Navarre is the gateway to the Way of St James on the Iberian Peninsula.
A gate that opens onto a land of ancient traditions, wild nature and an exceptional historical heritage.
Reaching Santiago de Compostela is the goal, and we encourage you to achieve it. But starting, taking the first step, is just as important. And in Navarre, you can do it on a ‘Way’ which is certain to change you.
The Way of St James in Navarre in figures
FOLLOW IT AS YOU LIKE, BUT FOLLOW IT.
1004 a 1035
Sancho the Great consolidates the French route of the Way of St James
The Way of St James is declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site
pilgrims a year
6 a 7
days to walk the section in Navarre
3 o 4
days by car to discover the finest culture and nature that Navarre has to offer
The Way of St James is celebrating because 2021 was a Holy Year, and it’s been extended to 2022 as an exception due to the pandemic. The Holy Door at the cathedral in Santiago will remain open to all those pilgrims who decide to start their adventure this year too.
The four routes of the Way of St James in Navarre
Four different routes of the Way of St James pass through Navarre: two branches of the French route, the Baztan route and the Ebro route.
This popular version of the Way of St James takes you from the Pyrenees to Rioja, passing through such emblematic places as Orreaga/Roncesvalles, Pamplona and Puente la Reina.
Besides discovering the rich artistic heritage along the way, getting to see a mediaeval collegiate church, a cathedral with an exceptional Gothic cloister, ancient monasteries and delightful Romanesque churches (read on and find out), you can also enjoy a journey through all the landscapes and good food that Navarre has to offer. Three in one, how about that?
You'll notice how the terrain changes from the green Pyrenees to the gentle slope taking you down into the Basin of Pamplona, and then the lower mountains interspersed with fields of grain and vineyards beyond it. A landscape which turns bright green in spring and takes on the ruddy tones of the vines when autumn sets in, and is, all year round, a delight for walkers.
And as for the food, well, what can we say? We hope you don’t leave before trying the tasty meats and cheeses of the Pyrenees, the pintxos in Pamplona, the red peppers of Puente la Reina, suckling pig in Estella-Lizarra, the wines of the Central Zone and the delicious vegetables grown in the Ribera, which, lucky you, you can order in any restaurant in Navarre.
Because you have to get your energy back and there’s no better way than trying the local fare.
Carry on reading because we’re going to offer you some practical advice and tell you about everything you can do on and around our four routes.
How do you want to do “your Way”?
There are many ways to follow it and many ways to look at it. As a challenge of endurance, a way to find yourself, to meet people, to switch off, to fulfil a promise, to venerate the Saint...
Do it as you wish, but the Way is yours.
Extensive information about different routes in Spain with the Buen Camino guide.
All the practical information you need to do the Way by bike from Bicigrino.
By motor vehicle
If it’s comfort you’re after, follow this fascinating path by car, motorbike or motor home.
A beautiful way to follow the route, but one which calls for greater organisation. Consult specialist guides.
Start out on the Way of St James, start out in Navarre
Have you got a month to do the entire Way? Perfect. Not got so long? No problem. A week is long enough to travel the sections in Navarre and remember this once-in-a-lifetime experience for ever.
Start at Orreaga/Roncesvalles and take your first steps at your leisure, ready to enjoy a week of laughter, experiences, culture, good food, exertion and reward. And mark a date on your calendar to resume your journey and your Way.
Organise your journey along the Way of St James
The Way of St James is a journey on which nothing should be left to chance if you decide to do it on foot or by bicycle. You don’t need much — on the contrary, the less you take with you, the better —, but it’s absolutely necessary to arrange everything in advance. Here are a few ideas:
Point of departure
If you decide to take the more traditional French route, you can get to Orreaga/Roncesvalles and Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port from Pamplona by coach. Another option is to take a taxi from wherever you may be.
And if in addition to where you’re going to stay the night, you want to know what the weather’s going to be like on the Way of St James in Navarre before you go, be sure to check this page.
It’s really up to you. There are loads of hostels and comfortable hotels with a full range of amenities. If you want to know more, find out here about the hostels and accommodation in Navarre.
For real-time availability at a selection of hostels all along the French route of the Way of St James in Spain, see Albergues LOT
If you need medical attention while you’re on the Way of St James, Navarre has an excellent health care system. Find out about it here.
Credencial and Compostela
If you want to demonstrate your pilgrim status, you have to do two things. First, get a Credencial, or pilgrim’s passport, the document which is stamped each day to show that you’re completing the Way of St James. Second, get your Compostela, or certificate of accomplishment, by using your credencial to prove that you’ve reached Santiago by walking at least 100 kilometres or cycling 200.
These are the signs that tell you that you’re on the right path: yellow arrows, the most important signs, because all the branches are marked with them; milestones or markers, which are made of stone or concrete and normally bear the yellow arrow, together with other Way of St James symbols, such as the yellow scallop. There are also traffic signs and information panels to show you the way.
The Way of St James by car
If you decide to do the Way of St James by car, you can make the most of your trip to get around and explore all the destinations we suggest. Spend a whole day visiting the villages of Baztan and trying the food there, spend a weekend in Pamplona to get a taste of city life, focus on the beauty of the Romanesque architecture on the Way itself, or, seeing as how your feet won’t be aching so much, enjoy a hiking trail at your own pace.
134 KILOMETRES ON THE WAY ITSELF AND 146 BY ROAD
134 KILOMETRES ON THE WAY ITSELF AND 146 BY ROAD
FRENCH ROUTE From Orreaga/Roncesvalles to Viana
If you want to take the most popular route of them all to discover the Way of St James, then this is the one for you.
Bear in mind that if you depart from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (France), you can reach Orreaga/Roncesvalles via Luzaide/Valcarlos or taking the Napoleon route. The latter is much harder and is closed from 1 November to 31 March. But both take you through some beautiful landscapes with breath-taking panoramic views.
As you leave the north and its beech forests behind you, you go down to the capital of Navarre, Pamplona, and cross the Central Zone, through fields of golden grain and vineyards which change with the season.
The stops on this route include:
Your first stop is a small village where the influence of the Way of St James lives alongside an epic past, for it was on the surrounding slopes that Charlemagne's troops were defeated by the Vascones in 778. Don’t miss the exhibition centre, where they explain everything about one of the important battles of the Middle Ages.
The landscape is lush and rugged, and if you are passing through on certain dates, Easter Sunday for instance, you can watch the dances of the Bolantes, one of the village’s best-known hallmarks.
Collegiate Church of Orreaga/Roncesvalles
A well-preserved example of French Gothic architecture at a privileged spot in the Navarrese Pyrenees. Walking around the beautiful cloister, admiring the colourful stained-glass windows in the apse and visiting the tomb of Sancho the Strong are all musts on the French route.
And the pilgrims’ mass, the blessing at the end of which is given in as many languages as there are visitors from different countries present, is often packed.
You’re going to fall in love with this historical site, the place where Charlemagne suffered his greatest defeat at the hands of the Vascones.
Auritz/Burguete and Aurizberri/Espinal
Two linear villages with Pyrenean houses to die for. Ernest Hemingway described this as the wildest damn country in the Spanish Pyrenees. And it wasn’t easy to make an impression on Hemingway!
The cemeteries in both villages are curious. The symbolism of their layouts, the funeral steles they contain and the peace they transmit make them well worth a visit.
The administrative centre of the Esteribar Valley is known for its famous mediaeval bridge. Legend has it that animals that walk around its central pier are protected from rabies. That’s why it’s popularly known as the Rabies bridge.
Ahh, the capital.But in case you haven’t, here’s the ABC of Pamplona.
Elegant, walled and very green, Pamplona is well worth stopping off to see. History, art, good food and hospitality all await you here any time of the year.
You probably already know about its biggest attractions — the Cathedral, Plaza del Castillo, the Taconera park, Calle Estafeta, the Citadel — and have heard about its engaging historical quarter, tasty pintxos and wealth of cultural life.
Alto del Perdón
An overlook, 770 metres above sea level, with outstanding views of Pamplona and the Pyrenees to the north, and cornfields and medieval villages to the south.
The view comes with an interpretation panel explaining the history of the site and the Monument to the Way of St James, a life-size sculpture bearing the words: Where the way of the wind meets the way of the stars. Pretty, isn’t it?
Romanesque bridge, Puente la Reina
A majestic bridge that instantly transports you to the Middle Ages. One of the most graceful bridges on the Way of St James. This is where the two branches of the French Way meet before following the same route to Santiago.
And you also have the chance to see the layout of a typical linear town and enjoy the lively atmosphere there, with all the hustle and bustle of so many pilgrims.
The Romanesque and ‘Way of St James’ city par excellence, with architectural gems around every corner. Here you will find palaces, like the Palace of the Monarchs of Navarre, noblemen's houses, mediaeval churches — like San Pedro de la Rúa, with its enigmatic Solomonic column in the cloister —, convents, bridges and beautiful squares.
Our recommendation: take your time to enjoy the place; it’s one of the most charming towns in Navarre.
Monastery of Iratxe, Ayegui
Imagine a drinking fountain that spouts both water and wine. Strange, right? Well, you’ll find one here: the famous double-spouted fountain next to the Irache winery.
The monastery is a set of buildings from different eras — medieval, Baroque, Renaissance — surrounded by vineyards that you just have to see.
Church of Santa María, Los Arcos
A stunning building in a mixture of styles — late Romanesque, early Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque —, all fruit of the changes in tendencies over the time it took to build and renovate the church between the 12th and 18th centuries.
Don't miss the organ, with its painted wooden pipes: a true visual delight in one of the most beautiful churches in Navarre.
Church of El Santo Sepulcro, Torres del Río
A small church with a barrel-vaulted roof that’s sure to surprise you. The octagonal ribbed dome is the church’s most beautiful and original feature, bar, perhaps, its 13th-century figure of Christ.
Enjoy its verticality and harmony, and feel peace invade your spirit.
Church of Santa María, Viana
The last stop on this branch of the Way of St James and the resting place of César Borgia.
Don’t miss the church’s magnificently carved door, a fine example of the splendour of the Spanish Renaissance, to bring the route to a close.
Other routes of the Way of St James in Navarre
If you’ve chosen not to take the more traditional French route and are looking for somewhere else to set off from, there are three other ways to enjoy your pilgrimage.
From Sangüesa to Puente la Reina
From Urdazubi/Urdax to Arre
From Cortes to Castejón
56 KILOMETRES ON THE WAY ITSELF AND 65 BY ROAD
56 KILOMETRES ON THE WAY ITSELF AND 65 BY ROAD
FRENCH-ARAGONESE ROUTE From Sangüesa to Puente la Reina
This second branch of the French route is the continuation of the Via Tolosana and enters Navarre in Sangüesa after crossing the border at the Somport pass in Huesca.
It joins the path of the route which enters Spain via Luzaide/Valcarlos in Puente la Reina. But before you get there, you have kilometres of undulating landscapes with fields of grain, windmills, vast pine forests and beautifully wild gorges to enjoy.
If you choose this route, don't miss:
Church of Santa María la Real, Sangüesa
A Site of Cultural Interest that exemplifies the transition between Romanesque and Gothic architecture. The church’s doorway is one of the pinnacles of Romanesque art in Spain. If you have time to get hold of a tour guide, we strongly recommend you do so. You’re going to enjoy it twice as much.
And while you’re there, a walk around Sangüesa is sure to surprise you, because its streets are home to beautiful, well-preserved noblemen’s houses, churches and convents.
Church of Santa María de Eunate, Muruzábal
A dainty church with an octagonal floorplan built in the second half of the 12th century. It has an original open atrium and a portico with 33 arches.
The church has been declared a Site of Cultural Interest and is the source of numerous myths and legends, all fuelled by its origins as a Knights Templar building.
We cannot conclude our description of this route without pointing out that within 15 kilometres of Sangüesa you can find two gems of Navarre’s architectural heritage and one of its natural marvels, all three of which are well worth taking a detour to admire. They are:
Castle of Javier
8.5 kilometres from the Way of St James, departing from Sangüesa.
The birthplace of San Francisco Javier, the patron saint of Navarre, is an impressive mediaeval fortress visited every year by thousands of Navarros on the Javierada pilgrimages in March.
The castle’s drawbridge welcomes you into a construction with towers, dungeons, machicolations, embrasures and loopholes which transport you back to olden times of religion and war.
Monastery of Leyre
12 kilometres from Sangüesa.
The former refuge of kings and bishops, this austere Romanesque building is a hymn to meditation and spirituality.
Marvel at the 11th-century crypt, admire the lavishly decorated Porta Speciosa and feel Gregorian chants touch your soul.
All in an idyllic setting surrounded by peaceful greenery.
The Gorge of Lumbier
14 kilometres from Sangüesa.
This monument sculpted by nature is one of the wildest landscapes in Navarre. Home to birds of prey, foxes and badgers, this beautiful gorge with vertical walls standing 300 metres tall is the result of the passage of the River Irati.
Declared a nature reserve and very well conserved, the Gorge of Lumbier invites you to stroll along the Rail Trail or just relax beside the cool waters of the river.
86 KILOMETRES ON THE WAY ITSELF AND 69 BY ROAD
86 KILOMETRES ON THE WAY ITSELF AND 69 BY ROAD
THE BAZTAN ROUTE From Urdazubi/Urdax to Arre
A route for those who have already done the traditional route in Navarre or want to try something a bit out of the ordinary.
This route is an old road crossing the Atlantic Pyrenees through the Baztan Valley which was once used by pilgrims coming from the port of Bayonne. Although relegated to the sidelines for years, it has been growing in importance for some time, and many pilgrims now choose it, probably because of the beautiful, gentle landscape through which it passes and the lovely villages and farmhouses that dot the way.
If rolling green hills, mysterious forests and legends of witchcraft spring to mind when you think of Navarre, then the Baztan route is the one for you.
These are the highlights of the route.
Cave of Urdazubi/Urdax
A 14,000-year-old cave carved by the River Urtxuma. The guided tour opens up a world of stalactites, stalagmites, bandits, insurgents and akelarres (witches’ covens).
Put on a jacket and open your eyes wide to enjoy this experience in the bowels of the earth to the full.
Starting from the mill, there is a pleasant 1.5-kilometre walk past farmhouses which crosses the pond and channel before reaching the mythical monolith on Mount Gaztelu, once the site of one of the castles of the old Kingdom of Navarre, of which now only a few ruins remain. The monument reminds us that Amaiur/Maya was the last focal point of resistance against the conquest of Navarre, back in 1522.
This picturesque village boasts a restored mill where you can buy flour, see how it’s made and try some delicious, freshly baked talos (corn flatbread).
Santxotena Museum, Arizkun
An open-air space reserved for art in which the artist Xabier Santxotena pays tribute to Basque mythology and introduces you to the Agotes, an ethnic group native to the village and marginalised for centuries.
Get ready to find out just how creative wood carving can be.
The administrative centre of the valley, Elizondo is a charming town in which stone and water come together to play leading roles. Strolling down its streets past the imposing houses that line the way and trying the town’s famous chocolate with hazelnuts is a great way to have a relaxing time.
And if you're a fan of the writer Dolores Redondo, you’ll love the guided tour of the locations that feature in her successful Baztan Trilogy.
Cave of Zugarramurdi
This legendary cave carved into the hillside is just 8 kilometres from the caves of Urdazubi/Urdax. It’s easy to imagine the akelarres (witches’ covens) which so enraged the Holy Inquisition and saw several women accused of witchcraft and condemned to death by fire.
And if that piques your curiosity, don’t fail to visit the Witch Museum, just 400 metres away in the village of Zugarramurdi.More information about Navarre’s caves
Señorío de Bertiz Natural Park
This spectacular green space with its fine botanical garden and several walking trails is just 7.5 kilometres off the Baztan route, departing from Irurita. More than 2,000 hectares of plethoric nature which will imbue you with peace and positive feelings.
50 KILOMETRES ON THE WAY ITSELF AND 40 BY ROAD
50 KILOMETRES ON THE WAY ITSELF AND 40 BY ROAD
THE EBRO ROUTE From Cortes to Castejón
This historical route, which follows the course of the River Ebro and joins the French route in Logroño, was taken by pilgrims coming from the ports of the Mediterranean. It crosses the south of Navarre diagonally, entering via Cortes and leaving it in Castejón.
This is a route of contrasts that passes through riverside woodland, vegetable fields and desert landscapes. The architecture found on the way is a reflection of the historical coexistence of Muslims, Christians and Jews.
Here are the places in Navarre that you shouldn’t miss on this version of the Way of St James.
Cortes is the southernmost town in Navarre, and its history has been shaped by its position on the border with Aragon. Proof of this is its impressive 12th-century castle, which you just have to see. Its current appearance, more stately than military, is the result of several restorations. Inside, there’s an interesting collection of paintings from different periods. And in the castle’s old vegetable garden, there’s now a park with ducks, geese, swans and a curious life-size chessboard.
If you had to choose the place on the different routes of the Way of St James that pass through it that best represents the cultural melting pot that is Navarre, then that would probably be Tudela.
The second city in importance after Pamplona, Tudela is one of the most important cities of Islamic origin in all Europe. It has a Jewish quarter and important Christian monuments, such as the Romanesque Cathedral of Santa María, which is a building not to be missed.
Other musts include the 360-metre long bridge over the River Ebro with its 17 splendid ogival arches and Plaza de los Fueros, the social hub of the city.
One last recommendation: don’t leave Tudela without trying the delicious vegetables grown there. They’re a cut above the rest!
Bardenas Reales Natural Park
14 kilometres from the Way of St James, departing from Tudela.
A semi-desert landscape, unique in northern Spain, which we can only urge you to visit.
The park, a wild, fascinating place, declared a UNESCO Biosphere reserve, is, despite its inhospitable appearance, home to great natural treasures.
Enjoy the arid beauty of this magnificent Natural Park, whose magic and allure will seize your imagination
Monastery of Tulebras
13 kilometres from the Way of St James, departing from Tudela.
Another first on the Iberian peninsula. This is the first Cistercian monastery built for women, and there are still nuns living here.
A clear example of the austerity of the Order of Cistercians, which inspires seclusion in every corner. Walking beneath the ribbed vault of the cloister and a visit to the Sacred Art Museum are sure to bring you an agreeable feeling of serenity.
The additional highlights of the Way of St James
Each pilgrimage comes with its story; each season has its appeal, and each destination holds different pleasures for different people. Navarre can be enjoyed in many ways and offers you activities and experiences to make yours the perfect ‘Way’:
Try some of the pintxos you're bound not to be able to find back home, enjoy a rosé wine when it’s just right for drinking or try some of Navarre’s most authentic dishes. How long is it since you last allowed yourself a treat?
Wander through an ancient beech forest, contemplate the most turquoise river waters you've ever seen or marvel before a vast desert landscape. Navarre has all this and more
Romanesque architecture abounds in Navarre, with churches, convents, collegiate churches and historical town centres taken straight from mediaeval legends. Discovering the personality of Navarre means discovering its history. And it’s anything but boring.
The gate to the Way of St James is open to you:
Enter through Navarre. Make your own Way