The Basque region runs along the border between France and Spain, and includes part of the south-west of France, running eastwards into the Pyrenees.
The region is attractive to visitors for various reasons, including the coastline and resorts, the mountain scenery and activities, and for the villages.
The Basque villages have a very individual style, with the houses being whitewashed, with the exposed wood (shutters, beams etc) being painted red or green – these are the traditional Basque colours and seen very widely in the region.
The red is apparentlyÂ because the wood was originally painted with bull’s blood. Less common nowadays I think!
The best place to see these traditional villages is to head inland into the Pyrenees-Atlantiques department (i.e. east of Biarritz).
Each village has its own unique character and personality, although there are also common features to be seen in most of the villages apart from the architectural style – these include the Basque churches with their balconied interiors, and the fronton courts that are centrally placed in most villages. The traditional game of pelote (a little like outdoor squash, using hands instead of rackets) is very popular in the Basque region of Aquitaine.
Some suggestions of villages to visit while you are here includes:
Sare, La-Bastide-Clairence and Ainhoa, all three classified as ‘most beautiful villages in France’ are good examples of the traditional village
Espelette, famous for the chillies produced in the town. Visit in September and October and you will see the drying chillies adorning the fronts of many of the buildings – other times of the year you can buy dried chillies and numerous related products in the town (eg flavoured olive oils).
Other popular examples can be seen at the quiet village of Itxassou and the historical centre of Cambo-les-Bains.
Most of the villages are set in the pretty countryside of the lower western Pyrenees, and are within moments of open countryside and great scenery. Definitely worth a visit if you are visiting the region (you can see accommodation options at Pyrenees-Atlantiques gites and villas.)