At the edge of the Aizkorri-Aratz Natural Park, surrounded by the Alzania and Entzia mountain ranges, to the northwest of the province of Álava, País Vasco, Araia forms part, along with nine other localities, of the municipality of Aspárrena of which it is the capital. It is known of the existence of population settlements in the area since ancient times. The Roman inscriptions on the walls of the parish church of San Pedro remain unperturbed. Araia was also in the layout of the Roman road that joined Bordeaux with Astorga. Witnesses of the High Middle Ages are the ruins of the Araia Castle that was built as a defence of frontiers.
But it is in the Middle Ages when it appears named, Harhaiha, in written documents, as in the Boto or Reja de San Millán, between the twelfth or thirteenth centuries. Araia was also a milestone on an important medieval route, a pilgrimage route to Santiago, and a trade route, which, coming from the port of San Adrián, reached the Llanada Alavesa. The water that flows through its territory, together with the iron in its subsoil, have marked the socio-economic and cultural character of Araia, especially in the 19th century when one of the most important metallurgical industries in the País Vasco settled in the locality. Today, its industry, which is by no means negligible, is based on workshops, logistics and food industries.
Immersed in a privileged environment, Araia is the starting point for mountain and hiking routes that ascend mountains such as Aitzgorri, Aratz, Umandia... or follow the paths of the Altzania and Entzia mountain ranges. A mountain route of the place, par excellence, is that of the Path of the Nacedero of the river Zirauntza, very concurred is also the section of the variant of the Way of Saint James that united Álava and Guipúzcoa by the tunnel of San Adrián.
But the town centre of Araia also offers interesting places to discover: the 15th century church of San Pedro with a beautiful portico of Tuscan columns; the 18th century Baroque Town Hall with the coat of arms of the Asparrena Brotherhood on its façade; The hermitage of Andra Mari, formerly known as the hermitage of the Assumption, dates from the 18th century; the parish church of the now defunct village of Amamio; the 12th century Romanesque hermitage of San Juan de Amamio; the Ajuria palace; the humilladero. In short, a pleasant walk for the recreation of the visitor.
Araia celebrates its patron saint festivities in honour of San Pedro on 29 June. On 15 August it is the Andra Mari neighbourhood of Araia that celebrates its festivity.
During the celebration of the San Pedro festivities in Araia, and since the beginning of the 20th century, a traditional Tamborrada takes place, which has become one of the most important festivities in the town.
The Mitxarro de Araia Museum is located within the framework of the San Pedro de Araia Hydroelectric Power Station, where the Asparena Nature Interpretation Centre and the Centre for Renewable Energies are also located. The mitxarro or grey dormouse is the protagonist of the interpretative exhibition of the Centre and through it the natural and cultural heritage of the place becomes known and interrelated.
It is said that one day two groups of charcoal workers, one from Bizkaia and the other from Alava, working in the Araia industries, began to discuss their axes and which were the ones that best cut the trees destined for charcoal. While the Alaveses maintained that the best were theirs because they had a square mouth, the Biscayans claimed that theirs with a round mouth cut the wood better and faster. To resolve this discussion, they agreed to meet on the following Sunday and demonstrate their skills and those of their tools. Who won? All of them, because the competitors and the people of the town who came to the show ended the day with a great party in which music and food were assured. Hence, many say that the championships of aizkolaris, woodcutters with axes, started in Araia.
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To get to Araia we have to follow the A-1, and it is in the section between Salvatierra and Alsasua where we will find the exit that gives access to this town in Alava.
Araia has daily bus services that connect it with Vitoria-Gasteiz, Salvatierra-Agurain, Zalduondo and the other towns along the route.
Araia station is about two kilometres from the main centre of the town, specifically in the vicinity of Albeniz, where trains stop for a medium-distance journey and connect it with Irún, Miranda de Ebro, Vitoria, Zaragoza or even Madrid.
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