La Rhune and Guéthary – mountain and beach on the same day (Part ⅓)

One thing that has always fascinated me about the Basque Country is that you can climb a stunning high mountain and surf some beautiful waves within the same day.

On Sunday morning, after a long week of meetings and traveling for work, I could enjoy Sunday off. I knew that the weather would change soon. So, I decided to make the most of it and climb La Rhune (905m), a mountain between the villages of Saint Jean De Luz and Sare in the French Basque Country, have some lunch in Azkaine, and enjoy one of the last hot days of the year on the beach in Gethary.

One of the strategies that I developed when I retired from competitive sport to stay fit and enjoy great food without putting on weight is a very simple rule of thumb:

You have to earn the meal.

And that’s what I attempted. Go up and down the mountain as fast as I could, whilst enjoying the journey, and celebrate it with a nice meal.

The first part of the hike is pretty steep. You walk through a forest of pines, birch, oaks and holly bushes.

Then, the landscape opens up and the walk becomes smoother.

Half-way through the hike, you can see the whole Basque coast and beyond.

Autumn in this part of the world is so spectacular.

The last part of the climb can be tough on your legs and ankles if you’re not conditioned for such an environment.

But, if you manage to reach the summit, the views from there are astonishing. You can see vast parts of Navarre, Gipuzkoa and Lapurdi, the Bay of Biscay and the Pyrenees. From April to October you can also go up to the top in the cutest Alpine trains.

(I took these photos in the Spring of 2016 when my parents-in-law were visiting)

If you have time, there´ s a bar and a restaurant at the top where many hikers rest and celebrate their achievement with some food and cold beers. However, I still wanted to have lunch in Azkaine and knowing that in France they close the kitchens quite early, I still had to make it all the way back to the village. So, I enjoyed my time at the summit for ten minutes and headed back down to find somewhere to eat.

There’s one thing in common between hiking and high performance sport:

Even if you make it to the top, your time there will be limited. Enjoy that moment and prepare for the next ascent.

Apparently, the estimated minimum time for the climb is 2h30min and the descend 2 hours. I tried to do both as fast as I could. So, it took me 1h25min to the top and 1h7m down again. Don’t be fooled, though. From time to time, I saw some mountain runners overtaking me at lightning speed.

By the time I reached Azkaine, I was very hungry!

End of Part One (⅓)