It is indisputable that the world has changed and so has the way we travel. Nowadays we prefer natural environments, quiet places and enjoying what is authentic and close to us, rather than large cities, noise and crowds. And it is for this reason that Navarra, one of the regions in Europe with the greatest commitment to sustainability, is proposing a different way of doing things: another type of tourism, in fact.
In Navarra, 33 per cent of the territory enjoys some kind of environmental protection. The region has a Network of Protected Natural Areas, including a world biosphere reserve called Las Bardenas Reales. This is a desert which is unique in Europe and it is home to a rich diversity, adapted to this environment, where people can go hiking and enjoy other activities in a stunning setting.
Navarra can also boast three natural parks in total: the Señorío de Bertiz, with its botanic garden and wide range of trees; the Urbasa-Andia, an area which has barely been transformed by human action and has special ecosystems which are the object of conservation, and the Bardenas Reales natural park.
The region is also home to three other integral reserves where no human action is permitted, only scientific and educational research. These are Lizardoia (Ochagavía), Ukerdi and Aztaparreta (Isaba).
In addition, visitors to Navarra will find 38 nature reserves, pools, cliffs, ravines and gorges of ecological interest; 28 natural enclaves, copses, pine forests and lakes where birds such as kingfishers nest; and 47 Natural Monuments which have merited protection because they are particularly unusual or beautiful, such as the Robles de Jauntsarats.
Tourists in any part of this region will find beautiful walking routes, recreation areas, special bird protection zones, waterfalls, lagoons, woodlands and numerous outdoor activities with which to enjoy the surroundings while maintaining the levels of conservation they deserve.
However, sustainable tourism in Navarra involves more than just enjoying and caring for natural areas. The region has a policy of maintaining and developing its rural areas and towns and avoiding overcrowding. It is strongly committed to highlighting the charms of rural tourism, where visitors can talk and share experiences with the people who live in the areas they visit.
This personal approach makes tourism much more enriching and it promotes a circular economy in which everyone wins.
One of Navarra's other attractions is its gastronomy and this is also part of the sustainable movement. People have always eaten well here, because it has always been committed to 'zero kilometres', even before the term was adopted. The vegetables on your plate in the restaurant, for example, will have been picked only hours previously and cooked by people who know and understand the raw materials with which they are working. But Navarran cuisine is extensive and also includes meat from animals who have grazed in its green meadows. Recipes for the most characteristic products have been handed down from generation to generation over centuries: chistorra sausage, pacharán, Idiazabal and Roncal cheeses, and traditional sweets, for example. Everything is local, and seasonal.
Spring is an ideal time to visit Navarra, which is full of a thousand colours and offers hundreds of activities linked to nature, the culture of centuries of history, the Pilgrim's Way to Santiago de Compostela, its ancestral traditions, gastronomy, wine and, above all, the friendliness and hospitality of its people. More information can be found at www.visitnavarra.es