- GEORGINA HOWARD
- HOLIDAY TYPES
- DATES 2022 & 2023
- PRESS & REVIEWS
This page is dedicated to the glorious Baztan Valley: Baztan Valley walks, history and traditions. It is where we live and have happily run walking and Basque cultural tours for nearly two decades. First we offer visitors to the area a series of blogs, articles and links on all aspects of Baztan culture, mythology and history. These include information on the valleys of the Bidasoa and Ezkurra rivers too - the former being a major crossing place for the COMET resistance network during World War II. Secondly, we showcase a couple of the walks in the area with a little more technical detail than on other pages. These walks form part of a 200 km network of self-guided walks documented from our farmhouse door (and the basis of our Self-Guided Walking Holidays).
Due to the remoteness of these Basque valleys, and the notorious insularity of the Basque mountain people – little has been written in English. This may slowly change due to Dolores Redondo’s international best-selling Baztan Trilogy which is being filmed in Elizondo as I write. This site aims to give some background to the witches and bears, Basajauns and Basque traditions treated in her books.
We have written many blog posts and articles on all aspects of life and myth, past and present in the Baztan Valley. Here is an article about the traditions and code of honour of the Baztan Valley to start you off. You will also find many others by clicking on the various categories in my blog.
We will be adding to these with more articles on the area as time goes by. For any specific information about our Baztan Valley walks and the history and culture of the area - or information on local accommodation - please don't hesitate to contact us.
I have been running Baztan valley walking holidays for the past two decades and have joyously guided journalists, individuals and walking groups throughout the area. I have also dedicated the winter months to documenting and mapping circular walks in both the Baztan and Bidasoa valleys. The Baztan-Bidasoa Tourist Office based in Bertiz Natural Park in Oronoz Mugaire has a useful website on the area with links to local events and accommodation and the shop here has several books dedicated to walks in the area but as yet there is very little detailed information in English. They have also documented many walks in the area which can be found, and downloaded, from its page in Wikiloc – (a wonderful public site of on-line maps and walks the world over). SITNA (Sistema de Informacion Territorial de Navarra) has some of the most detailed on-line mapping of Navarre too. To date the best Baztan walking maps to buy for the Baztan Valley area are written Miguel Angulo. A 1:25.000 map is published by Sua-Edizioak - but unfortunately NOTHING is of the scale of our beloved UK Ordinance Survey maps!
From our farmhouse on the outskirts of the Baztan Valley, we have documented over 200 km of circular walks which start and stop at our farmhouse door. These come with maps and very detailed walking and cultural notes (in English) and are helping to open up these traditional Basque landscapes to discerning walkers from all over the world. These walks range from an easy 4.2 km farm walk which weaves between farmsteads and meadows in our mountain hamlet of Ameztia to moderate 10 - 16 km village to village river walks (with 300 - 400 m ascents). For more serious hiking, there are 20 km plus crest top and summit walks (with ascents of 900 -1000 m). Lego like, one walk can be added to another to allow over a week’s uninterrupted walking - ALL from our farmhouse door. Do look at our Self-Guided Walking or Guided Walking with Basque Culture and Gastronomy weeks.
Here are a couple of our walks in more detail: examples of over 15 walks we have on our personal Wikiloc database. We will be adding more.
A picturesque short, gentle walk around our farming hamlet of Ameztia.
This gentle 4.2 km walk starts at our farmhouse door in Ameztia - a traditional Basque farming hamlet 400 m above the village of Ituren pn the valley floor. Ituren is a low-lying village on the banks of the Exkurra river, a tributary of the Baztan and Bidasoa rivers.
The walk leads westwards from our farmhouse door in Ameztia into the oak grove at the end of our lane (a sought after location for mushrooms in the autumn months). Continuing along the contours with extensive views to the south and the village of Urrotz, the walk opens out into a wide grassy path and winds its way between stone mountain barns (bordas) and over small mountain streams.
When the path joins with a higher track, lined with chestnut trees, it veers eastwards past a small farm (borda vivienda) with a distinctive bread oven on the outside (belonging to our champion Basque sports friend Maika) and heads out to the main lane running through Ameztia. After passing the working farm of Artzeneko Borda the peaks of Mt Mendaur (1130 m) become visible to the north, the Baztan Valley to the east, and the village of Urrotz and Donamaria to the south. Hand-made bracken stacks can be seen on the ridge to the north too - used for animal bedding. Very soon the path cuts away to the south, leaving the lane (passing the site of an ancient dolmen on its left) and leads into a magical grove of ash trees and mountain bordas. (The outer branches of the ash tree are often used to supplement winter fodder for the sheep).
The path now dips down the bank to follow the drive into our neighbours farm of Sumbillanea, with its traditional Basque architecture where the animals still live on the ground floor of the house. In May Sagrario makes home-made sheep's cheese on the farm. Turn right at the farm, past the tractors, and follow another grassy path around the head of the valley, through a grove of chestnut and walnut trees back to our farm. 4.2km.
Google Earth Map and Cartografia Topografica 1/5.000 Navarra taken From Wikiloc
This spectacular and high-level walk climes to the summit of Mt Mendaur (1160m).
This is a circular walk from Ituren which can be added on as a loop to any of 4 different circular walks documented from our farm that pass through the village of Ituren. This gives a total out and back circular walk of 25km (or more).
Leaving the plaza of Ituren head uphill towards the 16th century church to the west of town, walk through the church grounds and down to the hamlet of Aurtitz nestled at the foot of Mt Mendaur. From here you start your spectacular, steep ascent of Mendaur via dramatic stream gullies and old twisted oaks. After 3.5 km the path emerges at the banks of a large reservoir surrounded by grassy banks and a large picnic area making a perfect stopping point after your ascent. Once a year, in June, the villagers from Ituren, Zubieta and Elgorriaga make a pilgrimage up to the chapel of Mendaur and this is the site of a large summer party with Basque music and communal lunches.
From here the ascent to Mendaur heads steeply upward once again past mountain barns (bordas) towards the mountain col of Bustitza and a large stone Menhir, and then up a rocky stairway hewn out of the cliffs to the summit and the chapel of La Trinidad (113m). (In Basque folklore this used to be the site of witches covens). Descend through dramatic beech woods, past mountain barns (bordas), small waterfalls and fast-flowing mountain streams until you gain extensive views of Sunbilla, Santesteban, and Elgorriaga.
As the track swings northwards and views of Ituren come into back into sight you pass an area of megalithic burial mounds (dolmens and stone circles) before descending towards the river along part of the 'Elgorriaga Mushroom Route' (also documented). Make the most of a well-earned beer at the bar or spa baths in Elgorriaga, before heading back to Ituren along the shady banks of the river Ezkurra.
Google Earth Map and Cartografia Topografica 1/5.000 Navarra taken From Wikiloc
From Ituren there are numerous routes back to the farm.
These are just a couple of over 20 self-guided Baztan walks in the area of the Baztan, Bidasoa and Ezkurra river valleys. And we are documenting all the time. Please enquire for further information.