In geographical terms, Navarre is the most diverse province in Spain as it encompasses three different bio-geographical areas, which have modelled hugely contrasting landscapes; the woodlands and Pyrenean peaks in the north flatten as we travel south, forming a natural semi-dessert area. This dramatic transition takes places in just 100 kilometres.
Carnavales de Lantz
Furthermore, its privileged location between continental Europe and the Spanish mainland have made it a key transitional location, a major crossroads
. Among these transverse routes is the Santiago Way, encouraged by the Kings of Navarre, which entailed the cultural influence of important European movements such as the Romanesque.
This diversity of climates, cultures and landscapes has led to the creation of homes, villages, characters, customs, languages, festivities and varied dishes, all with a unique personality. Here is a more detailed description of these aspects:THE CHARACTER OF OUR PEOPLE
The closed valleys of the north have shaped the noble and friendly character of the people in the hamlets that enjoy tranquillity, conversations and legends told around a blazing fire.
Towards the south, the mountains give way to expansive flatlands, baked with a sun that invites outdoor interactions, giving its inhabitants a more extroverted and open character.THE LANGUAGE
Navarre has two official languages, Spanish and Basque (Euskera), the only non-Indo-European language on the Spanish mainland. The first is official across the entire territory, whilst the second is official in Basque-speaking areas, mainly located to the north of the region.
Traslado de la Dolorosa. Semana Santa en Pamplona
FIESTAS AND TRADITIONS
All Navarrans coincide in their love for fiestas, in their deeply engrained traditions, and in another crucial aspect: nothing important can be celebrated unless it is accompanied by food and drink.
The traditional fiestas uncover the way we are, both in the popular religion as well as in the presence of the supernatural, both deep-rooted.
In the early part of the year, the carnivals take centre stage, many of them ancestral, such as those of Ituren and Zubieta
, and the popular livestock fair in Tafalla
. This is followed by the trail known as Javierada
, a great Navarran pilgrimage to the castle where our most international Saint was born, San Francisco Javier.
After this comes Easter Week, during which Navarre offers interesting processions such as the Holy Burial of Pamplona
, or the Baroque procession of Corella
, as well as original ceremonies declared to be of Touristic Interest, such as those of Volatín
, or the Descent of the Angel
of Tudela. The culmination is Resurrection Sunday upon which the lively dances of los Bolantes
are performed in Luzaide/Valcarlos.
With the arrival of spring, hundred of pilgrims head to the most far-flung chapels in our villages and mountain regions, such as those in Orreaga/Roncesvalles or Ujué; it is also a time to protect the crops, which is why a tree called Mayo
is erected, a tradition that is celebrated in various towns such as Barillas.
After the purification ritual on the bonfires of the night of San Juan, the local festivities begin in all four corners of Navarre; in the north there is the txistu or dances, whilst the south is home to the bulls, running of the bulls and cows, such as those of Falces or Lodosa. But perhaps the most outstanding are the San Fermin
festivities, a world-renowned fiesta that is held in Pamplona from 6th to 14th July.
Fiesta de Orhipean. Ochagavía
In summer the main brotherhood festivities are held, such as the Tribute to the Three Cows
of Roncal, the oldest ceremony of this kind in Europe.
Whilst less well-known, but equally as consolidated within the calendar, new fiestas showcase our culture, traditions and former trades:
Over the Christmas period, the Procession of the Three Wise Men
in Sangüesa is held on 6th January, in which many local people participate. There is also the visit from Olentzero
, much to the delight of both children and adults.
At the end of April or early May, the almadieros (rafters) return to descend the Pyrenean waters of the Esca. In the Pyrenees, this time on the Atlantic side, there is a lively popular fiesta, the Baztandarren Biltzarra
, in which the locals from the different villages of the Baztan parade in their decorated floats.
Another example of how dominating a trade is an alternative art form can be seen in the shepherd, sheepdog and sheep team in the Artzai Eguna
, a tough sheepdog trial held in late August. Coinciding with these dates, the Pyrenean village of Ochagavía gives us the wonderful opportunity to go a hundred years back in time for a day to experience Orhipean
The medieval markets, originally held in Olite but today celebrated in different villages across Navarre, are another enjoyable way of going back in time, this time to the Middle Ages.
Sheep are also the stars at the Sanmiguelada
as autumn comes; flocks of thousands enter the Bardenas Reales via the Cañadas Reales from the Pyrenees.
As well as deep-rooted fiestas and traditions, Navarre has fascinating cultural, artistic and gastronomic programmes. Among the most outstanding are: the Navarre Pincho Week, the Tudela Vegetable Festival, the Olite Classical Theatre Festival
, the Ancient Music Week
in Estella, and Kultur
, a summer programme with musical performances in the most important natural and monumental spaces in Navarre.
The cultural offering is headlined with the packed programme from the Baluarte
Auditorium, the Gayarre Theatre
in Pamplona, and the Gaztambide Theatre
Concurso de jotas en Cadreita
MUSIC AND DANCE
In the north
, intimate songs or simple melodies are improvised in the Basque language
by the Basque bertsolaris
who aim to entertain or move their audiences. The accompanying instruments are usually the accordion
, the txistu
or the txirula. Impressive popular dances include the zortziko
and the mutildantza
In the south
the most popular are the rondallas and the jota, a vocal explosion filled with energy, usually alluding to day to day activities such as work in the fields or personal anecdotes. Here the pipes are played along with the guitar
, the jota
is danced and parades fill the streets
.HOUSES AND VILLAGES / ARCHITECTURE AND URBAN PLANNING
The home is much more than some walls or some land; it is the expression of family, a symbol of belonging and a name that identifies us.
The abundance of water and the cold temperatures in the north of Navarre
have led to the creation of small villages based around a small centre, which usually encompass various large farmhouses (baserriak in Basque) that are dotted around nearby.
These are traditionally resilient large stone houses that often have an arched entrance featuring the family emblem. They have two or three floors, the ground floor used for the livestock, thus heating the upper floors. The first and second floors hold various generations of a family, and the attic that completes the house is used to store grain. In the eastern Pyrenees where the cold and snow are more frequent, houses have steep gable roofing made of slate, whereas in the Atlantic Pyrenees, the roofing is hipped and made from red tiles, to adapt to the milder climate.In the middle part of the region
, especially in more stately homes, the stonework is kept in the ground floor, with the upper floors made from stone or brick, which is often crowned with beautiful wooden eves. In the southern area
, where water is less abundant, we find large, concentrated towns with houses made of adobe or brick. Often the houses are whitewashed and the roofs have one or two sides, the most important buildings having four. They are open houses, with many balconies and arcades.
It is worth mentioning the curious cave-homes in Valtierra and Lodosa, excavated from the softer and impermeable parts of the rock face itself, many of which have today been converted into rural accommodation.
Partido de pelota mano
Navarran sports are: Pelota
: a game that originated from the Greeks and played by monks and kings. It caught on in this area and became popular. It was played in grassy meadows, in squares and in arcades. Today, Navarre is home to famous pelotaris (pelota players), and the region is dotted with frontones (pelota courts) in almost every town and city. They are meeting places for friends, a place of dual for professional athletes playing pala, jai alai, remonte, and the most popular of all, pelota mano. (+ info
or herri kirolak: the origin of all these sports is rooted in the hard farming work and the rural setting, which have become sporting activities demanding enormous amounts of physical strength and in which the stakes are very high. Some of the most popular are those that involve chopping logs (aizkolariak) and stone lifters (harrijasotzaileak).