The Irati Forest is the second largest and best preserved beech and fir forest in Europe, an immense green mantle of some 17,000 hectares that is still in an almost unspoiled state. Standing among the western Pyrenees of Navarra, the Irati Forest is accessed from the picturesque villages of Ochagavía and Orbaitzeta and is a natural treasure in which you can find the protected areas of Mendilatz and Tristuibartea and the Lizardoia Integral Reserve.
Sit down in the heart of the forest and enjoy communing with nature; let yourself be enveloped in a silence broken only by the wild rushing of water between beeches and firs. Admire the crystalline currents of the river Irati that turn turquoise in the Irabia reservoir and listen out for the elusive sounds of the fauna and stroll across the soft blanket of grass that covers the Irati Forest. The scent of the woods will impregnate itself in your skin.
There are two access points to the Irati forest: from the west from Orbaizeta and from the east from Ochagavía, where you can also find an Interpretation Centre, a good starting point to find out more about this enclave and its surroundings.
Innumerable spots, lost in the dense forest or the bright pastures on the high ground, act as a shelter and habitat to rare populations of wild animals. birds such as goldcrests, chaffinches, robins, black woodpeckers,white-backed woodpeckers, fish such as trout and others like foxes, wild boar, stags and deers. The latter are the protagonists of autumn in the Irati forest because they are on heat, and their howls, when they try to conquer the females, can be heard all over the forest.
Equally rich and varied is the flora. Despite the fact that forestry has been carried out in a controlled manner and some areas are practically conserved in their primitive states, the forest has changed over the years. Beech and pine tress now coexist alongside linden hazelnut, elm, willow, maple, box, and juniper trees, together with fern, lichens, moss, sloe berries and solitary oaks that recall the fact that this species was the most common originally. The variety of colour, a gift from such a landscape, reaches its peak in autumn when warm browns, intense yellows and dreamy reds tinge the tops of the trees.
The high rainfall recored in this Pyrenean zone means that the landscape is full of streams and torrents that cut through its abrupt relief. Among them are the Urbeltza and the Urtxuria, which come together at the foot of the chapel to the Virgin Mary of the Snows to create the river Irati.
With the aim of conserving this natural enclave, three zones have been protected: the Nature Reserves of Mendilatz and Tristuibartea and the integral reserve of Lizardoia. The Nature Reserve of Mendilatz is located on the mountain of the same name at Orbaitzeta, covering 119 hectares at a height of 1,100 metres. You can reach it along a gentle 14-kilometre-long signposted path that starts from the old Munitions Factory of Orbaitzeta. The Nature Reserve of Tristuibartea stands on the northern slope of Mount Petxuberro, in Hiriberri/Villanueva de Aezkoa, at an altitude of 940 metres. The reserva integral of Lizardoia on Mount La Cuestión, at an altitude of between 850 and 1,125 metres, has the greatest ecological value in the Irati Forest, with areas of virgin beeches and pines. It can be reached along an easy 7-kilometre-long path called the 'Senda de Contrasario', which starts at the top end of the Irabia reservoir. You can also walk around the reservoir on a 9-kilometre-long path.
There is also a network of signposted paths of different degrees of difficulty and length that take the visitor to other distant corners of the forest, with natural spectacles on show at any time of year. Choose your form of transport and visit the Irati Forest on foot, by bicycle, or with snow shoes or skis. Discover this dreamy landscape where lengendary characters abound, such as witches and lamias take advantage of them to promenade the ghost of Lady Juana of Labrit -the Huguenot queen who was poisoned in Paris- and make anyone they find on their travels disappear. Don't forget, too, that this is where Basajaun, the Lord of the Woods, has his dwelling; he is a tall spirit with long hair and prodigious strength who is even more agile than the deer. If you happen to cross his path do not run away, just obey his orders and he will guide and protect you during your visit to the forest.
There are two ways into the Selva de Irati (Irati Forest): from Orbaizeta in the Aezkoa valley and from Ochagavía in the Salazar valley. Both valleys have 7 viewpoints to observe the scenery with panoramic tables at strategic places.
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Situado en el interior del bosque, a 23 km de Ochagavía, el renovado centro "Casas de Irati" es un lugar de acogida, con información y servicios de bar y restaurante (contacto en email@example.com).
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