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Bardenas reales

What is it?

Bardenas Reales

The Bardenas Reales Natural Park, a unique semi-desert landscape sprawls across 42,500 hectares in south-eastern Navarre. Behind its barren and inhospitable appearance lie tremendous natural treasures; for example, it encompasses three Nature Reserves.

Water, limestone and clay have sculpted spectacular shapes which take you into a world that is almost moon-like in appearance that is fashioned by gullies, smooth plateaux and solitary outcrops.

The capricious shapes and the unsettling aridity of the area have inspired painters and writers, and it was once the hideout of bandits and other legendary characters.

It has also been the scene of television commercials and films such as Airbag, Mutant Action, Pride and Passion and The World is Not Enough. Indeed, a unique destination for visiting on foot, horseback or by bicycle.
The Bardenas Reales Natural Park is a pseudo-steppe landscape sculpted over millions of years, which, just 70 kilometres away from the peaks of the Pyrenees, has flora and fauna more appropriate to an African desert than the north of the Iberian Peninsula. In the remote past it was even inhabited by crocodiles and turtles.

Although there are different accesses to the park -some of which are only authorised for bicycles- there are two routes most commonly used by motor vehicles: from the north, taking the earth track that leaves the Carcastillo-Figarol road (el Paso) and joins the earth track that runs alongside the shooting range (at 22 km), and from the west by the tarmacked track that goes from the petrol station on the outskirts of Arguedas that joins the above track that goes round the military firing range.

There are three distinct zones in the natural park which are, from north to south: El Plano, croplands characterised by very gentle slopes; the Bardena Blanca, the most photographed zone, defined by its eroded crags, dry gullies and steppe-like appearance - in its lower part is a Firing Range which explains the military aircraft flights; and the Bardena Negra, where the land darkens, giving way to the only Aleppo pinewoods in the area, accompanied by thicket.

These lands include three Nature Reserves: the Vedado de Eguaras, an oasis to the north of the area where the ruins of the Castle of Peñaflor still stand; the Rincón del Bu (Bardena Blanca), occupying 460 hectares, in whose niches the eagle owl breeds; and the Nature Reserve of Caídas de la Negra (Bardena Negra), which covers 1,926 hectares and has altitude drops of 270 metres.

Eagles, vultures, owls, great bustards, foxes, mountain cats, genets, amphibians and reptiles will accompany you in this vast territory of scrubland, sisal thickets, salt marshes and reed beds, where extreme temperatures are recorded.

On your journey, don't miss the opportunity to go up to some exceptional viewpoints, such as the Alto de Aguilares, from where you will get the best view of the entire Bardena Blanca, and the Balcón de Pilatos ('Pontius Pilate's Balcony'), an exceptional observatory of birds of prey. You can also visit some memorable spots such as Castildetierra and Pisquerra (Bardena Blanca) with their spectacular rock formations.

The Bardenas offer more than 700 kilometres of paths, tracks and gullies that can be followed by hiking and cycling enthusiasts.

As you travel through the Bardenas please observe the regulations, do not go off the signposted tracks, do not disturb the animals and do not collect plants or minerals. Try to visit the park between June and September and avoid going when it is raining. If you can withstand the heat well and decide to go in the summer, make sure you have enough drinking water, cover your head and protect yourself from the sun.

Mountain Bike in Bardenas RealesIf your visit coincides with 18 September, don't miss the opportunity to go to the "Sanmiguelada", the day when thousands of sheep from the Pyrenean valleys make their way to this vast extension along El Paso to graze during the winter. To do this, follow the Cañada Real (royal livestock trail) of the Roncaleses which links up the pastures of the Roncal Valley with the Bardenas. You can also cross the Bardenas by the Cañada Real that goes from the town of Tauste in Aragon to the Urbasa-Andia mountain range in north-western Navarre.

No-one can remain indifferent to the Bardenas Reales, this incredibly unusual, varied and natural setting which was once the stamping ground of famous bandits such as Sanchicorrota. Legend tells us that his horse had its horseshoes put on backwards in order to confuse his pursuers. You, too, can escape to this unique corner of the world and get to know the Ribera region of Navarre.

Close to the Bardenas is the Senda Viva theme park on the road from Arguedas to the chapel of the Virgin Mary of Yugo.

Another option for visitors is Tudela, the capital of the Ribera region, where you can enjoy delicious cuisine based on fresh local market garden produce, featuring traditional dishes such as vegetable stew, crisp lettuce hearts, asparagus and artichokes and meats such as lamb shank, all washed down with the acclaimed wines of Navarre.

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