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The Álava district of La Rioja region: the home of wine

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  • Sancho Abarca Street, Laguardia © Turespaña

    Sancho Abarca Street, Laguardia © Turespaña

  • Panoramic view of Labraza © Turespaña

    Panoramic view of Labraza © Turespaña

  • View of Leza © Turespaña

    View of Leza © Turespaña

  • Puerta de Santa Ana gate, Durango © Turespaña

    Puerta de Santa Ana gate, Durango © Turespaña


A walk through vineyards

Bounded by the Toloño and Cantabria mountains and the course of the Ebro River, Álava is a district of vineyards and gentle hills in the La Rioja region. It has the climate, soil and tradition to make splendid, world famous wines. The villages in this area of natural beauty combine a flavour of antiquity with the modernity of their wine-growing industry.

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This route can be completed in a two or three days at any time of year. We start by visiting the medieval walled precinct of Peñacerrada-Urizaharra in the town of Faido. Here we can see La Asunción Church, the palace of the Dukes of Híjar (17th century) and the Virgen de la Peña cave shrine. After leaving the town, the road crosses the Toloño and Cantabria mountains via the Herrera pass, a splendid viewpoint overlooking the Ebro River valley.

The next stop, 20 kilometres from Peñacerrada, is the wine capital of Laguardia. Caves in the old town have been used since medieval times as wine cellars, and some of them admit tourist visits.

Laguardia is also a splendid historic-artistic site. High points of the old town, surrounded by walls, are the churches of Santa María de los Reyes and San Juan, the large houses and mansions, Primicia House and the Renaissance town hall. Outside the walled area, it is worth visiting the building designed by the architect Santiago Calatrava for the Bodegas Ysios winery (2001).

After this, a secondary road brings us to the nearby La Hoya archaeological site, settled in the Bronze and Iron Ages (8th to 2nd century BC), and further then to the town of Elvillar/Bilar, where La Asunción Church (16th century Renaissance) and the Indiano Palace (18th century Baroque) should be seen. Within the area of the municipality, you can also see the splendid La Chabola de la Hechicera dolmen.

Just 9 kilometres from Elvillar is the town of Lanciego/Lantziego, with its aristocratic houses and palaces and, another 5 kilometres to the south, the Assa district next to the Ebro River, which conserves the remnants of Mantible Roman bridge. A little further on to the east, in Oyón-Oion, we will visit La Asunción Church (Gothic-Renaissance, 15th to 17th centuries) and the palaces of the Marquis of El Puerto and the Count of Bureta, and in Moreda de Álava we can see Santa María Church (16th to 18th centuries).

From Moreda de Álava, 6 kilometres to the north we arrive at Labraza, a small village that conserves its medieval walls and streets layout. Next, we turn back 25 kilometres to go to Lapuebla de Labarca, where the outstanding feature is La Asunción Church (16th century), and then to another wine-growing town, Elciego.

In Elciego we can see the facilities of the Bodegas Marqués de Riscal winery, known as The City of Wine, comprising the old winery (1858, the oldest in the La Rioja region) and the modern facilities designed by American architect Frank Gehry: a hotel, restaurant, wine-therapy spa and congress and convention centre. Highlights of the old town are the historic 16th century San Andrés Church (Gothic-Renaissance), Nuestra Señora de la Plaza Shrine (Baroque, 18th century) and the Town Hall building ( 17th century).

The route continues 15 kilometres northwest to Baños de Ebro/Mañueta, Villabuena de Álava/Eskuernaga and Samaniego, with their mansion houses, Renaissance and Baroque churches and numerous wineries. 

A little after this, we enter the Autonomous Region of La Rioja, where a visit to San Vicente de la Sonsierra is not to be missed. Its historic monuments include the medieval castle, San Juan de Arriba Shrine (early Gothic from the 14th century) and Santa María de Mayor Church (late Gothic from the 16th century). It is equally interesting to visit the church (Romanesque, 12th to 13th centuries) and the medieval archaeological site of Santa María de la Piscina (Peciña district).

Back in Álava, we arrive quickly at the town of Labastida/Bastida, where this route ends. Apart from the remnants of its medieval wall (the Toloño and Larrazuria archway gates) and numerous mansion houses, its historic architectural attractions are La Asunción Church (Renaissance-Baroque, 16th to 18th centuries), the Romanesque shrines of Santo Cristo and Santa Lucía and the Town Hall building (Baroque, 18th century).


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