Day trips from Pamplona: Top 10 destinations in Navarre
Navarre has so many charming villages and natural wonders scattered across its geography. Pamplona serves as the perfect starting point for exploring the places I’m about to introduce to you.
1. Irati Forest, the best day trips from Navarre
The Irati Forest, the second-largest beech forest in Europe, is a true paradise for nature enthusiasts and those seeking tranquility. It ranks among the best excursions in Navarre, and exploring it is straightforward thanks to the numerous trails that crisscross the area. You’ll find routes of varying difficulty and duration, and you can access Irati Forest from two valleys: Aezkoa and Salazar.
In addition to hiking, there are many other places to see in Irati Forest and its surroundings. Don’t miss the Irabia Reservoir, the Royal Arms Factory of Orbaiceta, the Arpea Cave, Ochagavía (one of the most beautiful villages in Navarre), and Mount Ori. You can take a day trip from Pamplona or spend one or more nights in the area.
2. Bardenas Reales, a desert landscape that will amaze you
Located just under 100 kilometers south of Pamplona, you’ll discover Bardenas Reales, a landscape that contrasts with the previously mentioned Irati Forest. While the latter is known for its lush scenery and abundant vegetation, Bardenas Reales offers a completely desert-like landscape, featuring several remarkable geological formations.
The easiest way to access this Biosphere Reserve is through the town of Arguedas. The natural park is divided into three areas: El Plano, La Negra, and La Blanca. In the latter, you’ll encounter the most curious formations, such as Castildetierra, where you’ll find the most famous postcard view of Bardenas Reales.
You can explore the park by car, on foot, or by bicycle. Organized tours are also available using quad bikes, segways, or buggies. You can also book a 4×4 tour of the Bardenas Reales.
3. Nacedero del Urederra, one of the best things to do near Pamplona
I had the opportunity to visit this location during my most recent trip to Navarre, and it truly fascinated me. Situated in the midst of Sierra de Urbasa, starting from Baquedano, you’ll encounter the source of the Urederra River. ‘Urederra’ translates to ‘beautiful water’ in Basque, and I can affirm that the name suits it perfectly. Its turquoise waters will captivate you.
To visit this place, it’s necessary to obtain a permit, which you can process on this website. Once you arrive at the location, you can explore one of the riverbanks through a beautiful and pleasant trail. This trail features several wooden platforms from which you can observe various sections and pools of the river. The route covers a distance of 6 kilometers.
4. The Gorges of Lumbier and Arbaiun
Two other places that left a strong impression on me during one of my visits to the region, and which I recommend you explore if you plan to spend at least 3 days in Navarre, are the Gorges of Lumbier and Arbaiun. They are located very close to each other, so you can visit both in a single day. In both places, you’ll discover beautiful canyons carved by water through limestone rock formations.
Regarding the Lumbier Gorge, you can enjoy a pleasant walk that allows you to explore the canyon along the banks of the Irati River. It’s a short route with very little elevation gain. Its easy accessibility makes it one of the best day trips from Pamplona for the whole family. Needless to say, the landscape is truly stunning.
As for the Arbaiun Gorge, my recommendation is to visit it through the Iso Viewpoint, from where you’ll have stunning views of this gorge carved by the Salazar River. You’ll be amazed by the landscape!
5. Royal Palace of Olite, a medieval marvel
If you’re in the mood for a more historical and cultural visit, I recommend exploring the Royal Palace of Olite, one of the most important things to do near Pamplona. It’s located just over 40 kilometers from the capital of Navarre and offers a charming village where you can wander the streets until you reach its incredible palace, which will transport you back to medieval times.
The Castle of Olite was built upon a 13th-century fortress, which in turn was constructed on architectural remains from the Roman era. This castle served as one of the royal court’s seats for the Kings of Navarre. It is divided into two parts: the Old Palace and the New Palace, which you can visit. You can explore it independently or join a guided tour of Olite.
The must-visit places within the Royal Palace of Olite include the royal chambers, the towers, the gardens, and the ice well. Once outside the castle, in the town of Olite itself, be sure to explore the Church of Santa María la Real, the Church of San Pedro, or Carlos III Square. You can also take a break and enjoy a drink at one of its terraces.
6. Elizondo and the Baztan Valley: Navarre’s hidden gems
Elizondo is arguably one of the most charming places to visit in Navarre, and the Baztan Valley, where it is located, is one of the most attractive natural settings in the region. Additionally, Dolores Redondo’s famous Baztan Trilogy has put this place on the map for many readers, thanks to the popularity of her works. This hidden gem is located approximately 55 km to the north of Pamplona.
Some of the must-see places in Elizondo include the Txokoto Dam and Bridge, the Fueros Square, the Church of Santiago, the Arizkunenea Palace, Jaime Urrutia Street, and the Coral Square. Other places to visit in the Baztan Valley include the Bertiz Lordship Natural Park, the Zugarramurdi Cave, Amaiur/Maya, the Xorroxin Waterfall, Urdax, and Erratzu.
7. Zamariain Viewpoint, breathtaking views
The Zamariain viewpoint offers spectacular views of the Aezkoa Valley, located in the northern part of Navarre, not far from Irati Forest. However, what truly captures one’s attention here is the stone balcony jutting out from the cliff, making you feel as if you’re hovering above the valley. Not recommended for those afraid of heights!
If you’re interested in visiting this stunning site, don’t miss my guide on how to get to Zamariain viewpoint, where I’ll provide details on how far you can drive and how much walking is required. I can tell you in advance that it’s a very straightforward route.
8. Ochagavía: one of Navarre’s most beautiful villages
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, you can reach Irati Forest via the Aezkoa Valley or the Salazar Valley. In the latter valley, there’s a charming village that can proudly claim to be one of the most beautiful in the entire region, and I recommend visiting. I’m talking about the lovely village of Ochagavía.
The best way to get to know this northern Navarre town is by wandering through its narrow, cobbled streets. Be sure to visit the Church of San Juan Evangelista, even if it’s just from the outside, and cross the stone bridge over the Salazar River.
9. Javier Castle and the Monastery of Leyre
Now, let’s explore two historic sites in Navarre that, due to their proximity, I recommend visiting on the same day trip from Pamplona. These are Javier Castle and Monastery of Leyre, located approximately 50 kilometers from the Pamplona city center.
The construction of Javier Castle dates back to the 10th century when it was built as a watchtower. Over time, various chambers were added. In 1516, Cardinal Cisneros ordered the destruction of some of them, but they were later restored in 1892 and 1952. This is the birthplace of Saint Francis Xavier, the patron saint of Navarre.
On the other hand, just a few kilometers from the Yesa Reservoir, you’ll find the Monastery of Leyre. The origins of this monastic complex date back to the 9th century, when it served as a refuge for the kings and bishops of Pamplona. Today, it is one of the most significant and well-preserved monasteries in Spain. One of its greatest treasures is the 11th-century crypt.
10. Aralar Range, Pamplona’s Nearby Escape
I conclude this list of the top 10 day trips from Pamplona, Navarre. with the charming Aralar Range, a less crowded but equally attractive natural destination. This rugged plateau spans Navarre and Gipuzkoa territory. It’s a land of myths and legends, which you can see reflected in its numerous dolmens. For hiking enthusiasts, the Aralar Range is also an exceptional place to explore.
One of the places I highly recommend visiting is the Sanctuary of San Miguel de Aralar, located atop the mountain. From here, you’ll have breathtaking views, and you can also explore the interior of the sanctuary, which is worth it. Other activities you can enjoy in this range include exploring the Mendukilo Cave or hiking along the Plazaola Greenway.
Map of day trips from Pamplona: things to do in Navarre
The following map will be very useful if you want to know what to do and see in Pamplona and its surroundings in 4 days, as I have marked all the places mentioned in this article.
Don’t miss my Spain travel guide if you plan to explore more of this country.
I hope this article about the top 10 day trips from Pamplona, Navarre, has been very useful for organizing your next trip to Navarre. If you think I should add another place, don’t hesitate to let me know by leaving a comment or writing me an email. Until next time!