The region of Navarre consists of a single province, also called Navarre. It lies in the north of Spain and is bordered by three other Spanish regions: the Basque Country, La Rioja and Aragon, as well as southern France. Navarre has a total population of just over 600,000 people, about 200,000 of whom live in the region’s capital, Pamplona. Apart from the capital, there are no other significant urban areas.
Navarre is a region of outstanding beauty. Although it covers a mere 10,000 square kilometres, there are sharp contrasts between the Pyrenees in the north and the plains of the Ebro valley in the south. Both the terrain and the climate are ideal for country walks, climbing, mountaineering, and outdoor sports of all kinds including adventure sports.
Navarre shares 130 kilometres of border and nine border crossings with France. Historically, this proximity to another country has meant that the region has been the scene of conflicts, traces of which can be seen dotted about the landscape today in the forms of abandoned castles and ruined fortresses. The proximity of the region to the Basque Country means that, while Spanish is spoken in the south, Basque is spoken in the north and a mixture of Spanish and Basque is spoken between the two areas.
Navarre cuisine is highly influenced by Basque traditions. Pintxos (the northern equivalent of southern Spain’s tapas) are served with drinks. For more substantial fare, try traditional Navarre dishes such as Chistorra (garlic sausage), bull stew, and Ajorriero (a dish made from salt cod, tomato, garlic, and pepper sauce). All of the above should be accompanied by traditional Navarre wines which rival their better-known Riojan neighbours.
Pamplona, the region’s capital, is renowned the world over for the San Fermin festival which is held in early July. Despite the great dangers involved, thousands of visitors from near and far race through the streets as the bulls are herded at great speed to the bullring. Bars and pubs are open round the clock all week, but the prices of accommodation and tickets for the bullfights are not for the faint-hearted!
Although the region has only one airport (in Pamplona) Bilbao airport in the neighbouring Basque Country also services Navarre. Although limited, there are rail and bus connections to the rest of the region as well as to the rest of Spain. Living so close to the border, residents find France equally accessible.