Navarra is an autonomous province in the north of Spain, bordering the Pyrenees. The capital, Pamplona, is mainly known for its annual San Fermin festival, where a crowd of bulls run through the narrow streets of the ancient city. Furthermore, the region is relatively unknown to the general public. A shame, because this particular region is more than worth a visit!
Although the relatively small Navarre consists of only one province, the surroundings are exceptionally varied. The region can be divided into four areas.
The green north
The north is characterised by impressive nature. Here lie the Pyrenees and the forest of Irati. This well-kept beech and spruce forest is the second largest in Europe after the Black Forest. In addition to lots of nature, you will also find many churches here. In the town of Roncesvalles, on the border with France, the pilgrims enter Spain on their route to Santiago. Every year thousands of pilgrims travel through the area.
Although Navarre is not part of the Basque Autonomous Region, it is one of the provinces of the Basque Country in France and Spain. Particularly in the north people speak Basque, and you will find here many influences of Basque culture. Navarre is also praised as the region for trying the authentic Basque cuisine.
The cultural centre
Most of the old towns can be found in the middle zone of Navarre. Culture lovers, in particular, can indulge themselves here. Visit the former capital, Olite, for an excellent example of an authentic Navarre place. Until 1512, Navarre was an independent kingdom, with its legislation. For a while, Navarra was considered the most powerful empire in Spain. The cities of this time can be recognised by a castle, narrow streets and a full city wall. There is still a rich culture here with many festivals in the summer, where you can see the local people dressed in traditional clothing dancing.
The dry south
Wher the north of Navarre is green, the south is dry. So dry that one speaks of a semi-desert, called the Bardenas Reales. This inhospitable plain has been declared a vital nature reserve by UNESCO.
Nevertheless, the area is just open for cars and tourism, and even films are being recorded. The roads are surprisingly excellent, so definitely go here for a day. You may recognise some movie locations from the popular Game of Thrones series.
The capital city of Pamplona
Although Pamplona is best known for its bull runs, this student town offers so much more. In the old city with narrow alleys, the rest of the year has a cosy and peaceful atmosphere. Pamplona is originally a Roman city that, especially in the Middle Ages, grew to what it is today. Many monuments of the rich culture and history have now been preserved. The city has a beautiful cathedral. The nearby picturesque towns, such as Estella, are also worth a visit. The characteristic villages of Ziga, Irurita and Elizondo are a little further north in the green Valle del Baztán.