There are two routes to Eunate for cyclists: – 1) the main route close to the Camino with the possibility of climbing to Alto del Perdon and 2) the road recommended by the locals that leads straight to Eunate that can be taken if you have an injury or you are fed up to the back teeth with mountains.
I definitely prefer the first one, but I enjoyed cycling the second one as well, “as smooth as glass, not like the other one, only climbing and climbing” – encouraging Autochthon’s description is not quite accurate as the road climbs up the hill but only very gently (still, gentle climbing is still climbing, isn’t it?).
The first one has the advantage over the second one that it has the option of turning off to Alto del Perdon, a popular vantage point with a metal pilgrim monument and it is closer to the Camino. I would say that the first one ought to be busier, but I never met a soul on either of them.
Is it worthwhile cycling up the hill to see Alto del Perdon? To be honest, the Leaning Tower of Pisa appeals to me more.
That’s why I suggest having a look at photos of Alto, get over the fact that you won’t see it live and continue cycling. If, however your expedition has a penitential nature, I highly recommend turning off route one onto the small road to Alto del Perdon. Three kilometres on an unsheltered road with some patched potholes, built on the top of a windy mountain ridge, will serve you well.
One way or another – you will reach your destination – mysterious church of Eunate.
The Church of Saint Mary of Eunate is a 12th century structure built with dressed stones on an octagonal plan. It is surrounded by arches that recall the porticos of the Temple Platform in Jerusalem. The richly decorated capitals inside and outside the church draws attention. The windows are made of thinly cut alabaster. Historians have long been fascinated by this lonely church built in the middle of nowhere. St Mary of Eunate is situated on the traditional pilgrim’s road (Camino Aragones runs this way, joining Camino Frances at Puente la Reina), away from any towns. This has always raised questions about its origin. Was it a Templar church? Personally I’m certain that it was….
Next stop – Puente la Reina. The town owes its name to the imposing bridge (Puente la Reina from Spanish: Queen’s Bridge). This Romanesque structure was built on the orders of King’s Sancho III’s wife. The 11th century bridge over the river Arga, was constructed especially for the pilgrims going to Santiago de Compostela. The six-arched,110 meters long bridge still makes a huge impression.
At this point, cycling the NA-1110 may give you a strong feeling of being lost as there are no cars, nor good people to ask the way, no sheep, just nothing to reassure you that you are on the right road. But as long as you don’t see big blue boards above your head and you are not wiped out by trucks – it’s the way.
The road itself is lovely and totally yours, as the highway takes all the traffic. I have to admit that I like the NA-1110, for cyclists it is a bit like dying and going to Heaven. But before you release the brakes shouting with joy I have to say that this road differs from a heavenly one by the presence of deep potholes in places you would never expect them. So watch out for them.
Next stop – Estella – the capital of Romanesque Navarre. Very important place on the Camino. In my opinion it is the best place to have your Camino crisis. Happy End guaranteed.
My favourite part of this route starts somewhere between Villamayor de Monjardin and Los Arcos.
The road runs across small hills and your bicycle continues to move of its own accord. Cycling without pedalling – that’s what I like.
And finally – Los Arcos (63.60 km from Cizur Menor). The Parish priest is proud that the Camino passes through Los Arcos and likes pilgrims very much. He tries to be able to say at least a few words in every language – recently he was learning Korean and Japanese. What he doesn’t like are people taking photos during the mass. He really doesn’t like it. Before or after – yes please, he will also answer your questions or help you. But cameras flashing straight into his eyes during the service rouses his Spanish temperament.
Thanks to his effort and others, the Los Arcos residential town is a good place to stay overnight.
There are small but well supplied shops and bakeries, so you might be tempted to make your own dinner. If you prefer to eat out there are numerous bars to choose from.