The Gorges of Lumbier and Arbaiun

The Gorges of Lumbier and Arbaiun

The largest sanctuaries for birds of prey in Navarre, lying in the foothills of the Pyrenees

In the Pyrenean foothills in eastern Navarre, at some 40 kilometres from Pamplona, there is a place which, although slightly out of the way, receives many visitors.

And, as is often the case in Navarre, the attraction is the scenery. Yet you're not going to find a desert or a leafy beechwood here.

The allure of this area located in the foothills of the Pyrenees in eastern Navarre, are its two gorges, carved by the Irati and Salazar Rivers over millions of years. So, awaiting you here is a land of rugged walls, whose recesses are home to great birds of prey, among others. 

Were you expecting this?

Well here it is, another wonder of nature in Navarre.

The beauty of the gorges

  • A Rail Trail suitable for all the family

    A Rail Trail suitable for all the family

  • Griffon vultures flying over your head

    Griffon vultures flying over your head

  • Breathtaking panoramic views, to look and look again

    Breathtaking panoramic views, to look and look again

The Gorge of Lumbier

The Gorge of Lumbier

As we've already mentioned, this really striking natural area was carved by the waters of the Irati River. Striking and, it has to be said, with a host of leisure options.

And the first is none other than to get there. Because, if you like winding roads and driving through mountain passes, then you're going to love the route to the Gorge of Lumbier. Particularly if you're coming by motorbike. So, don't be surprised if you come across two-wheel fanatics who take these roads to burn off adrenaline while enjoying some superb scenery.

When you get to the Gorge of Lumbier, you will be greeted by a rugged, green and steep-walled landscape that was declared a Nature Reserve in 1987. But don't let yourself be deceived by appearances, because it's really easy to explore and we'll tell you all about it in just a minute.

But before going into details, you may like to know that you can park your vehicle in a car park that is very close to the entrance to the gorge. In the high season, there's a charge to park - but the rates are reasonable. Next to the car park you'll find an information point, a picnic area and public toilets.

After clearing this up, let's get started.

  • Irati Rail Trail

    Irati Rail Trail

    When we say that the Gorge of Lumbier is extremely accessible, this means that you can explore it on foot, by bike, with a pushchair or wheelchair.

    There's no excuse! It's an outing for all the family!

    The Irati Rail Trail is a flat path running along the former tracks of the electric train linking Pamplona to Sangûesa.

    Its little more than 6 kilometres follow the course of the river and pass through two tunnels hewn in the rock.

    This trail ends next to the Puente del Diablo or Devil's Bridge. A bridge in ruins - destroyed by the French in the War of Independence - which, as the legend goes, was built with the help of the devil. Beware! There's a sheer drop, so approach it with great care.

  • Long trail at the Gorge of Lumbier

    Long trail at the Gorge of Lumbier

    There's a second option to explore the gorge, by taking a longer route. In this case you need to take a local signposted path that runs along the adjacent slopes, skirting and crossing the gorge to return to the car park.

    This is a circular route of some 6 kilometres and with a difference in height of 175 metres, giving you a slightly more extensive view of the area surrounding the gorge.

    But, whatever trail you take, short or long, the stunning scenery, the sound of the water and the soaring of the birds are yours to remember. That's for sure!

And if you feel like taking a tour that goes more into the scenic side of the trail, then stop by the Interpretation Centre to get information on the activities offered by the companies in the area:

Water activities in Lumbier

Another option for exploring the Gorge of Lumbier is, in this case, “to get in”. That is, getting in the water!

If you're there during the hot season and you feel like taking a dip, you can do so at a few places along the path going through the gorge. All the same, remember that this is a Pyrenean river and the water will be pretty cold, so don't crazily jump in.

Or you might prefer to feel the excitement of skimming the waters of the Irati River and exploring the area from another point of view. Well, that's easy to do. In an inflatable raft, for example. The perfect activity for friends or family.

Get more information on this rafting experience
Water activities in Lumbier
Birdwatching

Birdwatching

We've been gradually letting it drop and yes, we are now going to confirm it: the Gorge of Lumbier is a paradise for large birds of prey and for everyone who enjoys seeing them in their natural habitat.

In fact, the rough crags are the ideal refuge for these raptors and that's why they thrive here.

Alpine swifts, peregrine falcons, bearded vultures, golden eagles, eagle owls and, of course, griffon vultures. The latter are the most representative birds of the gorges, with something more than 200 established pairs.

And, best of all, to enjoy the spectacle, all you have to do is to look upwards and observe their flight as you explore the gorge.

The Gorge of Arbaiun – Iso Viewpoint

Gorge in sight!

Yes, there's life beyond Lumbier. Lots of life, in fact, because the Gorge of Arbaiun is the most extensive and impressive gorge in Navarre.

It's just a 20 minute drive from Lumbier. Just take the NA-178 road in the direction of Ochagavía and you'll be able to see for yourself that we're not exaggerating at all.

This gorge, carved by the waters of the Salazar River, is not so accessible as its neighbour in Lumbier. That's why we would recommend enjoying it from the Iso Viewpoint, which allows you to appreciate the sheer scale of the gorge. The viewpoint is a concrete platform which overlooks a precipice. Information panels are available and there's a free car park.

The views: indescribable.

The almost 6 kilometres of walls reaching heights of up to 400 metres has led the Gorge of Arbaiun to be declared a Nature Reserve and a Special Protection Area for Birds.

One more thing. It's our duty to insist that you come with your camera. The beauty of the flora and the spectacular colony of vultures are not easy to find elsewhere, and you're sure to want to instagram them. Don't forget to put the #visitnavarra hashtag to re-post on our social media! And all the more so if you're coming in autumn, when this wonder of nature is doubled.

The Gorge of Arbaiun – Iso Viewpoint
Nature Interpretation Centre in Lumbier

Nature Interpretation Centre in Lumbier

As a final remark on the Gorges of Lumbier and Arbaiun, we would suggest stopping by the Gorge Interpretation Centre located in the town of Lumbier.

There, you'll find all kinds of information on life in the Valley of Lumbier — about its people, professions and traditions - through information panels, audiovisual projections and bibliographical material. Tourist information on the area is also available, so that you can extend your stay for as long as you like.

Check out the activities at the Centre
Visit the area surrounding the Gorge of Lumbier

Visit the area surrounding the Gorge of Lumbier

And while we're talking about extending your stay, we've got a few suggestions for you: We're going to give you a few ideas about places that are relatively close to the Gorge of Lumbier, set to add the finishing touch to your break.

  • Other gorges

    Other gorges

    If you'd still like to visit some more gorges - and it must be said that they really are beautiful - you simply need to head north for continued enjoyment.

    The Gorge of Benasa is the closest - just 10 minutes away from the Gorge of Arbaiun- it is also a Nature Reserve of great biological diversity. The path running alongside the ravine will give you a superb view of the magnificence of its woodland.

    And, just 20 minutes from here, heading eastwards, stands the Gorge of Burgui. Its 3.5 kilometre trail runs alongside the Esca River and takes you to the impressive walls of this gorge.

    Finally, half an hour from Burgui, now in the Roncal Valley, you'll find the Gorge of Mintxate. There's an easy path to walk through the ravine and, when the river flows down swiftly, it offers some stunning views of the waterfalls and cascades.

  • Sangüesa

    Sangüesa

    This town is well worth a visit: although small in size, it is rich in heritage.

    The Way of St James passes through its streets and its economic power during the Middle Ages led to the construction of architectural jewels such as the Church of Santa María la Real (don't miss its incredible Romanesque portal). And also palaces and convents, making a stroll through its old quarters well worth your while.

    By the way, its cuisine is just as delicious, so if you feel like tasting some pochas navarras (locally-grown fresh haricot beans), then this is where the beans are grown and it is therefore the ideal place to sample this dish.

    I'd like information on things to do in Sangüesa

     

    Qué ver en Sangüesa
  • Aibar

    Aibar

    Very close to Sangüesa, you'll find this medieval hamlet, constructed at the time as a defensive stronghold.

    Its narrow, cobbled streets, its noblemen's homes and its arcaded square of the Virgen will guide you up to the top of the village where the Romanesque Church of San Pedro stands. It's well worth going up the hill, just to stroll through the streets and to admire the architecture of this temple.

  • Castle of Javier

    Castle of Javier

    Also close to Sangüesa, this castle is very special for those of us living here. It was the home and birthplace of St Francisco Javier, the patron saint of Navarre, who was born there in 1506.

    In his honour, the Javieradas are organised each year: two pilgrimages to Javier during the month of March, which gather together thousands of people from Navarre to worship the saint.

    In your tour of the castle, you'll discover the main parts of this medieval fortress: towers, dungeons, machicolations and even a drawbridge, taking you back in time in a blink of an eye.

    What can I do in Javier?

     

    Qué puedo hacer en Javier
  • Monastery of Leyre

    Monastery of Leyre

    Just 25 minutes away from the gorge, there's the option to visit this corner of Navarre in which nature and the peace of the monastery go hand in hand.

    An austere architectural complex that shelters the tomb of kings of Navarre, a unique Romanesque crypt, the beautiful, medieval Porta Speciosa doorway and, of course, the powerful Gregorian chants of the Benedictine monks.

    A visit that will comfort your spirit, regardless of your beliefs. There's no doubt about that.

    What to do at the Monastery of Leyre

    Planes en el Monasterio de Leyre

¿Te animas?

Venga, que si vienes a visitar Navarra es porque la naturaleza te hace tilín. Y esta es una excursión im-pres-cin-di-ble por nuestros paisajes.

Así que ponte las botas y coge los prismáticos, que las foces de Lumbier y Arbaiun tienen ganas de conocerte.

Mira todo lo que puedes hacer en la zona de las foces de Lumbier y Arbaiun

Ver todos los planes de la zona

I've done that... But what if I want to do other things as well?

Well, if you want to extend your stay, don't worry, there're loads of things to do.

  • Irati Forest

    Irati Forest

    A beech and fir forest with magical shades, in which nature, sport and beauty reign.

  • Baztan Valley

    Baztan Valley

    A land that's always green, in which nature and the beautiful villages eclipse all else.

  • Collegiate Church of Orreaga/Roncesvalles

    Collegiate Church of Orreaga/Roncesvalles

    The most beautiful entrance to the Way of St James, opens its doors to you too.