PYRÉNÉES-ATLANTIQUES HIKING: walk on the GR® 8 from Cambo-les-Bains to Sare

From Cambo-les-Bains to Sare, via the Col de Pinodieta, the GR8 passes through some of the most beautiful villages in France and the Basque Country. From the hills of Labourd to the foot of the Rhune massif, here’s a great hike that gives pride of place to Basque traditions and culture.

GR 8, the piedmont trail

From the Adour to the Pyrenees, the GR® 8 is part of a European itinerary running parallel to the Atlantic coast. It is part of the European Coastal Path E9 and meets the GR 10 between Sare and Aïnhoa. From Cambo-les-Bains to Sare, via the Col de Pinodieta, the route follows part of the Piedmont route of the Camino de Compostela. The route alternates between valleys, small mountains, hills, pepper fields and meadows dotted with typical sheepfolds.

Distance Cambo > Sare: 25 km, average time: 7 h, altitude gain: 950 m, difficulty level: difficult. See itinerary on map

This rather sporty hike, reserved for experienced hikers, can easily be broken down into several stages:

  • Cambo-les-Bains / Sare: 25 km
  • Espelette / Sare: 18 km
  • Ascain / Sare: 8 km
  • Saint-Pée / Sare: 8 km

Also read: Rando avec les enfants, 5 easy family hikes in the Basque Country!

Cambo-les-Bains, land of hills and valleys

Halfway between the Pyrenees and the Basque coast, Cambo-les-Bains has been a renowned spa resort since the 18th century. With its pediment surrounded by traditional houses, its charming squares and its green terraces overlooking the Nive valley , the village already sets the tone for the rest of the walk. The mountains are not far away and the scenery is magnificent. An itinerary takes you around the village to discover some of its heritage treasures, in particular the Villa Arnaga,Edmond Rostand‘s former home, now a museum. On the higher ground, the Bergerie hill offers a beautiful view of the village of Itxassou, with the Pyrenees mountains in the distance.

From Espelette to Aïnhoa via the Pinodieta pass

We leave behind the hills of Labourd to get closer to the two charming villages of Itxassou and Espelette. Impossible to pass by without stopping. For the famous black cherries of Itxassou, made into a delicious jam. For the strings of red peppers drying slowly in the sun on Espelette‘s facades. We then cross meadows, moors and woods towards the Pinodieta pass.

From Souraïde, a short PR trail takes you up to the Chapelle de l’Aubépine (pictured), then back over the hills to Ainhoa. Classified as one of the “Most Beautiful Villages in France” and surrounded by green hills, the village of Ainhoa is well worth a visit, not least for its charming traditional Basque houses, 13th-century church and landscaped cemetery dotted with discoidal stelae, symbols of Basque funerary art.

Souraïde, Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle and Sare

Between the Pinodieta pass and the Rhune massif , the GR passes through three charming villages in the Inner Basque Country: Souraïde, Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle and Sare. Ridge hikers will follow in the footsteps of Napoleonic troops during the historic battle against the Marquis of Wellington in 1813. More than twenty redoubts and forts, dating from 1792 to 1813, can be found in the area.

To reach Sare, take “la Galtzada”, the ancient medieval road linking Saint-Jean-de-Luz to Zugarramurdi in Spanish Navarre. Like its neighbor Ainhoa, Sare has also been awarded the “Most Beautiful Villages in France” label. At the foot of the Rhune and Axuria mountains , this former smugglers’ village is a typical example ofrural Basque architecture. The Ortillopitz house-museum in Sare, an authentic half-timbered Labourdine house dating from 1660, bears witness to life and customs in the Basque country. Don’t miss a visit to the Musée du gateau basque, the prehistoric caves of Sare, and the little Rhune cogwheel train that takes you to the summit of the sacred mountain of the Basque Country.