NAVARRE – In our around Spain in 90 days series, we look at The Kingdom of Navarre – a region of contrast. From the high mountains of the Pyrenees to forests, valleys, caves and even a desert, the scenery, and the colours all around are diverse. And as the four seasons in each area change, they show a different scene.
Although the total area is only around 10,000 square kilometres, the difference between the north and south of the region is vast. In fact, it is nearly 200km from north to south of Navarre, but with much to see in between. And there are many trails and places of interest to suit everyone.
The Pyrenees are simply breath-taking, and in this area are easily accessible for hikers and walkers. Indeed, there are many places to discover. The Irati Forest is one such example. It is over 17,000 hectares and is one of the largest and best-preserved beech and fir forests in Europe. Here, you can enjoy nature, relax, paint, or walk. You can even forest bathe!
The Bardenas Reales Desert
Also in Navarre, you can also find a desert! The Bardenas Reales Desert is under 100km from the bottom of the Pyrenees and unless you visit during the spring, you could be forgiven of thinking you have somehow been transported to the Grand Canyon. You can explore this vast 42,500-hectare desert in several ways. On a tour, on foot, on horseback or by many other options. Bardenas Reales is also a declared UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
There are around 15 picturesque villages in the Baztan Valley area of Navarre. This area keeps itself to itself and is steeped in tradition and codes of value. The Valley is stunning. And on the last weekend of this month, the livestock fair takes place. There is an artisan market alongside the fair, and you can try some authentic cuisine such as baztanzopak, a thick broth made with mutton stock and bread.
Home of the witches
Zagarrumurdi also known as the village of witches is home to the famous Cave of Zagarrumurdi. The connection to witchcraft and covens have even led to films being made here such as “Las Brujas de Zugarramurdi”. The cave is not one that typically springs to mind with cave drawings or stalactites, but instead, as legend has it, it was used by hundreds to come and worship the devil. In 1610 the Tribunal of the Spanish Inquisition tried 40 women accused of witchcraft. 11 of these women were sentenced and burned at the stake. To this day, there is a panel at the entrance to the cave displaying their names.
Birds of prey
If vulture watching is your thing, then the Gorges of Lumbier and Arbaiun are for you. But not only that, the views are spectacular. The Gorge of Arbaiun is only 20 minutes drive from Lumbier, so it is possible to visit both on the same day. The best view is from is the Iso Viewpoint. You cannot fail to be impressed at the enormity. The walls of the gorge run for around 6km and reach heights of up to 400m in points. Not for the faint-hearted! There are also many other impressive gorges in the area.
Wine tourism in Navarre is extremely popular and gives you the opportunity to discover St James way, admire Romanic monuments, taste delicious local specialities and a great variety of wines as well as visit prestigious bodegas. Sounds perfect! Navarre is one of the most famous Denominaciones de Origen in Spain.