Castle-palace of Olite
Dolmen of El Portillo de Eneriz. Artajona
The memory of stone
This route covers some of the places in the old Kingdom of Navarre. Fortresses, castles and palaces bear witness to its historic importance, while the farm produce (vegetables from the rich fertile plain; wines from Valdorba, Olite and Artajone) offer the visitor the chance to sample its splendid gastronomy.
This is a great place for a weekend break, starting in the town of Tafalla. The old quarter has some fine civil architecture with buildings such as the palaces of the Marquis of Feria (neoclassical, 18th century) and Los Mencos, counts of Guenduláin (17th-18th centuries), as well as the church of Santa María (16th-18th centuries).
We then take the road for ten kilometres to the medieval town of San Martín de Unx, home to the church of San Martín de Tours, which is Romanesque in origin but subsequently renovated. Eight kilometres away we come to Ujué, a medieval town dominated by the Romanesque church-fortress of Santa María la Real.
We leave the Sierra de Ujué mountains and return the banks of the Aragón River, about 25 kilometres further on along the road towards Carcastillo. Two kilometres away stands the Cistercian monastery of La Oliva, a Romanesque walled site (late 12th century) with rooms, cloister and courtyards in different styles: Cistercian proto-Gothic, Gothic and Baroque (18th century).
Twelve kilometres on we come to the walled site of Rada, a medieval village abandoned in the 15th century, where we can visit the ruins (12th-13th centuries) of the castle, a tower, the wall and the church of San Nicolás, next to some current archaeological excavations.
Continuing on along the same road for four kilometres we come to Caparroso, where we take the turning for Tafalla. After ten kilometres, a turn-off leads to the Laguna de Pitillas nature reserve, the largest wetland area in Navarre. The ornithological observatory is the ideal setting for bird watching.
To continue on our route we return to the Pitillas turn-off and after five kilometres we come to the village of Olite, dominated by the royal palace, the old residence of the monarchs of Navarre.
The 'old palace' –today a Parador hotel– is the remnants of the old 13th-century proto-Gothic palace. The church of Santa María la Real (old chapel) was also built at that time. The Gothic 'new palace' (14th-15th centuries) is one of the most important examples of medieval Gothic civil architecture in Spain. In Olite the church of San Pedro (13th-14th centuries) is also worth visiting. This town can be seen at its best in July and August during its Classical Theatre Festival and the Olite Medieval Festival.
The Olite Vine and Wine Exhibition Centre in Navarre is an opportunity to learn more about the wine-producing region we are visiting on our trip, a part of the wines of Navarre Designation of Origin. Visitors in September can take part in the Wine Harvest Festival.
We recommend extending this route with two other side trips where there are also wineries to visit. One is on the way to Artajona (11 kilometres from Tafalla), to visit 'Cerco de Artajona', a medieval walled site (11th-14th centuries) and the Gothic church of San Saturnino (13th century). Only four kilometres on we can see the archaeological site of the Dolmens of Portillo de Enériz and the Farangortea Mine dating from the Copper Age (3rd millennium B.C.).
Another interesting trip is to the region of Valdorba, a land of excellent wines, Romanesque churches and chapels, all within 5-20 kilometres of Tafalla. The churches of San Juan Bautista (Eristain), San Martín de Tours (Orísoain) and La Asunción (Olleta), and the chapels of San Pedro ad Vincula (Echano) and El Cristo (Catalain) are all well worth a visit.