2. Roncesvalles to Cizur Menor 53.40 km

Leave behind the austere monastery in Roncesvalles and cycle gently for 2.70 km to the the village of Burguete (official name Auritz/Burguete) 893 m; 2.70 km4 km to Espinal

Burguete is a very old village dating back to the 12th century; formerly called Roncesvalles although later on a monopoly on the name was taken over by the monastery. The buildings are mainly from the 19th and the 20th centuries as the village was razed to the ground by the French army in 1794. The most famous (temporary) citizen was Ernest Hemingway who wrote “The Sun Also Rises” in Navarre in the 1920s. While writing, apparently, he gorged on trout with ham, a local speciality.

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Charming village of Burguete that Hemingway visited in 1920s Photography: Katarzyna Kostrzewska

Burguete is a fantastic place for an early breakfast (in high season; outside the season have your breakfast in Roncesvalles or Espinal). Delicious pastries and freshly brewed coffee/tea are served there.

Burgette to Erro
Burguete to Erro

Short ascents and long descents –cycling today is much nicer than yesterday. Stay on the N-135 (that’s your road until Zabaldika) for another 4 km towards

Roncesvalles to Alto d'Erro
Cycling N-135. Roncesvalles to Alto d’Erro Copyright OpenStreetMap Contributors

Espinal (official name Aurizberri/Espinal) 876m; 6.70 km11.10 km to Erro

This place (under the name of Iturissa) is mentioned in Antonine’s Itinerary, “a road map” of the Roman Empire written by request of Julius Caesar and Augustus, as a point on the way from Bordeaux to Astorga. The village officially has a double name like the others; first in Basque language and second in Spanish. You will notice that all the houses in this area have high and sloping roofs to protect them from collapsing under the weight of snow. Winter is severe in Navarra.

Albergue Irugoienea, opens from Holy Week until the end of October, 21 beds, heating, bikes have to be kept outside; 10, 50 Euros

Albergue Haizea, open all year round except the second half of November, 21 beds, heating, 12 Euros

Day two starts nice and easy, hills are gentle, hillocks are rolling, and I have to admit I expected everything to stay like that. You will probably have a similar feeling. And that’s how it is up to the town of Erro (655m; 17.80 km3 km to Alto d’Erro).

Erro to Alto d'Erro
Erro to Alto d’Erro. 150 meters elevation gain

But then I saw a disturbing hill and with a feeling of apprehension I looked at the map and yes – it is marked as a beauty spot. I never hated a beauty spot as much in my life as on that day. Good news is that the ascent is short, well quite short. 3 km and you get to

Alto d’Erro 795m; 20.8 km5.70 km to Zubiri

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First day on the Camino for two French cyclists, Alto d’Erro Photography: Katarzyna Kostrzewska

The beauty spot. You meet many walkers here – they are a bit tired after the climb and will be even more so – poor chaps. This is a good place for a rest but by the way, no chance to view the scenery because of the high trees. I know – that’s why I love it.

Now the N-135 sharply bends down the hill and 5.70 km further leads you to
Zubiri (Esteribar in Basque) 529m; 26.5 km4.60 km to Larrasoana

A small, modern town with a lovely Romanesque bridge (12th century) crossing the river Arga. There is an old pilgrim’s hospital close to the bridge.

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Romanesque bridge, Zubiri Photography: Katarzyna Kostrzewska

If you would like to stay in Zubiri for the night, these are your options:

Albergue de Peregrinos de Zubiri, 44 beds, opens from March until October, heating, 8 Euros

Albergue Zaldiko, 24 beds, opens from March until the end of October, heating, microwave, 10 Euros

Albergue Río Arga Ibaia, opens 12 beds, heating, a kitchen, 15 Euros (breakfast included)

Albergue Suseia, 22 beds, mid-March until October, heating, May – September only half-board 28 Euros; 15 Euros (breakfast included)

Albergue El Palo de Avellano, 57 beds, opens from mid-March until the beginning of November, heating, 16-18 Euros (breakfast included)

Albergue Secunda Etapa, 12 beds, opens from March until October, heating, microwave, 15 Euros (breakfast included)

Zubiri to Zabaldika
Zubiri to Zabaldika

In Zubiri traffic gets heavier, so use the hard shoulder and be attentive. Cycle for another 4.60 km and soon you will get to the small town of

Larrasoana (Larrasoaina in Basque) 503m; 31.10 km3 km to Zuriain

This is a Basque town with a long tradition of taking care of pilgrims. Augustinians looked after those who set off for Santiago from the 11th century. The Citizens safeguard this tradition and the town is friendly to pilgrims. You can get your stamp here or stay for a night:

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Larrasoana, Navarra Photography: Katarzyna Kostrzewska

Albergue de Larrasoaña, 52 beds, opens from Holy Week until the end of October, heating, a kitchen, 8 Euros

Albergue Bide Ederra, 6 beds, opens from March until October, heating, a kitchen, 15 Euros or 20 Euros (double room; breakfast included)

Albergue San Nicolas, 40 beds, opens from the end of March until 2 November, heating, a kitchen, 12 Euros

On leaving Larrasoana stay on the busy N-135. Now you cycle in a lovely wide river valley. There is an albergue about 3 km further on in Zuriain 480m; 34.10 km3 km to Zabaldika

Albergue La Parada de Zuriain, 16 beds, opens from March until the end of October, heating, 9 Euros

After 3 km you pass through the small Basque-speaking town of Zabaldika (480m; 37.10 km0.50 km to car park/picnic area) with the 12th-century church of Saint Stephen that also runs an albergue:

Albergue Parroquial de Zabaldika, 18 beds, opens from 15th of April until 15th of October, heating, a kitchen, donation

500 meters further (6.50 km from Larrasoana) you will notice on your right a large car park with a picnic area (455m; 37.60 km2.60 km to Huarte) and tired looking fellow walkers mainly laying on the benches. Right behind the car park are a small bridge and cycle path which will take you to the centre of Pamplona – head for Saint Magdalene Bridge (about 10 km). Your way is green, hedged with colourful bushes and meanders along the River Arga bank. And it is flat! The route is absolutely fabulous but deserted in places, so only cycle on it in daylight.IMG_7589

After 2,60 km next to a small bridge and small waterfall you will notice a signpost to Huarte (447m; 40.20 km8 km to Catedral de Santa María la Real de Pamplona). If you want to stay there for the night follow the signpost. To spare you the trouble of cycling round Huarte for the next 15 minutes and putting your basic Spanish into practice I’ll reveal a secret to you – the albergue is hidden behind the church. A building with an arcade – you would never have guessed, would you?

Albergue Municipal de Huarte, 60 beds, open all year round, heating, a kitchen, 10 Euros

Camino to Pamplona 2.PNG
Your amazing cycle path to Pamplona Copyright OpenStreetMap Contributors

If you aren’t planning to check out the albergue in Huarte, stay on the cycle lane and follow the signposts to Pamplona (that are a bit confusing at times). After three kilometres the cycle lane will run parallel to the street for 300 meters and later will turn left (head for small tunnel).

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Dutch cyclist on the way to Pamplona. We met in the Pyrenees. He was on the pilgrimage to football clubs, but I knew that one day he would do the Camino. A few years later he sent me a photo from Compostela Photography: Katarzyna Kostrzewska

In general aim for the white and green signs with a bridge (trademark for Pamplona’s St Magdalene Bridge). In moments of doubt just cycle along the river. The last leg of the cycle lane joins the Camino and you enter the city through Puente de la Magdalena (St Magdalene Bridge), a medieval construction over the River Arga that has served pilgrims since the 12th century.

Camino signs lead you around the citadel all the way to the city walls. You enter the historical centre of Pamplona through Portal de Francia (French Gate 1553), the oldest one in the city. Now follow the Camino waymarking through Calle del Carmen (in the 14th century known as Rua de los Pelegrinos) and turn left onto Calle Navarreria. Two minutes later you will find yourself in front of the cathedral. Welcome to Pamplona, the city of bull running!

                  Pampluna/Iruna 451m; 48.20 km5.20 km to Cizur Manor

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Pamplona Photography: Katarzyna Kostrzewska

The city is the capital of Navarre, formerly The Kingdom of Navarre. The oldest part of the town is truly picturesque with its narrow and steep cobbled streets. Catedral de Santa María la Real de Pamplona was built in the 14th century in a Gothic style that might not be so obvious at the first glance since its medieval structure is hidden behind the 18th-century neoclassical façade.

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13th century Gothic cloister, The Cathedral in Pamplona. Below sepulchres of Carlos III King of Navarre and his wife. Photography: Katarzyna Kostrzewska

Aside from this the church represents pure French Gothic and has one of the finest 14th-century cloisters in Spain. Sumptuously decorated the cloister is truly breath-taking and well worth a visit. Inside the church, there are alabaster sepulchres of Carlos III King of Navarre and his wife. The 15th-century ruler campaigned for peace between his kingdom and the neighbours. He loved fine arts and finished the construction of the cathedral. The cathedral reveals its hidden beauty in the evening, so you might want to pay it a short visit before evening mass. Lighting transforms its rather plain Gothic interior beyond recognition. The difference is so significant that if you saw the cathedral in the daylight and later on in the evening it is hard to believe that you are in the same building. 028If you wish to see the cathedral and cloister go to bicycle-friendly Diocese Cathedral Museum (Mon-Sat 10.30am-5pm, 2.50 Euros for pilgrims).

Plaza del Castillo is a meeting point for the residents of Pamplona and that’s also where Cafe Iruna is located. This cafe was Hemingway’s favourite and the first one in the city to install electric light in 1888, which as a consequence caused panic among the residents, suspicious of magic.

030A quite interesting story is connected with the Town Hall. Right up until the 15th century Pamplona was divided into three boroughs, constantly fighting one another. In 1423 King Carlos III decided to end old feuds permanently and demanded that one city be created under one council. As a sign of eternal union, he ordered the building of a town hall on the border of the three boroughs. The edifice has an 18th-century facade richly decorated with sculptures and a modern interior. Every year a rocket is launched from its balcony to start the Sanfermines.

Sanfermines or the Festival of Saint Fermin (6-14 of July)

Saint Fermin is the patron saint of the city and co-patron saint of Navarre. He was born in Pamplona into the family of a Roman senator. Ordained a priest in France he then came back to his birthplace as the first bishop. He died beheaded in Amiens in 303. When relics of the saint were brought back to Pamplona in the 12th-century residents decided to organize an annual feast in his honour. The nature of the event has changed over the centuries. Now the most recognized part is the bull running made popular in the Anglo-Saxon world by Hemingway’s novel “The Sun Also Rises”.

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Bull running in Navarra. Above: the Town Hall, Pamplona Photography: Katarzyna Kostrzewska

Each year hundreds of daredevils (or people with limited imagination, a question of interpretation) run in front of six bulls and steers. Even though the bull running is shown on the news every year, you have to visit Pamplona to estimate the scale of difficulty. The streets of the city are narrow, steep and slippery so running is not easy at all, particularly when you are trying to escape from an angry bull weighing almost a ton. Bull running is held every day from the 7th to the 14th of July and lasts about 3 minutes (distance 825 meters). A first firecracker is lit to announce that the first bull has left the corral, the second informs everybody that the last bull is on the streets and finally the third firecracker tells us that all the animals are off the streets and back in the bullring.
Perhaps the most spectacular, bull running is only one of the many events held as a part of the Festival of Saint Fermin. The patron saint of the city is honoured by a parade of giants and big-heads. The figures of the Kings and Queens from the four continents date from 1860. The other 17 statues are also antique. 036On the 7th of July, Pamplona citizens take part in a ceremonial and colourful procession along the streets carrying a statue of Saint Fermin. Traditional Basque sports shows and competitions are organized. Every evening, residents gather around the citadel to watch the fireworks. This event has a long tradition and was mentioned in documents from as early as 1595. At midnight on the last day, everybody sings together “Pobre de Mi” (“Poor Me”) standing in candlelight in front of the city hall. The festival of Saint Fermin is over.

Pamplona city
The Camino in Pamplona from Portal de Francia to Iglesia San Lorenzo Copyright OpenStreetMap Contributors

When cycling around Pamplona you will notice big green spaces. The city has a tumultuous history and, in the past, had to constantly fight invaders. These green spaces are former glacis, open space slopes very useful for defence as they allowed the defenders to clearly see the enemy from the city walls. In places, some dried-up moat beds are still visible. On arrival in Pamplona, you passed through an old gate bored into the thick city walls. On your way out, you will cycle through the park surrounding the former Citadel considered one of the best examples of Renaissance military architecture in Spain. The whole city was fortified and even the churches served as defence points – the city is overlooked by watchtowers of Gothic sanctuaries of San Sernin and San Nicolas.

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Gothic Church of Saint Nicholas, Pamplona. Above: Streets of the city Photography: Katarzyna Kostrzewska

All the described monuments are on the Camino; you only have to step off to get to Plaza del Castillo.

If want to stay in Pamplona for the night you can choose between five albergues:

To get to the first albergue you have to turn left after crossing St Magdalene Bridge:

Albergue Casa Paderborn, 26 beds, opens from March until the beginning of November, heating, 6 Euros

The second albergue is an ingeniously converted church, three minutes from the cathedral:

Albergue de Jesús y María, 114 beds, open all year round, except Christmas and Sanfermines (5th -14th July), heating, a kitchen, 9 Euros

By the cathedral (pilgrims and tourists):

Albergue Plaza Catedral, from April until 23 December, heating, kitchen, 15-18 Euros (breakfast included; higher prices for Sanfermines)

By Portal de Francia (pilgrims and tourists):

Albergue Casa Ibarrola, open all year round except Sanfermines, heating, kitchen, 16 Euros

Hostel Hemingway, Aloha Hostel and Albergue Xarma Hostel Aterpea offer discounts for pilgrims

There are many restaurants and bars in Pamplona. I really like an amazing shop “Viendas de Salamanca” with dry meats and award winning cheese by the Town Hall.

After a wander round the old part of Pamplona find the Camino arrows. They will lead you to San Lorenzo church (4.30 km to Cizur Menor), where a famous reliquary of Saint Fermin is placed (Patron Saint of the city, official feast day is the 25th of September. Every year around the time of the official feast day a mini-festival of Saint Fermin is held with parades and other attractions; the main festival is in July as stated above). Opposite the church there is a bike lane (parallel to a street called Bosquecillo) which will lead you out of the city. The path is marked with yellow and blue Camino signs.

Cycle lane in Pamplona
Bike lane in Pamplona. Iglesia de San Lorenzo to University of Navarre Copyright OpenStreetMap Contributors

Cycle along the park surrounding the citadel and then turn right (1 km from San Lorenzo; 50 meters after the Camino sign for walkers pointing right). Try not to miss this sign as the cycle lane forks and the other path goes around the park. Cross the street and continue cycling on the cycle lane. As you are following the same route as the walkers they will constantly be on your left and right. The cycle lane ends after 2 km at the edge of the park around the University of Navarre (you can get your stamp here). Dismount from your bike and walk across the small bridge. Continue cycling on the road in front of you towards Cizur Menor (NA -7027) and after about 2.20 km you arrive at the small town of

Cizur Menor 457m; 53.40 km 14.5 km to Uterga

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Romanesque church dedicated to Saint Michael Archangel, Cizur Menor Photography: Katarzyna Kostrzewska

The most distinctive building in this town is a Romanesque church dedicated to Saint Michael Archangel, originally part of a monastery. The empty church is taken care of by The Order of Malta, who proudly flies their flag at the top of the building clearly seen from a distance. The Knights used to cure pilgrims on their way to Santiago and today continue the tradition of taking care of pilgrims by running an albergue. They always keep some food for pilgrims and you can be sure that everything you leave behind will be given to others. The albergue is a good place to stay for the night. A relaxing view over the surroundings stretches beyond the hill where the church and albergue stand.

Albergue de peregrinos de la Orden de Malta, 27 beds, opens from 30th of April until 30th of September, a kitchen, 7 Euros (the albergue doesn’t have designated space for bikes)

A second period building in the town has been converted to a parish church. The oldest remaining part is the Romanesque portal. Close to the church, there is a very pleasant albergue with a garden organized in an 18th century converted farmhouse. The albergue is run by the Roncal family.

Albergue Familia Roncal, 51 beds, from 1 March until 1 November, heating, a kitchen, 12 Euros