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The Navarran Pyrenees


East of Pamplona, the Navarran Pyrenees bite a hundred-kilometre-wide chunk out of France. While the frontier itself is lined with jagged 2000m peaks, most of this area consists of lush green uplands rather than impenetrable mountain fastnesses. For travellers, it’s most readily explored as a driving day-trip from Pamplona, though several of the pretty and fundamentally similar villages along the way can also make appealing overnight stops. Each tends to have at least one little hotel, to cope with the steady trickle of pilgrims en route to Santiago.

Ever since the Middle Ages, the obvious route between Navarra and France has been to follow the Roncesvalles pass. As immortalized in the Song of Roland, Charlemagne was retreating this way in 778, after laying Pamplona to waste, when Basque warriors ambushed his forces and killed the noblest of his French knights, Roland himself.

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