After visiting the medieval city of Estella, today we’re continuing on the Camino de Santiago to another medieval destination, Los Arcos. This town is much smaller and therefore we’ll have more time to rest if needed.
It’s first thing in the morning and the Jacobean route has already begun to reward us with a fountain that pours water and wine! After the climb to Villamayor, we will cross through olive groves and vineyards until reaching Los Arcos. The Camino de Santiago is heading into wine land, where wine culture is everywhere we look.
Itinerary Estella - Los Arcos
The sixth stage of the French Way offers us 21 kilometres in a section with few towns and many vineyards. Today’s route is simple, the biggest challenge of the day is the climb to Villamayor de Monjardín, and after everything you’ve already tackled to get to this point on the Camino de Santiago, we can assure you that this challenge will be a piece of cake.
Estella (Km. 0). Beginning of stage
Practical tips for this section: In Ayegui, you’ll find a bar where you can have breakfast if you haven’t already done so before leaving Estella. We’ll need to have something in our stomach before tasting the wine that the Camino de Santiago offers us at the fountain located a few metres away. We also recommend not missing the opportunity to visit Pablo Sanz Zudaire and getting yourself a walking stick. Buen Camino!
We leave this beautiful medieval town on the streets of Rúa and San Nicolás, passing by the Palace of the Kings of Navarre. We come out on Zalatambor street and continue straight after the roundabout. After passing the petrol station, we will turn slightly right to continue towards Ayegui (km 2).
From Ayegui, the classic route heads downhill to the famous Wine Fountain and the monastery of Irache. Here we are presented with two options: the traditional one and the alternative one. To take the traditional route, we turn right, passing through Azqueta and Villamayor de Monjardín.
For those who opt for the other route, you should continue straight ahead, crossing through a wooded area with little traffic but that is well marked. This route runs along the slopes of the Montejurra mountain and passes through Luquin.
The alternative route is a small shortcut that allows you to cut off a little under a kilometre, however, it does not pass the Irache monastery. This option is only good for those who have already visited this site. Both itineraries meet up before reaching the end of the stage, in Los Arcos.
Following the traditional route, we will cross the N-111 road and pass by a service area located between the campsite and the Iratxe housing development (km 4). An underground passageway will allow us to access a path surrounded by crop fields, which we will follow until meeting up with the Igúzquiza road.
We carefully cross the road and continue on the trail that pops up on the other side until reaching Ázqueta. In this town, we can visit Pablo Sanz Zudaire, known as “Pablito el de las Varas”. He is a legendary figure on the Camino de Santiago, since he has been offering hazel wood walking sticks to pilgrims who visit his home since 1986.
Ázqueta (Km. 7,4)
Practical tips for this section: We will only encounter a few towns in this section, so it is important to take advantage of the fountain that we will find at the junction with the Urbiola road in order to stock up on enough water. You will also find a food truck along the way, however it’s only open in high season. Finally, we’d like to point out the Moorish Fountain, which is a good place to sit and meditate before continuing on your journey. Buen Camino!
In Ázqueta, having passed a few warehouses, we turn left to avoid the hills among the vineyards. Next to the trail, we find the Moorish Fountain, a medieval well.
Following the Camino de Santiago markings, we arrive at Villamayor de Monjardín (km 9.2). At the top of Monjardín, we can find ruins from the castle of San Esteban de Deyo. In this town we can visit the church of San Andrés.
Two kilometres after having left behind the last town, we reach the junction with the Urbiola road (km 11.3), and we begin a long stretch on which we won’t encounter any towns.
After walking along this monotonous and long trail for two kilometres, we find a few texts by R. Ábrego on a panel next to the path. It tells us that in 1873, in the area surrounding the Jacobean route, the liberal general Domingo Moriones and his army were defeated by the Carlist troops (km 13.3).
Los Arcos (Km. 21,2). End of stage
Practical tips for this section: In Los Arcos, you will find all the services and amenities you need to recover from today’s stage. If the Wine Fountain wasn’t enough for you, then we recommend visiting some of the wineries in this town. See you tomorrow!
After walking for about an hour and a half, we enter Los Arcos. The path runs through the place of San Vicente and along Main Street to lead us to the square in this town that has a great historical legacy.
The pilgrim hospitals of Santa María, San Lázaro and Santa Brígida have seen countless pilgrims just like us who have stopped in Los Arcos as the final destination for this stage.
This small town invites you to enjoy a quiet afternoon in its square, next to the church of Santa María. Don’t forget to visit the Town Hall, the hermitage of San Blas, the Cerrada fountain and the Castilla and Estanco medieval city gates. You can also take advantage of the afternoon to visit some of the wineries near the town, such as Bodegas Fernández de Arcaya, 300 metres from Los Arcos, or Bodegas Alzania, located 1.2 km away.
Some pilgrims prefer to extend today’s stage to Torres del Río, nine kilometres away. We prefer Los Arcos because it has more amenities and it is a lovely place to spend the afternoon.
Comments Estella - Los Arcos
Today’s stage has no major difficulties. However, some sections are very isolated and certain precautions should be taken. Here are a few tips to ensure you complete the stage without any hiccups and can enjoy the great food in this wine producing region.
Precautions stage Estella - Los Arcos
Pay special attention to the sections that run parallel to the N-111 road, since traffic can be dense during rush hour.
Keep in mind that between Villamayor de Monjardín and the town of Los Arcos, there are almost no amenities or services. You should prepare to face this stretch of over 10 kilometres with enough food and water, especially during the summer months. On very sunny days, this section can be especially tough if done at midday as there is no shade on the path.
For people with disabilities, we recommend following the N-111 road for the section from Ázqueta to Villamayor de Monjardín or Los Arcos.
Food stage Estella - Los Arcos
Without a doubt, the main culinary recommendation for today is to try the wines from the Irache wineries. To wash it down, you can order one of the following local dishes:
Local cheeses from the region
A plate of cured meats from Navarre
Hake “a la koskera” (in a green sauce with clams)
“Rancho de abadejo” (made with Pollock fish)
If you have a sweet tooth, don’t miss the glazed “rosquillas de San Blas” ring-shaped pastries, which are typical of the municipality of Los Arcos.
What to do stage Estella - Los Arcos
One of the best ways to enjoy the Camino de Santiago is to explore the towns, medieval buildings and legends that come your way, which is why we’ve provided information on the various attractions you will come across during today’s stage.
Ayegui is an old ecclesiastical dominion that, despite being located almost entirely within the territory of Estella, has its own Town Hall. The municipality has an area of 10 square kilometres and is home to approximately 2,400 people.
Among the town’s most remarkable buildings, we find the Wine Fountain, the monastery of Irache and the church of San Martín. The footballer Javier Martínez Aguinaga was born here, a player for FC Bayern München.
The Wine Fountain (or Irache fountain) was built in 1991 by the Irache winery. It is made of ashlar masonry and both water and wine pour out of it (yes, wine!) There are two texts on the fountain:
“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.”)
Hours: Open every day (8:00 am to 8:00 pm).
Monastery of Irache
The monastery of Irache dates back to the 11th century, built on a previous temple from the 8th century. It has an eclectic style, as it is made up of different buildings that were added at different points in history.
It is one of the oldest pilgrim hospitals on the entire French Way, and one of the most important architectural complexes in the Community of Navarre. Later, it was home to the headquarters of the first University of Navarre, however it has been uninhabited since 1885.
It has a Latin cross plan structure that ends in three semi-circular apses, with the central one presenting a cornice with animal ornamentation.
The building has three entrances. Two Romanesque-style gates: San Pedro and the main one; and another small door, where you can find the images of Jesus and Mary, known as “Preciosa”.
Hours: Closed Mondays, Tuesdays and holidays. From Wednesday to Sunday (from 10:00 am to 1:15 pm, and from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm).
Admission: Free, but visits must be arranged in advance, by calling +34 948 553 954.
Church of San Martín
The temple of San Martín is located in Ayegui and dates back to the 18th century. The building is built on a single rectangular nave with two Neoclassical side chapels.
Inside you can find the Romanist altarpiece from the late 16th century, a crucified Christ in a Gothic style from the year 1400, and an image of the Virgin Mary from the 14th century.
This small town has just over 50 inhabitants. Walking along its streets, you can visit the parish of San Pedro, the church of Ázqueta with a remarkable altarpiece, and the building next to the church, which is an example of its civil architecture.
The Moorish Fountain (Fuente de los Moros) is located just a short distance from Villamayor de Monjardín. It is a Gothic fountain built during the 12th century by Muslims, hence its name. Later on, the building was conquered by Christians and in 1991 it was restored by the Prince of Viana Institution.
It has a rectangular plan and its façade is formed by two arches, from where you can go down to the fountain on a few wide but steep stairs. Its roof is formed by a pointed barrel vault.
If you go inside this structure, you’ll find a great place to take a rest. The reflection of its water on the walls and the cool air inside make it an ideal resting point for the dozens of pilgrims who pass by the fountain every day.
Villamayor de Monjardín
This small medieval town in Navarre has an area of 13 square kilometres and just over 100 inhabitants. Given the numerous cities in Spain that are named “Villamayor”, a decision was made in 1908 to incorporate the neighbouring “Monjarín” mountain into its name.
The name of the mountain is said to come from the legend according to which King Sancho Garcés is buried under the Castle of San Esteban de Deyo, located at the top of the mountain. The name would thus come from “Mons Garcini”, which means “Mountain of Garcés”. Other scholars claim that the name simply comes from joining the two words “monte” and “jardín” (mountain + garden).
Either way, there is a lot to talk about when it comes to the name of this town, as it is also known as the “town of the four lies”, since the name can be split into 4 words: “Villa”, “Mayor”, “Monje” and “Jardín” (“Villa”, “Large”, “Nun”, “Garden”), none of which actually describe the town.
In addition to the Castle of San Esteban de Deyo, you can also visit the church of San Andrés and the hermitage of San Esteban de Deyo or Santa Cruz de Monjardín. Another attraction in the town are its vineyards and winery.
Castle of San Esteban de Deyo
The Castle of San Esteban de Deyo, also called the Castle of Monjardín, is located at the top of Villamayor on the Monjardín mountain, and dates back to the 10th century.
Of the wall that surrounded this civil building, the sandstone walls still remain. Inside there is a well, a hermitage, a chapel (built later on), and remains from the tower. The castle began its decline in 1512, after Navarre was annexed to the Crown of Castile.
Legend has it that Sancho Garcés I conquered this fortress, which was in the hands of the Arab dynasty of the Banu Qasi, occupying the kingdom’s throne in the year 905. This has led many to believe the monarch is buried under the fortress.
Church of San Andrés
The church of San Andrés is located in the town of Villamayor de Monjardín and dates back to the 12th century. This temple in a Romanesque style has undergone various restorations throughout history. The tower was added in the 18th century, in a Baroque style. Later, in 1973, a long restoration process began that wouldn’t be completed until 1984.
The building has an impressive Romanesque gate and door with medieval ironwork. However, the true relic of this church is found inside: the silver cross. This treasure was preserved in the castle of San Esteban de Deyo until the beginning of the 20th century, when it was moved to the village parish.
They say that there is a replica of the cross in the Polish cathedral of Torun, since a bishop from Torun once saw the cross during his visit to Navarre and was completely struck by it.
Los Arcos is a municipality with more than 1,100 inhabitants. The medieval town centre is composed of long streets.
The city was once protected by a wall, which was then used for other later constructions. Currently, the Estanco and Castilla city gates are what remain of that impressive fortress.
The city was under Muslim rule until King Sancho Garcés reconquered it in the 10th century. At the hands of King Sancho VI, the Wise, the town received the charter in 1175. During this time, there was a period of prosperity in the town and the construction of places like the church of Santa María began.
In this town, you can also visit the Town Hall, the hermitage of San Blas and the Cerrada fountain.
Church of Santa María
The monumental church of Santa María is located in the heart of the town of Los Arcos in its square. Construction began in the late 12th century, but successive restorations and expansions kept the building active until the 19th century.
This long period of construction gives the temple enormous architectural value. The building includes several different construction styles, such as Romanesque, Gothic, Plateresque, Baroque and Neoclassical.
Its structure has a Latin cross plan and a single nave. We can point out the four-level tower and the Plateresque portal, both from the 16th century.
Inside, the main altarpiece has been preserved with the Gothic image of Santa Maria de los Arcos, belonging to the 17th century. This virgin is characterised by being black with blue eyes. You should also make sure to look at the cloister in a late Gothic style from the 16th century.
Other relics stand out, such as the choir stalls, which present a Mannerist style, and the altars of Our Lady of the Rosary, John the Baptist, Saint Gregorio Ostiense, and Francisco de Javier, all of which have Baroque ornamentation.
Hours: Open every day from Monday to Sunday (from 5:30 pm to 9:00 pm).
The Los Arcos Town Hall dates back to 1764. Its palatial design reflects the architectural influence that was famous at the time, evoking the feeling of a stately mansion.
One of the things that most grabs our attention when facing the façade of this civil building is the presence of ostentatious coats of arms. There is an enormous stone coat of arms, located over the central bay, representing the town’s local weapons framed by iron.
Other elements such as the ironwork or open spaces also add to the personality of this majestic, 3-storey building, with one of the floors taking on the form of attic with a low ceiling. The first floor is made of ashlar masonry, while the second is built in brick and is guarded at the ends by a row of sillar stone.
Hermitage of San Blas
The hermitage of San Blas is located a short distance away from the centre of Los Arcos. It is built in a Romanesque architectural style. Although today it is called San Blas, in its origins it was consecrated to Saint Lazarus.
They say that Theobald II, a young king of Navarre and Count of Champagne and of Brie, gave the sum of ten ducats to the temple, which at that time was used as a hospital for pilgrims. This donation was written in his will.
The Cerrada fountain is located in the town of Los Arcos, below ground. This peculiar situation led it to remain hidden for many centuries. Its construction dates back to 1596, however it was only recently discovered.
The fountain’s masonry structure can be seen from in front of the town’s Culture House. However, due to the flooding of the Odrón River, it has had to be repaired on several occasions.
Castilla City Gate
The Castilla city gate in Los Arcos was part of the old medieval wall. In 1739 it was rebuilt during the mandate of Felipe V.
It was built in ashlar masonry and consists of two levels. On the lower one, there is a semi-circular arch, along with three huge coats of arms on the upper level. The construction is completed by three pediments, two of which are semi-circular and another with a triangular shape.
Estanco City Gate
The Estanco city gate in the northwest of the city of Los Arcos dates back to the 13th century. Like the town’s other city gate, the Estanco was part of the old medieval wall.
It was built in ashlar and brick, with a semi-circular arch that was used as a gateway to the walled city of Los Arcos.