Tucked away between the Basque Country, Navarre and Castilla y Leon, northern La Rioja may be small, but it’s perfectly formed and, quite literally, full of spirit.
Internationally famous for the quality of its produce, the wines that bear its name, La Rioja showcases more than 500 wineries nestled in vast vineyards. While you’re here, you can discover tiny family owned and operated bodegas alongside massive industrial producers such as the Bodegas Ysios and Marqués de Riscal with their fanciful, Dali-like facades. It’s not all vineyards though. La Rioja also presents a beautifully varied landscape of forests, Iberian mountain ranges, lunar-like landscapes and no less than seven rivers which along with their tributaries have carved almost countless valleys and grandiose canyons.
This diverse region offers more than just the pleasures of the grape. The legendary Camino de Santiago pilgrimage also passes through La Rioja which is famous for its ancient churches. The marvellous Suso and Yuso monasteries are thought to be some of the oldest in Spain and it is here that the very first Spanish and Basque words are alleged to have been written down. If you fancy a break from rural vineyard towns and quite pilgrim churches though, the lively capital of Logroño is where nearly half of all Rioja’s inhabitants live and provides a welcome break. You can also follow in the footsteps of dinosaurs, marvelling at the fossilised remains at sites such as Munilla, Igea, Cornago and Enciso.
When to go
La Rioja is a year-round destination but spring and autumn are particularly pleasant. The Cierzo, a strong, dry and cold local wind, blows through the region in the winter. September and October are particularly popular due to the harvest activities.
What to do
- Wine tours
- Hunt for the dinosaur footprints
- Visit Santo Domingo de la Calzada and its historically important cathedral, San Millán de la Cogolla and the Suso and Yuso monasteries
- Walk the province's section of the Camino de Santiago
- Hike in the Sierra de la Cebollera mountains
- Explore canyons such as Aguas Buenas, Nieva, Manzanares, Ardancha, Navajún, Valderresa, Ollora, Tobia and San Martín