Biking in the Bardenas Reales
Patxi Uriz. Fotografías cedidas por el Archivo de Turismo 'Reyno de Navarra'
Biking in the Bardenas Reales
Come with us by mountain bike and discover the highlights of the Bardenas Reales steppe ecosystem, in the southeast of the Region of Navarra. Enjoy a magical, desert landscape, with weird and wonderful rock formations, fruit of endless erosion by wind and rain. On the way we will see a wealth of colours - ochres, blacks, greys and browns - as well as far-reaching, silent horizons in this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Big canyons, hillsides eroded into weird and wonderful formations, dry riverbeds, clay peaks and the odd enclave of Mediterranean vegetation... All these are to be found in the Bardenas Reales Nature Reserve, located in Navarra. It is a mysterious landscape - there are even stories of UFO sightings here - whose wild, unique morphology has been sculpted by the passing of the ages and the ceaseless action of wind, rain and sun. This is an ideal place to enjoy the peace and beauty of the natural environment.
Why not discover the area following a simple route with a relatively flat profile. The route takes 3-4 hours and starts 5 kilometres from the village of Arguedas, at the hostel next to the Virgen del Yudo shrine. The shrine is located at the top of a small hill and is a good viewpoint. From here you can appreciate the contrast between the arid Bardenas area and the green, fertile Ebro River valley.
Setting out from the hostel we cycle 14 kilometres along the road until we get to the military barracks. Here, to the left, we take the jeep track that circles the perimeter of Bardena Blanca. This is the Reserve's central area and takes its name from the abundant salt that gives the landscape a whitish hue.
We pass the Tres Hermanos (Three Brothers). These are small clay hillocks, all very similar, that sit in a line. We soon get to the emblematic Cabezo de Castildetierra, the best known and most photographed part of the Bardenes Reales. This is a good place for a quick stop to admire the stunning natural sculpture that rises out of the endless steppe, providing a unique view.
We follow our route on to Cabaña Aguirre. Here we come off the perimeter jeep track to take the trail that passes Barranco Grande Canyon to the left. This canyon is the biggest, with the most water. Next we come to the Reserve's only green area: the Vedado de Eguaras Nature Reserve, a geological depression where farmland is interspersed with pine woods, whose shade provides an excellent spot to eat and rest. This area is an ideal place to recharge your batteries. Here you will find the legendary Doña Blanca castle, and it is also an ideal spot for viewing wildlife. Foxes, badgers, rabbits, griffon vultures, Egyptian vultures, eagle owls and occasionally great bustards… These are some of the animals to be found in this spectacular region.
We now get on our bikes again to head up to the large plateau known as El Plano, located to the north. This high, fertile plain is dedicated to cereal crops and is flanked by hillsides covered in rosemary. It is a wonderful viewpoint, looking out over the arid landscapes of Bardena Blanca. Four kilometres further on we head down following the Estroza Point.
A dusty trail that crosses five ravines now takes us to El Paso, home to the Guards' Cabin and the Shepherd's Monument. This is one of the natural gateways to the reserve. We follow the jeep track that takes us to the weird Ralla and Rallón rock formations. From there we cross Barranco Grande and return to the hostel, having biked a total of 65 kilometres.
Tips for the ride
Wear comfortable, breathable clothing. Take sunglasses and sun cream as well as a rucksack with water and something to eat. In villages close to the Reserve, like Arguedas, Figarol and Tudela, there are also companies offering bike hire and professional guides who will reveal the secrets of this unique landscape to visitors.