Travel tips: the Baztán Valley in Spain, and the weeks best deals - Halong Junk Cruises

Travel tips: the Baztán Valley in Spain, and the weeks best deals

Baztán Valley
On the right track: the Baztán Valley, in Navarre, Spain. Photograph: Getty Images

Take me there

Why go? In the foothills of the Spanish Pyrenees, just north of Pamplona, this valley is a stronghold for Basque culture and cuisine. Forget the over-priced Michelin-starred restaurants of San Sebastian and the Basque coastline, here you can dine on top-class Navarrese cuisine in rustic inns for less than €25 a head. The valley is at its most beautiful in the autumn when the forests turn golden and the handsome stone-built villages celebrate the harvest with fiestas dating back to pagan times.

What to do Sections of the Camino de Santiago pilgrim’s way cut through the Baztán Valley and there are dozens of shorter routes to explore, including the old smuggler’s path that links the caves at Urdax, Sara and Zugarramurdi (once a site for witchcraft), and the hike up to the waterfall at Xorroxin. Look out for fiestas, such as the mushroom festival of Elgorriaga (first Sunday of October), and the ancient Joaldunak carnival where the villagers of Zubieta and Ituren parade through the streets in sheepskins, pointy hats and cowbells (end of January). Take a day trip to Pamplona, where Hemingway watched the running of the bulls, or the genteel seaside resort of San Sebastian, both of which are less than an hour’s drive away.

Where to eat Baztán is famous for its walnuts, figs, mushrooms and cheese, all of which can be found on the menu at Donamaria’ko Benta, a riverside restaurant-with-rooms (donamariako.com).

Where to stay You can sign up for guided walks, Spanish lessons and gastronomic visits at Georgina Howard’s mountainside farmhouse (ensuite B&B with kitchen access from €80 per night, half-board house-party weeks from £725, pyreneanexperience.com).

Insider tip “The Molino de Amaiur is a watermill where you can watch corn being ground to make talos, the local version of tortillas,” says Georgina Howard. “Try them with chistorra [spicy sausage] and cheese, washed down with dry cider” (amaiurkoerrota.com).

Give me a break

Grand front: the new YHA Brighton.
Grand front: the new YHA Brighton.
Photograph: PR

Home: a new youth hostel opens on the Brighton seafront in November. The YHA Brighton will offer 51 ensuite bedrooms in the former Royal York Hotel building, a short walk from the pier. As well as a restaurant, the hostel will also have catering facilities with a dining area and bar. Two-bed rooms start from £45, and four-bed family rooms from £65 per night. Beds in dorms cost from £14.50 per night (yha.org.uk).

Lighting up the sky: a view of the Northern Lights.
Lighting up the sky: a view of the Northern Lights.
Photograph: Trym Ivar Bergsmo/Observer

Away: the Northern Lights are notoriously capricious, but this offer from Hurtigruten should take the edge off a “no-show”: if you don’t see the Aurora Borealis it’ll give you a six- or seven-day voyage for free (excluding flights) the following winter. To secure the deal, book an 11-night Classic Round Voyage before 30 November. Prices from £999pp full-board. Flight and transfer from £330pp (hurtigruten.co.uk).

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Travel | The Guardian
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