The Irati Forest is located in the north of the province of Navarra. This natural paradise is the second largest and best preserved beech and fir forest in Europe. It is only exceeded in size by the Black Forest of Germany. Specifically, it is located in the eastern Pyrenees of Navarra, in the Aezkoa and Salazar valleys.
Well, dear friends, the Irati natural area is located a few kilometres from Roncesvalles. This makes it a wonderful complementary plan for those pilgrims who start walking from there. Below we tell you everything you need to know about this beautiful place, take note!
The Irati Forest
The Irati area is a natural space protected by different figures: the Mendilatz and Tristuibartea nature reserve, and the Lizardoia integral reserve. Due to the characteristics of its vegetation, it is a true explosion of colours and life, depending on the season. The contrasts of colours are much stronger in autumn, we have lived the experience in this season, so we recommend it to you 100%.
There are two access points to the forest, one in the west (closer to Roncesvalles) from Orbaizeta and another in the east, from Ochagavía. The access to Ochagavía is where the Interpretation Centre of the natural space is located. In Orbaizeta, you will access by the closure of the Irabia reservoir, in which there are three parking areas.
This space has an incalculable ecological value. Apart of the vegetation, there are a lot of hidden ecosystems in the thickness of the forest and in full view in its open and green pastures, which are home to numerous populations of wild animals. In the group of birds, you can find kinglets, finches, robins, or black or white-backed whistles, among others. Foxes, wild boars, martens and deer are also noteworthy.
Environment and routes
In the 17,000 hectares that make up the forest, there are plenty of routes and environments to discover. Depending on the access to the forest that you choose, you will have the possibility to do some routes or others. In this link you can consult all the signposted routes available in the forest.
If you access the forest through Orbaizeta, you will enter through the Aezkoa valley and you will be able to follow, among others, the Paraísos-Erlan paths and the return to the Irabia Reservoir. These trails are perfect for appreciating the intensity and exuberance of Irati’s vegetation. For the more adventurous, it is also possible to take routes from here to the Azpegui pass, which starts from the refuge of the same name located in the northern part of the Irabia reservoir.
From the access to Ochagavia, there are interpretative walks such as the Errekaidorra walk, which is cross-border, and cultural trails such as the “Camino Viejo a Casas de Irati” walk. This last path will offer you the possibility of enjoying excellent views from the Alto de Tapla, the Goñiburu Viewpoint and the Altos de Abodi.
Finally, the Gartxot route is also highly recommended, starting from the town of Izalzu. This magical path has a wooded route with waterfalls and a small cave. The path is reminiscent of the legend of the bard Gartxot, who was condemned to die for killing his son, before handing him over to the monks of Roncesvalles.
It is possible to arrive by car from both accesses and there are parking areas. A small fee is charged for the maintenance of the space while there is a guard service. The fee varies between 2 and 5 euros per car, depending on whether or not consumption has been made in the valleys. Normally, the guard service only works in spring and summer, so access in autumn is free.
Well, you know, dear pilgrims, this is a perfect plan to carry out whether you are in the vicinity of Roncesvalles or not. We can assure you that the Irati Forest is a unique natural environment in the Iberian Peninsula that leaves no one indifferent. Come and get to know a little more of the magical and ancient forests of Navarra! As always, we are at your disposal for anything you may need.