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Hike in the Gorges d'Holzarte, dizzying Basque Country


The karstic landscapes of Haute Soule were cut 80 million years ago by impetuous and noisy torrents. A suspension bridge originally built for lumberjacks now allows hikers to make a loop in the heart of these grandiose scenery... under the watchful eye...

The people here, the Souletin Basques, call it Basabürüa.

This is Haute Soule, the most mountainous, wildest territory in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques, covered with forests, green pastures, hamlets huddled in the folds of the valleys where tenacious shepherds, cheeky by the showers, cling to their traditions.

To discover

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Cut off in its mountains in the very east of Euskadi, Soule, according to some, is the "true Basque Country", the one that has kept all its authenticity.

Better not to get into the debate.

In any case, Souletine nature does not lack panache and can be tamed during an emblematic hike of a dozen kilometers around the Gorges d'Holzarte.

Read the fileHiking: itineraries, advice... Our guide

Hiking in practice

The footbridge of Holzarte

Difficult > 12.5 km > 6h > + 970 m /- 970 m.

IGN TOP 25 map n°1446 ET – Tardets / Sorholus / La Pierre-Saint-Martin / Canyons of Haute Soule

Departure from the Logibar hostel 46 km from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port by the D 18 and the D 19 via Larrau.

The parking lot and the start of the hike are behind the hostel.

Description: Hike n°19 of the TopoGuide Ref P642 The Basque Country...on foot.

Departure along the Olhadoko erreka

In the gorges, the water bubbles in green and white.

Christophe Migeon / Le Figaro

His name did not really predestine him to flow carefree in the green countryside.

The Olhadoko erreka is a tumultuous gave, a crash of wild water, which roars, bubbles in green and white.

The route begins by following these gorges dug for ages by the surly and stubborn water.

Here, the trunk of the beeches is surrounded by a fur of lungworts, this giant lichen that loves clean air and fresh water.

Here are the trees dressed for winter.

A gray wagtail makes its insect market in the eddies of the torrent between mossy rocks and uprooted trunks.

Not the slightest sign of laminak.

It is true that these little aquatic elves straight out of Basque mythology do not like daylight.

They are said to have no equal in building bridges.

Read alsoThe five most beautiful gorges of the Pyrenees


The gentle rocking of the catwalk

The structure, dating from 1920, was renovated in 2021. Christophe Migeon / Le Figaro

The path with its edges adorned with creeping bugles and blue columbines rises gently on the mountainside, leaves the Holzarte canyon to enter the Olhadubi trench, a tributary of the Olhadoko erreka.

There, just before the confluence of the two gorges, a spidery footbridge jumps over the mountain stream which thunders some 150 meters below.

Laminaks have nothing to do with it.

The structure was built in 1920 by Italian lumberjacks employed by the Lombardi Morello steelworks in Tardets who found that a bridge between the two banks was very practical for going to exploit the beeches of the Bois d'Holzarté.

The rope bridge may have been renovated in 2021 - its decking has been replaced - but it nevertheless oscillates under the footings.

Everyone has their own way of crossing the 67 meters of the structure.

Some, apparently a little tense, stare at the opposite bank without risking the slightest glance towards the abyss.

At the very bottom, the Olhadubi is no more than a thin ribbon of silver which twists under the foliage of the trees clinging with all their roots to the walls.

Safe from the cayolar

Another facet of the green Basque Country.

Christophe Migeon / Le Figaro

The GR10, the one that crosses the Pyrenees from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, continues in laces in the forest between century-old beeches and shiny hollies.

A squirrel sounds its alarm to the rhythm of castanets.

Moss and ferns all beaded with dew surreptitiously soak the bottoms of trousers.

The heady scent of wild garlic accentuated by the ambient humidity flatters the nostrils as far as the Olhadubi shepherd's hut, which is reached by a small path winding to the right just after the bridge.

We are now about halfway through the course.

Fallen into disuse, these cayolars or ohlas as they are called here, have been rehabilitated by the volunteers of an association and made available to hikers who find wooden low slopes and a chimney there to spend the night in the dry and warm.

The cayolar of Olhadubi has a large fireplace that can accommodate beautiful fires and five people can spread their floor mats on the mezzanine.

That's good cheese

Shepherd Francis Poineau with one of his sheep.

Christophe Migeon / Le Figaro

The path continues under meadows dotted with asphodels and buttercups to the cayolar of Ardakotxia at an altitude of 1,000 m.

For more than 35 years, the shepherd Francis Poineau has been coming here with his sheep from mid-May to the end of September and making AOP Ossau Iraty mountain pasture cheese.

I wanted to go to the end of the chain: make the cheese and sell it myself.

The secret of a good cheese is quality monitoring.

» He remembers the milkings of yesteryear, by hand and without shelter, 2h30 for two for 400 ewes, twice a day, often in the rain... Today, mechanized milking makes it possible to divide this time by two.

Return under the eye of the vultures

The throats.

Christophe Migeon / Le Figaro

Griffon vultures patrol, imperial, above the gorges.

Francis knows them well, his farm is located just below one of their observation rocks.

In recent years, a controversy has arisen between breeders and nature associations over the growing number of vultures and their supposed increased aggressiveness.

For the shepherds who multiply the stories of attacks on living animals, the raptor would no longer be a simple scavenger but indeed a predator.

I don't know if the vultures took on insurance with the sheep

 ” puts Francis into perspective, “

one of my sheep was gutted one day, but it was stuck in a hole.

It is a bird which remains very awkward on the ground and then it is not very valiant.

The return to the Logibar inn takes place under the piercing eyes and hooked beaks of a marauding squadron.

Let's try to avoid the holes...



Etche Arguinia.

Four friendly guest rooms in a 5 ha property overlooking the Soule valley in Montory, 20 minutes by car from the Holzarte gorges.

Private terrace and swimming pool.

From €75 per night.

Tel: 06 62 01 35 33,

Logibar hostel.

A hostel with modest comfort but which has the undeniable advantage of being the starting point for hiking.

Accommodation in a stopover gîte in dormitories for 2, 4 or 6 people.

Half-board formula €45 per night.


05 59 28 61 14,


Step into one of the largest cavities in the world.

La Verna, near Saint-Engrace, 30 km from the Holzarte gorges, is an exceptional site in the heart of the Pierre-Saint-Martin massif, a network of 1,600 chasms, including around ten of the largest in world, 456 km of underground networks explored and 13 major rivers.

This underground world is accessible by tourist guided tours of 1 to 2 hours (between 12 and 22 €), but also at the cost of more athletic explorations of 4 to 9 hours depending on the level called "adventure - caving visits" from €46.

Tel: 06 37 88 29 05,

To read

The Counter of Terrors, by Laurent Mantese at Éditions Malpertuis.

This collection of short stories will delight lovers of fantasy and terrifying stories.

One of the short stories entitled "The demon of the Holzarte pass" precisely depicts the vultures that haunt the surroundings.

Suffice to say that they do not have the beautiful role...

Source: lefigaro

All news articles on 2023-03-25

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