Camino de Santiago - French Way - Stage 6 - Estella to Los Arcos
Total distance: 21.8 km
Leave Estella via the Plaza San Martín and along the Calle San Nicholás passing through a gate with a carving depicting the Crucifixion. At a roundabout you will need to cross the main road and follow the road signposted Camino de Logroño where you will come across another roundabout that is decorated with a large sculpture of a star. Cross the road and walk up the hill along a dirt road heading towards the village of Ayegui, now a suburb of Estella, where you will find an Albergue, some shops, a bakery and some cafés.
As you reach Ayegui follow the yellow arrows and head towards the Monasterio de Irache.
The monastery was one of the first Benedictine monasteries in the Navarra region and will soon become a Parador (hotel). Building commenced in the 11th century and in its long history it has been a pilgrim hospital, a university, a military hospital, a wine museum and a religious school.
One of the interesting sights is the monastery's cloister which had been started prior to the counter-reformation brought on by the Council of Trent. What is unusual about it is that half of the cloister is classically decorated including nude figures but the other half, built after the Council of Trent, is decorated solely with religious themes.
Just across the way from the Monastery you will find the Bodega de Irache where pilgrims can fill their bottles with free wine from a tap.
The wine fountain was built in 1991 and the 2 plaques invite the pilgrim to take a drink. The 2 plaques say:
“A beber sin abusar te invitamos con agrado. Para poderlo llevar el vino ha de ser comprado”. (“We are pleased to invite you to drink in moderation. If you wish to take the wine with you, you will have to buy it.”)
“Peregrino si quieres llegar a Santiago con fuerza y vitalidad de este gran vino echa un trago y brinda por la felicidad”. (“Pilgrim, if you wish to arrive at Santiago full of strength and vitality, have a drink of this great wine and raise a toast to happiness.”)
After partaking of the free wine head back up the hill past the monastery and through the Plaza de Irache down a gravel road lined by vines towards a group of new houses and the Hotel Irache. Pass behind the hotel and along the road passing under the N111 and continue along a gated track through some woodland. High on a hillside you can see the Ermita San Esteban, built from the stones from el Castillo de Monjardín. After about 5 kilometres you arrive at the village of Azqueta.
Walk through the village and continue along the path towards Villamayor de Monjardín, the church spire can be seen just over the ridge. The path takes an uphill route and at the top you reach el Fuente de los Moros (fountain of the Moors), a 12th century gothic fountain that has recently been restored. A little way in the distance on top of a hill you can see the remains of el Castillo de San Esteban de Deyo.
Passing by the Bodega Castillo de Monjardín you soon reach Villamayor de Monjardín where there are a couple of Refugios, one private and one public, along with a café. Worth visiting is the 12th century Iglesia de San Andrés on your way out of Villamayor.
Walking along a concrete path you soon come to a gravel path which takes you through vineyards, wheat fields and woodland, passing the ancient Fuente del Pozo de Baurín and through more fields. The 12 kilometre route between Villamayor de Monjardin and Los Arcos is a relatively flat and clearly marked route, but one with little shade, so make sure you have plenty of water with you. There is a fountain along the route but there will still be at least 10 kilometres to the next point where you can replenish your water supply.
The route continues through wheat fields and olive groves and eventually reaching the outskirts of Los Arcos. Here you will find a fountain to quench your thirst, forking left take the Calle Mayor into the town of Los Arcos.
The town is located on the banks of the Río Odrón and is dominated by the Iglesia de Santa María, a church dating originally from the 12th century, but which wasn't completed until the 18th century. Inside the church is a mixture of Baroque and Gothic, there is also has a gothic cloister and a Renaissance bell tower, which can be visited by Pilgrims after mass.
As with Estella, if you are a fan of architecture, the streets of Los Arcos are filled with 17th and 18th baroque style manor houses.
Also in common with Estella and Puente la Reina, Los Arcos came into existence primarily through the Camino de Santiago.
For those wishing to spend the night here Los Arcos has 4 Albergues, 3 private and 1 municipal along with a number of restaurants, shops and banks.