This time we are escaping to the Pyrenees to the north-east of Navarre. We will start with the splendid Irati Forest, follow on with the fascinating granaries in the valley of Aezkoa, then continue along the Santiago Way, which enters Navarre in this area. Following this trail, we will get to know the legendary and historical Orreaga/Roncesvalles, a pretty town on the Pilgrim route, Auritz/Burguete, and the Eugi reservoir next to the Quinto Real forest. From here we travel to the outskirts of Pamplona where we find a picturesque chapel and a former watermill along the River Arga.
Estimated duration of the route: 1 day, not including the alternatives marked with an asterisk (*)
The Irati Forest is one of the largest and best preserved beech-fir forests in Europe.
Right in the heart of the Eastern Pyrenees, is the Irati forest, the regal forest of Navarre, home to the peaceful waters of the Irabia reservoir. There are two access points: from the east, following the road that leaves Ochagavía and reaches the Chapel of the Virgin Mary of the Snows, or from the west, along a track that starts after the village of Orbaizeta. The best way of getting into the forest is by following the trails that cross through it, either unaccompanied or with a specialised guide. (read more)
If you have time, climb up to the Azpegi pasture area to enjoy a spectacular panoramic view of the Navarran Pyrenees, or visit the ruins of the Orbaizeta Arms Factory. (read more)
15 granaries declared Properties of Cultural Interest (PCI) dot the landscape in this peaceful valley, and are mainly concentrated in Aria, Orbaizeta and Hiriberri-Villanueva de Aezkoa.
Don’t miss the views on the Aribe to Garralda route from the view point of Ariztokia over the oak forest of Betelu.
This town and street along the Way is located in an area that Ernest Hemingway described as “the wildest damn country in the Pyrenees”. It began as borough of the Roncesvalles hospital in the 12th century. The Santiago Way passes through it and it has a beautiful historical town centre declared a PCI. (read more)Afternoon
The historical defeat of Charlemagne and the Song of Roland have contributed to the fame of Roncesvalles, the gateway to the Santiago Way in Spain. Nestled between mountains, this small town has historically been a shelter for walkers and a cultural meeting point. The highlight, with particularly monumental value, is the Collegiate of Santa María, former hospital for pilgrims, and the resting place of the remains of the King Sancho VII the Strong. An excellent example of medieval architecture that is well worth getting to know via a guided tour.
If you have time, climb to the peak of Ibañeta to see the monolith in honour of Roland, and pay a visit to the bordering town of Luzaide/Valcarlos, dotted with farmhouses and surrounded by forests and streams, with an identity forged by outlaws, shepherds and pilgrims. Here there is a monument to the pilgrim by the sculptor Jorge Oteiza.
On the way to Pamplona you will come across this small village, which sits just above the Eugi reservoir, which takes around an hour and a half to walk around, taking you into another beautiful forest - the Quinto Real beech forest. Here stand the hidden ruins of another 18th century Arms factory; find out more about its history at the Olondo interpretation centre.
The former hospital for pilgrims of Trinidad de Arre, which preserves Romanesque remains, has been painted and photographed on many occasions; its image next to the little waterfall on the River Ultzama is extremely picturesque. In the vicinity stands a historical building that was once a flour mill, then a batán or cloth fulling factory, and now a museum and awareness centre for the Arga River Park. (read more)
Gastronomy in these Pyrenean valleys reflects the local way of life to perfection. Don’t leave without trying some of the big game dishes if it is the season, the beef and lamb, pates, mushrooms, typical white blood sausage, Zubiri chistorra sausage, milk desserts and cheese.
Hiking, mountain biking and nature-themed guided tours can be enjoyed across the entire Eastern Pyrenees; and a visit to see the bellowing of the stags in autumn is highly recommendable. In the Collegiate of Orreaga/Roncesvalles, the pilgrims are blessed at the end of the afternoon mass. The Batán of Villava offers guided visits on weekends.