Visiting Álava is always a great plan for any trip, and if our excursion includes visiting any of its charming villages, it will surely be a trip we will remember with pleasure. There are many towns, villages and cities in this province of the Basque Country that deserve our attention. Their historical centres, monuments and natural landscapes may be the different attributes that make them worth visiting. On this route of the charming villages of Álava we will get to know some of these towns and villages that treasure history, character and nature.
Medieval villages, historical buildings that tell us about the events that took place in them or natural sites of incalculable value await us on this route. Lovers of nature, hiking and the mountains, as it could not be otherwise in the Basque Country, also have their space in many of the villages of Alava. Itineraries such as the GR 38 Route of the Wine and the Fish, or the Path of the River Purón, are just a few examples of the routes that run through some of the towns that we propose. The Gorbeia Natural Park or the Izki Natural Park also form part of several of the towns that make up our route. Of course, we will also visit villages that still preserve all their medieval character, surrounded by the walls that protected them from their enemies' attacks. The rich history that this region treasures is reflected in its towns and villages as well as in the places that surround them. The Dolmen of Sorginetxe and Dolmen of Aizkomendi, the Village of La Hoya or the Salted Valley of Añana are part of the history of the people who live in the villages where they settle.
In the heart of the Valderejo Natural Park, surrounded by nature on all four sides, the first town on this Route through the charming villages of Álava awaits us. Lalastra, apart from being the starting point for many of the trekking routes through this natural area, is an unbeatable example of the history and customs of the rural environment in this province of the Basque Country. Thanks to its ethnographic museum, we can go into the different traditions and uses that have always existed in these lands. A region that treasures nature and history almost equally, as witnessed by the nearby Tower Palace of the Varona family, located not far from the town of Lalastra. The rocks that surround the town have been and are home to an important colony of birds of prey, another of the interesting attractions that Lalastra offers to visitors.
We said goodbye to this spectacular natural spot and headed for another charming village. As soon as we contemplate the village of Salinas de Añana we realize why the valley where it sits is known as the Salted Valley of Añana. The artisan industry that accompanies this Alava town dyes the valley with dazzling white. Here for years the precious salt has been obtained thanks to traditional methods that are still used today. A walk through the streets of Salinas de Añana clearly shows the importance that this town has come to have. Large buildings, mansions and palaces that are almost overshadowed by the presence of the salt mines. Of course we can not miss visiting this complex, where we will discover its secrets and how for many years has been working to get this precious product.
We take a jump that allows us to get around the steep Toloño mountain range to get closer to the gates of La Rioja Alavesa. There, a town of imposing mansions and well-cared-for palaces awaits us, nestled at the foot of the unmistakable Toloño. Labastida still preserves part of its medieval style, which we can discover with every step we take through its streets. The gateway to this region of the Rioja Alavesa on its western side, Labastida is, of course, a town intimately linked to the culture of wine. But also to nature, thanks to its unbeatable location. Factors that over the years have made it what it is today, a town that has treasured a remarkable importance, as evidenced by the various historical buildings that make up its monumental complex.
We continue our journey through the charming villages of La Rioja Alavesa to one of the icons of this region. But first we have to make a stop in the town of Samaniego. After visiting this beautiful village we will go to our main destination, Elciego. Here the typical stately buildings lose almost all their prominence in favour of the surprising architectural style of the main building of the Marqués de Riscal wineries. Without a doubt, an almost perfect fusion between the traditional lines of the palaces and mansions with the colorful sparkles and curious shapes of this world-famous building. In addition to walking its streets and discovering all its charms, we have the not inconsiderable possibility of approaching the San Vicente Chapel. Once there, we can enjoy the magnificent view of Elciego from the hill where it sits.
We did not leave this land of wines, this fertile valley disputed by great kingdoms in ancient times, to go to one of the most visited medieval villages of this region. Laguardia is waiting for us, located on the hill that, together with the surrounding walls, used to be an almost impregnable fortress. This town invites us to walk around it calmly to discover its corners. As we stroll through its streets, we are taken back to another era, surrounded by the historical buildings that make up its historical monument. But the greatest surprise that Laguardia has in store for us, perhaps not in its streets and mansions, is in the network of caves and cellars that lie beneath our feet. Likewise, around this town we can find countless other attractions that invite us to get to know them. The Complex Lagunar de Laguardia is home to a large community of diverse birds, providing an added natural value to our visit.
We continue to travel through the Rioja Alavesa, this time to another of the fortresses that protected this region from enemy incursions. But first we can take advantage of the opportunity to include the small detours proposed by the Route of the Dolmens, and get to know part of the ancient cultures that inhabited these lands. Labraza is an example of conservation, its architectural heritage allows us to have a perfect idea of the strategic importance of this fortified town. From its walls we can put ourselves in the shoes of the watchmen who guarded its battlements. Walking through its streets, contemplating its palaces and mansions is like taking a trip back in time to past times.
We say goodbye to this region of Alava to jump to the other side of Sierra Cantabria. There, in the so-called Montaña Alavesa, villages such as Lagrán await us. Here we find the interpretation centre of the GR 38 Wine and Fish Route, a path that connects the northern Basque ports with the fertile valleys of the south. Another of the magnificent natural areas that Alava treasures is also waiting for us, the Izki Natural Park. And on its doorstep, towns such as Antoñana, which is said to be the oldest town in the whole province, and which is home to the interpretation centre of the Basque/Navarran Greenway. And not far away, at the foot of the steep Joar, serving as a border with neighbouring Navarre, Santa Cruz de Campezo awaits us. Another of the towns in this region that deserves a stop on our way to get to know it.
We say goodbye for good to this area of Alava and head for the Llanada Alavesa. More specifically, we are looking for the Aizkorri-Aratz Natural Park, whose ownership is shared with neighbouring Gipuzkoa. It is in the bucolic town of Araia where the Parketxe or House of the Park is located. From there, you can take routes as entertaining as the Path of the Source of the River Zirauntza, which shows us the fusion of nature and the hand of man. But Araia is much more than the spectacular nature that surrounds it. Its palaces and mansions tell us about the remarkable history of this town, which invites us to walk its streets under the attentive gaze of the mountains under which it lies.
Not far from Araia, there is an important urban center full of history. The town of Agurain-Salvatierra was founded in 1256 by King Alfonso X the Wise and has since seen its historical and artistic heritage grow. Its medieval quarter brings together monuments of the stature of the church of San Martín, the church-fortress of San Juan Bautista or the House of the Azcárraga, among others. The Way of St. James in the Basque Country also passes through here, which descends from the nearby mountains after passing through the San Adrián tunnel. A good number of attractions make this one of the essential stops on our route through the charming villages of Alava.
We continue our journey through the Llanada Alavesa, to say goodbye to it and set out for a privileged natural enclave. The one formed by the reservoirs of Ullíbarri-Gamboa and Urrunaga. In the latter we find the old town of Villarreal de Álava, today Legutio, a town that stands out for the natural environment that surrounds it, where we can also enjoy monuments such as the parish church of Santa Ana in Gojáin, the parish church of San Juan Bautista in Urrúnaga, the mansion known as Granja Larrabea or the only remaining vestige of its wall, the Portal de la Muralla.
We don't stop for the moment to be surrounded by nature and set a course for our next destination. Murgia lies under the protection of the nearby Gorbea, which is climbed by countless routes, such as the Egillolarra Trail. But Murgia's surroundings also hold other charming places, such as the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Gold, whose steep mountain where it sits is visible from the town. There are also several small palaces in the town, such as Vea Murguía, Corral and La Marquesa. Historical buildings are added to the parish church of San Miguel and the various ecclesiastical schools located here.
We changed the Cuadrilla, the name given in Alava to the different regions that make it up, to approach the Cuadrilla de Ayala. The spectacular Ayala Valley is formed not only by great natural landscapes, but also by charming and well cared for villages. Amurrio is our first stop in this region, a town of Indian houses, and numerous museums. The river Nervión is the backbone of this valley, linking for example Amurrio and the nearby town of Llodio. A route that we can travel thanks to the Nervión Linear Park, a green route that reveals the hidden corners of this natural spot. Nature and history go hand in hand in this land as it could not be otherwise.
We say goodbye to Amurrio and Llodio and head for the last stop on this route of the charming villages of Alava. Artziniega is today a town that is not only historical, but also a film town, because not long ago a film was shot in its streets. Its history dates back to the Middle Ages, which gives it a remarkable historic centre. In it we can find the Tower and Palace of Ortiz de Molinillo de Velasco, the Convent of Nuestra Señora de los Remedios or the parish church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción. As it could not be otherwise, its natural environment is enviable, with the unmistakable Sierra Salvada on the horizon. But neither can we fail to visit the nearby Sanctuary of Nuestra Señora de la Encina, co-patroness of Álava.
Map of the route
This map is a sketch made as an example of the route, in no case represents the best or the only itinerary to follow. Its development has not taken into account the current rules of circulation or the state of the places through which it passes and that could affect its layout.
Conozco la gran mayoría de los pueblos de esta ruta y son preciosos, merece la pena visitarlos. Me apunto los que me faltan.
¿Did you know that...
The territory of Alava is divided into seven Cuadrillas, these being Añana, Ayala, Campezo-Montaña Alavesa, Laguardia-Rioja Alavesa, Salvatierra, Vitoria and Gorbeialdea. As the saying goes, seven Cuadrillas make Alava one.
Don't miss out...
The visit to La Hoya Village, a settlement of prehistoric origin that surprises for its unusual location and where you will be able to discover part of the uses and customs, some of them have arrived until our days, of its old settlers, at the same time that you enjoy the magnificent environment that surrounds this archaeological enclave.
Distance of the route
340 Km. This figure may vary depending on the route we follow.
Duration of the route
From 3 to 4 days
Time of year
All year round
Historical, cultural and landscape. This route introduces us to a large part of the territory of Alava.
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Route information updated on 18-02-2021. The route may vary greatly depending on the time of year, weather conditions and terrain, as well as the actions of third parties and the evolution suffered in the natural environment where it is located. All opinions, advice and/or assessments made by SENDITUR in their descriptions are for guidance only and are subject to and/or refer to the specific conditions of the specific day of the route, referring to that specific day, taken from trained people, with the appropriate experience and with a high level of physical and technical preparation as a reference, as well as correctly equipped.
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