It might be said that Pamplona, the capitol of Navarra, is guilty of a great disservice to the rest of the province. Mention Pamplona and suddenly the streets are filled with dark-haired youths, suited in white and gilded in red, stampeding like mad to escape the running of the bulls. This is Pamplona, at least for the nine and a half days of festival that honors the city’s patron saint, San Fermín.
Apart from the festival, outside the capitol, Navarra awaits. Within its borders are the soaring Pyrenees, deep vales of pine and beech and the fertile Ebro valley: all the geography of Spain compressed into a region. Yet the character of Navarra carries an international flavor; the pilgrim’s road to Compostela runs through the northern region, and the steady flow of devotees throughout the years brought with them a cultural renaissance. The churches and monasteries that crown the Navarran hillsides attest to the endurance of this heritage.
A tastier testament to its international flavor is the Navarran cuisine. The abundance of vegetables, such as piquillo peppers and artichokes, has always kept the cooking of Navarra light and elegant, and its proximity to travelers has guaranteed culinary evolution. Most recently, cultural exchanges with France have helped refine one of Spain’s first truly gourmet cuisines.