The Pyrenees are renowned for their natural splendour, but for those that also love culture there are a number of interesting options. The traditions, language, music, dance, legends and gastronomy of these lands have been carefully preserved, and the ethnography of these customs can be discovered in the small local museums.
The Camino de Santiago also crosses the central Pyrenees into the peninsula, rewarding us with artistic jewels such as the Collegiate Church of Roncesvalles and the Romanesque Sanctuary of San Miguel de Aralar situated a little further on in the extreme north-west of the region.
If you want to become better acquainted with the Pyrenean way of life, be sure not to miss any of the following.
What period of history most interests you? This is an important question, since in the Pyrenees you can discover the traces of man from prehistory through to the present day. Megalithic monuments await, such as the dolmens of Aralar, along with Romanesque treasures like the Sanctuary of San Miguel or the hermitages of the Arce valley or Muskilda in Ochagavía, not to mention the magnificent Gothic temple in Roncesvalles, medieval towers such as the Donamaría tower or the raised granaries of Aezkoa and other agricultural constructions.
The astonishing ruins of the Eugi and Orbaitzeta munitions factories are testament to the industrial revolution of the 18th century, and the hundred-year-old mills of Urdazubi/Urdax or Zubieta are still working today.
List of art and monuments in the Navarre Pyrenees
And finally, why not take part in some of the lively local festivals and traditions? Ancestral rural carnivals such as those in Ituren and Zubieta or Altsasua kick off the festive season, and during the Semana Santa (Holy Week) visitors can enjoy the lovely dance of the Bolantes of Luzaide/Valcarlos
Spring ushers in fiestas such as the Día de la Almadía (Day of the River Raft), religious pilgrimages to Orreaga/Roncesvalles or races such as the Irati Xtrem. The highlights of the summer season are the Tribute of the Three Cows, and festivals such as the Baztandarren Biltzarra brotherhood festival, Orhipean de Ochagavía (which recreates local life 100 years ago) and Artzai Eguna (Day of the Shepherd).
A little later, colourful autumn landscapes form the backdrop for celebrations such as the Day of the Pigeon Hunters of Etxalar, mushroom gathering and hunting, and medieval livestock festivals such as those held in Doneztebe/Santesteban or Lesaka. And at Christmas time don’t be surprised if you bump into Olentzero on your trip down the mountains, the affable coal merchant who comes to shower the children with gifts.
List of fiestas, traditions and events in the Navarre Pyrenees