In this outstanding natural environment the popular architecture adapts to its surroundings. Beautiful mountain villages, Indiano palaces and a number of Romanesque hermitages mark the Camino de Santiago which crosses these lands. Other features worth admiring are the raised granaries, the fountains, the washing places and the shepherd huts (locally called bordas or txabolas), all of which in the past were hugely important to the agricultural and livestock breeding way of life.
The mountain chain is irregular; it descends gradually as it nears the sea to the west, just as the climate becomes more temperate. These two factors - climate and altitude - have created three distinct areas in the Navarre Pyrenees, something which is particularly visible in the different architectural styles in their valleys, and more specifically in the main feature of domestic architecture: the house.
This area is situated to the east, where the highest peaks of Navarre are found and where the cold, ice and snow are commonplace in winter. Pyrenean houses are concentrated in close proximity to the church in each town. They have double or triple pitched roofs with flat tiles (generally slate), small eaves and whitewashed exposed stone walls. This area stretches from Roncal, passing through Salazar and Aezkoa until reaching Auritz/Burguete, although each valley generally has its own characteristics - some don't have protective corner stones or whitewashing, a drying balcony, etc.
One of the most beautiful examples of the Pyrenean village is Ochagavía, capital of the Salazar valley. With its medieval bridge, narrow cobbled streets and the well-maintained village flanking the Anduña river it is an unforgettable image.
It is also worth visiting the nearby Aezkoa valley, home to 15 of the 22 raised granaries of Navarre, declared Sites of Cultural Interest. These buildings were devised centuries ago as a way of storing grain safe from moisture and rodents. They have a gable roof with almost no eaves, a rectangular base and unhewn stone walls.
Also known as the Navarra Húmeda of the north-east, this area boasts evergreen valleys and lush forests. It is the western limit of the Pyrenees, with peaks that gradually lose altitude as they approach the Cantabrian Sea. From Urdax and Zugarramurdi, passing through Baztan, Bertizarana and the Malerreka valley until reaching the Cinco Villas or Bortziriak region, the houses reach large sizes here both in the urban centres and especially in the dispersed country houses scattered on the hillsides.
Whilst all the valleys here deserve a good visit and each have their own characteristics, it is perhaps in Baztan where the architecture - whether popular or highbrow and stately - has reached the most beautiful heights of perfection, in the country houses known as caseríos or baserris. It is worth stopping to admire these colossal stone constructions as though they were monuments. Measuring up to one thousand square metres, they used to shelter various generations of the same family together with the livestock and the harvested grasses, each occupying different rooms within the same building.
The use of rosado natural stone from the nearby Almandoz quarries is just as omnipresent as the chequered coat of arms which speaks to us of the nobility of the inhabitants, and the houses often flaunt large rows of wooden balconies filled with flowers in spring. They usually have arched doorways which lead to an open porch which in turn gives access to all rooms of the house. The typical arrangement consists of the ground floor, used as a stable for the livestock and farming tools, a more sophisticated first floor which functions as a living space, and a second floor built as an attic or ganbara and used for storing dried grass, corn etc.
The most noteworthy settlements are Elizondo (the capital of Baztan), or the beautiful villages of Lesaka and Etxalar.
A zone predominantly used for forestry and livestock located to the west of Pamplona and its catchment area, taking in valleys such as Ultzama, Arakil, la Burunda and Leitza. Its villages are arranged around the parish church, from which narrow streets lead, flanked with large stone houses which generally have gable roofs and large eaves. The climate is somewhat harsher than in the previous area, which explains why it is more common to see windows than balconies here. The villages also flaunt coats of arms, authentic pieces of history.
Examples of the typical architecture of the area can be admired in almost all the villages, although those in Lizaso, Auza, Eltzaburu, Ilarregi and Iraizotz are particularly outstanding.