The Valley of Ultzama, whose capital is Larraintzar, lies in the north-west of Navarre just 25 kilometres from Pamplona
. It is an idyllic valley of green meadows, surrounded by oak and beech woods and dotted with tiny, impeccably-kept villages. It is well worth touring them to admire the huge stone houses with their gabled roofs, their semicircular arches doorways, their huge eaves and broad balconies stretching along the entire façade.
All the towns and villages are worth visiting, but if time is of the essence, from Eltso-Gerendiain and Guelbenzu you will get some stunning views
of the Valley of Ultzama, and from Basaburua views of the Malloas and Aralar mountain ranges.
At a more leisurely pace, you should not miss the sight of the balconied houses of Zenotz and Eltso-Gerendiain, or take a stroll through the centres of Eltzaburu and Arraitz. Enjoy the square facing towards the church in the hamlet de Ilarregi, the view from the Calle de Iraitzoz and the beautiful composition formed by the houses lining the sides of a stream in Auza. Just outside this town, going towards Eltzaburu, you will find a track that leads to Yeguada de la Ultzama
, 120 hectares dedicated to breeding thoroughbred racehorses.
The valley contains some interesting artistic features such as the church of Urritzola-Galain, the Marian carvings of Belate in Alkotz and the baptismal fonts in Ilarregi and Larraintzar. In short, an idyllic environment that offers special activities whatever the season - resting in front of the fire during the cold winter months, discovering the stirring of new life in spring, walking its many paths in the temperate summer months or enjoying the multicoloured scenery of autumn.The Orgi forest
Anyone who visits Ultzama should not leave without taking a relaxing stroll through the Orgi forest
, to the south of the valley next to the road from Lizaso to Eltso-Gerendiain. This thousand-year-old wood of 80 hectares
is the only remaining example of the primitive oak forests that once covered the humid valleys in the north of Navarre.
Due to its great diversity it has been declared a Natural Recreational Zone. It is home to examples of pedunculated oak trees hundreds of years old and a dense undergrowth of holly, elderberry and hawthorn as well as a variety of birds and wildlife. There are also other original ways of travelling through this area, for example by horse-drawn wagon.
Visitors can choose from three different nature walks with informative panels covering 2.2 kilometres for enjoying these lovely natural surroundings.Ultzama Mycological Park
A pioneer project aims to regulate mushroom hunting and prevent abuse in a beautiful valley. Mushroom hunters should have a collector's permit, which costs €5 for collecting a maximum of 8 kilos of wild mushrooms.
The mushroom park also has an information point in Alkotz, where explanations are provided about the region's numerous edible species in the area
, and any questions about the fungi that you have collected can be answered. Sporting activities
A walk through the Orgi forest can be complemented by another three trails that link the oak wood to the rest of the valley: Orgi (8.4 km for walkers); Amati (10.5 km for walkers); and Gurbil (18 km for both walkers and cyclists).
As well as hiking, you can take horse-riding excursions in Auza or take advantage of the Ultzama Golf Club
at Eltso-Gerendiain. The club was designed by architect Javier Arana, the most renowned golf course designer in Spain of his time
. The main feature of the course is the oak trees that line the fairways, putting players' skill to the test!The Belate Pass
The north of the valley is defined by the Belate Pass, on the border with the Baztán valley. Belate has been a major connecting point since time immemorial. This was where the old medieval road
that linked Pamplona with Bayonne passed, and it is one of the paths on the Pilgrims' Way to Santiago. This is borne out by the remains of the old road used by the pilgrims, the 12th-century ruins of the chapel of Santiago and the restored monastery/hospital of Santa María de Belate, on which documental evidence exists from 1165. From Belate some of the most attractive trails in the mountains of Navarre lead off, towards the peaks of Gartzaga, Saioa and Adi.Festivals and gastronomy in Ultzama
On the first Sunday in June, a pilgrimage to the chapel of Santa Lucía
takes place in Iraitzoz, which stands on the peak of Mount Arañotz, when the townsfolk disperse over the fields to prepare lunch and spend a tranquil afternoon.
To finish off your visit to the valley, what better treat than to sample some of its famed meat
dishes, its renowned wild mushrooms, its home-made honeys and the typical dish of the region: cuajada, junket
made from sheep's milk onto which a red-hot stone is placed to give a unique toasted flavour. This delicious dessert can be served in a kaiku, a wooden receptacle that is also used for milking and cooking the milk.