Etxauri: Tranquil Town on the Road Less Travelled
Etxauri has a lot to be desired. It's a small town with a vibrant community feel. It has a nice park in the middle of the town, a fronton court, a stylish playground to go along with the medieval towers that have been turned into homes. Nearby are cliffs for rock climbing and hiking, public pools next to the river, a winery, and stellar views of the valley.
Etxauri is roughly 15km (9 miles) from Casco Antiguo (old town) in Pamplona. If you have a car it should take about 25 minutes to get there from the old town. The easiest thing to do would be to Google it or punch it into your Waze app and let them guide the journey.
If you are carless, you can get there by taking the bus. The municipal bus service does not go out to Etxauri, but there is service provided by La Pamlonesa bus service. They offer regular service seven days a week, however, weekend service is less frequent. The bus leaves from the Estación de Autobuses de Pamplona. La Pamplonesa operates out of platforms 1-4. You purchase your ticket to Etxauri on the bus. The La Pamplonesa website does not have an English version at the moment.
The center of town has a large traffic loop that circles the town's main green space, Plaza Mayor. It is quite common to see children playing soccer or tag while their parents socialize on the patio of Bar Basterra.
Across the park from Bar Basterra are the medieval towers of Etxauri. These towers have been converted into a variety of different homes. Behind these medieval towers is the Sierra de Sarbil, an impressive mountain ridge with many cliffs to admire. Lounging in this area, time seems to slip by, while enjoying the view.
Next to the towers is the Church of Santa Eulalia. This place of worship was built in the 18th century. If you go inside there is a refurbished organ that was built in 1863 that is worth appreciating.
Beside the Church is the town hall, the local fronton court and the Denak Bat Bar. The fronton is in the style of only having the front wall without the wall on the left. Fronton is a Basque sport that is a distant cousin of tennis and squash. Across the street is a stylish playground that is fun for a variety of ages.
An interesting element of this area is the three flag poles. What makes these three flag poles so intriguing is that the middle pole is notably vacant of a flag. The other two poles have the flags for the town of Etxauri and the other for the Autonomous zone of Navarre. The middle pole may lack a flag but it does have a plaque on it. The plaque states that this pole used to fly the Ikurrina.
The Ikurrina is almost universally considered the national flag of the Basque people, by the Basque people. However, because the Ikurrina is the official flag of the autonomous zone of Basque Country and not of Navarre the state of Navarre forbade the town of Etxauri from flying the Ikurrina. In an act of protest the town council decided to put up this plaque explaining what had happened and left the middle flag pole naked.
The Sierra de Sarbil is the closest and main outdoor activity near Etxauri. Formed due to a fault line, this mountain ridge has been an attraction for hundreds of years. It is known as a tremendous place for rock climbing and has many trails to hike. At the top of the Sarbil is the Hermitage of Santa Cruz. This summit refuge is a petit cottage. More importantly, the views from the summit are as massive as they are impressive. On a clear day you can see the Pyrenees Mountains to the north/north-east.
The town owned public pool is a perfect place to cool off on a hot summer's day. Located below the center of town, it is a short walk from Plaza Mayor down the hillside. This seasonal oasis is a local's favourite and pleasantly located next to the Arga River. A day pass will cost 10 Euros or less.
A few minutes drive from Plaza Mayor is Bodega Otazu. It is a winery, has art sculptures, a wine museum, and beautiful architecture. It comprises five different buildings including the winery and the 12th century Church of San Esteban. Go for the tours; stay for the wine tastings paired with pintxos, designed to compliment each other and tantalize one's palate. Keep in mind that Otazu operates by appointment. It is definitely worth visiting.
There are a few options when it comes to dining out in Etxauri. They are Denak Bat, Bar Basterra, and Restaurante Sarbil. Denak Bat is located between the Church of Santa Eulalia and the Town Hall. It offers a patio next to the fronton court. Bar Basterra is next to Plaza Mayor and offers more green space and a view of the Sierra de Sarbil. The two places have more casual dining options including a variety of pintxos.
Restaurante Sarbil is located on the opposite side of town, a three minute walk from Plaza Mayor. It is built on the edge of the hillside and extends over the drop. It offers incredible views of the valley. It is a great place to see the rolling hills, vineyards below and the wind turbines atop the Sierra del Perdón. The menu is more expensive than the previous two options but the gastronomy is more upscale and the views are inspiring.
If you are looking to spend a night or two in Etxauri, there are a few different options available within the town. They are all within a 3-5 minute walking distance of each other. Check out the alphabetical list and websites below:
On the road less travelled is the town of Etxauri, Navarre. Sitting on a hill above the Arga River, Etxauri offers a tranquil retreat. It is small enough to walk around in less than an hour but splendid enough to not want to leave. Etxauri has jaw dropping views, historic buildings, outdoor activities, and a relaxing pace to life, something we can all use a little more.
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