La Rioja Alavesa is a region on the Alava province, one of the three provinces of Basque Country, in northern Spain. The capital from this district area is Laguardia, with 11.282 residents. Probably, this region is the most touristic one because of the wine! People get crazy with the tasting and sampling homemade wine of La Rioja!
Laguardia is the township located 64 km away from Vitoria, the greenest capital of Basque Country, because of the trees and the amount of parks they have there! Laguardia is considerate like a medieval town with very famous restaurants and good things for sightseeing. All the tourists and foreigners who want to visit Basque Country, I recommend that they must to go to La Rioja Alavesa and discover Laguardia.
It’s a place of contrasts: they have little familiar wineries all around the region and vineyards where you can recover the calm and serenity, and in the other part, you have big avant-garde buildings with modern details inside. There are spectacular towns with stone pavement and typical people who works on the fields. You can meet all of this going to La Rioja Alavesa.
The King Sancho the Strong of Navarra ordered to cutting step to the cars and not permitted to entering the city of Laguardia. Nowadays, in the city there are no cars and there is no pollution in the air. Much better for everybody! You must discover a medieval city with stoned pavement and narrow passageways. It’s a pleasure to get lost in this city of the ancient times!
I can recommend a restaurant called ‘El capricho de Baco’ (Baco is the god of wine, good one!) located in the center of Laguardia. It’s not cheap to eat a menu, have a lunch or a wine tasting there, but you must to order a plate of ‘pimientos del Padrón’ (small green peppers) to eat in the mid-morning. They have the best ones I ever tried! If you like hot and spicy food, this is your bet! Those peppers are typical because some of them are hot (or spicy) and some of them are normal green peppers. It’s a funny game to eat those ‘pimientos del Padrón’ while you are playing with your friends!
One thing to do sightseeing in the fields of La Rioja Alavesa is the Dolmen de la Hechicera (Dolmen of The Wizard). There are some old stones and good views on the outskirts of Elvillar city. It’s good to see prehistoric funeral monuments that were built in the middle of nothing!
Talking about the wineries, the first tip (to not get poor in your pocket!) is not to going inside Ysios winery. All people that going to visit it (and in my experience it’s the same too) tell that Ysios it’s more beautiful and stunning on the outside than on the inside winery itself! And only the visit to the wine cellar it’s more expensive than other wine tasting around La Rioja! So, my advice is going to Ysios only to take the picture outside, with the incredible metal and wooden building underneath of the mountain range of the Sierra. Amazing experience to sightseeing!
A very familiar winery in the middle of the fields (near Laguardia) is Landaluce. It’s close to Ysios winery too, but you must going inside this little one! Ysios is the biggest one but not worth too much and Landaluce is the best example for a familiar winery you would love to! The family is humble and honest; they transmit to the visitor serenity and passion for what they do: make, produce and taking care of the grapes to do the best wine in the region!
The best important thing for a person who travels to northern Spain, is the food, the basque cuisine and it’s necessary to find the cheapest choice to eat properly and calm down! Here are some tips to know where to go in La Rioja Alavesa!
There is a company called Taste Rioja Wine Tours that is responsible for finding tours for the visitors, but if you know a little bit the demand in La Rioja Alavesa about wine tasting, this type of tours are not well for your pocket (it’s so expensive to go in a tour with them for a day!) and because of this I want to recommend you that the best option is to go by yourself to some of these wineries that offer cheap food and beverage sampling.
For 22 € per person, you’ll have a great choice near Haro, La Rioja: you can visit a famous winery in Haro, you will have a handmade wine tasting and to finish, you will go with the group to Haro historic center and eat a 3 dishes menu of homemade food. It’s a great option to visit a winery from the inside, know the history of the wine of Haro and try some wineglass, and for sure have the lunch properly in a good place.
Another option without lunch, is for 10 € visiting the winery of Ramón Bilbao or for 12 € the winery of Marqués de Riscal. Both of them are well known in La Rioja and this is a nice chance to discover the typical wine of this area for less money! Both visits to the winery have a length of 1h 30 min and they offer you 3 different types of wine. The winery of Ramón Bilbao was created in 1924 and you will see the process of the barrel hall and how they do their best wine. Ah! It’s good to know that they have these wine tours in English, German and other languages!
If you go more days than a weekend maybe you can go to find some long Wine Tours or cheese tastings! But by the moment, for the very first impression for a tourist, these tips are perfect to discover the essence of La Rioja Alavesa; taste the homemade wine, enjoy the landscapes of mountains and get lost at the wine yards!
Written by Ángela Saiz Alonso