Navarra information

Introduction to the Province of Navarra
The province of Navarra (also known as Navarre) in the north of Spain possesses historic towns and an impressive landscape. It has the mountainous Pyrenees in its north and the fertile plains and valleys of the River Ebro in its south. Despite the fact that the famous pilgrims’ trail of the Camino de Santiago passes through Navarra and its capital Pamplona is known worldwide for its bull runs, it still manages to remain a relatively undiscovered and unspoilt corner of Spain.

The capital of Navarra, Pamplona, is famed for its annual Fiestas de San Fermin, held in honour of the city’s patron saint from the 6th until the 14th of July. These days of non-stop celebrations and partying are centred around the daily running of the bulls or “encierros”, an unmissable spectacle. This is when hundreds of locals (and visitors) run through the streets being pursued by a number of loose and lively bulls. The event was atmospherically described by Ernest Hemingway in his book “The Sun also Rises”. Be aware that Pamplona gets packed during this time.

Aside from the annual bull runs, Pamplona is an elegant city with a compact historic old centre that is easily explored on foot. Any time of year is ideal to enjoy the mediaeval streets without the fear of being trampled by bulls.

The main square is Plaza del Castillo and most of Pamplona’s monuments and sights are within walking distance of here. The old Jewish quarter of Pamplona is just off here too. Pamplona’s Gothic Cathedral Basilica Santa Maria la real was commenced in the 14th Century but not completed for another 130 years. The interior cloisters and chapels of the Cathedral are exquisite. The Cathedral has the second largest bell in the whole of Spain. Behind the Cathedral is the area of Pamplona known as La Navarreria where you will find the remains of the city’s original 16th Century walls and from where there are to be enjoyed fine views over the River Arga below. At the southern end of Pamplona, be sure to visit the star-shaped 16th Century fortress of La Ciudadela.

Pamplona is one of Spain’s greenest cities with a high concentration of parks and open spaces, such as the Jardines de Taconera and that around the Ciudadela.

Being a university city, Pamplona has a lively nightlife and a wide selection of tapas bars and cafes. See below for more on the typical gastronomy of Navarra.

Around Pamplona and Beyond
The famous pilgrims’ route of the Camino de Santiago passes through the province of Navarra and along its route are many interesting towns and villages with plenty of history, monuments and atmosphere. Tuleda is the second city of Navarra, south of Pamplona, and although it is not at first glance a particularly attractive place, its old town in the centre is completely different. The Moorish maze of streets around the mediaeval Plaza de los Fueros has remained unchanged for centuries. The 12th Century Cathedral, the Basilica Colegiata de Santa Ana is full of beautiful ancient tombs and has a fine Roman cloister.

The village of Olite has a magnificent, fairytale-like castle, which was once the home of the kings of Navarra. The churches of Santa Maria and San Pedro and the 13th Century Monastery of the Clarissas are also of note. The hilltop village of Ujue is a perfectly preserved mediaeval defensive village, perched high on its hillside. Also on the pilgrim route is the town of Yesa, or more specifically the 11th Century Monasterio de San Salvador de Leyre, 4km from the town itself. It is set in spectacular mountainous scenery and if you are lucky enough to visit the monastery during mass, you will hear the Benedictine monks singing Gregorian chants. The picturesque town of Estella should not be missed either. It has a wealth of churches and the Palacio de los Reyes de Navarra is a fine example of Romanesque architecture. Part of the Palacio is now an art gallery.

The Natural Park of Sierra de Aralar is a wild and mountainous place in the north west of the province. It is a very popular destination for hiking and mountain biking.

The Gastronomy of Navarra
The cuisine of Navarra is as rich and diverse as its landscapes. It uses its local cheeses, vegetables, river fish and meats in its traditional dishes. Potatoes, artichokes, lettuces, salmon, rabbit and hare, pork, peppers and pigeon – all of these are to be found on Navarran menus. Ajoarriero is a typical dish (cod with red peppers) and peppers are used in another dish Pimientos del Piquillo” (fiery red peppers). Revuelto de Setas is a scrambled egg dish made with any of Navarra’s wide variety of wild mushrooms. A favourite dessert of Navarra is Manjar Blanco, blancmange to you and I.

Try to sample some Idiazabal cheese from the region and of course the famous digestif liqueur, Pacharan, widely drunk throughout Spain but native to Navarra. It’s made from sloe berries from the blackthorn bush.


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