Traveling

5 days hiking in the Pyrenees on GR10

The GR10 trail runs along the Pyrenees mountains between Spain and France. The most popular route is to go from the Atlantic coast to the Mediterranean coast – starting in Hendaye and ending in Banyuls. If you hike the whole trail, it’s about 500 miles and 50 days. I hiked for 5 days. I started in Hendaye and stopped in Saint Jean Pied de Port. The first third of the trail is through green, rolling (I would argue that they’re a little more than rolling), foothills with daily stops in villages. The middle third is in the Pyrenean National Park and at higher altitude with fewer villages. The last third is arid and how you’d expect Greece/Spain to be.  I’d read that Spring was too early to hike because there could still be snow. I hiked in August and it was hot. I’d make the suggestion to go in September.

Planning

Cicerone GR10 Guide: I bought this book and carried it with me. I ripped out each day’s trail map and carried it in my pocket for easy access. If you buy one book for the hike, buy this one! Very helpful. And, make sure to buy the newest version available.

Pyrenean Way website: I also read this website and reviewed all of the forum questions/answers.

Transport to trail

I took the train from Tours to Hendaye, but I think you could also travel directly to Hendaye from Paris. You can book a train ticket online on the SNCF website. Just bring your backpack on the train. I ended my hike in Saint Jean Pied de Port because it’s a big hub for transit. I traveled to Toulouse from Saint Jean. If you hike beyond Saint Jean, beware that the public transit becomes more limited as you go into the mountains. Some of the smaller towns may have busses to connect to bigger cities, but they may only run once per day. SNCF has a mobile app that is good to download because you can quickly purchase train/bus tickets and have easy access to your e-tickets.

Lodging

The GR10 is great because you don’t have to camp if you don’t want to. This can significantly reduce your pack weight. Instead of camping, you can make reservations at hiking lodges called Gites d’Etape or at Airbnbs or even hotels. I stayed in a few gites and camped one night. I brought my camping gear because I was worried that the gites would be too crowded. I was surprised to find that most gites had plenty of space. As it turns out, most Europeans don’t hike until September when it cools off.

Here’s where I stayed:

Hendaye: Airbnb for a night before starting on the trail. There are lots of options, as it’s a holiday destination. My only advice would be to book way in advance.

Olhette: Gite Trapero Baita with 5 other hikers. Friendly host who speaks English. 35€ for a bunk bed, dinner, and breakfast. There’s even a pool! Send an email to make a reservation.

Ainhoa: Gite at Camping Harazpy. This was a lovely setting. Old farm on the edge of town with lots of green space. The dorm was clean and had a full kitchen and there were 4 showers. It’s a run by an old man who doesn’t speak English and doesn’t take reservations, so arrive early and claim a bed. I think it was 17€ for the night, without any food. The camping also looked really nice for 8€ and had its own laundry and bathrooms. Ainhoa also has a few hotels and restaurants. It’s kind of a tourist village.

Bidarray: Gite Aire Zabal. Big complex with multiple bunk rooms and a few private rooms. I reserved a bed in a 4-person dorm for 19€ but ended up camping in my tent in the front yard because there was a very loud snorer. Camping is free. Small breakfast of bread and coffee included in the price. There’s one restaurant in town at the local hotel and it’s popular with the hikers. Had a great meal for 25€. Just make sure to arrive early because it gets crowded. Not much else for food. Send an email to make a reservation.

Saint Etienne de Baigorry: Camping at Camping Municipal Irouleguy. I pitched my tent here for 4€ and really enjoyed it. The campground is right along the river, which was perfect for a post-hike dip. It also has multiple bathrooms and showers and sinks for cleaning dishes. No reservations needed. Just walk up and tell them that you want a campsite. The main office also has free wifi. There’s a big supermarket next door to the campground too, so you can get provisions for dinner/breakfast. If you don’t want to camp, my friend stayed at Gite Gaineko Karrikan and really enjoyed it. He said it was 35€ for a dorm bed, dinner/wine and breakfast.

Saint Jean Pied de Port: I used Airbnb to reserve a bed at Gite Compostella for $17.  I was in a room with 3 other people and it was fine. There were a few different bathrooms/showers and free wifi. There’s a kitchen that you can use, but no meals provided. Lots of Camino de Santiago hikers stay here and they like to start early, so be prepared for a 6am wake-up.

What I brought

I’d read that there could be rain and/or that it could be chilly, so I wanted to be prepared. I also brought camping gear so I wouldn’t be stranded. If you’re going in August and staying in Gites/hotels, you could hike with a very light pack. My total pack weight was about 25lbs, including water and daily food.

  • Tent
  • Sleeping pad
  • Sleeping bag
  • Camp pillow
  • Light down jacket
  • One pair of leggings
  • Two pairs of socks
  • Two pairs of underwear
  • Two pairs of running shorts
  • Two running tshirts
  • A lightweight rain jacket
  • Rain poncho
  • Pocket knife
  • Spork
  • Bowl
  • Cup
  • Pot
  • Stove and fuel (buy fuel when you arrive in France at a camping store called Decathlon)
  • Kindle (this turned out to be worth the extra weight!!!)
  • Guide book
  • Sunscreen, toothbrush/toothpaste, Dr. Bronners, deodorant, chapstick
  • Two sports bras
  • Camping sheet sack (bought mine at REI…required at Gites as they don’t provide sheets)
  • Cell phone, cord and backup battery pack
  • Water bottle
  • Running hat for sun protection and sweat wicking
  • First aid kit
  • Headlamp
  • Debit card (make sure to have cash), credit card and passport

Here are some pictures of the some of the fantastic scenery in the first part of the hike.

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Beach in Hendaye

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Map of the trail and the official starting point in Hendaye
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Trail marking. Just follow the red-white stripes on the rocks, trees, road, etc.
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Traffic jam with the sheep.
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First big climb leaving Hendaye and wowed by the views.
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There were so many free-ranging horses and sheep. Every animal has a bell around their neck, so you can hear them munching near by. Or, in the case of a flock of a sheep, you can hear them coming your way. They’re all harmless and used to people, but I still hollered at this horse before running past it. Didn’t want to be climbing all these big impressive mountains and then have to be rushed to a hospital because of a horse kick.
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Yum! Snack time on the Spanish border. The grocery store was technically in Spain and the prices were cheaper.
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Wonderful trails with wide open views. I liked to start hiking at about 730/745 and then finish by 2pm. Before it got too hot.
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Look at me…I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m doing it!
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Met 3 Dutch people who were hiking the High Pyrenees Route and asked them to take my picture. We chatted and then they went on their way. Their trail was going to be at very high elevation!
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Nice little town of Bidarray.
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Camping Harazpy
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Gite at Camping Harazpy
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Very technical descent on the second day. I didn’t think I need hiking poles, but they make a big difference in feeling stable. My Canadian friend, Tim, let me borrow his for the day.
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After a long day of hiking, jumping in the river sounds great.
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Dinner in Ainhoa at the only restaurant. I went with my friend Tim and he said I should get a picture of this big French group of friends, taking their sweet time enjoying the multi-course meal.
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Doing laundry every night.
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Save the banana for the peak!
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Ahhh, jumping in this river after a day of hiking in 90-degree heat was one of the most pleasurable experiences I can remember. I didn’t want to get out. This was at Camping Municipal Irouleguy.
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Cozy campground in Saint Etienne de Baigorry.
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Last day of hiking and started the day with some mist, which later turned into a thick fog.
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As I went higher, the visibility decreased. I made it to the peak and could barely see in front of me. As I was coming down the other side, I could hear a bunch of jingling bells, but couldn’t see anything. Then, all of a sudden, a flock of curly horned mountain sheep appeared and walk past me. One after the other. No big deal.
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Went out to dinner after the last night of hiking and someone ordered friend smelts. I guess they’re a delicacy? I don’t know. I tried one and blehh!
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Au revoir GR10! Apricot pastry before leaving Saint Jean Pied de Porte and heading to Toulouse

If you want to do the same hike, I’d be happy to answer any questions. It was a beautiful adventure and I’d like to do more of it!

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