Routes - Navarre   

These are valleys of steep escarpments wrapped in mist and snow, 2000 metre high summits, all accompanied by an intoxicating greenness, tangled woods and the clear water of its rivers. In the Roncal and Salazar valleys, man lives in harmony with Nature. 

The Pyrenean villages are in the form of stone country houses, hip or ridged roofs, timber framework and beams, paved streets...
This part of Navarre has a lot to offer and is well worth a visit. Leave Pamplona by the road to Zaragoza and, at KM 6.8 take the N240 road in the direction of Huesca- Jaca.You can enjoy viewing the hill of the Higa de Monreal, the Loiti mountain pass, the Lumbier Gorge and the reservoir of Yesa.


After crossing the border with Aragon, take the A137 road leading off to Salvatierra de Esca. It is a narrow, winding road which improves once you reach Roncal. You will pass through Burgui, a delicious Pyrenean village, characterised by its beautiful medieval bridge which still preserves the original arches and, on the almadías day (the day when the traditional rafting to take wood downstream, is relived), it witnesses the almadieros or rafters pass by, reliving what life used to be like just a few decades ago. The church of San Pedro has the old organ of the Monastery of Leire.

Continue on the road to Roncal, a beautiful village that has the honour to be the birthplace of the great tenor Julián Gayarre, and which is also renowned for its magnificent cheese.

Isaba is located four kilometres ahead. It is a municipality that is full of life. As it is close to the cross country skiing tracks and to the French alpine skiing resort, Isaba is always full of people walking through its beautiful streets. Moreover, very close by, each year the ceremony of the Tribute of the Three cows is held.

Take the NA 140 road, crossing the Lazar mountain pass and you will reach Ochagavía. You can have a walk round the village and also discover the Nature Interpretation Centre.

For the return journey, you could take the NA 178 road towards Navascués and continue on to Lumbier, along a good road although it does become very winding at the Iso mountain pass. You will then come out onto the N240 road which will take you back to Pamplona.


Roncal is located high in the mountains. Its houses, decorated with their coats of arms, cling to the narrow, paved streets, crowned by the hermitage of Nuestra Señora del Castillo (Our Lady of the Castle). From there you have a wonderful view of Roncal on the river Esca.

In this Pyrenean village, the curved tile hip roofs crown the houses and a few 17C and 18C noblemen’s houses, without forgetting the 16C Church of Saint Esteban. It could be used as the background for a medieval play. Each of its corners has some special charm to it. You can capture the life of the people, closely related to the pasturelands and woods and the friendliness and simplicity of the inhabitants.

Apart from the obligatory walk through the streets and the Castle quarters, in the Roncal you should also fin dout about the history of the great universal tenor, Julián Gayarre. In his youth, Gayarre (1844 to 1890) was a shepherd. He managed to study music in Pamplona, Madrid and Italy and he conquered the best opera stages in the world. He is remembered in many documents of the time, praising his magnificent voice, and even composers such as Wagner or Gounod exalted his singing. It is a real pity that there are no recordings of his voice that can be heard today. However, we can admire the Gayarre mausoleum, created by Benlliure and located in the cemetery at 600 metres from the village. Gayarre died of an affection of the larynx which, in the final years, prevented him from singing as the great artist knew how to. In his Museum – House we can discover part of his life through the tenor’s personal objects and souvenirs.

To change the subject it is natural that the Roncal, which is so closely linked to Nature, has a Nature Interpretation Centre. It is situated on the outskirts of this village and helps us to understand the magnificent scenery that surrounds us.

Do not forget to try the Roncal cheese, made with the milk from the goats grazing in the Pyrenees, well cured and with a strong taste obtained after a very delicate process. It bears the seal of quality of the Roncal Denomination of Origin. Along the way, many places sell this tasty cheese.

Isaba is the northern most locality of the Roncal Valley. Located below the Ezkaurre cliff, it developed at the confluence of the Belagua and Ustarroz rivers.

It marks the start of the Belagua road, crossing the impressive valley, which originated during the ice age and where winter sports are now practised, such as cross-country skiing or, in the French resort of Arette, Alpine skiing. For this reason, Isaba offers the visitor many tourist services. It is a beautiful village with houses with coats of arms and gothic arches and old bridges. We would highlight the 16C Church of San Cipriano, which has the air of a fortress and with curious red coloured tiles. It has a nice, plateresque style  reredos, a beautiful 1751 Baroque organ and a carving of the Virgin of Idoya with Child.

This Virgin also has a hermitage on the outskirts of the village, a magnificent Renaissance monument.

From the nearby viewpoints you can see a spectacular view, with summits of over 2.000 metres, such as the Anie, the Mesa de los Tres Reyes, the Txamantxoia, the Lakartxela, or the spectacular caustic massif of Larra.

You can get a nice view from the famous Venta de Juan Pito (inn). Very close, next to the boundary stone 262 of the Piedra de San Martín (Stone), on the 13th of July each year the Tribute of the Three Cows takes place. In 1375, a sentence aimed to put an end to the eternal disputes between the valleys, for the use of the water and pastures, with the payment of this tax. Today this is an interesting ceremony. On one side of the frontier the mayors of the Roncal valley stand with their traditional clothing: hat, cape and ruff. On the other side, stand the mayors of Baretous, dressed with the typical French garments and the republican tricolour across their chest. The mayor of Isaba asks the French three times if they are going to pay the Tribute of the Three Cows “with good teeth and hide” in exchange for the use of the water and the pastures 28 days a year. The French confirm that they will do so and the mayor of Isaba promises peace from then onwards. There is even a vet to check that the cattle are healthy.


This is reputed to be one of the prettiest villages in Navarre. Located at the bottom of the Muskilda hill, Ochagavía has developed at the meeting point of the rivers Anduña and Zatogya, creating the Salazar river. The Ochagavía country houses, built in the Pyrenees style, are clustered around the Anduña river and the four stone bridges separating the two parts of the municipality. Two further bridges cross the river Zatoya, embracing the locality.

Its beautiful streets, with smooth round paving, are very narrow due to the cold climate of the Salazar valley in winter. In Ochagavía the people appreciate and take good care of their stone houses, respecting the wood and the old flat tiles used to build the roofs and
the jutting eaves. 

Many houses, some of which are Gothic, Renaissance and Barrack style palaces, even have their own name.

Wrapped in lovely scenery, it is the most populous locality of the Salazar Valley. It is the trading centre of the Valley, with cattle markets and fairs held in its squares. However, apart from cattle and forestry activities, tourism is also important with winter sports and excursions in summer.
At the entrance to Ochagavía you will find a nice Plateresque style cross. A steep slope will lead you to the church of San Juan Evangelista, with a Renaissance reredos which is well worth a visit. It is the work of Miguel Espinal, a disciple of Anchieta.

Close to Ochagavía there are some incredible places which the inhabitants thoroughly recommend. The Iratí Forest is just a step away.

At a turning in the road between Isaba and Ochagavía, the hermitage of the Virgin of Muskilda is to be found. Plainly decorated, it is a clear example of the Romanesque type of construction.

On the 8th September each year, the people from Salazar come there on a pilgrimage. Eight local folk dancers or Danzantes, vividly dressed with bells, multicolour ribbons and conical hats dance the local dances: four paloteo or stick dances, one with handkerchiefs, one traditional jota and a street band with casternets. They are accompanied by gaiteros , the people playing the gaita a type of bagpipes, and by a character called the “bobo” or fool who dances with a two faced mask.

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