Roncesvalles is our favorite hiking spot outside of Pamplona.
Also known as Orreaga (or Valley of the Thorns) in Basque, Roncesvalles is famous for the legend and history of the defeat of Charlemagne and the death of Roland on August 15, 778, during the battle of Roncevaux Pass, when Charlemagne’s rear guard was destroyed by the Basque. It was romanticized in the epic poem “La Chanson de Roland.” The area oozes the Middle Ages, and thorns apparently.
Now, we use it for hiking and to escape the heat of Pamplona, just like Charlemagne. Also, Ronvesvalles is the annual winner of “Best Place to Destroy Your Rental Car.” Long story. Seriously, you will need the insurance.
Around Roncesvalles, there are many other options to lose or destroy your rental car during a hiking excursion.
Roncesvalles is a province of Navarra and east of Pamplona, and it’s found in the Aezcoa Valley. Less than an hour drive from Pamplona, it’s among the Pyrenees and only a couple of miles from the French border.
With forest trails, rivers, dolmens, meadows, beech and fir trees, mountains, a reservoir, old shepherd huts, hikes from Roncesvalles are amply outlined at http://www.roncesvalles.es/.
Our favorite hike is the “Sorogain” trail (off N135), which leads into the hills, where we have found ice from hail storms the night before, and very low temperatures, even when Pamplona is sweltering.
Often, you’ll find cattle, sheep, and other livestock wandering the hills with you. Basque shepherds we startle are always friendly, but appropriately amused by our huffing and puffing through the hills.