This is one of my favourite places in the world, so I’ve been meaning to do a Pamplona travel guide for quite a while.
I was definitely spoiled when I visited the town. During one summer in college I found myself working with an amazing Spanish girl who I felt like I’d known forever. At the end of the August, she returned to Spain and told me I absolutely HAD to visit her in Pamplona.
A few years later, I took her up on that offer and two years after that, I visited her beautiful homestead again.
Pamplona Travel Guide: When to visit
When I travel, I like to visit places out of season. I travelled to Venice in February, Iceland in April and I’ll be Interrailing in September, so you can see this is an ongoing pattern.
Visiting a country or city during famous festivals or holidays can definitely be a wonderful experience, but personally, I like seeing what these places are really like. Think about it – Dublin on St Patrick’s Day is a horror show and no reflection on what the county has to offer during other times in the year.
So rather than waiting for the Running of the Bulls, I chose to visit my beloved friend during October when the weather would be cooler, the flights would be cheaper and the drunk tourists would be at a minimum.
Pamplona – known as Iruña in Basque – is the capital of the Kingdom of Navarra in Northern Spain. This is very different to the more traditional parts of Spain that tourists normally visit and people in the Basque region have worked very hard to keep their culture alive and thriving.
To reach city, you’ll need to fly into Bilbao Airport and head to the town’s main bus station for the coach to Pamplona. It’s a little cumbersome, so Pamplona is not a place you pick for a weekend break. I usually spend 6-8 days here whenever I visit.
The people in Pamplona
I’m sure it’s different during the San Fermin Festival (the week of the Running of the Bulls), but if you go during another time of year, you stand out and the locals tend to stare at you quite freely. Seriously. They don’t care if you stare back. My friend’s family were incredibly fun and welcoming, but everyone else seemed a little reserved and suspicious when talking to me. Not unfriendly, though – just don’t expect them to gabble away to you for hours. At least not without a drink…
In some parts of Spain, the locals nearly speak English better than the British do, but Pamplona isn’t a big enough tourist spot for this to be the case. Most places have staff who can speak very basic English, but you’ll need to speak clearly and slowly, and watch your accent.