In the far north-east of Navarre there are two of the most well-known valleys in the Pyrenees. The most rugged and the steepest, Roncal, is home to the songs of Gayarre, almadías rafts, migrating flocks and Roncal D.O. cheese. Here we suggest a visit to some of its villages with stone streets, the spectacular Belagua valley and the impressive Karst formation of Larra. Parallel to Roncal lies Salazar. A must-see village is the flagship, Ochagavía, from where another tourist spot in Navarre can be accessed: the Irati Forest. However, it is also worth losing yourself in some of the other villages in the valley, such as the capital, Ezcároz.
Estimated duration of the route: 1 day, not including the alternatives marked with an asterisk (*)
The Table of the Three Kings, at 2,428 metres of altitude, is the highest peak in Navarre, and the Tax of the Three Cows, which dates back to 1375, is the oldest tradition in Europe.
Located in the heart of the Pyrenees, bordered to the north by France and to the east by Huesca, Roncal is a valley with deeply ingrained traditions, such as the Tax of the Three Cows or the Day of the Almadía rafts, and spectacular landscapes such as the Belagua Valley or the Karst of Larra, mouth-watering gastronomy and carefully tended hamlets. It is home to one of the mountain station where cross country skiing can be enjoyed. From the south to the north, don’t leave without visiting:
You can walk along the 4 km Trail of Trades, which owes its name to the ethnographic elements you will pass along the way; a medieval bridge, a raft, a bread furnace, a coal bunker, an ancient cold store, a limestone quarry and a former sawmill (read more).
This is the birthplace of the tenor Julián Gayarre and his home-museum and mausoleum are located here. The latter is one of the greatest works of the sculptor, Mariano Benlliure. It is the location of the headquarters of the valley’s Nature Interpretation Centre. (read more)
Surrounded by mountains, it is well worth a visit to see the cobbled streets, lined with stone and wood manor houses, with their pointed gable or hipped roofs. The best photo shot can be found from the highest part of the town, the castle viewpoint, and from the Casa de la Memoria, where you can find out about the history and identity of the valley. (read more)
Heading in the direction of France, you can escape to see the Arrako dolmen.
the Museum of Cheese and Migration of the Flocks uncovers all the secrets of these two worlds with their deep link to the valley.
The Belagua Valley, a fairy-tale landscape of considerable environmental value, is filled with chasms, forests, waterfalls, huts formerly inhabited by Roncalese shepherds, and towering mountains. Nearby is the Natural Reserve of Larra, one of the most impressive karst landscapes in Europe, where pine trees sprout from the open rocks like knives. The best way to get to know it is by following one of its trails. [+ info].
To the south of these two points is the valley of Belabarce, with a beautiful waterfall, which can also be accessed down a local trail.
Two legendary peaks are the Table of the Three Kings and the Ori Peak. From the imposing Table of the Three Kings at 2,428 metres of altitude, we can make out the pre-Pyrenean mountain ranges and French valleys, among others. The second, known as the most westerly “two-thousand” metre mountain in the Pyrenees, offers exceptional view over the Irati Forest and even over the Moncayo mountain range and the Cantabrian Sea. From the Pikatua Viewpoint, located on a diversion to the right of the road that joins Roncal to Salazar, the panoramic view is equally as impressive, this time over Irati and the Ori Peak. (read more)
Located to the east of Roncal, it is a patchwork of small villages with carefully tended architecture and a wide variety of landscapes; forests such as the Irati Forest and expansive grazing pastures to the north, and impressive gorges to the south of the valley such as those in Lumbier and Arbaiun. Here are our suggestions of some places to stop:
One of the most enchanting and picturesque towns in the Navarran Pyrenees. A large part of its charm is due to its picture-perfect surroundings, with its medieval bridge, its narrow cobbled streets, well-tended majestic houses along the river, and its impressive church-fort. Here you can also get to understand the ecosystem and the way life is lived in the valley thanks to its Nature Interpretation Centre. (read more)
Just 4 km from the village and at 1,000m of altitude, surrounded by an exuberant landscape, is the Romanesque chapel of Our Lady of Muskilda, and 14 km away down the Larrau road, are the Abodi cross-country skiing slopes. (read more)
The capital of the valley is also worth a visit. Surrounded by pastures and watered by the Salazar trout river, it still retains the charm of high-mountain villages, with traditional farmhouses with 2 or 3 floors, made from stone and wood and topped off with smoking chimneys and roofs with red flat tiles. (read more)
The D.O. Roncal cheese, the traditional and hearty shepherd’s dish of ‘migas’, fried trout with ham, game meat, spring lamb and springtime mushrooms such as the perretxiko variety, or autumn mushrooms, are some of the mouth-watering options. What’s more, excellent cold-cuts and sausages such as chistorra and longaniza, and organic local products such as potatoes, colt and lamb round off these valley delights. To finish off the meal, there’s nothing quite as digestive as a copica of pacharán, the Navarran liquor par excellence.
Hiking and mountain biking are commonly practised sports in the area. In the Larra-Belagua valley and in Salazar you can also enjoy cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing, and in the Salazar valley there are themed guided tours and itineraries through the Irati Forest by 4x4.