person


Superb sandy beaches, a mild climate, and a delightful ocean promenade have drawn visitors to Biarritz for years. We see the region's lovely coastal resorts and the mighty Pyrenees, all the while soaking in unique Basque heritage.

The itinerary for your journey
Tour highlights

What’s included

Day 1 - London to Biarritz
Eurostar at St Pancras

Meet your group and Tour Manager at our dedicated Departure Office in London St Pancras, before joining the Eurostar to Paris.

On arrival in the French capital we transfer across the city to connect with our onward high-speed TGV rail service to Biarritz. This stylish town overlooking the rocky Atlantic Coast rose to prominence in the mid- 19th century, when Napoleon entertained both the French aristocracy and the crowned heads of Europe along its golden beach front. Today Biarritz retains much of its effortless glamour, flanked by alluring Belle Epoque townhouses and Art Deco buildings in its historic core. We spend the next six nights in the town at the 4-Star Hôtel Mercure Biarritz Centre Plaza, which enjoys a superb location overlooking the ocean.

Day 2 - Guided tour of Biarritz
Biarritz

This morning we begin our stay in Biarritz with a guided sightseeing tour. With its rich and varied history, the town boasts many arresting landmarks; these include the striking Russian Orthodox church, where Russian nobility were frequent visitors until the Soviet Revolution of 1917.

We also see the famous casino, and of course the Grande Plage or 'Great Beach', where people have come to admire the sparkling sea views for well over a century. Your afternoon is then free for you to explore at your leisure. Perhaps follow in the footsteps of former regulars such as Queen Victoria, Frank Sinatra and Ernest Hemingway, and unwind on Biarritz's famous promenade. Otherwise, you could relax on the four miles of beaches fringing the town, or find a charming seafront café and watch the world go by.

Day 3 - San Sebastián
San Sebastian

Today we travel by coach across the Spanish border to San Sebastián. With its unique blend of Spanish, French and Basque-influenced architecture, this wonderful city is widely regarded as one of Spain's most elegant resorts set within the fashionable and famous La Concha Bay, which has deep, calm waters and a stunning beach area. Whilst here we enjoy a tapas lunch together, in the delightful Old Quarter. Tapas is an important part of San Sebastián's celebrated cuisine, and we sample some of the many 'pintxos' - or dishes - on offer.

Afterwards you are free to explore at leisure - you may like to visit the grand Miramar Palace, a former summer residence of the Spanish monarchy. You may wish to stroll up Monte Igudelo, the nearby summit overlooks the tranquil waters of the bay and provides fantastic views of sprawling San Sebastián and the nearby area, continue around the bay and visit the beguiling 'Combs of the Wind', an iron sculpture designed by artist Eduardo Chillida, embedded in the rocks.

Alternatively, the San Telmo Museum provides an interesting insight into local life and the history of the San Sebastián area, including local artworks and the architectural history of the city over the years. You may also wish to visit one of the local wineries. Otherwise, you could relax on the pretty promenade, or on one of the unspoilt beaches curving around the graceful bay. Behind the city are lush rolling hills that have drawn celebrities and sun lovers to the mild winters and hot summers for generations. The picturesque island of Santa Clara is situated just off shore, in the centre of La Concha Bay. The island is home to one of the area's prettiest beaches, although due to the tides it can only be used for part of the day. Santa Clara can be accessed by boat - although many of the locals will simply swim across from the beach.

Day 4 - La Rhune Mountain Railway & St Jean-de-Luz
La Rhune Railway

On today's excursion we travel by coach to Col de Saint-Ignace, where we connect with the superb Petit Train de la Rhune. This classic rack-and-pinion railway takes us through the dramatic Atlantic Pyrenees in lovingly restored wooden carriages - overcoming a height difference of 2,415ft during the journey. The route takes us through steep-sided rocky valleys, with a fabulous panorama over the rolling meadows and impressive foothills of the nearby Basque region.

Before long we arrive at the summit of La Rhune, which not only marks the border between France and Spain, but at 3,000ft also offers a magnificent panorama over the Bay of Biscay. After time to admire the views, we descend the mountain, then continue by coach to the lively fishing port of St Jean-de-Luz. Here you have a little time to explore; perhaps take a stroll along the promenade, and watch the charming fishing boats bring their catch back to the sheltered harbour. Otherwise, the medieval centre is a delight to wander around. We enjoy a three-course lunch with wine in a restaurant in St Jean de-Luz before returning to Biarritz.

Day 5 - At leisure in Biarritz
Biarritz

Today is free for you to spend at your leisure. The resort, with its sweeping promenade and vast beaches, offers a range of activities for you to enjoy. You might like to try your luck in the casino, or visit the town's lighthouse. If you're feeling energetic, you could perhaps take a stroll past the atmospheric Old Port to the Rocher de la Vierge, a statue on a rocky headland said to protect the safe return of local fishermen, now connected to the town by a footbridge. Other popular options include the Aquarium, which is home to an incredible menagerie of underwater creatures, as well as an informative exhibition on Biarritz's whaling past. Perhaps you may like to visit the Asiatica Museum, which houses a significant collection of Asian art primarily from India, Nepal, Tibet and China.

The town of Biarritz also contains a delightful chocolate museum, whereby you can learn the history and manufacture of this sweet confectionery. Much of the architecture is influenced by Empress Eugenie, the Chapelle Imperiale, with its intricate roof design and elegant wall tilings, was built in her name. The former Empress was also responsible for the commission of the beach-front palace, now redesigned as the Hotel du Palais.

Days 6 - Bayonne
Bayonne

This morning we visit nearby Bayonne, one of the region's lesser-known gems. Nestled around the River Adour, the town is crowned by its beautiful Gothic cathedral, which towers over the quaint tangle of narrow streets that surround it. Located close to the Spanish border, Bayonne is a city with many different cultural influences affecting it and is split effectively into two parts by the Rivers Adour and Nive then linked back together by a series of five bridges. There is Grand Bayonne, which holds the bulk of the city's commercial and civic concerns, and Petit Bayonne, where the Basque culture is most evident, and where the bars and restaurants have flamboyant Spanish ambience and flavour.

Bayonne is truly a city of art and culture, where art lovers can see great masterpieces by painters such as Goya, Degas and Botticelli in the Musée Bonnat, and those whose interests lie in history will not be disappointed by the collections of Basque history on show in the Musée Basque. We discover more of Bayonne on a guided walking tour of the centre, in which we also see the historic fortifications and the tall timber-framed dwellings, adorned with red-painted shutters. Following the tour you are free to continue exploring at your own pace. You may wish to visit the informative Basque Museum, detailing the history of this ancient autonomous area, stroll through the beautiful Jardin Botanique, vivid and verdant gardens exhibiting styles and plant species from all across the globe or maybe just enjoy lunch in one of Bayonne's superb riverside restaurants. Back in Biarritz this evening, we enjoy a farewell dinner together.

Day 7 - Return to London
Eurostar

We travel to Paris by high-speed rail today and join the Eurostar service back to London St Pancras International.

Recommended airports
Airport waiting room

For this tour, we recommend arriving to, and departing from, London Gatwick or London Heathrow airport (LGW or LHR). London Gatwick is approximately 30 miles from your start and end point, and London Heathrow is approximately 19 miles from your start and end point.

Visa Requirements

It is your responsibility to check and fulfil the passport, visa, health and immigration requirements applicable to your itinerary. We do not accept any responsibility if you cannot travel, or incur any other loss because you have not complied with any passport, visa, immigration requirements or health formalities. You agree to reimburse us in relation to any fines or other losses which we incur as a result of your failure to comply with any passport, visa, immigration requirements or health formalities.

Departure Dates

All prices are per person and assume full occupancy of the room.
Please always refer to the website for up-to-date prices and availability.

Trains
Eurostar
Eurostar

The high speed Eurostar trains link St Pancras International in London with Paris and Lille in France as well as Brussels in Belgium.

Eurostar's Standard Class coaches feature two seats on either side of the central aisle, most of which is arranged in an 'airline' seating configuration with drop down tray tables. There are two tables for four per carriage. Passengers travelling in Eurostar Standard Class coaches can take advantage of the Bar-Buffet which sells a range of snacks, meals, hot and cold drinks - including Champagne!

The highest class of Eurostar travel available for leisure customers is Standard Premier Class. In your dedicated Standard Premier carriage you'll find a less dense seat configuration, meaning the seats are larger and you have ample space to relax and stretch out. As part of the service you'll enjoy complimentary drinks and refreshments, served at your seat by friendly, helpful waiting staff.

For the class of travel used on your chosen tour, please refer to the 'What's Included' section of the tour page.

La Rhune Mountain Railway
La Rhune Mountain Railway

In the Basque Country of France, we travel up the beautiful La Rhune Mountain on the La Rhune Mountain Railway - 'Petit Train de La Rhune'. Enjoy the breathtaking sights of the surrounding French countryside, as you ascend 905 meters to the summit of La Rhune Mountain on this vintage rack railway train that has been transporting passengers in the same meticulously maintained carriages up the mountain since 1924. The mountain itself sits on the boarder of France and Spain, and on a clear day it is possible to see all the way to the town of Saint-Jean-de-Luz and the Atlantic Ocean beyond. At certain times of the year, you may also see the small horses - or 'Pottok' - that graze on the mountain.

TGV
TGV

Introduced in 1981, France's TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) was the original European high-speed train. Linking Paris with Lyon, the new service revolutionised train travel and meant that travelling by air over medium and short distances was no longer seen as the best option, even for business travel.

The network has expanded rapidly and today these sleek, stylish trains offer links to over 60 destinations throughout France. Operated by SNCF, the French national rail operator, TGV trains travel over specially-constructed high speed lines. The trains can achieve speeds of up to 186mph (300km/h) on most long distance routes and 200mph (320km/h) on the new TGV Est line, which links Paris with Strasbourg, Luxembourg and Basel. With the exception of shorter journeys, TGVs almost always have an on-board buffet car, serving a selection of drinks and light refreshments.

Hotels
Radisson Blu Hotel, Biarritz
Radisson Blu Hotel, Biarritz

The 4-Star Radisson Blu Hotel in Biarritz enjoys a superb location overlooking the Côte des Basques beach, and is within walking distance of the town centre. The hotel boasts two restaurants, a bar and a rooftop lounge bar which offers cocktails and tapas along with fantastic views over Biarritz and the ocean. Leisure facilities a rooftop swimming pool, a fully equipped gym and a games room. There is also a spa offering a range of beauty therapies and treatments (payable locally). The rooms are air conditioned and come with a telephone, flat screen LCD television, hairdryer, safe, minibar, tea and coffee making facilities and free wireless internet access.

Upgrades

We offer a selection of upgrades and 'add-ons' designed to help you make the most of your holiday - and make it even easier!

This page was printed from www.greatrail.com/us/tours/biarritz-atlantic-pyrenees/#JLB20 on 5 August 2020.
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