For the third trip around the Basque Country, I traveled to the town of Olite and the desert called Bardenas Reales. Both of these locations are outside of Bizkaia, in Navarre. Neither are necessarily famous worldwide, however; both are known for one main attraction.
Olite is a relatively ancient town. It was first built in the 600’s but was forgotten for a few centuries. It came to prominence again due to the Palacio Real de Olite, or Royal Palace of Olite.
The palace/castle hybrid was in use from the 13th century as a home for the roaming Navarrese court and temporary residence. It became the permanent housing of the court until Navarre joined the Crown of Castille.
From then, the castle sat, relatively unused. It began renovation in the early 1900’s, and got to the point at which it is now. The Gothic-style castle stands tall over the rest of the old city, with towers that rise gracefully into the sky.
The castle had rooms galore, each almost perfectly preserved from when they were still in use. The queen’s garden was alive with greenery that climbed up the side of the central building. But the best sight of all was from the castle’s tallest tower, from which you could see the entire city on one side and the agricultural landscape on the other.
Our second stop was to Bardenas Reales, which is quite a bit more recognizable to some people. Bardenas Reales is a semi-desert, or badland, region in southern Navarre that was recently used as a set in a very popular television show.
Bardenas Reales was used in the filming of Game of Thrones in the first half of the show. The Dothraki rode across the sea of grass, eventually following Emilia Clarke’s character, Daenerys Targaryen, to Westeros. However, my experience was quite a bit different.
The badlands were quiet apart from our voices and the strong winds whipping across the wild grasses and shrubs. The clay stretched miles upon miles; the desert marked by plateaus and hill like structures called cabezos.
As the sun began to set, the already yellow and orange clay took on a darker, more reddish hue, and the temperature dropped quickly and significantly. The already beautiful scenery took on a second life, one that felt more mysterious and untouched by people. The cracks and crevasses in the clay, which seemed deep enough in the full daylight, became abyssal in quality. The wind whistling through the tall grasses became ominous in the distance. Sadly, the trip ended shortly after and I didn’t get to experience the badland at night, but overall it was one of my favorite experiences thus far, and I would recommend anyone to go see it!