Navarre is a community in northernSpain, bordering the Basque Country, La Rioja, Castile and León and Aragon in Spain and Aquitaine in France. The capital is the city of Pamplona. During the time of the Roman Empire, the territory of the province was inhabited by the Vascones, a pre-Roman tribe who populated the southern slopes of the Pyrenees. In the northern, mountaineous areas the Vascones escaped large-scale Roman settlement but not so in the flatter areas to the south which were amenable to large-scale Roman farming. The area was never fully subjugated either by the Visigoths or by the Moors. In AD 778, the Basques defeated a Frankish army in the Battle of Roncevaux Pass. Two generations later, in 824, the chieftain Iñigo Arista was chosen King of Pamplona, laying a foundation for the later Kingdom of Navarre. That kingdom reached its zenith during the reign of Sancho III of Navarre and covered the area of the present-day Navarre, Basque country, and La Rioja, together with parts of modern Cantabria, Castile and León, and Aragon. After Sancho III died, the Kingdom of Navarre was divided between his sons and never fully recovered its importance. The army of Navarre fought beside other Christian Spanish kingdoms in the decisive battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212, after which the Muslim conquests on the Iberian Peninsula were slowly reduced to a small territory in the south.In AD 1515, the bulk of Navarre south of the Pyrenees—Upper Navarre—was at last absorbed into the incipient Kingdom of Spain but retained some exclusive rights. The small portion of Navarre lying north of the Pyrenees—Lower Navarre—later came under French rule when its Huguenot sovereign became King Henry IV of France; with the declaration of the French Republic and execution of Louis XVI, the last King of France and Navarre, the kingdom was merged into a unitary French state.
Despite its relatively small size, Navarre features stark contrasts in geography, from the Pyrenees mountain range that dominates the territory to the plains of the Ebro river valley in the south. The highest point in Navarre is Hiru Erregeen Mahaia, with an elevation of 2,428 metres (7,965 feet). Other important mountains are Txamantxoia, Kartxela, the Larra-Belagua Massif, Sierra de Alaiz, Untzueko Harria, Sierra de Leyre, Sierra del Perdón, Montejurra, Ezkaba, Monte Ori, Sierra de Codés,Urbasa, Andia and the Aralar Range.
Navarre is really worth a long stay. It is a peaceful place, with a variety of landscape and cultural heritage that can be enjoyed all year round. These cultural and natural attractions are always within easy reach, because distances in Navarre are never very great.
The Pyrenees: forests, mountains and valleys
The Pyrenees rise up in the north of Navarre in an area that has seen warriors, shepherds, pilgrims, kings, heroes and smugglers over the centuries. They form a landscape of high peaks and deep valleys, shady woods and large, open meadows, gorges and historic livestock trails. The Pyrenean mountain range falls away gradually from east to west. From the border with Aragon to the coast of the Bay of Biscay, the Continental climate becomes Atlantic and the landscape changes along the way. From the imposing rock faces of Larra and the extensive beech and spruce forests of Irati, via the Collegiate Church of Orreaga/Roncesvalles, the landscape softens as it drops down to the Baztan-Bidasoa valley and the imposing plateaux of Aralar, Urbasa and Andía.
The Pamplona Basin: history, tranquillity… and festivities
Pamplona is the political, administrative, economic and cultural centre of Navarre. Well-known thanks to the fiesta of Sanfermines and the Pilgrim’s Way to Santiago de Compostela, the ancient walled city now extends across the plain of the river Arga and joins up with the surrounding towns to form an urban sprawl that is home to a quarter of a million people. In addition to the city’s attractive historic centre, the traveller will find Pamplona a dynamic place with a great variety of architecture, excellent shopping, large parks and many bars and cafeterias to meet.
The Central Zone: villages, castles and monasteries
The Central Zone oozes history, evoking monarchs, abbots, fortresses, castles, and palaces. The centuries slip by here in the wind, clouds, gentle hills, vineyards and cereal fields, and the earth itself. The Central Zone has a variety of different areas that are crossed from east to west by the Pilgrim’s Way to Santiago de Compostela: the area around Sangüesa (also called Baja Montaña, literally, “Low Mountains”), the central part that includes Olite and the Valdorba, and Tierra Estella to the west. There are several places here that retain the mark of their mediaeval origin, thanks to their enormous importance during the history of the ancient Kingdom of Navarre.
The Ribera: landscapes and market gardens along the river Ebro
La Ribera is a happy, welcoming place, an area of wide plains with a market gardening tradition that goes back to the Arabs. The products of the area are the basis for a gastronomy that is unique in the world. La Ribera is also home to the natural park of Bardenas Reales, a desert-like area declared a Natural Reserve of the Biosphere by UNESCO. The capital of La Ribera, Tudela, evokes its foundation by the Arabs and the Jewish community with its beautiful cathedral (built between the 12th and the 18th centuries) that stands on the site of an ancient mosque, and in nearby towns such as Corella jewels of Baroque and Renaissance architecture are to be found.
The Castle of Xabier – Castillo de Javier- is located on a hill in the town of Javier (Navarre, Spain), to 52 km east of Pamplona and 7 km east of Sangüesa. Built in the 10th century. In this castle was born and raised the Saint Francis Xavier, son of the Lords of Xavier, and from there took his surname.
The Navarre Bardenas are a natural semi-desert of some 42,000 ha that covers southeast of Navarra (Spain). The soils are clay, chalk and sandstone and have been eroded by water and wind creating surprising ways in which they emphasize the canyons, plateaus tabular structure and lonely hills, called seamounts.
A Land of Tradition
Navarre speaks to you through tradition, music and dance, with special dances like the “jota”, “makildantza”, “zortziko”, “ezpatadantza” and “paloteados”. Celebrations linked to religious tradition: the ‘Javierada’ to the castle at Javier, the ‘Misterio de Obanos’, the “Misterio de los Reyes” (Mystery of the Three Wise Men) in Sangüesa. Easter is felt with special fervour in places such as Corella, Cabanillas or Tudela, with the ceremonies of the “Volatín” and the “Bajada del ángel”. Furthermore, in Burgui, its worth enjoying the celebration of the Día de la Almadia. Some of these festivities have recently been declared a Festivity of National Interest.
The “Fiesta of all fiestas” takes place in Pamplona. On July 6th the festivity of San Fermín begins, including encierros (bull runs) and corridas (bullfights),
processions of ornamental giants and dwarves, and a general feeling of being together in the middle of a festive and happy chaos. Navarre is home to a great number of festivities throughout the year; from the Carnivals to celebrations with bulls and sports based on rural activities.
The Running of the Bulls – The running of the bulls involves hundreds of people running in front of six bulls and another six steers down an 825-metre (0.51 mile) stretch of narrow streets of a section of the old town of Pamplona. The event begins at 8 a.m. when a first firecracker is lit to announce the release of the bulls from their corral.
The kingdom of the four seasons
Spring:the green melt
Spring is an ideal season for walking, nature-based sports such as canoeing, rafting, fishing or cycle trekking. It is also a time to enjoy the Easter festivities. On
the table you will find menestra, asparagus and salmon.
Autumn:Navarre in ochre
If autumn sits well on Navarre, the Irati forest is the best example of the beauty of its woods. This can be best appreciated from the peaks of the Urbasa mountain
range or the viewpoint over the gorge of Arbaiun. It is a time for walking, excursions on foot or hunting, for collecting and tasting wild mushrooms (which can be found over large areas of Navarre), and for observing the start of the grape harvest in the Central Zone. In autumn, game products such as doves or boar are prepared with tasty sauces.
Summer: party time
If you really want to have a good time, Pamplona is the ideal place to be at the beginning of July for the Sanfermines. However, other places such as Tudela,
Corella, Tafalla, Estella-Lizarra or Sangüesa have fiestas that highlight the happiness and hospitality of the people of the Navarre. The summer is the time for cycle and foot trekking, swimming, horse riding and visiting monuments and enjoying cultural programmes. It is the season to enjoy fresh salads and the select Navarrese cuisine in general.
Winter: treading fresh snow
Winter is something to be enjoyed. It is a season of Nordic or cross-country skiing and snow racketing in the Roncal and Salazar valleys. Or the carnivals whose
origins are lost in the mists of time, such as those of Lantz, Zubieta, Ituren or Altsasu/Alsasua, all of them unique examples of rural festive tradition. In winter
the most discerning palates will appreciate the excellent red beans, meats, cheese, desserts, wine and liqueurs from Navarre
Estella (Spanish) or Lizarra (Basque) is a town located in the autonomous community of Navarre, in northern Spain. It lies south west of Pamplona, close to the border with La Rioja and Álava. The town was founded in 1090 when the place, lying by the fortified settlement of Lizarra, was granted a charter by the Pamplonese king Sancho Ramirez.
The Pilgrim’s Way to Santiago de Compostela in Navarre
The Pilgrim’s Way to Santiago de Compostela in Navarre has two main routes and several secondary trails. The route most used by pilgrims is the one that enters Navarre at Luzaide/Valcarlos, the Ibañeta pass and the astonishing collegiate church of Orreaga/Roncesvalles. After passing through Auritz/Burguete,
Erro and Esteribar, the route reaches the Pamplona Basin. The other main route crosses the Pyrenees in Aragon (to the east) and passes such jewels such as the church of Santa María in Sangüesa, Leyre and Eunate. Both routes join at Puente La Reina, whose Romanesque bridge leads pilgrims towards the monumental town of EstellaLizarra and on to the monastery of Iratxe, Los Arcos, Torres del Río and Viana. Among the secondary routes we would highlight the one that
runs through the Baztan valley, such as the Ebro route.
The Palace of the Kings of Navarre of Olite or Royal Palace or Castle of Olite is a courtly and military character building built during the 13th and 14th centuries in the town of Olite. It was one of the seat of the Court of the Kingdom of Navarre, since the reign of Charles III “the Noble”.
Holidays with Peace and Quiet
Those who like to flee from the madding crowd and prefer tranquility and relaxation will find a large number of places in Navarre where it is still possible to enjoy a slow and pleasant rhythm of life in close contact with nature. In the green Pyrenean valleys, the Pamplona Basin, the Central Zone or La Ribera, wherever you decide to choose a quiet spot there is always an opportunity to enjoy walks, cycle rides, gentle sports, spas, nearby towns, scenic spots, churches or monasteries.
Sanfermines – The Universal fiesta
The fiestas of San Fermín are a universal myth thanks to Ernest Hemingway, and to thousands of people every year let themselves go and enjoy this singular festivity to the full. The fiesta, in honour of the patron saint of Pamplona, starts on 6th July and the daily bull runs and bullfights drive the street party until the 14th. The Sanfermines could also be a unique opportunity to get to know Navarre by combining a few days of hard partying with relaxation.
Practising sport in Navarre is a way of getting to know the region and experiencing its natural environment: walking, trekking, and mountain biking or cycling along the roads where the five-times winner of the Tour de France, Miguel Induráin, trained to be a topclass rider. You can follow routes on foot or on a bicycle at any time of the year thanks to numerous signposted paths. There are a number of perfect places in Navarre for climbing, parapenting, caving nordic or cross-country skiing, practising water sports, horse riding, or playing golf in a variety of natural settings.
Navarre, the birthplace of St Francis Xavier
In the highest part of the village of Javier, 5 miles from Sangüesa in central Navarre, the silhouette of the Castle of Javier rises. In 1506 St Francis Xavier was born here, one of the most universal of all missionaries, co-founder of the Company of Jesus (the Jesuits) and patron saint of Navarre. The origins of the castle date back to the end of the 10th century, when a lookout tower (the ‘Homage tower’) was built. Its strategic location on the border between the kingdoms of Navarre and Aragon enhanced its fortress status, and the different sections of the castle were gradually built around the tower. The castle has undergone a number of reconstructions, the last in 2005, and nowadays it is one of the few castles that conserve its defensive features such as loopholes and embrasures.
A Land of Wine
The ancient kingdom has two top-line Designations of Origin: Navarra and Rioja. It is not surprising that wine culture in Navarre has strong roots, inviting the visitor to delve deeper and enjoy activities such as the vendimia (grape harvest), wine-making, enology and tasting. The bodegas (wineries) of Navarre open their doors and combine wine-tasting. The ancient kingdom has two top-line Designations of Origin: Navarra and Rioja. It is not surprising that wine culture in Navarre has strong roots, inviting the visitor to delve deeper and enjoy activities such as the vendimia (grape harvest), wine-making, enology and tasting. The bodegas (wineries) of Navarre open their doors and combine wine-tasting
Navarre is one of the best bird watching areas in the Iberian Peninsula. Up to 246 species have been catalogued. The lagoons at Pitillas or Las Cañas are two of the most popular places with the general public, although the more serious bird watchers are familiar with dozens of other sites such as the gorges of Arbaiun and Lumbier and mountain passes such as Ibañeta and Etxalar.
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