Navarra with your dog
Navarra boasts important natural areas that can be visited with dogs, like the Forest of Irati, the Foz de Lumbier and the Bardenas Reales. There is also accessible accommodation for tourists travelling with pets. The downside is that it’s not easy to find bars and restaurants where you can eat, as municipal bylaws in the main towns prevent bar and restaurant owners from meeting this demand.
I was in Navarra in November2018. Pamplona and Tudela were my centres of operation and I visited several places from there. Both cities have a handful of accommodation options if you are travelling with your pet, although the problems start at lunch and dinnertime: municipal bylaws prevent dogs from entering bars and restaurants (even if they’re well-behaved), which in practice means they are off-limits. As confirmed by municipal sources, dogs are not allowed to enter places where food is served – you can imagine the disappointment, with the cold and rain that accompanied us (it rains 132 days a year in Pamplona) without even being to go inside for a single pintxo.
The other unpleasant surprise was that we were unable to find a single tourist attraction where humans were allowed to enter with dogs. We asked in the tourist offices just in case (and they didn’t know of anywhere either).
In view of the situation and without being able to try the tasty local food, we had no choice but to focus our attention on the natural areas of the “Reyno de Navarra” (well, before doing so we went for a walk around the moats of the Citadel in Pamplona, where we dogs are allowed to run around off the leash – this is a huge military fortification built between the 16th and 17th centuries that has now been transformed into gardens). If you go there, remind your human companion that they also have to pick up your poo there.
Our tour around the natural surroundings started to the north, in the Forest of Irati (an hour and forty minutes’ drive from Pamplona), one of the largest and best preserved beech and spruce forests in Europe. It extends from the north of Navarra to the south of France, and we entered from Ochagavía, one of the most beautiful villages in Spain. From there we drove over the Tapla pass, from where you can see the Pyrenees and you get the feeling you’re on the roof of the world. From this same spot you can also see the Forest of Irati between the folds of the mountains.
This forest is nature in its purest form – a landscape of trees and rivers carpeted with recently-fallen leaves – and is without doubt a magical place that you should try and visit once in your life. There is an endless number of trails in Irati. We opted for two short ones: to the Cubo waterfall and to the forest behind the chapel of Virgin of the Snows (you can see some images on my video). And after having lunch at the Casas de Irati (which has a great terrace), we decided to head further to the Irabia reservoir. We dogs must be on a leash, by the way. And in this regard, I should send a lick of thanks to the enthusiastic team that attends to visitors at the Irati tourist information post.
THE FOZ DE LUMBIER
Half an hour’s drive from Pamplona along a splendid dual carriageway lies the Foz de Lumbier – another natural wonder. A footpath takes you through this narrow gorge carved out of the Irati river that has been declared a nature reserve. This is the haunt of griffon vultures, and you will see them flying over the cliffs and above our heads (my human companion was afraid they were coming for me, although the friendly park wardens told us they don’t attack dogs – they only go for “sheep or bigger”). Many protected birds nest in these crags, meaning we dogs must be kept on a leash (although down by the riverbank there’s a certain leeway for us to run around a bit). The cycle track that runs through the gorge (2.6 kilometres) follows the old railway line, including tunnels. On this railway ran the first electric trainin Spain, which linked Pamplona with Sangüesa between 1911 and 1955.
There is a second 6 km path: a footpath waymarked in green and white with wooden posts that goes around the sides of the gorge, returning through the gorge itself.
OLITE, TUDELA AND THE BARDENAS REALES
Heading south, we stopped in Olite (which has a stunning castle that doesn’t allow dogs) and in Tudela, the capital of the Rivera Navarra. We had coffee in Tudela (well, my human companion had coffee) on the Plaza de los Fueros, which was once used as a bullring and remains at the heart of the city’s social life. As we couldn’t enter any restaurants, we were unable to try the region’s famous vegetables.
We discovered some very charming accommodation in the Tudela area – the Aire de Bardenas, a boutique hotel that has received many awards for its design and architecture and is located beside the Bardenas Reales Nature Park. And to top it all, its, dog friendly! We dogs can sleep in the cube-shaped rooms (many of which have a bath in the private garden), but not in the bubble rooms, because these are made of PVC and we might damage them irreparably.
If you’re heading there, don’t miss out on the Bardenas Reales, which is a beautiful nature park set aside as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve (remember though: dogs on a leash). It’s a semi-desert landscape where lots of films and series have been shot (among others, my beloved Game of Thrones). We were there a long time ago, but on this occasion were unable to relive the moment owing to bad weather and the complex paperwork demanded by the Junta de Bardenas Reales. We’ll save it for another time.