Everyone has its identity. In villages like Burgui or Isaba the echoes of 'swallows' and rafts can still be felt and heard. Swallows is the nickname given to young alpargateras from the Roncal valley that used to walk to the factory in Mauleon (France) every autumn, where they stayed until the spring. This phenomenon, and the black dress rounded off by a white taffeta, justify the nickname. Nowadays, their memory is recalled in the ethnographic museum of the valley
. Isaba is also the major town in the valley and a place chosen by many excursionists to explore the nearby Belagua valley.
The almadías (rafts) were no longer used from the mid-20th century onwards following the construction of the Yesa reservoir. However, every year in spring, Burgui
pays tribute to this ancient trade in the Día de la Almadía
, which has been declared a Festivity of National Tourism Interest. The descent of several rafts along the river ends with the spectacular 'dive' down the weir at Burgui, right next to its majestic mediaeval bridge. The Roncal valley has been able to conserve its historical memory zealously. Ancient trades are very much present in Burgui, which even has a signposted-route indicating many of them.
Near Burgui, Vidángoz
is small, charming village, located off the main road. Every year, at the end of August, it commemorates the celebrated witches' akelarres
(covens) in the festivity in honour of its patron saint. In former times, these characters were common to various towns in the valley and significant recorded documentation still exists on many other legends that have been passed down from father to son.
At the geographical centre of the valley sits the town of Roncal
. It is worth visiting it to marvel at its treasures: stony streets in a Y-shaped layout around the river Esca that drop down steeply from the parish church, from where there is a splendid view of the town. Very close to the church is the museum and house of Julián Gayarre
, where a number of objects related to the famous tenor are stored together with extensive documents on his life. By the road you will find the Wildlife Information Centre
, which brings local flora and fauna to life through audiovisual displays. Outside the centre of the village, the town's cemetery is home to the Gayarre mausoleum
seals the northern end of the valley; its precipitous streets lead to St. Engracia Church, which houses an organ considered to be the best Baroque example of its kind in Navarre. However, this place is mainly known for being home to the Museum of cheese and transhumance
, a tribute to the life and work of shepherds and one of the most outstanding products of the valley, Roncal chees with Designation of Origin
Common characteristics of the the Roncal include its traditions and its numerous opportunities for sports. On festive occasions, the people of the valley proudly wear their magnificent local costumer, for example every 13th July, when they celebrate the Tributo de las Tres Vacas
(Homage of the Three Cows), fiesta that brings it together with the neighbouring Baretous Valley in France and dates from the 14th century. Every 13th July
thousands of people gather round the Piedra de San Martín (St. Martin's Stone) to re-enact the centuries-old ritual, which takes place at an altitude of over 1,750 metres above sea level.
One of the most striking areas in the Roncal valley
is the Belagua valley
. It is the most important ecosystem in Roncal, with mountains ranging between 1,100 and 2,428 metres high. It is an enclave where nature and history blend together. It is also an area where sports lovers can carry out a wide range of activities: hill walking, cliff descent, cross-country skiing, climbing, potholing, etc. You can either do these activities on your own or through one of the specialist companies in the area.
Recommended route to get to know the area around the Roncal valley.