Hiking Urederra, the blue lagoon of Northern Spain

Hiking Urederra, the blue lagoon of Northern Spain

‘Urederra’ means “Beautiful water” in Basque. It’s the perfect name for the scuba blue river that slinks deep in the mountains of Navarra, Spain. The Nacedero del Urederra hike is an easy trek in Northern Spain that provides excellent views for little effort.

Surrounded by bright green leaves and lagoon-like waters, it’s easy to forget you’re in Spain rather than New Zealand or the Caribbean, or I don’t know … a mermaid’s hidden hot tub. But Urederra is indeed in Spain, a part of Navarra, to be exact. The region is better known for Pamplona and its annual San Fermín festival which hosts the running of the bulls. However, this natural paradise is just an hour from Pamplona and an hour and half from the Northern coastal city of San Sebastían.

I went a couple of weekends ago (in early May) with a group of teachers from Logroño. The weather was a little chilly and it was overcast the day we were there, but it was absolutely worth the trip to see this natural wonder.

The hike itself is free, all you have to do is check in with the people in the booths at the parking lot to get a sticker that validates your entrance. Here is the Navarra Tourism website for more info.

Urederra in Navarra, Spain

 

How do you get there?

I think the biggest challenge in visiting Urederra is the transportation. If you don’t own a car in Spain, you have three choices:

  1. Rent a car
  2. Take a bus & a cab
  3. Hitch a ride ;/ (I guess)

Renting a car: Some friends rented a car to drive out to Urederra from La Rioja this year, and the only challenge they encountered was navigating home. They got lost in the Basque country on the way back and were mildly harassed by a senile old man.

While a good sense of direction or functional GPS are evidently a must, I’d also recommend that people who choose this option feel comfortable with driving on switchbacks in the mountains –  because those roads are tight and windy.

Estimated Costs – Rental car costs & Parking fee of 3 euros to keep your car in the lot while you hike

Taking a bus & a cab: There aren’t busses that go directly to the pueblo near Urederra, but you can take one to the nearby town of Estella. The trail is about 30 minutes away from Estella by car, and you can grab a cab to Baquedano, the pueblo that marks the trailhead. Ask for the cab driver’s number and call him/her to get a ride back to town when you’re finished.

I did this when I visited, and it went smoother than I expected. There was a cab stand tucked back a couple of blocks behind the bus station with two cars waiting. The drivers agreed to drive us to the trail and were familiar with the name “Nacadero del Urederra.” They looked up the prices in a book before we started, so we knew how much it would cost. We had some fluent Spanish speakers, so that definitely helped!

The only problem arose when we called them to request a pick up as we were finishing. They said the company was too busy to send two cabs at the time and didn’t have one vehicle big enough for all of us. However, a driver said he was willing to make two trips to take us down. We agreed, and the man was very friendly even though he had to wait for us in the parking lot because our return trip took longer than expected. He even gave us mint candies on the drive down, and got our entire group back to the station in Estella on time for our bus to Logroño!

Estimated Costs – 4 euro for the bus each way, 28 euro for the cab each way

3. Hitching a ride: Well, I’ve never hitchhiked anywhere, but some people think it’s a viable way to get around if you don’t have a car. So I suppose it’s an option if you’re feeling adventurous and happen to find someone going in that directional.

Estimated Costs – Free … (Unless you pay with your life!) 

The clear waters of Urederra

Views: 5 out of 5

The reason why you visit Urederra is to see the out-of-this-world blue water. It’s incredibly clear. It’s such an unexpected beautiful shade of turquoise. It practically glows.

Without getting too crunchy on you, it was a great reminder of the amazingly beautiful things that exist in places where you’d least expect them.

We spent quite a bit of time at this spot, admiring the water and skipping rocks. I’m sorry to break the bad news that most of the best rock-skipping rocks have already been skipped here. Slim pickings.

Difficulty: 2 out of 5

This was a super easy hike that anyone can do! There were lots of young children and older people on the trail the day I visited. It’s 3 km from start to finish, or 6 km roundtrip.

Steep inclines are minimal. There’s a small push uphill to the waterfall at the end of the trail, and another hill that you have to go back up on the return trip to the trail head.

The reason I give it a two out of a five instead of a one is that there are some scenic viewpoints along the side of the trail that require you to descend over a small rock scramble. For this, you need to use your hands or hiking poles for balance as they can be slippery from the damp riverbed.

At the falls in Urederra

Gabriela and Derek overlooking some falls at Urederra

If you’re looking for a challenging hike, I wouldn’t recommend this. I didn’t feel like I got a great workout from it even though we were walking for about four hours. This was partially caused because the trail is a big tourist draw, so it’s crowded.

The Saturday I went, Urederra was crowded with people who were competing to take photos at the scenic viewpoints. But you can hardly blame them – the views are unbeatable.

We were also stopping for pictures quite frequently so we weren’t working up much of a sweat. But on the plus side, there are some trees to climb if you want to do a little strength training 😉

Here’s what I recommend:

1. Plan to spend about four hours there

This should give you enough time to walk around and take pictures, enjoy in the scenery, make it to the top for a picnic lunch and back to the parking lot in Baquedano. I’d estimate that it takes about an hour of actual walking time to do the 3 km in each direction. Factor in breaks for photos, rests, food along the way to determine how much time you’ll need.

We underestimated our return trip (I think it took us about an hour), and kept that taxi driver waiting. Oops!

2. Bring a picnic lunch

One thing I regret about my visit to Urederra is that we didn’t bring a picnic lunch along. I saw some people sitting down and making bocadillos at the top, and it looked like it would have been nice. Maybe a bottle of Rioja or Navarra vino, some fresh bread, chorizo and cheese – muy bien!

Just remember to pack out your trash. There was some litter on the trail, which was kind of a bummer.

3. Wear layers & shoes you don’t mind getting muddy

In my experience, weather in Northern Spain is kinda shifty. It can be cold and windy in the morning, and then suddenly turn a sweltering day after noon. Be sure to wear a comfortable jacket (perhaps one that’s waterproof), as well as something lighter underneath in case it warms up.

I wouldn’t say you need hiking boots for this trek, but I would highly recommend shoes that can get dirty. A lot of sections of the trail have standing water and are very muddy. In some places, you can’t avoid it. Be prepared for this and leave your white kicks at home. Because there is nothing worse than that moment when you slip and ruin a pair of perfectly good shoes.

Happy hiking!