Pheasant Island: The island that changes countries every six months

When you first look at it, Pheasant Island doesn’t seem like anything special at all – it’s a tiny island in the middle of the Bidasoa, a river that runs between France and Spain; it’s only 660 feet long and 130 feet wide; and it’s gradually eroding away.

Pheasant Island

Credit: Zarateman (CC0 1.0)

But Pheasant Island is interesting for one reason in particular – it changes countries every six months. “You what”, I hear you ask.

From the 1st February to the 31st July, Pheasant Island is Spanish. But from the 1st August to the 31st January, it’s French. Governance of the island switches between the naval commanders of San Sebastián in Spain and Bayonne in France.

Pheasant Island

Credit: Ignacio Gavira (CC BY 2.5)

This bizarre arrangement came about thanks to the Treaty of the Pyrennes which was signed on the island in 1659. The treaty brought about the end to the Franco-Spanish War (1635 to 59), which originally started during the Thirty Years’ War.

Signing of the Treaty of Pyrennes

Pheasant Island was picked as the location for the signing because it was neutral ground, lying right inbetween the two countries. And the shared sovereignty was added to the treaty as a symbol of peace.

Today, the island is uninhabited and visitors are banned. But if you stand on the banks of the river, you might be able to see the monolith that was built on the island to commemorate the treaty signing.

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About Dom Stapleton

Dom Stapleton

As well as being the world’s northernmost capital city, Reykjavik in Iceland is also an incredible place to visit.

We stayed in a hotel right in the middle of the city and spent most days walking around from there. The main thing we noticed (apart from the cold, of course) was that the people are so friendly. At home, trying to cross the road is a nightmare, but in Reykjavik, the cars are literally queuing up to let you across.

When my partner and I went, in January 2013, the sun only started rising at about 10 am, which was a strange experience. And it got dark at about 4 pm each day!

Dom works in our marketing team

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