Navigating Navarra

Navarra is quite big. Only 600,000 people live there, and around half of them live in or around the capital, so that's a lot of open space. I haven't visited even half of the natural sites in the province, but here are some of the places I've been to over the last year.


The Baztan Valley

Location: North Navarra, bordering France
From Pamplona: 1 hr
Towns: Elizondo
To see: Natural park, witches caves
Famous for: Cheese, murder mysteries, Camino de Santiago.

With its rolling hills dotted with sheep and its traditional white stone cottages, the Baztan valley is a pretty place. These days it receives a lot of visitors due to the increased traffic on the Camino de Santiago, and because of a popular series books set in the area. The first instalment of the the Baztan Trilogy (a murder mystery written by Dolores Redondo was recently released as a film.

During my visit, I bought cheese from a vending machine, and walked a long way (to nowhere in particular).


The Irati Forrest

North East Navarra, bordering France.
From Pamplona: 90 mins
Towns: Orbaizeta, Fabrica de Orbaizeta, Ochagavia
To see: Trees, lakes, rivers 
Famous for: Autumn leaves, chestnuts, mushrooms

I'm cheating a bit here, as I haven't yet been to Irati. I was planning a trip this week but after scorching temperatures, it decided to rain for four days straight. And camping in the rain is a little less attractive.

According to Navarra's tourist information, it is Europe's second largest and best preserved beech and fir forest.

It's probably best known, and most visited in Autumn, when all the leaves change and people forage for forest delicacies.


La Sierra Urbasa-Andía

Location: West Navarra
From Pamplona: 50 mins
Towns: Alsasua, Estella
To see: Natural spring, mountain plateau
Famous for: Beriain mountain, birds of prey, Mirador Balcon de pilatos, Nacedero del Urederra

One of Navarra's three natural parks, Urbasa-Andía has a lot to see. It's essentially a large mountain plateau, so many of the best views are looking up at the sheer cliffs from the surrounding towns and villages. There are many campsites (camper vanning is a big deal here), and a nice route up Beriain mountain.

The source of the Urederra river is another tourist hotspot to in the south of the park.


Via verde

Location: Everywhere
From Pamplona: n/a
Towns: Lekunberri, Andoain
To see: Tunnels, forests, towns
Famous for: Hiking, cycling

The Via Verdes are a network of disused rail tracks that have been converted into walking and cycling paths by the government. They are well used, especially in this cycling crazy country.

They work well as small towns connect up the line along the way (good for rest stops), and it is often possible to arrive via public transport.


Las Bardenas Reales

Location: South East Navarra, bordering Aragon.
From Pamplona: 1 hr
Towns: Tudela
To see: Desert, Stone pillar formations, banded colours
Famous for: Military zone, unique flora, rock formations

Probably one of Navarra's most famous sights is the Bardenas Reales desert. Although some visitors come with bikes, it's bloody hot, so most people drive. It takes over an hour to drive the complete circular route around the desert, which encloses a military training area. I'm not sure it's the best idea to put a live firing zone in the middle of a tourist attraction, but no one has been shot yet (according to my sources).

Overall, it is a worthwhile (if sweaty) day out.


I'm sure I've missed out some of the province's best loved sights, but hopefully, this gave you a little idea of what's of offer in Navarra, apart from watching people run away from bulls.