A view of Estella Navarra behind a river and bridge

Estella travel guide

About Estella

Estella in Navarra is a town of great monumental and religious heritage on the Camino de Santiago.

Aymeric Picaud, author of the Pilgrim's, wrote of Estella that, 'Estella is a city of good bread, great wine, lots of meat and fish, and all kinds of happiness'. Founded in 1090 by King Sancho Ramirez, the town is a wonderful destination for lovers of art, history and monumental heritage. Estella was in its heyday during the 12th and 13th centuries when many of its marvellous architecture was built.  A key stop for pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago, following the French Way, Estella is full of remarkable religious architecture.

Several of the churches in Estella are from the Late Romanesque period including the Church of San Pedro de la Rua, the oldest church in the town. The church has a beautiful 13th century cloister whilst the exterior has sculptures of griffins, centaurs, mermaids and harpies on its facade.

Other churches that must be visited are Church of San Miguel which blends the styles of the Late Romanesque and early Gothic, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre with its striking Gothic facade, and the Church of Santa Maria del Castillo, which was built on land where a Jewish synagogue once stood. The Basilica of Our Lady of Puy was rebuilt in the Neo-Gothic style in the 20th century and is built in the shape of a star to recreate the light which was seen when an image of the Virgin of Puy appeared here. 

Estella also has some stunning civil architecture as well as it's religious monuments and the Palace of the Kings of Navarre is one of the best examples of civil Romanesque architecture in Navarra. Its exterior features some remarkable carvings of the struggle between Charlemagne's paladin, Roland and the giant Ferragut. Today it houses the Museo Gustavo de Maetzu containing the many of the Basque painter's works of art.

The Governor's Palace holds a the Museum of Carlism and a documentation centre uncovering the history of the Carlism movement. Take a walk along the river Ega in the park of Los Llones along a path which leads to the convent of Santa Clara and onto the road to La Rioja. The festival of Le Puy is celebrated here on May 24th and in late July the town comes alive during Medieval Week with people dressed in costume and many attractions.

The town is known for its busy Thursday morning market at Plaza de Santiago and there are places where you can buy some religious souvenirs. Be sure to try a slice of Tarta de Santiago, an almond cake marked with the cross of St James. Roast suckling pig is a local speciality and, as well as beef and pork, game is often served in Navarra cuisine.

Cheese lovers will enjoy trying Idiazabal cheese made from whole unpasteurized sheep's milk. It is encased in a hard, inedible brown rind and has a nutty, buttery flavour. Enjoy your meal with a glass or two of Navarra's famous red wines and finish with a digestif of pacharan, an aniseed flavour drink made from sloe berries.

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