Located in the Navarra region of Spain, the Bardenas Reales is stark, rugged and dry and looks very much like the old wild American West.
This semi-desert region is in the southeast of Navarra, close to the border with Aragon and right in the heart of the Ebro Valley. Exploring the scenery, with its amazing natural structures, you would be forgiven for expecting a couple of cowboys to come riding up on the plain.
These natural and fascinating structures are caused by the erosion of clay, chalk and sandstone to form almost lunar scenes, with plateaus, gullies and hills and the occasional really strange, stand-alone shape. These unusual scenes have inspired writers and painters in the past, and the Bardenas Reales natural park has been used as a backdrop for several Spanish films, music videos and television adverts.
The Bardenas Reales natural park covers an area of 42,500 hectares and has been declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. There are various hiking and cycling routes, clearly marked and accessible throughout the park and the area can be crossed on foot, horseback or bicycle, or more comfortably by car. The only exceptions are the best viewpoints in the park, namely the “Alto de Aguilares” and the “Balcón de Pilatos,” which are accessible only by bicycle or on foot.
As for somewhere to stay, the city of Tudela is the most convenient stopping off point and is a very charming place to visit and sleep over. The park is easily accessed via the NA-134 road, which runs from Tudela to Arguedas. The city is interesting by itself, and is known as the capital of the “Ribera Navarra.” Tudela has several historic sites and buildings, dating back to its occupation by the Romans and the Celt-Iberians in the distant past.
Of interest to visit are the central public square, known as the “Plaza de los Fueros” and the various palaces in the city, as well as the Muñoz Sola Museum of Modern Art. The cuisine of the city tends to center on fresh vegetables and meat, all grown and produced locally and one particular dish, the traditional menestra, is a tasty combination of those vegetables.
While the city has several excellent hotels and smaller pensions on offer, possibly the most fascinating and appropriate accommodation in the area is located outside of Tudela, right on the border of the natural park. The Hotel Aire de Bardenas has been designed to merge with nature and features an indoor garden, as well as an indoor and outdoor pool.
In the way of cuisine, the onsite restaurant and bar serves only the best and fresh locally-grown produce, most of it grown on the property, including asparagus, artichokes, and the best tender lamb, as well as a special Tudela lettuce. Vegetarians are also well looked after at the hotel’s restaurant.
Naturally the views surrounding the hotel are simply amazing, whether looking across at the mountains and unusual shapes in the sandstone, or gazing towards the city of Tudela itself.
Take a different route on your next Spanish trip and head to Bardenas Reales. You won’t regret it.