Camino de Santiago - French Way - Stage 4
Pamplona ⁄ Iruña to Puente la Reina
Total distance: 23.5 kilometres
The Camino de Santiago is very well marked through Pamplona and takes you past the Citadel which is set in 69 acres of public park known as the Vuelta del Castillo which is surrounded by moats, trees and lawns. If you have time it is well worth resting a while here before you start back on your journey.
The Camino also takes you through the campus of the University of Navarra which was founded by Jose Maria Escrivá de Balaguer, the 20th century catholic priest who founded Opus Dei and who was canonised by Pope John Paul II.
Once through the Vuelta del Castillo you will find markers towards the village of Cizur Menor, a walk of approximately 4.5 kilometres. Along this path you will cross a bridge over the Rio Sadar and not too far away you will come across another bridge which crosses the Rio Elorz. The path will take you across the railway track and up the hill which overlooks the village of Cizur Menor.
The village of Cizur Menor has played host to the Order of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem (which later became known as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta) since the 12th century. In the 13th century the Order built a monastery and pilgrim hostel. What remains of the monastery has been converted into an Albergue which is still run by the Order of Malta.
Worth seeing is the recently restored 13th century la Iglesia de San Miguel Arcángel and in particular its Romanesque-Gothic doorway. Surprisingly this church has been used as a place to store grain for well over a century. Like so many churches in this region it is a fortress or fortified church.
There are two Albergues in Cizur Menor, one is located here next to the Iglesia San Miguel Arcángel and the other, as we have already mentioned is part of the old monastery complex. There are a number of bars to get a meal as well as a small shop and a chemist.
From here the Camino de Santiago starts to leave the green and lush foothills of the Pyrenees and enters into the more arid regions of Navarra and into La Rioja. Both regions famous for their wines.
Leaving Cizur Menor the road goes downhill and after about 100 metres you will fork to your right through a tree lined footpath which brings you to a steep track leading up to the Alto de Perdón. Up here you will find a wind farm with around 40 modern turbines providing electricity for the city of Pamplona.
Before you reach the Alto de Perdón and around 6 kilometres from Cizur Menor you come across the abandoned village of Guenduláin and the remains of a former pilgrim hospice. A little further along you come to the village of Zariquiegui.
In Zariquiegui you will find a Romanesque church called la Iglesia de San Andrés which was built in the 12th century. Most of the other buildings within the village are of a much later date ranging between the 15th and 16th centuries. This is mainly due to the village being ravaged by the Black Death (bubonic plague) which spread throughout Europe during the 14th century.
Also in the village you will find a fountain known as the Fuente Reniega which means the Fountain of Renouncement or Denial in English.
There is a legend surrounding this fountain as it is said that a Pilgrim travelling the Camino, thirsty and exhausted from his walk was confronted by a fellow traveller, this traveller turns out to be the Devil in disguise. The Devil offers to show the Pilgrim a hidden source of water but only on the condition that he renounces God, the Virgin Mary and St James. The Pilgrim held steadfast to his faith and even though it could have meant dying of thirst he refused to do what this man asked. At that moment St James, also disguised as a Pilgrim, appears and leads the thirsty and exhausted man to the hidden fountain, and using a scallop shell, provides the traveller with water to quench his thirst.
After taking advantage of quenching your own thirst at the fountain continue along the path soon arriving at the Alto de Perdón. Here you will find a sculpture depicting a number of Pilgrims either on foot or on horseback as they make their way along the Camino to Santiago. There is an inscription which reads “donde se cruza el camino del viento con el de las estrellas” which in English means “where the path of the wind crosses that of the stars”.
On a clear day you will get some spectacular panoramic views over the valleys below and you will be able to see the next village on your travels, that of Uterga, as well as the village of Obanos and if you are really lucky the town of Puente de la Reina, your ultimate destination on this leg of the Camino.
The path down from the Alto de Perdón becomes a stony track through vineyards and almond trees, and in spring is bordered by Hyacinths and Orchids. After around 3 kilometres and after crossing the river you arrive at the village of Uterga. There are two very small Albergues here and a bar as well as a small gothic church called la Iglesia de la Asunción, but that is pretty much it.
2.5 kilometres down the road and past an almond grove you come across the village of Muruzábal. Walking past the high walled Iglesia de San Estaban and into the main square you will find a bar and a chemist. Close by you will also see the 17th century Palacio del Marquís de Zabalegui also known as the Palacio de Muruzábal. The Palace is owned by the Pérez de Rada family, descendants of the first Marquís de Zabalegui and is now a Bodega (vineyard) producing different types of wines such as Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo, which is exported to places such as Japan, Germany and the United States.
Near to la Iglesia de San Esteban there is a sign which points to Eunate which is about 3 kilometres away. It is worth taking a detour to visit the beautiful church there. Eunate is also where the Camino Aragonés joins the Camino Frances. La Ermita Santa Maria de Eunate is believed to have been built in the 12th century but little is known of its origins. The octagonal shape points to there being a connection to the Knights Templar. Certain aspects of the building's construction also point to the building possibly having been used as a funeral chapel for the pilgrims that passed this way. There are a number of graves in the grounds that show the scallop shell symbol. There is a tiny 7 bed albergue next to the church if you wish to stay. The Camino from here follows the Camino Aragonés alongside the Rio Robo meeting up with the Camino Frances in Obanos.