Palatial Olite

The tourist office in Pamplona suggested a bus trip to Olite, about 40km south of Pamplona. The weather looked grim so a bus trip seemed appealing.

Olite is a delightful medieval town with an ancient city wall, and a newer city wall built in the Middle Ages as the city expanded. The old buildings with interesting wooden eaves and quaint balconies line the narrow streets. Street names reflect the professions and lives of the residents, such as the Jewish street (Rúa de la Juderia) and the gambling street (Rúa de la Tafureia).

And instead of rain we had chilly but sunny weather. Very pleasant!

Olite has a medieval castle, made up of the original old palace which is now a Paradore, the Palacio Nuevo (new palace) and the ruins of the Chapel of St Jirge. From the outside the new palace looks like a fairy tale castle with lots of towed and turrets and pretty windows.

In 1813, during the War of Independence, the palace was deliberately destroyed, for fear the French invaders might use it to their advantage. However in the 1920s a competition was held for architects to complete a restoration program. A 40 year programme of rebuilding was completed in the 1970s. A taller tower was added, but most of the rebuilding was true to the original design.

The palace was originally built by King Carlos III. Steepen 1402 and 1424, in the French Gothic style. Mo et was no object for Carlos and his wife Queen Leonor. They indulged in gilded rooms with contemporary paintings and tapestries to decorate the palace. The queen’s chambers had a beautiful garden beside it, whereas the king’s chamber had a magnificent gallery with. Eautiful Gothic windows overlooking an orange grove.

Towers were built for various purposes such as the lookout tower, the four winds tower where they could watch ullfights, jousts and tournaments, the cistern tower which pumped water throughout the palace and the three crowns tower which was built as a playhouse for the king’s eight children.

The king kept a menagerie including giraffes, lions, buffalo, camels and wolves as well as an aviary of exotic birds.

The palace was abandoned after the region if Navarre was conquered by the Crown of Castille in the early 16th century. The restoration is a stunning palace which Disney is yet to discover.

Olite is an important wine producing area and a viticulture and enology centre has recently been established there by the Spanish Government.

Olite is not exactly on the pilgrim’s way, but it is a popular detour. Understandably!