By Carol Gutiérrez, Rioja and Basque Country Travel Curator & Guide
The name of Rioja evokes wine, great wine. It is one of Spain's best known wine regions with a long tradition of wine production since Roman times.
But Rioja is more than great wine. The beauty of the landscapes with vineyards all around. The historic and cultural heritage of this land with amazing towns from the Middle Ages and ancient Prehistoric sites that live together with 21st century avant-garde buildings.
A wonderful gastronomy that blends the traditional with the innovative. And I'm so happy to say that La Rioja is populated with friendly people, who are very proud of their land and traditions.
La Rioja Spain Wine Area
The La Rioja Spain wine area is subdivided into three different zones: Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja and Rioja Alavesa. The latter being part of the Basque Country. Each area is unique with different sub-climates and different types of soils, which means very different types of wines. There are numerous reasons to visit Rioja and a lot of wonderful places and experiences not to be missed. Even Vogue featured an article in 2017, entitled: "Why Spain’s Rioja Is the Wine Region to Visit Now," and The Guardian also published a great piece by Norman Miller, simply called, "A Tapas Pilgrimmage."
1- Wine Tasting in La Rioja Spain
Wine is one the most important reasons why travellers from all over the world visit Rioja. From the very classical fine wines to the most modern and innovative ones, if you are a wine lover, you will enjoy in Rioja for sure. Try to mix different types of wines and visit different types of wineries.
Although wine elaboration process is similar everywhere, the stories behind each wine are unique. And don’t limit your visits and tastings just to the famous wineries which are usual more commercial. Let yourself discover the small wineries where you can find really gems. You may need some local contacts to discover them though.
2- Amazing villages from the Middle Ages
Rioja has an amazing and ancient history, which is reflected by stunning villages founded back in the 10th century. Laguardia, Briones, Labastida, Sajazarra, Elciego, San Vicente de la Sonsierra, Salinillas de Buradón… are just a few examples. Some of them are located in La Rioja estate, some others in the Basque side of Rioja . But distances are not far in the region, so you can visit different towns in a day or two.
3- La Rioja Spain Food
Rioja is located on a crossroads of different cultures which means a delicious mix of gastronomies. From the more traditional dishes to avant-garde cuisine, Rioja food will delight everybody. Just forget your diet when visiting Rioja.
4- Calle Laurel Logroño
Calle Laurel - one of the streets in Logroño's old town- is maybe the most famous street in Rioja due to the sheer concentration of tapas or pinchos bars. There are around 50 bars in a tiny street. It’s very lively, full of locals (and also tourists) and a must for pinchos crawl. It is a perfect way for a cultural immersion while socializing and trying local food from bar to bar.
There are a also some bars for “pinchos” on the surrounding streets such as Calle San Agustín, or Calle San Juan.
Pinchos or pintxos (the Basque version) is a food tradition in this part of Spain and you can find them everywhere, not only in Logroño. Laguardia or Haro are also good places for pinchos hunting and are not so busy as Logroño. But if you plan to go to Logroño, don’t miss the experience. It’s a lot of fun. Laurel, by the way, is the Spanish word for bay leaf, so very aptly named!
Rioja is a heaven for history and culture lovers. You can find prehistoric dolmens like the one in Elvillar, one of my favourites. Impressive Monasteries as Suso or Yuso, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites, and where the Castilian language was born. And the medieval pilgrimage of Camino de Santiago also passes through La Rioja.
You can spend days in Rioja discovering its history and learning about its culture. You can even find a Jurassic Park!
6- 21st century Wine Temples
If you like architecture Rioja is also for you. The are a lot of stunning buildings designed by famous architects such as Calatrava or Frank Gerhy. 21st century wine temples that live together with traditional wineries.
There are lots of festivals and festivities in Rioja. We like celebrating here. Most of them are related to wine. … as you would expect. Wine is a way of life in Rioja.
There are many wine festivals in the region and almost each town has its own wine festival once a year, but some of the most important festivals you can find in Rioja are:
The Battle of Wine which is held in Haro in June. It’s quite a massive and crowded festival where hundreds of litters of wine are poured , soaking people in red wine. Don’t ever imagine to see the festival as an spectator. If you are there, you are right in the battle.
Wine Harvest Festival celebrated in September when the grape harvesting begins. There are two different wine harvest festivals. One is held in Logroño and another one in a town of Rioja Alavesa which changes evey year.
Besides the wine festivals, there are also many music and cultural festivals, local festivities and very beautiful medieval festivals such as the Medieval Festival of Briones or the Medieval Market in Labastida which are very worth a visit.
8- Wonderful landscape
Imagine miles of vineyards all around, changing their colours each season. Blended with olive oil trees, purple lavender and the skyline of historic towns. Surrounded by a majestic mountain range and crossed by one of the most important rivers in Spain, the Ebro river. The landscape of Rioja is just stunning. No matter the season. In Winter, you can find the vineyards covered by snow, in Spring and Summer it’s green everywhere. And during Autumn the explosion of changing colours is absolutely amazing. The route between Haro and Logroño, crossing the Rioja Alavesa is especially beautiful and a really recommended panoramic drive.
Are you tempted to discover Rioja? Rioja means wine. But it is for sure much more than great wine. Discover Carol's Rioja Wine Tours.
A travellers tip from Consumers Advocate:
Probably one of the last things on your mind when enjoying a wine tasting, a vineyard tour or any other form of enjoyment on holiday that includes alcohol, is your travel insurance. However you might appreciate knowing this before your next trip.
Did you know that a person almost always voids insurance coverage if they’re inebriated in any way ...Basically if you’re drunk and get hurt, you’re not covered. You can learn more about the ins and outs of travel insurance in this comprehensive guide. Do you know of anyone who has had this experience? Be sure to let us know in the comments below. Happy and safe travels!
Click here to see the airlines which fly into this airport
Other options that are not on the doorstep, but are interesting ideas, are to fly into Bilbao or Zaragoza.
Discover Zaragoza, with travel blogger, Ellie Quinn, in her:
Transport to/from Airport:
You will need to take a taxi from this airport. Car hire is mostly available at the train station.
The Renfe website is where you can find all the information about timetables and prices for trains.
There are some special tickets available, if you intend to do a lot of train travelling while in Spain.
At the train station,there are a few car rental companies.
Click here to find out which ones are at Logroño Train Station.
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About Carol Gutiérrez
Rioja and Basque Country Travel Curator & Guide
Carol holds a degree in Tourism Management and Hospitality, speaks 7 languages and is the CEO & Founder at Thabuca Wine Tours, a local tour operator and DMC specialised in wine and food tours in Rioja and Basque Country.
She is passionate about her job and has been in the tourism and hospitality industry for more than 25 years.
She was born in Catalonia and after living in different places in Spain and Europe, she established herself in Rioja Alavesa in 1998 where she founded her own company, Thabuca.
Carol is an avid globetrotter and travel addict and loves experiencing the local culture. She has travelled to almost 60 countries and writes a travel blog where she shares her experiences all around the world.
She loves food and wine. Rioja captivated her from the first moment. She thinks that the region is a paradise. She loves sharing with other travellers the magic of Rioja, the hidden places that you won’t find on travel guides and all the amazing stories behind each wine.
Visit Carol’s wine & foodie tours website:
Visit Carol’s travel blog:
Tours Offered By Carol
Ideal for Foodies & Wine Lovers
Carol and her team offer a selection of different tours in Rioja and the Basque Country focused on wine and food.
You can experience the authentic Rioja with personalised services, discover all the region’s hidden treasures. Immerse yourself in the local culture and sample the best Rioja wines and amazing food.