Navarre is known for its delicate white asparagus, the Sanfermines, its extensive wine route and its gourmet pinchos, but few know about the incredible natural heritage that the region has to offer. With a wonderful geographical position, Navarre borders the Atlantic Pyrenees, La Rioja, Aragon and the Basque Country. Between the valleys of Aezkoa and Salazar, there is a beech and fir forest of more than 17,000 hectares known as the Irati Forest, the main protagonist of this route. The geography of Navarre is very varied, and among its charming villages, the Renaissance citadel of Pamplona, the numerous reservoirs, rivers and mountains, there are many different tourist routes. Here are two of our favourite routes through the Irati Forest.
The main accesses to the Irati Forest allow us to follow two different routes. The first crosses the Aezkoa valley and the second crosses the Salazar valley. As it is a route that crosses a natural heritage, there are some routes, but not many, as we try to respect nature as much as possible. For this reason, these routes are not circular, and if you want to make a detour to visit some of the options we propose, bear in mind that you may have to repeat some sections. If you choose to enter through the Salazar Valley, remember to visit the Casas de Irati Reception Centre, 24 kilometres from Ochagavía, or the Irati-Abodi Mountain Centre, 15 kilometres from Ochagavía. Both entrances have parking areas, information points and bar-restaurants. If you choose to enter through the Aezkoa valley, however, you must go through the information booth in Arrazola, from where a series of signposted routes start.
...numerous hiking routes of varying levels of difficulty through one of the most extensive and environmentally richest forests in Europe;
...dream villages, sanctuaries, waterfalls and reservoirs;
...centres of historical and cultural interest such as the old Orbaizeta arms factory, the Urkulo Tower and the Ariztoki viewpoint;
Type of route: tourist route
Themes: nature, hiking, culture, adventure
Length: 70 km / 90 km
States / Provinces: Navarra
Tourist destinations: Aoiz/Agoitz, Lumbier, Escároz, Ochagavía, Nagore, Aurizberri/Espinal, Auritz/Burguete, Orreaga/Roncesvalles, Aribe, Orbaizeta, Irati Forest, Itoiz reservoir, medieval bridge of Aoiz/Agoitz, Hermitage of the Virgen de las Nieves, Lumbier Gorge, Arbaiun Gorge, church of San Nicolás de Bari, Orreaga/Roncesvalles
Aoiz/Agoitz is our starting point, a small and charming village with a car park for motorhomes and a 15-minute drive from the viewpoint of the Itoiz Reservoir, a stop before starting the route that you won't regret. In Aoiz/Agoitz you can walk through the old quarter, visit the Palace House of Argamasilla, see the medieval bridge that crosses the river Irati or take a hiking route to the Hermitage of San Román. From here, following the course of the river, we continue our route towards the Foz de Lumbier. Before reaching the nature reserve, you will see a place where you can park, which also has an information point, a picnic area and public toilets.
In the Foz de Lumbier, you can walk along one of the most beautiful greenways in Spain. Greenways are the old disused railway lines that have been recovered and converted into itineraries for pedestrians or cyclists. The Foz de Lumbier is a highlight of our route that you can enjoy by bicycle, on foot, observing the incredible panoramic views, or even bathing at some of the permitted points on the path. If you come in summer, we recommend you to go rafting down the river Irati, a thrilling experience for adrenaline lovers.
20 minutes from the Lumbier Gorge is the Arbaiun Gorge, declared a Nature Reserve and Special Protection Area for Birds, as it protects the largest colony of griffon vultures in Navarre. As it is so large, the best way to enjoy the beautiful landscape is to head for the Iso viewpoint, where you can marvel at the views of this deep canyon and truly appreciate its magnitude. If you dare to go off the route, you can also visit two sites of historical and cultural interest that are quite close to the gorges: the castle of Javier and the monastery of Leyre. We continue our route towards Ochagavía, crossing Nasvascués and Escároz.
The next stop is Escároz, which, like Ochagavía, is the best place to stop and stroll through the cobbled streets of these dreamy Pyrenean villages and take photos. Visit the Gothic parish church of San Román in Escároz and, in Ochagavía, one of the prettiest villages in Navarre, fall in love with the picturesque façades of the houses surrounded by mountains. Just 300 metres from Ochagavía you will find Camping Osate, which has WiFi access and offers numerous activities throughout the year.
Entering through the Salazar valley, after passing Ochagavía, take the NA-2012 road until you reach the Casas de Irati reception centre. Here you will find several services (bar, restaurant, electric bicycle hire, etc.), a parking area and very close by, you can visit a jewel of Irati, the hermitage of the Virgen de las Nieves. There you will also find an information point with maps that will guide you along the numerous signposted paths and where you can find out about the different points of interest that you may come across along the way.
This second route also starts in Aoiz/Agoitz, and here you can also get close to the Itoiz reservoir and experience its magnificent scenery. Instead of going down, we will go up to the Nagore reservoir where we recommend a short circular route of 6 kilometres around the reservoir and discover the 4 treasures hidden along the way: the Hermitage of Santa María de Arce, the Roman Road of the Pyrenees, the Palace of Arce and the Altarpiece of San Julián.
From Nagore we can stop in two picturesque villages with Pyrenean essence: Auritz/Burguete and Aurizberri/Espinal. Here it is worth taking a stroll and observing the stately houses, many of them dating from the 18th century. Both belong to the Pilgrim's Way to Santiago de Compostela, have free parking, bars and restaurants. We recommend trying the local gastronomy. The dishes that never fail are the chuletones (steaks), lamb chops, game stews, mushrooms and trout. In Burguete, don't miss the Church of San Nicolás de Bari, a medieval church considered a World Heritage Site.
If you have done the Pilgrim's Way to Santiago, you know it well. Orreaga/Roncesvalles is an emblematic point full of meaning, culture and history. It has stunning landscapes and is home to the Royal Collegiate Church of Santa María, a beautiful example of French Gothic architecture at its best, from where you can see the Pyrenean mountains at an altitude of over 1,000 metres. If you want to enjoy the best views, we recommend the points of Lindux, Ortzanzurieta or the Alto de Ibañeta.
Among the dream villages of the Aezkoa Valley, we could not leave Aribe and Orbaizeta behind. Two villages completely immersed in nature, where you can appreciate the beauty of the river Irati. Discover the magical bridges of Aribe and, 7 minutes by car from Orbaizeta, the old 18th century arms factory that has been recently renovated. The combination of ruins and wild vegetation make this a magical place where you can take some great photos.
In this area we recommend the Urrobi campsite, located 20 minutes from the Irati Forest. It has 800 parking spaces for caravans and motorhomes, WiFi access and is open from 1 April to 31 October. From Orbaizeta, it is important to go to the information point in Arrazola, where you will find the signposted hiking routes that run through the Irati Forest and will also guide you to the Irabia reservoir. If you are a little tired and prefer to skip the hiking and enjoy the landscape on four wheels, it is also possible to continue with your vehicle to the car park near the reservoir.
Ochagavía/Otsagabia Tourist Office
Bo. Labaria, 21
31680 Ochagavía, Navarre
IRATI FOREST ROUTE