2. Valcarlos
(365m) (Road route only)

Valcarlos is on the Spanish side of the border. There are shops, a tourist office and bank. Because of the bank’s unusual opening hours, you may not be able to change money.
Most churches in this part of the old world, are associated with mythical or historic events. The most prominent local church, which you should try and visit, has an interesting history. It houses a polychrome sculpture of St James, said to be one of the conquerors of the Moors (“Santiago Matamoros”). Legend, especially in the Song of Roland, claims that Roland, probably a warrior, sounded his horn, “Oliphant”, disturbing and alerting Charlemagne and his army who were resting nearby.  The king, sensing trouble, instructed his troops to return to the battlefield immediately. They were late. Roland and his companions had been slain by Basque warriors in a surprise strike from the heights of Ibaneta.

In another more romantic legend, the “Bosque de las Lanzas Floridas “ (Forest of the Flowering Spears), 53,000 intrepid maidens volunteered for Charlemagne’s army. They were replacements for the warriors slaughtered in the bloody Basque onslaught.

Hotel Maitena has a wonderful view from the dining room and offers meals from 10 Euros. Rooms for about 33 Euros. Hostal Casa  Marcelino offers food. Casa  Rural has double rooms for 33 Euros.

The road gets steeper, but it’s not a strenuous climb. When you leave Arneguy, and advance towards Ibaneta, you will notice yellow arrows and red “balises” of French way marking. This is a diversion designed with good intentions, primarily to shorten the distance. These “markers” can sometimes be confusing, especially in the thickets of a forest. Don’t panic, be fully focused. Take the hilly road and descend to Puerto d’Ibaneta.
The climb starts in earnest for cyclists at Valcarlos.  There are no villages for 17km. At Casa Guardiano you are 3km away from the summit. The road gets steeper. Quite a taxing climb and you will need to pause briefly and refresh your over-worked lungs. Take in more oxygen before you advance to the chapel on the “summit” of the Ibaneta Pass. Take advantage of the “summit’s” two kind attributes; first a charming, serene view, and, second, the opportunity to tarry a while to wipe off the perspiration and inhale good, clean country air. The chapel is not always open, but you can see a collection of crosses and the monument to Roland. 

14km to Ibaneta



A SUMMARY OF A PAGE FROM The Village to Village Guide To The Camino Santiago: With Permission Simon Walleberg Press. The Book is available at Amazon & Most Bookshops.

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