Bardenas Reales, a lunar landscape in Navarre
A picture is worth a thousand words, especially if we’re talking about Bardenas Reales. This Nature Reserve in Navarre is absolutely mesmerising.
If you want to see a unique natural space, take note: it’s just over an hour from Pamplona, an hour and a half from Zaragoza, and three and a half hours from Madrid. Madrid and Zaragoza both have international airports and AVE high-speed trains.
Over 40,000 hectares of UNESCO Biosphere Reserve form the Bardenas Reales Nature Reserve. Its Visitor Centre, open every day, is a must. You’ll find it 6 kilometres along the park road, Carretera del Parque Natural, accessible from the main road, the NA-8712.Image courtesy of: Tyron. Fotografías cedidas por el Archivo de Turismo «Reyno de Navarra» (www.turismo.navarra.es)
A desert full of mysterious shapes
The impressive formations in the photos are the result of millions of years of rain and wind eroding this clay, chalk and sandstone terrain. There’s something mysterious about its ravines and dry river beds, and the oasis-like green areas which appear next to the occasional bodies of water.
A silent realm
Have you ever heard the sound of silence? Yes, you can hear real silence, and Bardenas Reales is the place to put it to the test. Imagine wandering among these fanciful rock formations and the subtle colours of the desert, where the only sound is a distant bird calling. This is somewhere you can find yourself.
A haven for birds
There is life here - when you visit you’ll see birds as wild as the landscape: peregrine falcons, golden eagles, booted eagles, griffon vultures and Egyptian vultures. A total of 24 species of birds of prey live here, alongside mammals, reptiles and other birds.Image courtesy of: Ricardo Rodríguez. Imagen cedida por Turismo de Navarra
A cinematic landscape
Do these pictures seem somehow familiar, even if you’ve never been to the Bardenas Reales? Maybe it’s because the park has been the setting for major films. For example, the adventures of James Bond in 'The World Is Not Enough', and Spanish movies like 'Airbag' and 'Acción Mutante'.
A haunt of dragons
TV viewers around the world have seen dragons flying over the Bardenas Reales.The nature reserve was also a setting in Season 6 of the hit series 'Game of Thrones'. Daenerys, the Mother of Dragons, crossed this desert on her path to the throne.
There are several cycle routes in the park. Can you imagine riding a cycle touring track through this amazing landscape? The routes reach some of the best-known scenic areas, such as Bardena Blanca, Cabezo de Castildeterra, Barranco Grande and Vedado de Eguaras.Image courtesy of: Patxi Uriz. Fotografías cedidas por el Archivo de Turismo 'Reyno de Navarra'
A good day’s hiking
The Biosphere reserve has three hiking tracks, all clearly marked. Barranco de las Cortinas and Cabezo de las Cortinillas are short hikes of around one kilometre, and mostly flat. El Fraile offers some impressive views on a 4.5 kilometre path, with a climb of 200 metres.
A drive through a lunar landscape
You can also visit the reserve by car, although you must follow the instructions and stick to the marked routes. There are three, ranging from 20 to 40 kilometres. There are also many local companies that organise guided tours in 4WD cars.
A longer stay
You can see a lot of the Bardenas Reales in a day (although if you like nature, you might want to drive around it one day and take a cycle tour on another). But there’s plenty to do in the surrounding area, if you plan to stay for a weekend or longer: the wineries and activities of the Navarre Wine Route, visits to unique towns like Pamplona and Tudela, or the Senda Viva zoo and theme park.
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