I’ve had it with the city. I’m going to live in the countryside!
This is a phrase that most city dwellers have said at least once when city stresses become too much. When we say it, the mental image that pops up is usually that of a rural paradise. Gentle, rolling hills, green fields, cows grazing in the open pastures, crystal-clear brooks, stone country houses with tiled roofs and pink ashlars.
What comes to mind, is an exact replica of Baztan Valley.
The beauty of these places is that they open the mind to a world of fantasy.
It is true that Baztan is steeped in fantasy, there must be good reason it is protected by the legendary Keeper of the Woods -Basajaun - after all. Here nature dominates everything: the landscape, folklore, the way of life, gastronomy, and festivities.
So, if you need to escape from the city for a few days and put your mindset into country mode, Baztan Valley is just what you are looking for.
You can find it in the heart of the Atlantic Pyrenees, nestled next to France and the Cantabrian coastline.
The joys of Baztan Valley
Flower-adorned, picturesque villages
Flower-adorned, picturesque villages
Nature in its finest abundance
Nature in its finest abundance
Unforgettable local gastronomy and customs
Unforgettable local gastronomy and customs
Let’s start with the must-see locations. Places that you just can’t leave Baztan without visiting.
Elizondo is on that list. The largest town in the valley, its architecture comprising mansions and stately homes reflects the wealth brought back from Spanish immigrants returning from America. The Baroque Arizkunenea Palace, dated 1730, is a fine example of this, currently used as the Baztan Cultural Centre. Be sure to see its beautiful coat of arms and pleasant front patio.
Not too far from here is the Town Hall, with its pretty porch, and the Baroque-style Church of Santiago.
Yet undoubtedly the highlight of Elizondo is walking through its streets.
Stroll down Calle Jaime Urrutia and stop to admire the impressive façades of the houses.
Cross the Txokoto Bridge - scene of the intriguing The Baztan Trilogy - and look upon the façades adorned with flowers, lining the Bidasoa river. The peaceful sound of flowing water in the dam is the ideal backdrop.
Call into the shops (Baztan chocolate and cheeses are exquisite), try out the local cuisine in one of the restaurants, stop by the river to watch the trout swim by...
In short, enjoy village life at true village pace.
The villages in Baztan Valley
We continue our tourism route through the valley, by introducing some of the villages that will leave you helplessly in love with these lands.
A typical picture-postcard village, with a not-so-typical church. This is because the San Lorenzo Parish astonishes visitors with its enormous size.
You can access the church via the staircase that start in the square. This square will no doubt catch your attention with its pretty stone houses with flower-adorned windows.
After walking through Ziga, we recommend a trip to the Viewpoint of Baztan, close to the village, with fantastic views over the central part of the valley. It is very close by and easy to find. It is easily accessed via the regional road. Whatever you do, do not forget your camera!
Introducing the second most populated town in the valley.
As well as its beautiful San Salvador church, the most outstanding aspect of Irurita is its civil architecture, giving visitors plenty to see and enjoy as they stroll through the town. Remember to call past the Duquesa de Goienetxe square, the Jauregizuria Palace and the Casa Gastón.
Also, well worth a visit is the Irurita square, nicknamed “del rebote” - the rebound - thanks to it being the spot where laxoa is played. If your trip to Irurita coincides with a game of pelota, you will see the passion felt by the locals for this sport. Don’t forget to
cheer them on!
Yet another small village with stately architecture and ancestral customs, very close to Elizondo.
Its most outstanding neighbourhood is that of Bozate, known for being the site where the agotes lived - a population that suffered marginalisation, and speculation for a lifetime.
Other worthwhile visits are the Ursúa palace, the Church of San Juan Bautista, and of course, the Santxotena Museum.
This open-air park-museum, filled with wooden sculptures made by Xabier Santxotena - a protégé of Jorge Oteiza - invites visitors to delve deeper into Basque mythology, the agotes and the Baztan Valley. Enjoy the originality of this fusion of art, nature and ancestral traditions.Find all the information here
Near Arizkun, surrounded by mountains - of course - rises Erratzu. This 650-inhabitant village has beautiful hamlets, green landscapes everywhere you look, and plenty of tranquillity.
As well as strolling through the streets to discover which corner is the most charming, we encourage you to walk up the Mountain Pass of Izpegui, where magnificent views await you and a recreation area where you can eat and purchase
If you are looking for a family walk to talk about, keep reading and we will tell you everything about the Xorroxin Waterfall.
Cascada de Xorroxin
If you would rather something more accessible, perhaps an enjoyable family walk through nature, the Xorroxin Waterfall is just what you are looking for.
It is a pleasant route through beech and hazel groves, accessed via the car park in Calle Ubidea in the village of Erratzu. We recommend visitors to park here because it will be easier to get to know the site and help reduce excess traffic in the town centre.
The route is easy but extremely eye-catching, with an approximate duration of just over two hours.
However, it is best to come mid-week or during the off-peak tourism season if you want to enjoy it more peacefully. This spot requires unhurried time.
However, if you're coming in summer, remember that you need to reserve your parking space from this link.
Still want more?
In that case, don’t leave without taking a look at the calendar of festivities and must-see dates in Elizondo and the valley.
Despite its small size, this town played an important role in the history of the Kingdom. Amaiur/Maya was the last stronghold against the conquest of the Castile Kingdom. Despite Navarre losing the independence of its kingdom in 1512, various troops faithful to the Navarrese crown entrenched themselves in the Castle of Amaiur/Maya and faced up to the invading side until they were beaten in 1522.
The town has a linear settlement layout, with the hamlet constructed along a main street.
You will be delighted to see that this hamlet is quite eclectic. You can see examples of all kinds of Baztan architecture in one place. This includes, of course, mansions such as the Arretxea Palace, Borda Palace and Casa Arriada.
The Church of la Asunción - Medieval in origin - and the fascinating porticoed arch that must be crossed to enter the town.
Are you coming in summer?
Remember that it is mandatory to reserve your parking space in the town car park. This is free of charge and includes one entrance ticket to the archaeological museum.
Mentioning the entrance to Amaiur/Maya, very close by you will find another of its attractions: the Amaiur Mill.
This running mill has been producing corn flour since the 18th century, which is still being sold today.
You can visit with a guide - booked in advance - or make the most of your visit to try freshly cooked talos (corn cakes) stuffed with cheese, chorizo or chocolate.
You will love them. Talos and the mill.Looks tasty, doesn't it?
The museum and the castle
To finish with this town, here is some more information to expand on what we have already explained.
You see, the former castle is all but ruins and the monolith that was constructed on the foundations in homage to the brave soldiers that defended the fort against the Castilian troops.
But you are in luck, because the entire history of the castle and archaeological materials excavated from the site are available at the Museum of Amaiur.Direct link to the museum and guided tours.
Panoramic views near Amaiur/Maya
We will leave you with one last recommendation for your visit to Amaiur/Maya.
If you like viewpoints, do not miss climbing the Otsondo Mountain Pass and the Gorramendi Peak.
These two high points offer breath-taking panoramic views made in Baztan with love.
Sites of interest near the Baztan Valley
We finish with a set of plans we think you may like, all found close to the Baztan Valley. You will see that our rural paradises have it all.
Cave of Zugarramurdi
Half an hour northwards from Elizondo you can find the mysterious Cave of Zugarramurdi.
Famous for its legends about witchcraft, akelarres (covens) and devil worship, a visit to this site is a blend of wild nature and Navarrese history that is bound not to disappoint.
To get the most out of your experience in the cave, we recommend a visit beforehand to the Witches Museum, in the historical centre of Zugarramurdi.
Caves of Urdazubi/Urdax
If you wish to continue your cave experience, you can round off your trip with others very close by. Specifically, the Caves of Urdazubi/Urdax.
These are somewhat different. Here you will find an impressive collection of stalactites and stalagmites and large chambers excavated in the rock, in caves dominated by darkness and silence. Simply breath-taking.
You should also be aware - if you have come to enjoy a good hike - of the pretty circular route marked with a small blue horse. This is the Path of the Pottoka Azul, which joins the Caves of Zugarramurdi, Urdax and Sara on a 35-kilometre circuit.
Señorío de Bertiz Natural Park
Just a stone’s throw from the Baztan Valley is one of the largest forests in Navarre.
This Atlantic forest is bursting with life and is criss-crossed with crystal-clear streams. With walks for all abilities, it has a historical garden and other surprises.
Baztan Abentura Park
Great! An adventure park in sight!
That’s right, you read it correctly. Adventures, not attractions.
At Baztan Abentura Park you do not sit in a car to be taken around. Here you have to put in the effort because the activities offered require exertion, such as zip lines, canyon-water park, a mega pendulum, a via ferrata, tree climbing, rafting or paintballing. You will have to get moving to feel the rush. That’s the best bit.
Now you know all this small, pretty valley has to offer...
It’s time to make up your mind: history, nature, adventure... and we hadn’t mentioned this, but the cuisine is mouth-watering and the accommodation charming.
So, no matter how high your expectations, you will see how Baztan ticks all the boxes.Activities in the Baztan Valley
Guided tours The Baztan Trilogy
If you have read Dolores Redondo’s The Baztan Trilogy - or have seen the films - you are sure to love this plan. With the help of the author, guided tours have been organised, which follow the footsteps of the famous detective, Amaia Salazar.
It is a thorough route around the scenes of the novel. The anecdotes and explanations of your guide will plunge you into the plot of the novel set in Elizondo and will broaden your knowledge about the life and customs of the valley.
An unmissable visit if you have been drawn to the town by this story.
Click here to book your visit:
Festivities and fairs in the Baztan Valley
Would you like to make the most of your trip to discover the festivities in the places you are visiting?
If your answer is a resounding yes, be sure to note down three key dates for valley locals. Days of celebration that fill the streets of Elizondo with colour and the bustle of people from all the surrounding villages. They are:
The great festivity of fellowship between the valley’s villages. It is celebrated in summer, on the Sunday prior to the Santiago festivity (25th July).
During the day, floats from the 15 valley villages follow a procession through Elizondo. The themes represented are linked to the culture and customs of the valley.
The craft market, the mutildantza dance in the Council square, the traditional communal meal held in the Market square, and the concerts after the lunch put the final touches on the day that floods the streets of Elizondo with merriment.
There are two livestock fairs in the Baztan Valley: one in spring and the other in autumn.
These fairs have a deep-rooted tradition in the area, and display the finest regional livestock specimens, such as latxa rams, Pyrenean cows and pottokas (ponies).
Markets selling artisan products are also held, with delights including preserves, liquors, soaps, cheeses, cider, etc. As well as other activities, traditional dishes are served, such as baztanzopak, a thick broth made with mutton stock and bread. All this is accompanied by the sound of the txistu.
The spring fair is held on the Friday after Easter, whilst the autumn fair is celebrated on the last weekend in October.
So, if you like local festivities, these are the best dates for you to discover the true spirit of the valley.
Baztan route of the Way of St James
Ooops! We forgot to mention, but many of the places we are recommending are crossed by the Baztan route of the Way of St James.
You didn’t know?
The Way also passes through here!
This is the ancient route followed by pilgrims reaching the Spanish mainland from Bayonne. The route currently crosses Navarre via 77 well-marked kilometres, which follow rural paths, and which link up to the French route of the Way of St James at Pamplona.
Sounds good, doesn’t it?