This week I was joined on the podcast by Jose Mari Ardanaz, from El Camino People.
Jose Mari walked his first Camino in 2017. One of the things that most caught his attention about the Camino was the people who walked it and their stories. That’s why he first created an Instagram profile to share some of those stories. that project grew and grew until the Camino took up most of his life. That’s when he founded El Camino People, which is a travel agency but it also an NGO, which collaborates with organisations that help people with disabilities.
Jose Mari lives in Pamplona and he shares his knowledge about the city. Scroll down to listen to our conversation in Spanish, or get the highlights here in English.
There are 3 things every visitor to Pamplona should be aware of, according to Jose Mari:
- The Camino, of course. The Francés from Saint Jean, is just one of them, but there are others, like the Francés from Somport, Camino Francés-Aragonés, Camino del Baztán, and Camino de Sakana, which is part of the Camino Olvidado.
- San Fermín festival, with the running of the bulls. One of Jose Mari’s recommendations is to follow their route, from near the town hall to the bullring.
Things to visit in Pamplona
The cathedral. Unlike other cathedrals along the Camino, the one in Pamplona is not in a big square. The exterior and interior belong to 2 different periods. The exterior is ‘ugly’ compared to other cathedrals; it looks more like a palace or official building, but the interior is spectacular. You shouldn’t miss the Occidens exhibition there.
Pamplona used to be a fortress and the old city walls are still standing. You enter Pamplona through the Portal de Francia, one of the old city gates. Visit the city walls, the old town, and Jose Mari particularly recommends not to miss El caballo blanco, a meeting point for the people of Pamplona.
On your way out of Pamplona there’s a park called La Taconera on your left. The Camino is on your right. Instead of following the official Camino, Jose Mari recommends to take Avenida del Ejército on your left instead. That way you’ll go through the old citadel and be transported to past times. After that, you’ll join the official Camino again on your way to Alto del Perdón.
Centro Ultreia, a pilgrim welcome and interpretation centre that is 100% accessible. You can learn about the history of the Camino in Navarra.
Pamplona’s food offer is very varied, ranging from simple traditional dishes to more elaborate and innovative ones.
If you’re only staying one night, the fun thing to do is to have a tapas, only they’re called pintxos in Pamplona.
On the traditional side, Jose Mari recommends Café Río and their bechamel ball with an egg inside. They have a counter keeping track of how many eggs they ever have sold… and it’s over half a million!
If you prefer the trendier side, Jose Mari suggests Baserriberri.
If you’re planning to stay longer, and you’re a meat lover, you need to treat yourself to a good chuletón (big T-bone steak).
And a word you may need, and that’s specific to Navarra and the Basque Country: zurito. You probably know caña already, for a glass of beer. A zurito is a smaller serving, it’s half a glass. It’s what the locals normally take when planning to go to 4 or 5 bars.
You can’t talk about Pamplona without mentioning Ernest Hemingway. References to the author can be found throughout the city:
– There’s a monument to Hemingway outside the bullring.
– On one side of Café Iruña, you’ll find El Rincón de Hemingway (Hemingway’s corner), a speakeasy serving great cocktails.
– When in Pamplona, Hemingway used to stay at Hotel La Perla. If you want to splurge, you could also stay in this 5-star hotel. Hemingway’s room has been kept just as it was when he stayed there. Over the years, people who have stayed there have sent copies of The Sun also Rises (Fiesta in the Spanish translation), in their own languages. So, the room now displays this collection.
San Fermín festival
It takes place every year, July 6-14.
Jose Mari’s warning: if you’re planning to stay in Pamplona around those dates, you should book a year in advance. The city will be packed during the festival and it will be impossible to find accommodation otherwise.
You should also know that the public albergue closes during the festival. And the private hostels will be full of tourists and party-goers.
With so much to see and do, maybe plan some extra time in Pamplona and follow Jose Mari’s recommendations.
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Jose Mari also told me a little bit about the Camino del Baztán. If you’re interested in this bonus audio + transcript, you’ll find it with the podcast transcripts.