Navarre boasts some of the Iberian Peninsula’s most beautiful landscapes, and Navarre holds special significance within Jesuit spirituality and history: St. Francis Xavier, Ignatius’s closest companion and one of the founding Jesuits, was born in Navarre.
Navarre is site of one of the most dramatic incidents in Ignatius’s own life. As a young man, Ignatius served as courtier and soldier who sought to win glory as a military man. In 1521, French troops invaded Navarre, supported by many in Navarre who, proud of their long, independent history, sought to carve out greater independence from the King of Castile (ruler of the kingdom that, over time, came to dominate the land we today call Spain). Ignatius of Loyola led a futile defense of the citadel at Pamplona, was wounded by cannon shot, and was transported back to his home. During his long convalescence, he underwent a profound conversion; no longer interested in military and courtly glory, he began to wonder how he might imitate the great saints in serving Jesus.
We start out from the Pilgrims’ Hostel, taking the Calle de las Pozas toward the Plaza de España, and from there toward the Plaza Chica and the Calle Araciel y Castejón. We come out by the Puerta de Castejón and follow the Avenida de Navarra. We find the statue of the two pilgrims: the young Ignatian and the old Jacobean.
We leave Alfaro by highway LR-288, which leads us directly to the next town, Castejón, which is in the Autonomous Community of Navarre. The train line runs beside us, on our left. We cross the roundabout of N-113 road and enter Castejón, straight ahead on Calle de San José.
We pass through Castejón, almost in a straight line, first by Calle de San José and then by Calle de Sarasate. Going straight ahead, we reach the end of town and on our left we see an incline towards the bridge over the railroad tracks. We walk towards the bridge but we do not cross; instead, we turn down the road to the right that leads parallel to the train tracks.
We keep following the train line, which runs parallel to the road on the left. A kilometre further on, we cross under AP-15 highway. We can’t get lost if we keep following the train line. At 5.5 kilometres from the highway bridge, our road passes over the train line. Here we have to decide if we will take the shorter route (2 kilometres less, but over pavement) or the more picturesque one (farm road near the Ebro River). The asphalt option is clear, and there’s no way to get lost on it: just keep going straight until reaching Tudela. The other option, which passes near the Ebro and also near a place known as Sotos de Ebro, crosses other dirt pathways, so we should pay attention to in order not to lose our way.
Undoubtedly, the dirt road leads to the best views of the River Ebro that we find on our Ignatian Way. The road that we have to follow to our left is found easily after crossing the bridge over the train line: we follow a steep curve to our left, which sends us back in the opposite direction from the one we were taking on the asphalt road. So we leave the main road, and the dirt road takes us around a wide turn to the right and brings us close to the Ebro River. Having reached the river, we keep it on our left and follow it downstream. The road has turnoffs and alternative routes, which lead to the fields irrigated by the Ebro. We continue straight, staying close to the river and walking parallel to it. We pass behind some houses that are on our right. At the next junction continue straight ahead. We arrive at some abandoned corrals on our left. Continue straight ahead. At the next junction we turn to our left. We see the city of Tudela in the distance. We arrive at some warehouses and meet the same road that we left a few kilometres before.
Once we reach the asphalt road, we follow it to our left. We will find ourselves with the train line on our right and the Ebro River on our left. We will soon pass a small dam on the river. Some 300 meters beyond the dam, we take a dirt road to our left; this continues parallel to the road. Using this route, we spare ourselves walking on pavement with cars nearby. This path leads us directly to the entrance of Tudela, always in parallel with the road.
We enter Tudela, where we find awaiting us the Romanesque church of Santa Magdalena. Following the Calle del Portal, we approach the Cathedral, the city hall, and the tourism office. The Pilgrims’ Hostel is found about 1.2 kilometres outside the city, following the Avenida de Zaragoza and the Calle de la Caridad.