Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Starry view from the Rhune mountain

Rhune mountain in Pyrénées AtlantiquesThe view from the top of the Rhune mountain in the Pyrenees is astounding. So magnificient that the Michelin Guide awarded it with three stars! From the top you see out over the mountains and all the way out to the sea and the endless atlantic beaches. It is a must-do thing if you are in the French Basque country, a tourist trap that is really worth your time and money!

To get there you have several options. The easy way is to take the little train, le petit train, from Ascain. It takes about half an hour to get up to the top, slowly making turn after turn around the mountain, enjoying fantastic views the whole way. My children loved it, looking at all the animals that go munching lush mountain grass all around, sheep, cows, horses... you'll probably spot the small mountain horse pottok, typical for the Pyrenees.
The little tourist train at the Rhune mountain
The other option, that many basque do regularly, is to go hiking up there. It will take you about three hours the short way, and a bit more for the longer, prettier version. It is possible to take the train just to go down, the hardest part on your knees!

When you reach the top, there is a huge viewing platform and a snack restaurant, for sandwiches, coffee and cakes.

Peak summer season, July to August, can get very crowded. Once on a beautiful day in July I came with some visitors around 10 AM. There were cars parked outside the parking lot for about two kilometers alongside the road. Waiting time was estimated to three hours - so we didn't go there. They can add extra trains when there are many people, but maybe not in the middle of peak season on a beautiful day.

Place: Gare du col de Saint Ignace. 10 km from St-Jean-de-Luz. Good signs with Petit train de la Rhune. It takes about 30 minutes to get up to the top at 905 meters above sea level. Adults pay 14 euros, children 4-10 years 8 euros. Trains every half hour summertime, else two times a day. Open during most of the year. Check out their site Petit train de la Rhune. The picture shows pottok, a small mountain poney typical for the Pyrenees. Photo Wikipedia.

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