Protected by the mountains and steep hillsides, the Basque culture of this province has been preserved for generations, along with a distinctive village architecture and traditional farming methods. Now, with easy flights to Pamplona and San Sebastian and good road connections to the villages and towns, the landscape and unspoiled beauty of the area is open to visitors.
Green Spain - The Basque Kingdom of Navarre in the Foothills of the Spanish Pyrenees
Away from the parched area of Southern Spain and the costas is a green world of mountains, waterfalls, caves and grottoes, one of the loveliest parts of Spain’s green north.
What to See in the Kingdom of Navarre and Bértiz
For people making their first visit to the area, the best place to start is probably the Baztan Valley which lies between Pamplona and San Sebastian, an area of the Basque Kingdom where the culture of the past has been preserved since medieval times
It is perfect walking and hiking country,and the megalithic monuments, dolmens, drumlins and stone circles scattered on the mountsides add special interest to the walks. The scenery is stunning and in the early morning when the mist is still thick on the ground and footfalls make no sound the experience can be quite eerie. Here and there, the piles of bracken heaped up for animal fodder loom up like sentinels guarding the mountain’s secrets. When the mist clears, watch for the golden eagles and the vultures that fly overhead.
Guided Walking Tours and Camino de Santiago.
Guided walking tours can be arranged through the tourist office, or the hotel or hostel in which you stay can usually recommend a guide if needed. The Tourist Office has published some good walking guides if it is preferred to go it alone.
There are three routes, the Long Route (more than one day) where the trail is delineated with red and white marks, the Short Routes (half a day) of 8-15 Km. long and of which there are 13 marked with white and yellow, and the Minor Routes of 3-9 km. (about 2-3 hours) marked in white and green.
It is also possible to walk part of the Camino de Santiago that passes through the area, the famous route to Santiago de Compostelo which has attracted pilgrims for centuries.
Specialities in the Baztan Valley, Navarre
During the hunting season, October-November, watch out for the traditional pigeon hunters, called “palomeros" who hunt the birds with nets in the traditional way. This is a method dating from the 14th Century that allows the birds to be caught without the use of firearms. The third Sunday in October is the main date for the Pigeon Hunting Festival in Etxalar when the people throng the hunting areas to watch the fun. Later, in the evening, there is dancing and music in the town square.
As a follow on from the hunting season, game, in the form of pigeon, partridge, quail, wild board, deer and rabbit, is often the main dish in restaurants in the area during November.
The Autumn and Spring Fairs in Elizondo
These important lifestock shows (the Friday after 18th October for the Autumn fair and the Friday after Easter Sunday for the spring fair) with their displays of farm machinery, food, clothes and handicrafts are popular with the people of Navarre and are certainly worth a visit. Outside these main Fairs however, it is possible to visit other local livestock fairs where the placid, tan coloured cows have been specially spruced up for the day, and their proud owners display prizes and pedigrees to improve the sale.
There are stalls selling brass bells for horses, dressed horns for home decoration (both of which make great souveneirs) and all the paraphernalia that goes with farming, as well as clothes and farmhouse equipment.
The Etxalar Cheese Fair, Baztan Valley, Navarre
This takes place on the first Sunday in June when there is a cheese contest. It is both a popular lunch and a dance, and a good place to see the people of Navarre really enjoy a day out. Be warned though, food and drink are plentiful and you may find yourself eating more than you normally do - the locals are very persuasave!
Accommodation in Navarre
Accommodation in the mountains or in the towns is very comfortable and the friendliness and hospitality afforded by the hosts of the establishments is second to none. Food is hearty, needed after a day’s hike, but exquisite salads are always available to anyone who wants something lighter. Taken along with the home-made bread and peppery olive oil, the food will satisfy everyone.