Classic Hemingway Route following the footsteps of Hemingway

Our Hemingway excursion is a delightful walking tour to discover the Navarran Pyrenees as we follow in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway. It is a day trip which includes visits to places enjoyed by Hemingway as well as gastronomic experiences related to his life and work.

We meet in Plaza Castillo, where we learn about Hemingway’s favourite bars and meeting places around the plaza before we head out of town. And we are off to the Pyrenees, just like Hemingway did in real life and in his novel The Sun Also Rises.

“It was baking hot in the square when we came out after lunch with our bags and rod-case to go to Burguete. People were on top of the bus, and others were climbing up the ladder. Bill went up and Robert sat beside Bill to save a place for me, and I went back to the hotel to get a couple of bottles of wine to take with us… Robert Cohn stood in the share of the arcade waiting for us to start. A Basque with a big leather wine-bag in his lap lay across the top of the bus in front of our seat, leaning back against our legs. He offered the wine skin to Bill and to me, and when I tipped it up to drink he imitated the sound of a klaxon motor-horn so well and so suddenly that I spilled some of the wine, and everybody laughed. He apologized and made me take another drink…”

Chapter 11, The Sun Also Rises

Look out Point

Our first stop to take in the fabulous views from at the top of a hill, high above the Irati river. A healthy climb over leaves and stepping stone rocks bring us to the top to a look out place. The mirador has an elevation of 3,425 ft. The view from the viewpoint is  spectacular, stretching for miles over peaks of the Pyrenees covered in vast carpets of dense forests. and the meandering Irati river down below.

“The bus went fast and made a good breeze, and as we went out along the road with the dust powdering the trees and down the hill, we had a fine view, back through the trees, of the town rising up from the bluff above the river. The Basque lying against my knees pointed out the view with the neck of the wine-bottle, and winked at us. He nodded his head.

‘Pretty nice, eh?’

‘These Basques are swell people’, Bill said.”

Chapter 11, The Sun Also Rises


Classic Hemingway Route Mirador Ariztokia

Below us the Irati River – We walk along the banks of the Irati River, where Hemingway loved fishing. It is an exciting place to be as we watch the Irati river rushing below us as we cross the walking suspension bridge. The water is transparent and we all look into the water hoping to spot a trout swim by.

Classic Hemingway Route River Irati


In the heart of the Pyrenees – Aezkoa is a Pyrenean valley, surrounded by the valleys of Urraulgoiti, Zaraitzu, Garazi, Artzibar and the towns of Luzaide, Orreaga, Auritz and Orotz Betelu. The Irati river begins its meandering from France and runs through the Irati Forest, the Selva de Irati, and then flows into the river Aragon, to later become the largest river in Spain, the river Ebro – Ega, Arga y Aragón, hacen al Ebro varón. It has pristine river water and is in a region that is relatively uninhabited and is the home to many of the Pyrenee wildlife;  wild boar, deer, fox, hare, and of course, trout.

We retrace his steps to the town of Aribe. From the mirador we take the path down to the river. We can admire the autumn leaves, discover fallen chestnuts, even discover some wild flowers still in bloom.   Our walk end in the village of Aribe where have a break for local cheese and wine in the small hotel.


Classic Hemingway Route Aribe


Down at the river we have about a 1.5km walk along the banks to Aribe, passing as we go the old derelict spa of Los Baños, where Hemingway liked to fish near this spot with his friends.

“You’re sure thing has trout in it?” Bill asked.

 It’s full of them”

“I’m going to fish a fly. You got any McGintys?”

“There’s some in there”

“You going to fish bait?”

“Yeah, I’m going to fish the dam here”

“Well, I’ll take the fly-book then” He tied on a fly.

“Where’d I better go? Up or Down?”

“Down is the best. They’re plenty up above, too.”

The Sun Also Rises, Chapter 12


Classic Hemingway Route Spa Baños


Visit the surroundings of the town of Orbaizeta, and the heart of the Selva de Irati Forest. We drive further up into the mountains to Orbaizeta where there are ruins of an 18th century munitions factory.

“Only on the fifth day they managed to catch some trout, not in the forest, but in the Espinal and the dam of the Orbaiceta factory.

Hemingway y Los Sanfermines by Jose Mari Irribarren, 1925. 


Classic Hemingway Route Orbaizeta


While in this area Hemingway also visited the remains of the Arms and Munitions factory at Orbaizeta.  The ruins of this factory are a reminder of what used to be the main industrial centre for the military in this hidden corner of the Irati Forest. The factory emerged in the 18th century when the existing factory in Eugi no longer had enough forests for its needs. King Carlos the 3rd decided to build a new factory to supply munitions and armament for the successive wars  and due to the proximity of iron ore deposits, the abundant water supplies in the nearby streams and extensive supplies of wood were factors he decided to build the new munition factory in the Aezkoa Valley. Not far from the factory is a dam near which Hemingway is also reported to have fished.


Classic Hemingway Route Northern Spain Travel


“We came around a curve into a town, and on both sides opened out a sudden green valley. A stream went through the centre of the town and fields of grapes touched the houses. 

The bus stopped in front of  a posada and many of the passengers got down, and a lot of the baggage was unstrapped from the roof from under the big tarpulins and lifted down. Bill and I got down and went into the posada. There was a low, dark room with saddles and harness, and hay-forks made of white wood, and clusters of canvas rope-soled shoes and hams and slabs of bacon and white garlics and long sausages hanging from the roof. It was cool and dusky, and we stood in front of a long wooden counter with two women behind it serving drinks. Behind them were shelves stacked with supplies and goods.”

Chapter 11, The Sun Also Rises

We visit the town of Burguete, where Hemingway used to stay and fish. Burguete is a small town which at one point in its history was a “go to” place for wealthy bourgoisie from the cities to enjoy mountain air and country living.   Now many of the houses are strictly weekend or summer homes so as we walk around the town we can see many houses all shuttered up for the season. It looks as though there are relatively few people who live there full time… it’s a sort of wealthy ghost town!

“The bus levelled down onto the straight line of road that ran Burguete. We passed a crossroads and crossed a bridge over a stream. The houses of Burguete were along both sides of the road. There were no side-streets. We passed the church and the school-yard, and the bus stopped. We got down and the driver handed down our bags and rod-case. A carabineer in his cocked hat and yellow leather cross-straps came up.

‘What’s in there?’ he pointed to the rod-case.

I opened it and showed him. He asked to see our fishing permits and I got them out. He looked at the date and then waved us on.

‘Is that all right?’ I asked.

‘Yes, of course.’

Chapter 11, The Sun Also Rises


We drive to Burguete and some real, concrete, evidence of Hemingway’s presence.  We lunch in the hotel where he used to stay on his fishing trips. There we can see the parlour where he used to chat with the locals, the piano on which, for some vandalous reason, he scratched his name inside the lid, and the room where he slept – a room that still contains the furniture and furnishings that were there when he lodged there.

Classic Hemingway Route Hotel Burguete

“The fat woman who ran the inn came out from the kitchen and shook hands with us. She took off her spectacles, wiped them and put them on again. It was cold in the inn and the wind was starting to blow outside. The woman sent the girl upstairs with us to show the room. There were two beds, a washstand, a clothes chest and a big, steel engraving of Nuestra Señora de Roncesvalles. The wind was blowing against the shutters. The room was on the north side of the inn. We washed, put on sweaters, and came down-stairs into the dining room. It had a stone floor, low ceiling, and it was oak-panelled. The shutters were all up and it was so cold you could see your breath.”

‘My God!’ said Bill. ‘It can’t be this cold to-morrow. I’m not going to wade a stream in this weather’.

There was an upright piano in the far corner of the room, beyond the tables and Bill went over and started to play.

Chapter 11, The Sun Also Rises


Classic Hemingway Route Lunch Burguete


The lunch is a truly country, authentic affair – home made vegetable soup, river trout cooked Navarran style (fried with a piece of local ham on top), follow by delicious bitter almond tart.   All is, of course, accompanied by local wines.


Classis Hemingway Route Burguete


“The girl brought in a big bowl of hot vegetable soup and the wine. We had fried trout afterward and some sort of a stew and a big bowl full of wild strawberries. We did not lose money on the wine, and the girl was shy but nice about bringing it. The old woman looked in once and counted the empty bottles.”

Chapter 11, The Sun Also Rises

Following in the steps of Hemingway

This is a walking tour for which sturdy footwear is recommended.  However, if there are non-walkers in the group they are welcome to stay on the bus which will take them directly to the town of Aribe.  Please note that the weather can be changeable so dress accordingly.

Recuperando Hemingway Pamplona Iruña

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