Walker looking at the view in Belagua, on the slopes of Lakartxela

Things to do in Navarra: hiking in the Irati Forest

Autonomous Community of Navarre

Exploring the Irati Forest means immersing yourself in the second largest beech and fir forest in the whole of Europe, and one of the best conserved. An authentic natural treasure, with an inestimable ecological value. A place where there are lots of different options waiting for you that’ll make your holiday a truly unforgettable one. There are two ways to reach the area, from the Aezkoa Valley or from the Salazar Valley. In both places you'll find different information points, ranger services, parking and picnic areas, and trail options to match your needs. You can go hiking, improve your cycling skills and even arrange a guided tour in a 4x4. Read on and discover two unmissable routes that you’ll never forget. 

Route from the Aezkoa Valley: Paraísos Erlan SLNA-54C

The Paraísos Erlan route is a tranquil, circular route that starts out at the Irabia reservoir. It takes about an hour to cover the 6 kilometres walking through beech woods, following forest paths and old woodcutters’ trails.To reach the starting point you'll need to cross Orbaitceta, a pretty country village located in Merindad de Sangüesa, and from there follow the signs to the reservoir where the waters of the Irati river collect. The first part of the route runs around the reservoir and then follows a path that will bring you to the green slopes of Mozolotxiki. It's a straightforward, easy route. The second section takes you up a path that'll lead you up to the wooded hill of Ermuñoa, from where there's a perfect panoramic view of the reservoir and a mass of slim beech trees covering an area of 940 metres. Once you're done photographing the views, it's back down to the beginning of the trail.

Two women walking the circular route near Merindad de Sangüesa, Navarra

Route from the Salazar Valley: The Gartxot Route

The Garxot Route takes almost four hours to complete, and for many it's a legendary one. You'll understand why by travelling to Izalzu, a tiny village located in Merindad de Sangüesa in the Salazar Valley, where you'll discover the terrifying legend of Gartxot, a medieval Navarrese poet who was punished for committing a horrific crime. You’ll start out here, following the route with the orange and white trail markers in the direction of Ustárroz, a minute hamlet with just ten inhabitants. Walking at your own pace, you'll skirt fields of crops and smooth blankets of trees that gradually thicken as you head on into the mountains. After skirting the Arboleta ravine you'll come to the Behatokia viewpoint, from where you can see some of the spectacular peaks of the Pyrenees in the distance, such as the Mesa de los Tres Reyes or the Pic d'Anie. In this first part you'll reach a wide open space where you start your descent, by the stream that ends in the Ripalda waterfall.

Young person walking the Gartxot route in the Irati Forest

After resting your feet for a while and getting your breath back, head for Elkorreta cave, an odd triangular opening in the depths of the rock that inspired the legend of Gartxot. Continue on for about a kilometre, walking through leafy forests of oak and beech enjoying panoramic views of the Salazar Valley at the foot of the Abodi mountain range below. It might be a bit of a surprise to see cattle grazing peacefully right by your side!After reaching the cave, the trail starts to descend along a fenced path until you get to a dirt track and then make your way down through stands of oak trees until you find yourself back at the pretty hamlet of Izalzu.As you’ve seen, Navarra has a magic all of its own. From legends so ancient that no-one is quite sure when they originated, to traditional trails that have changed little and are almost exactly the same today as they were in the past. Choose your route for exploring the Irati Forest, and live an adventure that will seem like the stuff of fairy tales.

Views of Izalzu village in the Salazar valley, Navarra
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