Photo of Ainhoa

About Ainhoa

Amongst rolling hills and green pastures ruled by wild horses stands the picturesque village of Ainhoa, a typical Basque settlement with a twist: it is one of the most beautiful villages in France. It is small, with  a population of no more than 650 people and full of centuries-old houses, interwoven with countless hiking trails and flanked by lush oak forests inhabited by deer, goats and wild pigs. So if you're planning a hiking holiday or if you just want to escape to some gorgeous corner of continental countryside, use our collection of the best places to stay in Ainhoa and start to plan your visit.

For hundreds of years, Ainhoa has been a stopping-point for pilgrims undertaking the Way of St. James, and this illuminates the sheer depth of its historic roots. While many buildings were razed during the Fifty Years' War, great swathes of the village were rebuilt in the 16th and 17th centuries and are a classic example of Basque architecture: whitewashed houses with sides of exposed stones and bright green or red shutters, all set on a single street. The Church of Our Lady of Assumption, used as a refuge during wartime, was thankfully unharmed, and still stands in all its 13th century splendour while its graveyard is a wonderful example of Basque funerary art. In the centre of the village you can still see the Lavoir Alaxurruta, where local women used to wash their clothes from a large roofed basin filled with fresh spring water that flowed from the mountains.

The surroundings are idyllic to say the least, seemingly pulled out of the pages of pastoral poetry: verdant hills sloping into the infinite horizon watched over by shepherds, 430 hectares of forestry, and in the distance, great mountains rich in deer and goats. In short, it is perfect for hiking. 

What Not to miss

  • Church of Our Lady of Assumption: built in the 13th century, this is a beautiful example of Basque architecture. Often used as a refuge in wartime, it stands as one of the few remnants of its pre-16th century past. Her graveyard boasts beautiful examples of Basque funerary art.
  • Hiking: there are a great many hiking trails nearby, whether it's over the rolling hills worked by shepherds and filled with wildlife, or the great forest nearby. If you're after a short, brisk but picturesque walk, hike to Chapelle de l'Aubepine. At the top are loops of archaic gravestones decorated in a strange Celtic style, the sides are scattered with horses and the views of the Bay of Biscay are sublime.
  • Canoeing: in nearby Espelette you can canoe or raft down the river and explore the countryside. It makes for an extremely exciting day-out.

Ainhoa is an idyllic little place. Commonly referred to as one of France's most beautiful villages, it is still thankfully unspoilt by mass tourism and makes a great starting point for immersing yourself in Basque culture, hiking in the countryside or just escaping from the fast-paced modern world. Our recommendation of the best places to stay in Ainhoa have a real sense of history and charm, ideal for relaxing rural breaks.

The best places to stay in Ainhoa

Village life

  • La Maison Oppoca is a charming 17th century inn with 10 traditional rooms decorated with exposed stone walls and beams. It also has a restaurant serving local cuisine.
  • The wonderful old inn, Ithurria, has 28 rooms, a Michelin-star restaurant and many activities to choose from on-site, including tennis. A bit pricier than La Maison Oppoca, but well worth it.

Country escape

  • Relais du Silence Argi Eder is a lovely rural hotel with 26 rooms and an excellent gourmet restaurant, standing in the outskirts of the village. A starting point for hiking and it has a tennis court and a pool.

For an apartment or villa

  • Our partner Booking.com has a wide range of villas and apartments in the village and nearby area.

Travel information

  • The best time to visit is during the summer months when the temperature peaks at around 25 degrees celcius.
  • The nearest airport, Biarritz, is only 30km away, and from there you can catch a direct train.
  • If you want to rent a car, which we highly recommend if you want to explore further afield, contact our partner Rentalcars.

Still not sure?


Monthly Weather in Ainhoa

Best Hotels in Ainhoa

  • La Maison Oppoca Ainhoa 10 rooms from £77

    Local exploring  -  Book a stay here and you're perfectly placed for exploring both rural towns and villages and the coast and beaches.
    Country Escape  -  A converted coaching lodge with a number of outdoor activities in the surrounding area.
    Great walks  -  Great hiking opportunities in the surrounding area and you may also see the Basque small wild horses, "pottocks".
    Restaurant  -  Authentic Baque cuisine either in the bistro or fine dining restaurant
    Air conditioningSpaRestaurantGardenPet friendlyParking

    A pretty 17th century inn in the historic village of Ainhoa. Traditional rooms keep their charm with exposed stone walls and wooden beams yet have a fresh contemporary feel. Regional cuisine is served in the restaurant. Plenty of outdoor pursuits in the area. Inexpensive, ideal for a country break. See More

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  • Relais du Silence Argi Eder Ainhoa 26 rooms from £87

    Country Escape  -  Set in lovely gardens with a tennis court and swimming pool - the perfect country stay
    Foodies  -  Foodies will love the season and traditional cuisine served in the gourmet restaurant.
    Sights nearby  -  Visit the Rock of the blessed Virgin that overlooks Biarritz Bay.
    Tennis  -  Bring your racquet and have a game on the on site court
    Air conditioningTennisRestaurantSwimming PoolGardenDisabled accessParkingNo pets

    A gorgeous property set in a quaint village in the hills of the Basque Country. Traditional french-country rooms feature light wooden furniture and pretty fabrics. Lovely gardens equipped with a tennis court and pool. The gourmet regional cuisine is a treat. A charming rural abode. See More

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  • Ithurria Ainhoa 28 rooms from £117

    Total relaxation  -  A warm and welcoming hotel sItuated in tranquil countryside, with a sauna, pool, reading room and lovely gardens.
    Families  -  With some large apartments and plenty of activities for everyone to partake in, from table tennis to golf.
    Foodies  -  The food is simply stunning - the restaurant holds one Michelin star
    Restaurant  -  Michelin-starred restuarant. Elegant, traditional dishes with a modern twist
    Air conditioningRestaurantSwimming PoolGardenPet friendlyParking
    Recommended by  -  Fodors, Michelin Travel

    Charming renovated 17th century inn with Michelin-starred restaurant. A hotel with a rich heritage and an equally rich experience - delicious food, activities aplenty (tennis, swimming, golf), refreshingly simple rooms and family apartments. Foodies, families, fun in the sun. See More

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