The mountains and valleys of the Pyrenees of Navarre are home to beautiful and mysterious places, once difficult to access, which together with legends, myths and beliefs or the magical art of using the power of nature to alleviate ailments and even cure diseases led to a true witch-hunt.
Navarre in the 16th and 17th centuries carries with it an intriguing history linked to witchcraft, a fearful society that saw witches flying and laughing in their covens, knew people disturbed by their concoctions, or had terrifying encounters with the devil himself. The route of Navarre's witchcraft takes us through the different places that form part of the magical and mysterious history of this land, imposing caves, inquisitive towns that served as the setting for the persecution and burning of witches and sorcerers, lush forests in which pilgrims had dark encounters with evil or palaces and towers in which the accused were imprisoned and confessions were obtained, are a small sample that extends throughout villages and valleys that in one way or another are part of the history of witchcraft in Navarre.
There are not a few villages and places where accusations of witchcraft were made, the town of Zugarramurdi was a silent witness of the biggest witch hunt in Navarre, it is said that in its cinematographic cave many witches and sorcerers gathered to celebrate great witches' sabbaths and invocations to the devil. The Cave of Zugarramurdi or Cave of the Witches, as it is known, allows us to discover a magnificent natural spot formed by the erosive action of the river that runs through it, a place that undoubtedly impressed the people of the area, as it does even today with the visitor. Its enormous gallery with the high entrances, the stories and legends linked to it and undoubtedly our own imagination, make this cave a place with an almost magical atmosphere and full of mystery. The Museum of Witchcraft is another of the obligatory stops, located in the same Zugarramurdi shortly before arriving at the cave, will transport us to another time in which we will be enveloped by witchcraft or persecuted by the Inquisition, allowing us to know in more detail what happened in relation to witchcraft.
Returning to the real world we will head towards our next stop, the nearby town of Urdax, in whose monastery many complaints and trials against witchcraft were plotted. For this we have two options, the first is to venture to follow the Path of the caves, a route that links the caves of Urdax, Zugarramurdi and Sara in France and that takes us to travel the distance that separates us from the caves of Urdax. The second one we will do with our vehicle following the NA-4401 direction Dantxarinea, for about 4 km from Zugarramurdi take the cement track that will avoid us to make a bigger turn leading us directly to the Caves of Urdax, also known as the Caves of Ikaburu. This complex of caves, of which only one is visitable, has its origin more than 14000 years ago and has been a refuge for smugglers and guerrillas on a par with the epicentre of myths, legends and spells. In truth, they are a magnificent natural heritage in whose entrails vestiges of ancient civilisations have been found, making this place the most important prehistoric site of the Upper Palaeolithic period in Navarre. Continuing on our way, we will quickly find ourselves on the road that takes us to the nearby Urdax, an obligatory stop on the Pilgrim's Way to Santiago. In the Monastery of San Salvador, from the 9th century, now converted into a church, the arguments that caused the Auto de Fe that took place in Logroño in 1610 were developed. The noble houses with coats of arms, the medieval bridges and even an old mill from the 18th century, where they showed us the process of traditional milling of wheat and corn, form part of the rich architectural heritage that this locality possesses.
We say goodbye to Urdax to return on our steps to go to the meeting of the N-121-B leaving behind the access to the Caves of Urdax where we arrived. A long stretch of road awaits us in front, in the direction of Pamplona, which will take us past the monolith of Mount Gaztelu, the place where the Castle of Maya, the last bastion of Navarre's resistance to the conquest of Castile, was located. The town of Arraioz awaits us with its medieval palace-towers, including the Palace of Jauregizarrea, a place where women accused of witchcraft were imprisoned and subjected to a thousand and one torments to confess their acts of witchcraft. This town has three well preserved palaces, including Jauregizarrea which we find on the outskirts of Arraioz on the other side of the national by which we arrived. As in Arraioz, the edicts of the Inquisition of Logroño and the people and clergy of all the towns of Cinco Villas, Baztan and Bertizarana contributed to not a few lawsuits against witchcraft that spread through towns such as Bera or Santesteban. In their eagerness to fight evil, in those places that were known to be cursed, magical rituals were carried out, chapels or crosses were erected, which still persist today.
We continue our way towards our next stop that makes us leave Arraioz heading towards the nearby town of Irurita, and from there follow the road that leads to Eugi. A nice route that will allow us to enjoy the leafy forests that populate the mountains of this part of the Navarrese Pyrenees while we get an idea of the particular environment that enveloped the cases of witchcraft that we are knowing. Eugi, with his ammunition factory, gives us a different point of view of this land full of history, while Zubiri awaits us at the foot of the Erro hill, a resting place for many pilgrims on their first day of pilgrimage. From here our route follows closely the steps of the Camino de Santiago in a route that takes us to pass through Erro, Bizkarreta and Espinal before reaching Burguete. It is in this locality where, in its square, the burning of several men accused of witchcraft took place, in addition the Forest of Sorginaritzaga was also witness of witches burning due to the akelarres that were practiced in it, reason for which it is known with the name of the Robledal of the Witches.
We follow the itinerary in the opposite direction to that brought by the pilgrims, once fearful witnesses of satanic rites and evocations to the devil, to head towards the next Roncesvalles where another of the haunted forests that make up this route awaits us, the forest of Basajaunberro. There are not a few mythical characters who live in the Navarrese forests, each one with its own special singularities and this forest could not be an exception. But beyond legends and traditions, Roncesvalles and Burguete are united not only by the Pilgrim's Way to Santiago but also by the help and defence that the canons of the collegiate church made of their neighbours of Burguete when they were accused, in their entirety, of practising witchcraft.
We take up again the itinerary following the road that brought us here, to find us shortly after leaving Burguete with the road that will take us to our next objective, the town of Ochagavía in the Selva de Irati. We go along the same limits of the spectacular Irati Forest towards the magical valleys of Salazar and Roncal, witnesses of numerous processes against witchcraft, in many of the cases interested or malicious. Ochagavía did not escape from these accusations until the mayor of the locality himself was accused of celebrating, together with witches and sorcerers from other localities, night akelarres in the place of Muskilda, where today stands the hermitage of the same name erected to contain the evil that existed in that place. This is a small sample of what happened in Navarre at that time, witchcraft, accusations and processes or witch burnings that can be found in many other localities, such as Burgui or Vidángoz and that was not only limited to the mountainous Pyrenean area but also extended to municipalities in southern Navarre as Bargota whose parish priest, the sorcerer Johanes, was one of the most famous figures of witchcraft in Navarre, or Viana where the accusations of witchcraft were related to the akelarres that should take place in the natural setting of the lagoon of Las Cañas, in the middle of the border with the kingdom of Castile. It is in this border of kingdoms where, in Logroño, was located the headquarters of the Court of the Holy Inquisition in charge of settling most of the cases of witchcraft that occurred along the Navarrese Pyrenees.
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.
Bonito recorrido, impresionante la Cueva de Zugarramurdi
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Every July the inhabitants of Bargota celebrate the Week of Witchcraft in which they decorate their town as if it were from the sixteenth century as well as carrying out numerous activities related to magic and witchcraft. Market with stands of potions, activities of child witchcraft, covens or the corner of the Inquisition are some of the attractions of this week dedicated to the enigmatic world of witchcraft.
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The Descent of the Witch with which Vidángoz begins its festivities every year at the end of August. At midnight and around a large bonfire, dressed like the ancient witches, the locals welcome the witch Maruxa, who descends on her broom to tour the village, inaugurating the festivities.
Distance of the route
132 Km This distance corresponds to the total number of road sections separating each place.
Duration of the tour
3h 00min It is the approximate time that it will take us to travel the distance that separates us from each place, to which we will have to add the time that we dedicate to each one of them.
Time of year
Autumn, spring and summer, although we will find different attractions throughout the year, in winter it is very probable to find snowy sections of road.
Historical, cultural and landscape. This route takes us through different corners of Navarre that mix history, traditions and legends with the beauty of its landscapes.
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Route information updated on 18-07-2019. 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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