The region of Navarre is small. Of the seventeen regions in Spain it has the second smallest population â€“ just half a million. It has the sixth lowest area and the fifth lowest density (just 49, against the national average of 76 persons per square kilometre). But, as they say, never mind the width, just feel the quality. The landscape and people is where it scores highly. The region is probably best known for its capital city, Pamplona with its famous festival where bulls and people run through the streets together.
Whenever there is talk of cave paintings, Alquedri en Urdax is usually mentioned as it has a very special collection. It is similar for the megalithic period as Navvare has 250 dolmens in over 40 sites. The best collections are in Artajona, Portillo and Goramendi. The best examples of Roman architecture are in the towns of Andelos, Pompaelo y Cara.
The buildings that stand out in the Romanesque style are: the monastery of Leyre,
Santa Maria la Real de SangÃ¼esa, hermitage de Eunate and the church of Santo Sepulcro de Torres del Rio.
Ecclesiastical buildings dominate in gothic architecture, especially the Cistercian Monasteries at Oliva, Fitero, Irache and Iranzu. Mention must be made too of the churches of â€“ San Miguel de Estella, Cathedral of Tudela, Cathedral of Pamplona, church of Roncesvalles and Santa Maria la Real de Olite. The most important civil building is the Castillo-Palacio.
There are numerous former palaces and grand building in the baroque style, now in civil hands, especially in Pamplona, Baztan and SangÃ¼ensa. Neo-classical tradition is usually found in relief works â€“ notably in the church of Ziga and on the faÃ§ade Pamplona cathedral
There are many local festivals, such as Corpus San Miguel, as well as the more traditional fairs with sheep dog competitions (Artzai Eguna) and trials of strength in local sports like log cutting( Aizkolaris) and stone lifting (Harrijasotzailes).
Countryside and wildlife
Variety is the term that best sums up the landscape of Navarre. The contrast between the high Cantabrian Pyrenees and the valley of the river Ebro produces habitats, economies and types of people of great diversity.
The location of Navarre makes it something of a climatic clearing house. It has four distinct systems â€“ Atlantic, Submediterranean, Mediterranean and Alpine. This has, in turn, produced a great variety of vegetation and species which mankind has managed for its own purposes. That is, more or less, the countryside we have today.
Much of the wildlife countryside is found within protected areas.
The most important sites are â€“ Parque Natural del SeÃ³rio de BÃ©rtiz, las Sierras de Urbasa y AndÃa (with a spectacular rock formation) and the arid zone of Bardenas Reales.
Activities and sport
Such geographical diversity produces a lot of choice in what to do. The valleys and mountains offer hunting, fishing, hiking, mountain-biking, horse riding and much more.
If you would rather take to water you could try rafting, canoeing and boating.
If you donâ€™t want to keep you feet on the ground then try para-gliding, delta-wings, or ultra-lites. And if you canâ€™t handle mountaineering or rock climbing, bunging jumping is one way out. However, if you want to turn your back on it all, thereâ€™s pot-holing.
And if you want to come back in the winter you can enjoy skiing in the Navarre Pyrenees.
Getting there and about
The only airport in Navarre (built in 1972) is at Noain, which is close to Pamplona. This provides domestic flights to the major international airports, such as Barcelona, Santandar.
There are good motorway connections. TheA68 passes by Tudela and connects to Bilbao and Barcelona and the rest of the Mediterranean. The A15 is the principal connection to San Sebastian and the N1 goes to Vitoria.
There are some 120miles of national railway routes, mainly on the Zaragoza â€“ Alsasua line which links Cortes, Castejon and Pamplona.
Traditions and cooking
Navarre is a society where traditions and folklore are important. The main event is the internationally known week-long festival of Sanfermines (from 7th July) which seems to sum up the local character and approach to life. As well as the much photographed bull runs there are strong traditions of music played on ancient instruments such as the Txistus and Tamboriles. Most festivals conclude with the Nabarran Zanpantzarrak.
Local dishes are judged firstly on the quality of the ingredients and here local vegetables such as, asparragos, green beans, lettuce (cogollos from Tudela), broad beans, beans of SangÃ¼esa (las pochas de Navarra) and peppers of piquillo, stand out. Other well known local dishes include stews, lamb, rabbit, trout, cod ajoarriero and game dishes.
Local wines have now established a prestige market, as too have some cheeses, such as Roncal an Urbasa.
The first known inhabitants of Navarre were the Vascones, of uncertain origin, though they were influenced by the Celts and later resisted the Romans in the 1st century BC. The Romans built a fort at Pompaelo, now Pamplona. Though it was the occupation of this city by the Moors during the 8th century that provoked the rise of the Kingdom of Navarre. King Arista consolidated his control during the 10th century.
During the MiddleAges there were several Navarre dynasties and their support wavered between France and the Peninsula. However, this uncertainty was resolved when the Kingdom of Castile invaded in 1512, though Navarre was allowed a certain amount of autonomy and retention of their unique (consensual) law making. That lasted until 1841 when the region became an administrative area of Spain.
After the end of the Franco dictatorship Spain introduced democratic and devolved regional government, which was formally introduced in 1982 to Navarre. However, this process is continually being updated and Navarre is at the forefront of this process.