Peppered with imposing medieval castles, fortresses, and highly varied natural landscapes, Navarre is a great destination for rural and cultural tourism.
This captivating Spanish region is mostly known for the celebration of the annual San Fermin festival. The running of the bulls is a major event in the region and is accompanied by parades, fireworks, and traditional sports competitions. While the majority of tourists flock to Pamplona for this event, the rest of Navarre remains a well-kept secret that is definitely worth exploring. Prepare to discover densely forested areas, bucolic rural landscapes, traditional Basque architecture, and a tightly packed cultural agenda.
Navarre's geographic diversity means that the region has three markedly distinct climate zones. The south is extremely dry and arid, and in fact is home to a large semi-desertic area that resembles the North American Grand Canyon. The central plains enjoy an almost Mediterranean climate, with hot and dry summers and cool winters. The north of Navarre receives cold air masses from the Atlantic Ocean and from the Pyrenees, which cause mostly cool, wet, and unpredictable weather all-year-round. November and April are the wettest months, and July and August are the hottest.
Visitors should keep in mind that Pamplona receives over 100,000 visitors during San Fermin, so travellers planning a holiday in Navarre in July are advised to make bookings well in advance.
Whether you are in the capital city or in a remote town in Navarre, you will be surrounded by splendid architecture and by the perfect integration of urban and natural landscapes. Navarre's cities and towns are on the small side and not heavily populated, so the region is ideal for those who need a break for the hustle and bustle of the daily routine. There is a pervasive small-town feel everywhere in Navarre, which becomes stronger the farther north you go. In the areas that border the Pyrenees, isolated valleys and dense forests covered in fog offer an unforgettable natural spectacle.
This landlocked region is rich in natural resources, and unlike the majority of European regions, Navarre's forested areas have been constantly increasing over the past two decades. Today, there are over 700 million trees in Navarre, which support a large population of birds. The region is therefore an ideal destination for nature lovers and bird watchers, as well as for those looking to relax in a truly impressive natural environment.
Navarra is criss-crossed by the so-called vias verdes (green paths). These consist of walking and cycling trails that link several attractions known for their cultural, historical, and natural value. Cross-country skiing is popular in the north.
Hearty and richly flavoured are the adjectives that best describe the local gastronomy. Navarra is a major vegetable producer, so the local dishes feature freshly sourced produce like asparagus, bell peppers, artichokes, and white beans.
Cold meats, wild game meat, and freshwater fish dishes are also popular. Some regional specialties worth sampling include menestra, a vegetable and bean soup similar to Italian minestrone; cogollos de Tudela, romaine lettuce hearts served with a vinaigrette sauce and anchovies; cocido tudelano, a filling stew made of broad beans, vegetables, and pork; perdices al chocolate, partridge in a chocolate sauce; and pisto, a stewed vegetable dish made with potatoes, courgettes, green peppers, and tomato sauce.
The northern valleys in Navarre are home to large dairy farms, so cheese and dairy products are widely used in the local cuisine. Some of Navarre's best cheeses include Idiazabal, Roncal, Lesaka, Cabanillas, Urbasa, and Ribaforada. Dairy products are common in desserts too, with the most typical being cuajada (milk curd sweetened with honey) and muxu goxo (an egg and milk custard)/
Local wines are full-bodied and aromatic. The most renowned are Palacio de Otazu, Beramendi, Pago de Larrainzar, and Lezaun Tempranillo.
Size: 10,391 square kilometres
Population: 644,477 people
Capital city: Pamplona
Provinces (Comarcas): Noroeste, Pirineo, Pamplona, Tierra Estella, Navarra Media Oriental, Ribera Alta, and Tudela.
Landscape: vast agricultural valleys and farmlands in the centre and east; beech forests and rugged mountainous terrain the north; semi-desertic areas and badlands in the south.