Itxassou is 8 kilometres away from the campsite.
Pas de Roland
At the foot of Mount Artzamendi near the town of Itxassou is a strange, split rock called the Pas de Roland (Roland’s Step).
The Pas de Roland is a narrow gorge along the River Nive between Itxassou and Bidarray.
According to legend, the gap in the Pas de Roland was made by a wild kick from a horse ridden by Roland, Charlemagne’s nephew, who was fleeing from the Vascones.
Another version says that Roland, faced with a rock blocking the way and preventing his army from moving forwards, cut it open with a stroke of his sword.
The narrow, winding path is called “Atekagaitz” (dangerous passage) in Basque and runs alongside the Ateka gorges. It is a route once used by mule-drivers on their way to Bidarray in Espelette.
In 1924, a new route going through the Pas de Roland was opened to make access easier and safer.
Itxassou was first mentioned in 1249 under its older name of “Lesaka” and seems to have developed over the centuries thanks to its position as a trading centre. The town’s name may come from Itsasoa, the Basque word for “the sea”. It seems that Itxassou was a lake, which is why hundreds of acres of pebbles can be found below the village.
In the Basque country, sheep’s cheeses are generally made using traditional methods and served with black cherry jam, using Itxassou cherries, wherever possible.
For centuries, nature has supplied these red and black pearls to Itxassou.