Map of Navarre and its main cities
The Bidassoa (Bidasoa) is a coastal river that rises in the Western Pyrenees mountains in Navarre and flows into the Golf de Gascogne between Hendaye and Fontarabie. From Erratzu, its fish- filled waters are gorged with small rivers and torrents, at this place, its name is not the same : Baztan. Its valley, in the north west of Navarre offers a softened geology, where streams flow between the mountains flowing fairly abruptly towards the sea, as if to dive there. Green, rich and dotted with small quiet roads, these valleys are dotted with villages with striking views.
The journey begins in Elizondo, capital (capital) of Batzan, a lively and popular village with typical houses where sometimes, at the bend of a street, a more illustrious architecture of beautiful mansions is mixed. Wooden balconies and glowing stone walls rub shoulders with other buildings, souvenirs of the American occupation of the post-war years. In Elizondo, do not miss the views of the river, the Baztan, and its uneven aesthetics. The Tourist Office organizes guided tours there, but you can go to the Txokoto district yourself, the main architectural attraction. The Baztan Ethnographic Museum is an interesting stop to learn more about life in the region. Near the city, do not miss the Sentier du Ruisseau "Inferno" where there is an old restored mill, a beautiful walk sometimes a little steep which is worth the detour. Those who like to walk will also be happy to walk to the Xorroxin waterfall from the Gorostapolo chapel. A little further 7 km, towards Oieregi, there is a natural park, Senorio de Bertiz's, with an arboretum and a botanical garden, a great family outing. In Elizondo, it's party around July 25 ! Dances, costumes and music are out for the patronal feasts : Baztandarren Biltzarra.
The Baztan in Elizondo
Near the Sentier du Ruisseau
Going up the Baztan, Erratzu is a very pretty flowered village with jovial inhabitants. Arizkun to the west is nestled in the hollow of the valley. You will visit the Santxotena Museum and its wood carvings, you will stroll through the pretty alleys and see the San Juan Bautista church. Going up towards Urdazubi to the north, on the right, stop at Maya / Amaiur, just for the pleasure of crossing its unusual arch ! As in the whole region of the Baztan Valley, the houses are built with stones from the Almandoz quarries, characteristically red. Climb to the top of the mountain to see the castle ruins, the monolith and the beautiful view ! At the entrance of the village there is an old mill, renovated and open to visitors. You can even buy something to make bread or corn cakes (from the Talos) there.
In Urdazubi , stands an imposing building, it is a monastery. In this tidy and quiet town, very close to the border with France and crossed by the river, there is also a mill and from this one, the view of the monastery San Salvador is beautiful. Not far from the village, will you dare to go to the Ikaburu / Urdax Caves ? Long ago, they were thought to be inhabited by mythological beings (the Lamink), protectors of the underground river there. Today, they are open to visitors for a low price and a certain interest. Near the village is an animal park where you can see Bengal cats and raptors. Shows take place in season, ask for information on site at Parque Trikuharri de Fauna Halcon. To the North West of Urdazubi, there is the village of Zugarramurdi and its witch caves, with their past, tinged with secret meetings… To see !
Etxalar is the pigeonhunting village. It is a tradition of this town, which does not fail to animate fall (the 3rd Sunday in October), while the special carriages (the leaked) stand and gaze sharpen. Make a stop on the road that leads to France, about 8km away is the forest where the famous "Fuies" are installed. In November, after hunting it is gastronomy that is in the spotlight and lovers of migratory game will lick their lips... We continue the discovery of the valley with Bera, the last of the 5 towns in the valley of the "Cinco Villas". Discover the San Esteban church, the Town Hall and its arches, the beautiful villas that belonged to wealthy families. Not far from the border, there is also Lesaka, which brings us closer to San Sebastian. It is a city which has known significant industrial importance in the region : blacksmith, mill... In the city center, old and beautiful mansions attest to the city's fertile economic past. Take a walk in Lesaka, appreciate the beauty of its buildings, the Gothic touches, the stone bridge, the towers and strong houses. There is also the San Martín de Tours church, imposing and unique, alternating between Gothic and Baroque. Around the city, hikes and in particular to meet dolmens in the Megalithic Station of Agiña.
!! Do not miss !! The Bidasoa Greenway, for cycling enthusiasts ! Hours of fun and strength training for the legs…
Party in Lesaka
Dolmen near Lesaka
Do you want relaxation and well-being ? In the south of the Bidassoa valley is a pretty little spa resort renowned for its very salty waters in the hollow of the mountains. Hydrotherapy, pools, sauna, hammam are on the program. The installations are qualitative but simple and are not intended to compete with the more imposing border stations. If you are looking for balance, harmony and well-being in peace, this is perfect ! Just a few kilometers away, discover the small village of Doneztebe in the Malerreka valley, famous for its cattle fair and its San Pedro church. This pretty valley located in a rural area, has a mild climate, many oak and beech forests and the beauty of the Leurtza dam lakes (classified as Aire Naturelle de Loisirs). An ideal place for a nature retreat, family holidays with a walk (3 and 9 kilometers) of barbecues and the pleasure of soaking your feet...
Blue and beautiful water
In Zubieta, take a look at the eco-museum in the old grain mill. The last week of January, the city (as well as Ituren nearby), comes alive with a beautiful colorful and joyful carnival, embellished with the sound of cowbells (the bells of cows in the region).
Descend to Leitza via the Usateguieta pass, a pleasant route which leads to a town with significant sporting activity. Here, the Basque Force is widely practiced, as well as the ball. The Basque Force is a series of sporting events, which pay tribute to the tasks linked to the harsh living conditions of yesteryear. These are jobs requiring strength, agility and also knowledge of the use of tools such as the ax, saw, fork. A famous practitioner, Iñaki Perurena has also created a museum in Leitza, the ePeru-Harri, around the stone, where you will know more about Basque culture in general.
A Basque showdown
Lekunberri is a village that positions itself as a pleasant place of passage and holiday resort to explore the Sierra Aralar, its 200km2 of valleys, caves, dolmens, mills, chapels and green forests. All the reasons and seasons are good to come to walk there. The deciduous forests play with their colors according to the seasons and in winter, the absence of leaves offers a beautiful light and nice views. From the Larraun Valley, the hikes are qualitative and numerous. Head towards the remarkable Sanctuary of San Miguel d'Aralar at an altitude of 1130 m, offering a superb soothing view. From Lekunberri, it is also interesting to get on your bike to ride on the green way of Plazaola which goes to Andoain by an old railway track of approximately 45 kilometers. Low elevation, beautiful landscapes and picturesque heritage features.
Larraun Valley and the rack railway
Altsasu is a city at the heart and at the crossroads of the different Basque provinces. Here the Basque spirit (and heart) is very noticeable. The Sakana Valley is through of the surrounding Sierras, Aralar and Urbasa, this is where the city nestles there and there are great hikes for these two mountains. It is picturesque and dotted with small heritage elements (shelters, low walls). The Alsasua Carnival is famous, rich in symbols, hectic and people come from far and wide to attend. 2018 made the city and the region infamous about the affair and the political trial of the "8 d'Alsasua", which agitated opinion and divided against a backdrop of independence demands. The Urbasa natural park goes to the Pamplona region on 28ha, it is in Baquedano that beautiful hikes await you.
The Ultzama Valley is north of Pamplona and touches the Baztan. It is a region that is not very touristy, and that it is pleasant to travel when you like horse riding, nature, contemplation. Small villages as stopped in time, which savor the life which flows… Lovers of pedunculate oaks will go to see the forest of Orgi which promises a serious voyage in time since it is very preserved on 80ha. If you like mushrooms and in particular porcinimushrooms, those who are initiated to picking can legally and seasonally sharpen their knives and go in search of the precious mushroom for the (reasonable) price of a small permit legalizing the picking.
To the east, we find Zubiri (and its pretty medieval bridge), Erro which are villages at the entrance to the Roncevaux valley. Natural places, there are restaurants and inns, since we are on the road to Santiago de Compostela. Note that this is a corner of paradise for fishermen, who are on the Rio Arga leading to a dam lake further north.
Winding road near Zubiri
Auritz (Burguete), a territory classified as a Property of Cultural Interest, is wild and tinged with pilgrimage ! The village is surrounded by a beautiful mountain panorama. It is a village formerly attached to Roncevaux (Orreaga / Roncesvalles) a little further north. Historic site, it is nestled in a valley surrounded by cliffs and a superb natural complex, worth the detour alone. On August 15, 778, the army of Charlemagne, led by the knight Roland found defeat there. Passing the Col and studying the geography, we understand why. It is an important stage of the pilgrimage to Saint-Jacques. We will see the Gothic style Collegiate Church, the monastery and a small museum of religious objects.
Going up towards the French border, there is Luzaide (Valcarlos) also linked to the battle of Roncevaux. We will see a jacquaire church there : Santiago Apostol. During the Carnival celebrations, you will enjoy the Bolantes de Luzaide, a show of cultural and local dances, where the performers wear pretty bell-shaped costumes.
Orbaizeta, the Irati valley is pleasant when you take the NA 140 from the Roncevaux valley. We visit the amazing old factory of royal weapons and munitions of the 18th century. Beautiful vestiges are visible, covered with moss, waiting to be awakened, not far from the Irati forest, rich in rivers and iron ores in its basement. Not far away, Aribe which is in the valley of Aezkoa, shelters the most elevated municipalities of Navarre. Splendid forests, houses grouped in small villages with red tile roofs. On the road to Oroz-Betelu there are very beautiful views of the Pyrenees. The amazing Steles Museum with its intriguing labyrinthine walls is located in Abaurregaina, next to the church. In the Irati forest, you will see the Megalithic Station of Azpegi which can be reached from Orbaizeta after 3km of walking. A “fold” formed by several sedimentary layers of the mountain, not far away, forms the cave of Arpea.
The Abaurregaina Campaign
It is said of Ochagavìa, that it is the most beautiful village in this region of Navarre. A real postcard, colorful and picturesque, which will certainly seduce you. Small medieval bridge, beautiful houses, sloping red roofs and perfectly aligned landscapes. Visit the San Juan Evangelist church, put on the sneakers and go to the Nuestra Señora de Muskilda Sanctuary and just at the border between France and Spain, climb (it is not very long or difficult), the peak of Ori north of the Salazar valley, which is said to be the home of a goddess : Husband who protects the spirits of nature.
Going south and the Roncal valley is Isaba. In winter, the village and its sloping roofs are powdered with snow, it is very beautiful. Visit the fortress church of San Cipriano and the House of Memory of Isaba, an ethnographic center to learn more about the habits and customs, the lifestyle of this region. Cross-country skiing is a popular activity in winter.
You arrive at the Roncal-Erronkari valley, which marks the eastern limit of the Pyrenees Basque mountains. You surely know Roncal cheese, which is delicious thanks to the green pastures where animals graze, which gives its exquisite taste to sheep's milk (in August, there is cheese day, not to be missed…). In these valleys where one approaches Béarn, a whole series of cute and picturesque villages await you. Cross-country ski enthusiasts will be in the attic of happiness. High peaks to explore, good gastronomy to discover, water is also present and has carved out the contours of the landscape. Towards Burgui, you will see magnificent gorges in an area classified as a Natural Reserve. There is also a very pretty Roman bridge there, and a sort of port from which the wooden logs were routed in the valley. We also walk there on a 4 km trail which presents the trades of yesteryear, a kind of very interesting ethnographic walk. Don't miss the Wood Train Day, which highlights the incredible journey of logging in this region (late April, early May). It is in a raft of logs that the operators ran down the rivers, in their tumultuous waters, to transport their precious cargo. Back to Roncal, where there is a mausoleum in tribute to Juliàn Gayarre, a tenor, singer from Navarre : a magnificent sculpture by the artist is to be seen in the cemetery. And not far from the church, it is a museum dedicated to him with objects retracing his life. A nature interpretation center is also to be consulted, where you will understand the place of Man in these large forest valleys, dotted with generous streams and rich ecosystems.
View of the Pyrenees in Burgui
The Roman Bridge Of Isaba
Having filled up on nature, you want an urban break ? Direction the capital of Navarre, the city of Pamplona !