Nondik gertu Hendaye, Nouvelle-Aquitaine (France)
This beautiful and demanding cycling tour takes you along the Basque coast both in Spain and in France, through the stunning city of San Sebastian/Donostia, across Jaizkibel, through the lush foothills of the Pyrenees in Gipuzkoa and Navarra, along the tidal border river Bidasoa with the condominium Pheasant Island, and the French Basque seaside town of Saint Jean de Luz. The trip is suited for the road bike, although you have to step down your bike to take an elevator in the harbor of San Sebastian, and several cycling/pedestrian paths and narrow roads in the old centers of Saint Jean de Luz and San Sebastian require slowing down, also to avoid collisions with pedestrians. The old center of San Sebastian can be very busy with pedestrians in the afternoon: it is recommended to avoid the narrow streets when that is the case. The trip is marked difficult because of its length in combination with several climbs. However, trained cyclists may rate it average, because most climbs are not very steep. You can find something to eat and drink primarily in Hendaye, San Sebastian (culinary pintxos paradise), Lesaka, Bera, Col d’Ibardin and Saint Jean de Luz.
The trip starts in Hendaye at the boulevard, close to the holiday home I was staying. As street parking costs about 30 euro a day, you better start somewhere else if you have to come by car. You cycle along the boulevard towards Spain and then along the Txingudi estuary and Bidasoa river which form the border between France and Spain. There is a cycling path along de Boulevard de Txingudi which becomes a bit narrow for cyclists. A bit further you cycle along the marshalling yard of Hendaye station with Hondarribia airport on the other side of the river. The cycling path goes onto a boardwalk below the international bridges. You continue along the Bidasoa River until you get to Pheasant Island. This island is governed both by France and Spain, a condominium (the island is governed half a year by one and then the other country). The peace of the Pyrenees was once signed here. You cycle along on the French side, cross into Spain, and cycle back on the Spanish side. You follow the river partly on a cycling path along wetlands towards Hondarribia. Here you start your climb of Jaizkibel. The climb offers great views, depending on the weather. Close to the col you take the small dead-end road to the summit with communication towers, and back. You pass the 455 meter col, and continue down on the other side towards Pasaia. You cycle here around the inland bay and harbor through a built-up area, largely on cycling paths. A bit further you continue on a cycling path on a former railway, called Txaparrene Pasealekua. You then continue towards Zurriola Beach in San Sebastian, where you cycle along the boulevard, and then around Monte Urgull peninsula. After rounding the peninsula you get a view of the famous La Concha Bay. The cycling path ends and you have to take an elevator down to the harbor before continuing towards the old center. You cycle a bit through the old center to get an impression of the area (in the morning it is quiet), or maybe pause at a pintxos bar. You cycle past Parque de Alderdieder to get a better impression of La Concha beach and bay, and then leave the center towards the Urumea River. You follow this river on cycling paths until you start your climb to Ametzagaina Park, and then out of town to a ridge near Fuerte de San Marcos, at 216 meters above sea level. You then descend partly on a small road with bad pavement to a larger road which brings you to Ugaldetxo. Here you enter a cycling path on a former railroad to the Arditurri mines, called Vía Verde de Arditurri. This cycling path brings you through quiet countryside slowly from 20 to about 150 m altitude. You pass several railway tunnels on the way. At the end, the Arditurri mines can be found. From here you return via the road to the start of the climb of the Collado de Aritxulegi. You climb from about 90 to about 440 meters through very quiet countryside and largely through humid forests to a tunnel which brings you into Navarra. You descend to the Embalse de San Antón reservoir at 265 m, and then climb the Alto de Aguina to the pass at 554 meters. From here it is a long and rewarding descent to Lesaka, a town with a lot of traditional Basque houses. You continue to the Bidasoa River. Another cycling path can be found on your left before the bridge, but it is not paved here, so I took the main and busy road to Bera (partly the N-121A). In Bera you start the climb to the Col d’Ibardin on the French border. This easy climb brings you from 65 to 315 meters, with occasional glimpses of the La Rhune mountain to the east. You descend towards Herboure with great views across the hills towards the sea. Via Olhette your ride through undulating terrain towards Saint Jean de Luz. You approach the town along the tidal La Nivelle River. You cross the river into town for a short circuit through the center and along the beach, and then cross the same bridge back and follow the coast line towards Hendaye, past Socoa on the bay and the Basque Corniche with Flysch cliffs. The coastal road brings you back to the boulevard and the beach in Hendaye, where the trip started.
You cycle past the tidal river La Nivelle towards Saint Jean de Luz
You cycle in San Sebastian on cycling paths along the Río Urumea.
Historical mines at the end of the former railroad, and at the foot of the mountains
The la Concha bay is a sheltered bay in the center of San Sebastian with a great sandy beach
You cycle on this shared cycling/pedestrian path along the Bidasoa river below several bridges between France and Spain.
Cycling path along Txingudi bay, a tidal estuary of the Bidasoa River. Part of the cycling path is quite narrow and requires slowing down.
Start of the climb to Alto de Aguina on a quiet road largely through forests. See https://www.cyclingcols.com/col/Agina, the western approach. Climb is not too steep at an average 6.3%
Start of the climb to Collado de Aritxulegi on a quiet road on a largely forested hill. See https://www.cyclingcols.com/col/Arichulegui, the western approach (you start the climb from the Arditurri side road). The steepest part is a the start. The climb ends at a tunnel taking you from Gipuzkoa into Navarra
You first climb into the Ametzagaina Park and then continue on cycling paths and small roads out of the park and out of town to a hill ridge near fort San Marko.
Pass of the Col d'Ibardin, at the Spanish-French border.
You ride around Pasaia harbour, largely on cycling paths
Cycling path on former railroad track
Boulevard along the beach in Hendaye
Town with quite a few houses in Basque style.
You need to take the lift to avoid the stairs towards the harbor in San Sebastián
The old town of San Sebastian is full of pintxos bars, high buildings and narrow street. You also find a basilica and Constitution Square. It can be very busy with pedestrians, especially in the afternoon.
When you round Monte Urgull in San Sebastián you have a view of la Concha Bay. The road ends a bit further, but you can continue towards the harbor via a lift.
This uninhabited little island in the tidal Bidasoa river was the scene of signing of the Pyrenees treaty, determining the border between Spain and France. The island itself is a condominium, which means that it is governed by more than one state. Half of the year Spain governs it, and half of the year France.
Beach of Socoa in the bay outside Saint Jean de Luz
Plaza de La Constitución in the middle of the old town.
Here is a viewpoint of the flysch cliffs along the Corniche road between Saint Jean de Luz and Hendaye. The road undulates.
Seaside town with a nice sandy beach and a lot of restaurants.
Here you start your climb to the Col d'Ibardin. On the climb you occasionally see the La Rhune mountain on your right. Around the start of the climb a lot of typical Basque houses can be found in Bera, also 100 meters from the start in the direction of Sare. The climb is described on https://www.cyclingcols.com/col/Ibardin, south approach. The climb is gentle (average 4.9%) without any steep parts.
Here starts the climb to Jaizkibel. The climb is described on https://www.cyclingcols.com/col/Jaizkibel (east approach). The climb offers great coastal views if the mountain is not in clouds.
From here you descend on a road with uneven pavement to below the highway onto the GI-2132 road.
Pass of the Alta de Aguina. From here you have a rewarding descent to Lesaka
This is the end of the dead-end road to the summit of Jaizkibel. There are communication towers on the top. The turn-off for the dead end road is just before the pass of Jaizkibel.
The mountain pass of Collado de Aritxulegi is a tunnel between Gipuzkoa and Navarra
Cycling and pedestrian path on a former railway line, complete with tunnels.
Zurriola Beach and Boulevard in the center of San Sebastian