This town is considered the “capital” of the Baztan Valley, which borders France. It is a beautiful town that has a long history of collective nobility. In addition to this, the epic deed of the defenders of the Castle of Amaiur is also worth mentioning.
Plan your stay in Elizondo
The city center is the main attraction of the Elizondo, making it a perfect place to walk around and sample the food. A variety of active tourism is offered in this town, and it also serves as an excellent home-base for excursions to the part of Navarre that is in the Pyrenees. There, you can take on the rather long hike through the marvelous Señorío de Bertiz Park, later continuing to the north to visit and eat lunch in Vera de Bidasoa. In the afternoon, you can continue to the north to hike through the Peñas de Aya Park or visit the border towns of Irún and Hondarribia.
Another option is to put on that mountain gear and make a more adventurous plan. Follow the road N-121b to visit Zugarramurdi and its caves. After eating, you can choose between the nearby caves of Ikaburua, the Peñas de Itxusi, or the dolmens of Izpegi. To plan where you’ll eat and stay in the valley of Bidasoa, check out our pages about Eating and Sleeping in Elizondo.
The history of Elizondo began in 1025 with the installation of the Manner of Baztán by the Semen I Ochoaniz and the first documentation of hamlets around its first church. As such, Elizando means “next to the church” in Basque. The town was established as the capital of the valley.
As it was a province that connected southern Navarre (Hegoalde) to the dominions of ultrapuertos (Iparralde), it was a very important strategic holding. It was for this reason that in 1397, Charles III granted land and titles to many of the town’s locals. As they became free men, they reduced their loyalty to the Lord of Baztán.
Problems with Castilians and Basques
In 1512, the valley was occupied by Beamontés troops (Navarran partisans of the Castilian king). Castilians and people of the Basque country alike conquered southern Navarre, establishing a garrison in the Castle of Amaiur, located next to Gaztelua Mountain. From there they controlled the new border between “Castilian” Navarre and the part of the kingdom that remained loyal to the Albret dynasty.
In 1512, 1516, and 1521, the valley and its castle were points of contestation, changing hands many times. In July of 1522, a small garrison of some 200 Agramonteses (Navarrans loyal to the Albrets) was surrounded by an army of Beamonteses and Castilians.
Over multiple days of fighting, the fortress was taken on July 22nd, and the defendors fled to Pamplona. There, warden Jaime Velaz de Medrano and his son were poisoned. To prevent the castle from being open to new attacks, the Castilians later destroyed the castle.
In 1603, a new influential neighboring force was built by the “Nuevas Ordenanzas, Cotos, y Parámetros del Noble Valle y Universidad de Baztán”. Town meetings were established so that everyone could have a say in who would be the elected mayor.
Nobility in Elizondo
The nobility of most of its citizens made it easy for many of them to make a career for themselves in the army or in the bureaucracy of the Hispanic monarchy through the history of Elizondo. Juan de Goyeneche stands out among the others. He founded the first newspaper in Spain, and he was a politician and promoter of the palace and the factory of Nuevo Baztán near Madrid.
The Baztaneses have a reputation as lords that can be seen in literature. In the opera Carmen, written by Próspero Mérimée in 1845, a character says:
“I, sir, was born in Elizondo, in the Valley of Baztán. My name is José Lizarrabengoa. You know my land well enough to gather that my blood is Basque and old Christian. The gift of my name is not elevated by presumption or by whim, but by right of proven nobility. In my home of Elizondo, you can validate my lineage.”
Elizondo is nowadays a modern city that still conserves within its streets the historic center with the flavor of the lines of the great families of its past. The current Iglesia deSantiago was built in the 20th century on top of the old building from the 16th century. The floods of 1913 left the building so damaged that it was decided that the best thing to do would be to rebuild it completely rather than restore it. It is in the Neogothic style, and it has the typical red ashlar of the area, and two square-floor-plan towers with small domes stretching out of its exterior walls. It also displays beautiful and colorful images on its façade.
The most well-known building of the city, and the best example of the architecture of the nobility in the valley, is the PalacioArizkunenea. Its construction was ordered in the 17th century by Miguel de Arizcun, the first Marquis of Iturbieta. With a floor plan in the shape of a “U,” it has a façade of recessed stone. A large coat of arms with ornamental motifs of animals, flowers, and horns of abundance is housed within its center. It currently hosts cultural activities. It is located on the street Jaime Urrutia, which is famous for its arcades and arches immortalized by Javier Ciga and the cultural center of Elizando.
Church of Santiago
The Town Hall, the administrative center of the Valley of Baztán, is another great building to see in Elizondo. It is a Baroque building erected in 1696 and inspired by the Palacio Jaiola de Elvetea. It is a building of reddish and white stones articulated in three floors and crowned by a remarkable wooden eave.
Houses with a lot of history
Another intriguing building is the CasaIstekonea, associated with Pedro de Mendinueta. It has an arched portico on its ground floor and wooden eaves cut by three attic windows. It highlights its crest, with the representative weapons, aligning it with the line of the Palacio de Arizkunenea. On its outskirts, lies the PalaciodeDatue, a typical Baztanesa construction that was brought to life by Agustín de Jauregui, viceroy of Perú and governor of Chile in the 18th century.
In the Casa Puriosenea you can find the MuseoEtnográficoJorgeOteiza, funded by private donations from the valley’s inhabitants. The space is organized into three sections that come together to create a tour through the traditional way of life of Baztán. The second floor also contains a permanent exhibition with the work of the painter JavierCiga.
Elizondo is only a few kilometers away from the Señorío de Bertiz Natural Park, an area that belonged to the same family until 1898, when it was acquired and remodeled for its following assignment to the Chartered Community of Navarre. It houses in its interior a beautiful and diverse botanical collection.
As for its cuisine, Elizondo is famous for its UrrakinEgina (literally “made with hazlenuts”), a sweet consisting of pieces of chocolate filled with whole hazelnuts, which will delight any lover of sweets.
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