- Le Train de La Rhune
- Col de Saint-Ignace
- 64310 Sare - France
- 05 59 54 20 26
- [email protected]
The history of Le Train de La Rhune dates back to the late 19th century. The railway was initially constructed for the purpose of transporting materials for the construction of the La Rhune summit observatory. The observatory, situated at an altitude of 905 meters (2,969 feet), was intended for meteorological and astronomical research.
The construction of the railway began in 1908 and was completed in 1924. It was designed as a cog railway, also known as a rack railway, which uses a toothed rail and a cogwheel mechanism to climb steep gradients. The railway was primarily built to transport construction materials and workers to the summit.
However, the scenic beauty and the panoramic views from La Rhune attracted visitors, and the railway soon became a popular tourist attraction. In 1924, it was converted into a passenger railway to cater to the increasing number of tourists.
During World War II, the railway was temporarily closed, and its tracks were dismantled by the occupying German forces to use the metal for military purposes. However, after the war, the railway was rebuilt, and it resumed its operations as a tourist attraction.
Over the years, Le Train de La Rhune has become an iconic symbol of the region. It has retained its original vintage charm and continues to operate using the original steam locomotives, although some diesel locomotives have also been introduced.
Today, the train takes visitors on a picturesque journey through the Basque Country, climbing the steep slopes of La Rhune. The 35-minute ascent offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape, including the Pyrenees Mountains, the Atlantic Ocean, and the French and Spanish Basque countryside.
At the summit, visitors have the opportunity to explore the area, enjoy the panoramic views, and visit the observatory, which is still in use for scientific research. There are also restaurants and souvenir shops available for visitors to enjoy.
Le Train de La Rhune has become a cherished attraction for tourists and locals alike, offering a unique and nostalgic experience while showcasing the natural beauty of the region.
Top Tourist Attractions
While the main attraction of Le Train de La Rhune is undoubtedly the scenic railway journey itself, there are several other notable tourist attractions in the vicinity. Here are some of the top attractions to explore:
- La Rhune Summit: At the top of La Rhune, visitors can take in breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, including the Pyrenees Mountains, the Atlantic Ocean, and the French and Spanish Basque countryside. The summit offers a fantastic vantage point for photography and enjoying the natural beauty of the area.
- La Rhune Observatory: The original purpose of the railway was to transport materials for the construction of the La Rhune summit observatory. While the observatory is primarily used for scientific research, visitors can still appreciate its unique architecture and learn about its history.
- Hiking and Nature Trails: The area surrounding La Rhune is blessed with beautiful hiking trails, allowing visitors to explore the natural wonders of the Basque Country. These trails offer opportunities to immerse oneself in lush green landscapes, encounter local flora and fauna, and enjoy the peacefulness of nature.
- Basque Country Villages: The region around La Rhune is dotted with picturesque Basque villages that are worth a visit. Places like Ascain, Sare, and Ainhoa offer a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the Basque people, with traditional architecture, charming streets, and local crafts and cuisine.
- Local Cuisine: The Basque Country is renowned for its exceptional cuisine, and a visit to La Rhune presents an excellent opportunity to savor traditional Basque dishes. From hearty stews and delicious seafood to pintxos (Basque tapas) and renowned Basque cheeses, there is a wealth of gastronomic delights to indulge in.
- Cultural Events: Depending on the time of your visit, you may have the chance to attend cultural events and festivals in the region. Basque festivals, known as "fiestas," are celebrated with vibrant parades, traditional music, dance performances, and various cultural activities.
It's worth noting that while the primary attraction is the train ride and the summit, combining it with exploration of the surrounding area will enhance your experience and provide a deeper appreciation for the Basque culture and natural beauty of the region.