The imposing Kingdom of Navarre, forged over the centuries in a thousand battles, came to have more than one hundred castles which, from north to south, protected it from enemy incursions. Its strategic location and the fertility of its lands, inhabited mainly by peasants and cattle ranchers, forced the different medieval kings to erect defensive bastions, fortresses, castles and walled enclosures which, since the 9th and 10th centuries, have grown in number and importance with the mission of defending the kingdom and its people.
The Route of the Castles and Fortresses of Navarre takes us through almost all of this beautiful land of Navarre, transporting us back in time through the different periods of its history. The wars that took place and the efforts to keep Navarre under control considerably reduced the number and state of these fortifications, many of which were demolished or stripped of their defensive bastions. Fortunately, some of them have managed to reach the present day, allowing us to learn about the history of this land through visits to gallant palaces and castles, to visit imposing defensive fences or to reconstruct heroic fortifications on their ruins, in our imagination.
To the northwest of Navarre, on top of a watchtower with the beautiful village of Maya-Amaiur at its feet, the ruins of this important castle await us, witness to bloody and heroic battles, whose existence dates back to the 12th century, until little more than the 16th century when it was demolished. Symbol of the Navarrese character, today archaeological works have been developed that are bringing to light part of the history that treasures this fortification in charge of guarding and protecting the passage of the Pyrenees on which it sits. From its exclusive location it dominates part of the Baztán Valley and the mountains that box it, while we observe the quiet passage of pilgrims who walk the Way of Baztán towards Pamplona and we put ourselves for an instant in the skin of the last warriors who defended this castle from the Castilian siege.
Following the course of the Pilgrim's Way to Santiago through the N-121-B road, we head towards the nearby Irurita where a clear example awaits us of the Cabo de Armería type palaces that populate Navarre's lands and that were generally built from the 14th century onwards. The Palace of Jauregizuria, as it is also known, has undergone several modifications and extensions over the years but still conserves the essence of these constructions that housed noble lords in charge of its defence and that of the adjacent lands. In its interior we will be able to discover through the patrimony that conserves as it was the life in those tumultuous years. Not far from Irurita we will find the Palace of Jauregizarrea and the Tower-House of Donamaria, the latter somewhat apart from the national one that will take us to our next stop, two examples of different styles of defensive constructions that also occurred in the old Kingdom of Navarre.
We set out again this time to head towards the capital of Navarre following the N-121-A road that will take us without loss from Oronoz to our destination after crossing the port of Belate. A national monument, Pamplona's walled complex is one of the best preserved in Europe. Once there, we can tour the city and immerse ourselves in the interpretation centre of Pamplona's fortifications, where we can get an idea of how these constructions have evolved at the same time as the techniques of war. The Citadel is a veritable open-air museum that tells us about the history of this noble town, its castros, its bastions, in short, part of the ancient and recent history of Navarre. The different periods of history are reflected in the more than five kilometres of walls, different architectural styles, such as that of the Renaissance Citadel, which adapted to forced marches to the modern techniques of combat of the different enemies that besieged or could besiege this important square.
We bid Pamplona farewell with the difficult mission of choosing the course to follow, on the one hand the monumental castles of Olite and Javier, and on the other more modest but equally important constructions, such as the castle of Monjardín. We set our course towards this Jacobean locality by following the Camino dual carriageway that links Pamplona with Logroño, a dual carriageway that takes us past notable squares where we cannot fail to make a stop on our route. Puente la Reina or the monumental Estella that tempts us with the vestiges of its three castles and the fortress churches of San Pedro de la Rúa and San Miguel are two clear examples. Enjoyed of its charms, the old Muslim fortress of Monjardín welcomes us on top of the hill on which it is perched. This old fortress, which was used during the Carlist Wars, preserves inside the chapel of the Holy Cross parapetada behind the strong walls that protect it.
Returning to the Way dual carriageway and without leaving aside the interesting option of visiting Viana and its walled historic quarter, we set course again towards Estella to take the road that joins it with Tafalla, a road on which shortly after passing by the town of Larraga we will find the detour that takes us to Artajona. Before reaching this town in Navarre, we are already surprised by the promontory on which the walled enclosure that we are about to visit sits. To get to the Cerco with our vehicle, all we have to do is cross the locality, which extends at its feet, following the road that connects it with Pamplona until we find the track that climbs to the well-cared for Cerco de Artajona. This fortified enclosure, which still conserves nine of its towers, dates from the beginning of the 11th century. In its impregnable interior, the church-fortress of San Saturnino stands out. Together with its slender tower, it forms part of the defensive framework of Artajona.
Returning to our time, we set our course again towards Pamplona, at least for a few kilometres, along the road that joins it with Artajona, just before joining the national road that joins Tafalla and Pamplona, taking a detour towards Olcoz to get to know its fortified tower. Built back in the 14th century, it has undergone several modifications, as can be seen from the windows and doors that still retain their sturdy walls. Walls that survived the events of the War of Independence and the troops that passed through here. Its apparently simple walls are loaded with symbols that tell us about the influences that characterize this, apparently, simple military construction. From the top of the tower, the lands surrounding it are dominated, giving it a great strategic value in its time.
Resume the march by joining the N-121 on its way to Pamplona for nothing to pass through the town of Campanas, divert to the nearby Tiebas, which we will cross by its main street until we reach what was once a colossal castle. Home to various Navarrese monarchs, royal archive and even prison, not much remains of the ancient splendour enjoyed by this fortification, which had rooms decorated with brightly coloured tiles and varnished roofs. Built in the 13th century, this castle palace was organised into three different defensive levels, of which the palace occupied the upper level. The little that remains of all this today gives us an idea, together with the relevant explanations, of the day-to-day running of the castle within its walls.
Again in march we say goodbye to Tiebas while we follow the road that communicates it with Urroz Villa and that will take us to the highway A-21 between Pamplona and Jaca by which we will continue until Yesa where we will abandon it to set course to the nearby Castle of Javier, snatched to the crown of Aragon by Sancho el Fuerte. Cradle of the patron saint of Navarre, this well-kept castle saw its stately homes grow between the 13th and 15th centuries until it was partially demolished back in the 16th century. Luckily, at the end of the 19th century it began its restoration process, which has made it reach our days in a very good state of conservation, becoming one of the symbols of Navarre and the Navarrese. Next to it we can contemplate the Neo-Gothic basilica, with which it competes, with the paintings of the dance of death inside the tower of Christ. Towers, dungeons, matacanes and loopholes which, although restored, make us put ourselves in the shoes of the knights and ladies who passed through here over the years.
Once you have experienced part of the history of Navarre reflected in the Castle of Javier, it is time to continue the route to our next stop. The road that brought us to Javier is the one in charge of leading us without detours to Sangüesa of whose medieval enclosure unfortunately already little remains. From the palace that extended from the Calle Mayor to the current Avda. de los Príncipes de Viana we can only contemplate its back façade marked by towers. In what was its main face now we find the not less notable consistorial house, of Renaissance style, that together with the different components of the cultural and architectural patrimony of Sangüesa give us a clear idea of the importance and transcendence with which this square counted in times of the Navarrese kings.
We say goodbye to Sangüesa, heading towards the beautiful town of San Martín de Unx, just before we reach it, we take a detour to the place where the most challenging castle was located, due to its location on the border with rival kingdoms, of all those owned by the ancient King of Navarre, demolished after the conquest of Navarre by Ferdinand the Catholic. Today we can enjoy the temple that formed part of this strong fortification and its erect towers, as well as the remains of the old castle that successive excavations have brought to light. Even so, we are in front of a true national monument, with peculiarities that make it unique, such as the vaulted round that surrounds the nave of the church or the south portal of the 14th century, a masterpiece of Gothic, which together with other parts of its structure give this sanctuary the appearance of an impregnable medieval fortress.
We left Ujué, also famous for its prized gastronomy, to return to the road that led us to San Martín de Unx, a town that is well worth a stop on our way. From there we will take a direct route to Olite, where one of the most famous castles-palaces in Navarre awaits us. Here we can contemplate almost like nowhere else the different periods through which the castle has passed and how they have been influencing its physiognomy, from its time of splendour to the decadence that almost ends with it, and each one of them has undoubtedly provided the different nuances that make this castle-palace the jewel that it is today. The Mirador del Rey, the Queen's Gallery, the Three Crowns Tower, the Four Winds Tower and the Old Palace are some of the architectural treasures with which the Castle of Olite entertains those who visit it.
We start from the monumental Olite with the obligation to choose the route we must follow to reach our next stop. We can either take the well-known N-121 to the outskirts of Caparroso, where we take a detour, or head towards Peralta, where we will find the roads that lead to Marcilla and its castle. The Marquise Ana de Velasco prevented this modern castle from being demolished back in the 16th century. Thanks to this, we are perhaps in front of one of the best preserved of all those who make up this route. After several reforms, that recovered for example the spectacular moat that surrounds it, it has arrived up to our days like headquarters of the municipal corporation. Without a doubt we are in front of a real jewel in terms of defensive constructions is concerned that keeps and has kept unique treasures inside, such as the armor of the condestable Pirres or the same Tizona which empuño the Cid Campeador.
We return to the route to the outskirts of Caparroso, where the road that leads to Mélida and Carcastillo awaits us. At the top of a watchtower, shortly after leaving Caparroso behind, we are surprised by the remains of the uninhabited area of Rada, still protected by the walled enclosure that surrounds it. So we leave the road to climb the track, perfectly conditioned, which leads to the gates of the wall, from where it dominates perfectly when it happens around the zigzagging river Aragon. We are in front of a town that dates back to the late medieval period in which archaeological excavations have brought to light the remains of the cistern, the necropolis, as well as the houses and streets that made it up. From the top of this watchtower we are tempted to visit the disappeared castle of Santacara, a short distance from where we are and where the enormous wall of its tower that still stands allows us to get an idea of the imposing dimensions that this fortress had for the medieval period to which it belonged.
Whether or not we follow the recommended idea of approaching Santacara, we must return to Caparroso to set our course for Tudela, another noble Navarre town which, together with its Santa Bárbara watchtower or its Monreal Tower, is well worth a visit. From Tudela through the N-232 that joins it with Zaragoza, we will arrive at the road that gives access to the nearby Cortes. There awaits us, in the heart of the town, its restored castle dating from the twelfth century. Although its initial military character was gradually hidden behind successive reforms to adapt it to the tastes of the different monarchs and tenants who inhabited it, it still gives an image of robust and impregnable thanks in part to its homage tower or the loophole wall that surrounds it. The old palace garden is today a pleasant public park that delights those who visit it. This castle marks the point and followed by this route of the castles and fortresses of Navarre which could well be extended with the castle of Ablitas, the castle of Peña, the palace of Arazuri...
Map of the route
This map is a sketch made as an example of the route, in no case represents the best or the only itinerary to follow. Its development has not taken into account the current rules of circulation or the state of the places through which it passes and that could affect its layout.
Muy interesante, alguno de ellos todavía no los conozco así que me los apunto para vistarlos.
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The Kingdom of Navarre, in its period of greatest splendour, extended its domains along territories belonging today to the autonomous communities of the Basque Country, Castile and Leon, Aragon, La Rioja and Cantabria.
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A visit to the towns of Puente la Reina, Estella, Tafalla or Tudela, among others, all of them have a rich and interesting artistic and historical heritage that will allow you to learn more about the history of this land.
Distance of the route
378 Km This figure may vary depending on the route we follow.
Duration of the tour
8h 50min It is the approximate time that will take us to carry out the visits, without counting the displacements between each place.
Time of year
All year round. We will find different attractions throughout the year.
Historical, cultural and landscape. This route gives us to know part of the history of each place, next to the landscapes that surround them.
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Route information updated on 18-10-2018. The route may vary greatly depending on the time of year, weather conditions and terrain, as well as the actions of third parties and the evolution suffered in the natural environment where it is located. All opinions, advice and/or assessments made by SENDITUR in their descriptions are for guidance only and are subject to and/or refer to the specific conditions of the specific day of the route, referring to that specific day, taken from trained people, with the appropriate experience and with a high level of physical and technical preparation as a reference, as well as correctly equipped.
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