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Tour 7 - Sangüesa, the Castle of Javier, the Monastery of Leyre and the Roncal valley.

Artistic, Get to know, Naturalistic

Kilometres: 88,00

Sangüesa stands on the Way of St. James on a land of ancient medieval frontiers that has been crossed by many peoples. Its most emblematic monument is the Romanesque façade of the church of Santa María. Other highlights are the church of Santiago, noble houses such as those of the Príncipe of Viana and the Vallesantoro family, or the convents of the Carmelites and San Francisco.

Just 5 miles from Sangüesa stands the Castle of Javier, the birthplace of San Francis Xavier, the patron saint of Navarre and one of the most important missionaries in Christianity. Between 1541 and 1552 he visited many places in Africa, Asia and Oceania, acting as a cultural bridge between the West and the Orient. The origin of the castle goes back to the 10th and 11th centuries; its latest and most magnificent restoration was completed in 2005.

Very close by is the Yesa reservoir, a water sports centre, and the Monastery of San Salvador de Leyre, built in the foothills of the mountain range of the same name in a beautiful spot with spectacular views. It was built between the 11th and 14th centuries on the remains of an old pre-Romanesque church. Its highlights are its Romanesque crypt and the 'Puerta Speciosa', a perfect 12th-century Romanesque portico.

In Lumbier it is worth visiting The Interpretation Centre for the gorges of Arbaiun and Lumbier. It provides interesting information on the natural environment of these impressive gorges cut into the rock by the force of water. In both gorges it is worth stopping to observe the birds of prey that nest there, particularly the majestic flight of the griffon vulture.

Further north, on the border with France and Huesca, lies the Roncal valley, with seven beautiful towns and villages where some of the most peculiar traditions of Navarre are maintained. You can get to know them through a visit to the Museum del Almadía (raft museum) in Burgui, the house-museum of the tenor Julián Gayarre (Roncal), the Cheese museum (Uztárroz), and the Nature Interpretation Centre (Roncal).

The Roncal valley is rounded off to the north by the Belagua valley and the Reserve of Larra, where cross-country skiing is practised. From here you can climb mountain peaks such as the Mesa de los Tres Reyes (2,422 m), Anie (2,507 m) or Ukerdi (2,248 m).

Sangüesa's architectural attractions are complemented by its rich gastronomy, with a special mention for pochas (succulent beans), its home-made cold meats or glorias de yema (made with egg yolk and sugar).

Roncal is the paradise of traditional sheep cheese making (it has its own designation of origin) and migas de pastor (literally, 'shepherds' breadcrumbs').

Every year on January 6th Sangüesa puts its heart into the representation of the Misterio de Reyes, one of the five passion plays conserved in Spain. Many people from the town take part, especially children.

The Roncal valley is also the scene of two rituals that attract hundreds of visitors. Since 1992, between the end of April and early May, Burgui is home to the Día del Almadía (Day of the River Raft), with a five-kilometre descent of the river Esca by traditional wood-carrying rafts that used to follow the rivers from the north of Navarre to Zaragoza and on to Tortosa (on the Mediterranean).

The Tributo de las Tres Vacas (Tribute of the Three Cows) has been held almost uninterruptedly since 1375 every July 13th on the border stone at La Piedra de San Martín, 1,760 metres above sea level. In this fiesta the mayors of the French valley of Baretous hand over three cows to their counterparts from the Roncal valley in a curious ceremony. It arose from an ancient agreement that put an end to continuous border disputes over grazing and water rights for livestock.

OBSERVATIONS: Distance from Pamplona: 90 miles.

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+34 848 420 420


Reyno de Navarra, Tierra de diversidad