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We propose a long weekend break that is sure to leave you with a lasting impression: a snowshoe weekend at the Nordic skiing resorts of Larra-Belagua and Abodi, in the Roncal and Salazar valleys in the Pyrenees. Winter sports are particularly enjoyable for those with visual impairment with a companion.
Discover the traditions of these valleys, as recounted by their protagonists: the rafters and cheese makers. Enjoy the natural diversity of the Irati Forest, from the village of Ochagavía. Go up to the Romanesque hermitage of Muskilda. The flavour and know-how of the traditional cuisine of the mountain area of Navarra is guaranteed.
At 2,428 metres above sea level, the Mesa de los Tres Reyes plateau is the highest peak in Navarra, while the Tribute of the Three Cows, dating back to 1375, is the oldest tradition in Europe and the Irati Forest is one of the most extensive and best preserved beech and fir forests in Europe.
In the first place, we suggest visiting the Roncal valley, the birthplace of the Navarra-born tenor Julián Gayarre. As an initial contact, discover Burgui, a town marking the entrance to the valley and which overlooks the river Esca. Its cobbled streets include a 4 km long circular “trade route”, to allow you to find out all about the traditional trades such as rafters, bakers, charcoal makers, shepherds and quarrymen. The itinerary includes a number of reconstructions of the settings and objects, and a number of accessible panels with Braille, QR codes that link to accessible websites and to videos in sign language and sub-titles. There's a life-size raft next to the river, which you can climb onto.
Although rafting is one of the least known trades, it is essential in order to understand just what life was like in the Roncal valley up to the mid 20th century. If you book a visit to the small, yet carefully maintained museum housed in the Burgui Town Hall, you'll see that the first exhibit is a reconstruction of a pine forest. You are then guided through the logging process, the construction of the rafts and their descent down the river. Relive with Inma, the museum guide and daughter of one of the last rafters, what life was like in the mountains for centuries, the traditional clothing and the role of women living in the Roncal valley. You can touch a scale model of a raft and a number of objects that will give you an insight into this ingenious trade. Don't forget to ask Inma about the "Roncal valley swallows", just like them, you'll also want to come back.
For the visually impaired, this winter sport provides tremendous pleasure, as it's possible to walk freely with no risk of falling over, due to the huge stability provided by the snowshoes and poles. You simply need to go behind one of your companions and, by the sound of his/her footfalls, you'll know whether you're going up or down, turning or going straight ahead. There's no risk of stumbling because the snow levels out the terrain. It's a really enjoyable activity.
The Larra-Belagua Nordic skiing resort features 6.8 km of marked snowshoeing trails set in an ideal landscape for your winter walks. You can hire material in the El Ferial building. Don't forget to first check the weather forecast and the condition of the roads.
Unquestionably, the best reward for a morning out snowshoeing is to sit down afterwards, have something to eat and get your strength back. In the Roncal valley, there are a number of restaurants where you can enjoy local produce with all the flavour of the mountains. Highly recommended dishes include a bowl of broth, shepherd's breadcrumbs, lamb chops and char-grilled beef and any milk-based dessert. Particular mention should be made of the Roncal D. Origin cheese made with milk from the Latxa Navarra breed of sheep.Saturday afternoon
Start the afternoon by getting an insight into another trade that is essential for understanding life in the mountain area of Navarra: the shepherd and cheesemaker. This Museum located in Uztárroz exhibits all the tools used in the traditional Roncal cheesemaking process and for work with cattle. In the sales room, staff will explain how this exquisite delicacy is prepared and you can taste or purchase this most flavourful souvenir.
Unquestionably, the best reward for a morning out snowshoeing is to sit down afterwards, have something to eat and get your strength back. In the Roncal valley, there are a number of restaurants where you can enjoy local produce with the full mountain flavour. Highly recommended dishes include a bowl of broth, shepherd's breadcrumbs, lamb chops and char-grilled beef and any milk-based dessert. Particular mention should be made of the Roncal D. Origin cheese made with milk from the Latxa Navarra breed of sheep.
Later on in the afternoon, we propose discovering the surprising, nearby Salazar valley. Ochagavía is located some 20 km from Uztarroz. Its Nature Interpretation Centre contains a magnificent model of these valleys. If you lean forward a little, you can use your hands to move over it. The guides at the centre will help you to recognise the location of the towns and villages, the Irati Forest and the Abodi sierra. There are scale models of birds in flight, so that you can learn to distinguish the species inhabiting these nature sites. Listen to the songs of 10 species such as the native White-backed woodpecker or the Woodcock. The team of staff are trained to help disabled persons and anything that you can't see or touch will be readily explained to you. Ask and you'll see.Sunday morning
We're very close to the French border, at the Abodi resort. With your snowshoes on, you can go along the marked trail that covers part of the southern boundary of the Irati Forest. An indescribable feeling of peace and freedom in the middle of the second largest beech-fir forest in Europe. The former Pikatua customs house building is now used to hire snowshoes and poles and to provide information on the trails.Sunday afternoon
To round off this weekend break, we suggest going up to the Romanesque hermitage of Our Lady of Muskilda. If you book a guided tour, Ione Villanueva will tell you all about the secrets of this wonderful Romanesque building. What's more, you can use your hands to admire the carvings on display, made by Ione herself in her workshop. Walnut and oak are shaped into shields, clocks, books and money boxes. The hermitage holds a high relief wooden picture, which allows you to perceive the form of this unique building. Ione has lived there since childhood. It's an endearing encyclopaedia of life in Salazar.