I saw a photo of this beautiful gorge and cool-looking suspension bridge in a travel book, and thought “I’ve got to go there!” And we did! Finding the Passerelle d’Horzarte wasn’t easy.
Horzarte is a strange word, and not very French sounding. That’s because it comes from the Basque meaning for “between walls”, holtze arte (referring the the gorge). The gorge is part of a karst landscape like The Burren in west Ireland and the gorge is up to 300 meters deep at some places. The river, Olhadoko erreka, cuts its way through the Olhadubi Gorge.
Starting the hike
It was a long drive from Espelette (here’s the route, mapped), over a lot of mountains to find the Passerelle d’Horzarte. We got lost and had to race the daylight. It was a kind of crazy experience, but the sheer beauty of it made it very worthwhile. Photographs of the Apls always inspire, but I feel like I have a special connection with the Pyrenees – probably due to that time when I got lost in the mountains with strangers for eight hours and without food (that’s another story). This beautiful mountainous area is full of unpredictable weather, lush grasses, cow pats, lost brebis and flashes of colourful flowers off-set by the white bits of winter’s snow left-over. This particular hike also offered waterfalls, a rushing river and steep drop-offs (with cables to hold onto for support).
In trying to arrive at the Passerelle d’Horzarte by car, the GPS took us to some other remote place on a mountain where we appreciated a gorge with a view. It seemed like the right spot for a suspension bridge but there was nothing there. Only mist. By luck, I saw a car heading towards us on the road. I waved them down and asked for directions with bad pronunciation. The men were kind and let us follow them back down the gorge on a broken, winding road to a hydraulics station (where they presumably had to check a few things as part of their job) on the banks of a rushing river. This is where the hike to Passerelle d’Horzarte starts. And up it goes, winding over wet rocks, past little waterfalls, under green trees and with beautiful views of the valley. It’s about a forty-five minute walk one-way and we only started at about six in the evening. Sunset was around nine and we still had to drive an hour back to the campsite in Dax, so we rushed like the river.
If you’d like to camp nearby, the closest campsite is Camping Ixtila, near the town of Larrau. It has lovely views and it looks like there are many hikes that you can do from there. Here’s a good place to start if you’d like to investigate more hikes and walks in the area.