The first time I visited this little Spanish town the experience wasn’t great. I was with my host family on the way to have lunch with the grandparents and we stopped by Olite because they had told me it was very beautiful and were eager to show me. My eagerness to see the town didn’t last long upon arrival. This was back in February and I was still in denial that the whole of Spain wasn’t warm all year round. As a result I was severely underdressed for the freezing cold rain pouring down and the wind that was bending my umbrella all over the place. My host family too were having a bad time and after a few minutes we agreed to get back into the car and put Olite in our diaries for another day.
Olite is a small town in the centre of Navarre and only 42 km south of Pamplona. It is a pretty medieval town with grand stone houses and narrow cobbled streets with many little shops selling treats of Navarre. Pinxos are the tapas of the north and you can find a few welcoming bars where you will be able to enjoy a caña (the Spanish standard sized beer) and a delicious pinxo for around 3.50€. In the sunshine, if you are lucky. The town is famous for its palace but there are also two churches, one built during the 13th century adjoining the palace and the other located next to the town dating from the 12th century that are worth the visit. The town also has a monastery, underground medieval galleries, and numerous vineyards and bodegas producing the famous wine from the region surrounding the whole town.
Recently I decided to visit Olite on a solo trip one day after work. The sun was shining and I was feeling adventurous. Getting there by bus from Pamplona is easy, cheap and pretty quick. On arrival the first thing you notice is the huge castle that makes this town famous. In the 14th century King Charles III commissioned the building of his royal palace, establishing it as a royal seat of the kingdom of Navarre for centuries to come. The castle, which takes up a third of the old town, received many additions and modifications throughout the centuries that have given it its charm.
It cost just 2€ to enter and you are free to explore the multitude of staircases, towers, tunnels, rooms and courtyards distributed around the palace. It is so enjoyable to get lost here just wandering around and stumbling across a sun soaked courtyard full of trees or finding a staircase to a room offering fantastic views of the town and vineyards stretching out to the horizon. You can easily spend a good couple of hours or more here exploring. There is quite a lot of information available about the castle and one of the rooms houses a display of the history of the palace and its restoration since it was set on fire by the guerrilla Espoz y Mina who feared it would end up in the hands of the approaching French army.
When you have enjoyed the palace and all its quirky features you can go and explore the no less impressive town and walk among the vineyards, most of which offer wine tours if you have some money to spend.
Who knew what was being concealed by the wind and rain on that freezing day in February? Olite is a great little place and I definitely recommend it!