A real open-air museum
Under the protection of Sierra Cantabria, the productive lands around the Ebro Valley have been chosen for thousands of years as a home by the different inhabitants who lived there in each period. Proof of this are the numerous remains that today resist the passage of time to bring to our era the customs and activities that have taken place here since time immemorial.
Archaeological sites of ancient villages, wine presses or dolmens are intermingled with the vineyards, modern wineries and the current towns of La Rioja Alavesa, making this land of landscapes, wines and mountains even more attractive. The route of the Dolmens Route will transport us back in time with each stop, where the different dolmens it passes through will immerse us in past times of mysterious rituals and ancestral beliefs, surrounded by the beautiful landscape that surrounds them and of which they already form part. Constructions made during the Neolithic period in different forms to which a funerary function is usually attributed, although due to their location they could well share this function with that of highlighting the dominance of the territory in which they are found.
In the surroundings of the historical town of Laguardia in Alava, we find many examples of the activity that has taken place in these lands since ancient times. The archaeological sites, the dolmens or the medieval architecture of Laguardia allow us to imagine the daily life of the people who lived here. The route takes us back to the Neolithic period to find the Dolmen El Sotillo, the starting point of the itinerary. The access to the Dolmen is located in the stretch of road that joins Laguardia with Leza and Samaniego. The Dolmen was discovered in 1955. Like many others it was buried by the earth, which led to the discovery of a large number of archaeological remains such as knives, axes, arrowheads and pottery.
We return to the road to go to Laguardia, although shortly before arriving at the town we will make another stop where we will visit the Dolmen of San Martín. Visible from the road, it usually goes unnoticed due in part to the surrounding vegetation, even though it is one of the most interesting on an archaeological level. It is characterized by having a kind of Guardaviñas or hut attached to it. In addition, inside it, clearly differentiated remains from the Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods were found, probably thanks to the collapse of several of the slabs that once made it up and which separated the burials of these two periods. The landscape that surrounds this dolmen is another of its attractions, since in addition to the vigilant silhouette of the Sierra Cantabria, we have to add that of the town of Laguardia, which is clouded only by the proximity of the road.
We continue the route that leads us to the limits of Laguardia, where we take the road that joins this town with those of El Villar and Cripan, and almost at the moment we turn off towards the Village of La Hoya, taking a short break on our route through the dolmens to visit this magnificent archaeological site discovered in 1934. Here we will be able to contemplate the evolution of the customs and uses that the people had in the different periods in which it was inhabited and that left numerous vestiges of what happened here. Grazing, trade, fires and disputes that devastated the city are part of the history told by the remains and traces found at this site that cover different periods until the disappearance of this once thriving city. The interpretation centre of the settlement allows us to get a good idea of the daily routine of the city and its people, ceramics, jewellery, tools and weapons which, together with the reconstruction of one of the houses in the city, give us a clear idea of how much was produced here. The walk along the limits of the excavation encourages our imagination by reliving the activity of the streets and houses that formed it, while we look at the walls to confirm that they are not being attacked by some bloodthirsty enemy.
Back on the route, we head for the El Villar road to go to the next dolmen, which is the most difficult to find as there are no signs indicating the path we must take to reach it. We must be careful not to miss the crossing. There is not much distance between Laguardia and this dolmen, shortly after crossing a small and wide ravine, almost when we are reaching the end of the ascent that makes us recover the lost height, the path we must follow is on our left. We can identify it for several reasons, a first and short asphalted section, the closeness of some pavilions that we leave on our left as we ascend the path and the most important of all, the view of a small hill with a small hut on its slope at the limits of the vineyard that we have on the right of the road and that as we see it we will know that we are near the detour. After a few meters without deviating from the dirt track that the asphalt became, we arrive at the Dolmen del Alto de la Huesera, discovered in 1948. The location of this dolmen at the top of a promontory, together with the remains found there, the first anthropomorphic funerary stele found in this period or the wine presses we can find next to it, make it worthwhile to spend the time and patience necessary to locate the detour leading to it.
Once we have enjoyed this peculiar dolmen, we head towards the road where we will make our way to the next stop on the route. Shortly before reaching El Villar on our left we will see the sign indicating the detour to the next dolmen, the importance of which is clear from the fact that the track leading to it is completely paved. Without doubt we are in front of one of the biggest and best preserved dolmens, which added to the abundant and varied remains found here, makes this one if not the most important in all of the Basque Country if one of the most important. As with the rest of the dolmens we visited, the landscape seems to merge with the structure, whose careful and carefully chosen location surely gives it a special charm that rivals the archaeological and cultural significance it undoubtedly has, with remains of up to 39 people, flint arrowheads, ceramic vessels, necklaces or pendants and even an idol made of bone.
Once again we return to the road to first head towards El Villar and then follow the road that links this town to Cripan. Shortly after leaving El Villar behind, we find the path we must follow. This perfect track leads us to a new crossroads where, on our right, we can see a group of holm oaks towards which we must head. Hidden among the leafy group of holm oaks is the Dolmen El Encinal, discovered in 1943, the set that forms with the vegetation gives it a unique singularity in comparison with the rest of the dolmens that we are visiting. We are in front of a deposit in which diverse human remains and elements typical of the time to which it goes back have been found. The vineyards practically dominate the landscape that surrounds it, with the tower of the church of El Villar on one side and the dominant Sierra Cantabria on the other, which extends along our route and from which, with each stop, it seems to approach us as if it were the watchtower of the dolmens that we are getting to know on this route.
We return following our steps to the road while we cannot stop contemplating the magnificent landscape around us. We continue towards Cripan getting closer and closer to the vertical walls of the nearby mountains. A little before reaching the town, when the trees seem to have won over the crops and vines, we are surprised by the detour to the Dolmen of Los Llanos. A steep road that quickly leads us to the nearby dolmen. The remains found in it allow us to assure that this pantheon was used for a little more than a thousand years, also located under the protection provided by the holm oaks that surround it. Different objects made of copper, rock crystals, axes and a good number of arrowheads have been found in its interior. This last dolmen of this route is by no means the last one we will find in these lands. The Dolmen Layaza, just at the beginning of the ascent to the Herrera pass or the Dolmen El Montecillo in the surroundings of Villabuena de Álava are, together with wine presses, necropolis and other archaeological sites, a small sample of what, besides wine, we can find in our visit to this area of the Rioja Alavesa.
1-Be sure to visit the localities in the area. Laguardia, El Villar, Cripan or the nearby towns of Samaniego or El Ciego have a rich historical and artistic heritage that deserves to be discovered in peace while walking through their streets. Many of them still have a marked medieval character.
2-In the area you will be able to visit some of the most modern and famous wineries with denomination of origin Rioja, whose buildings can already be considered true works of architectural art that rival in beauty and try to integrate with the surrounding landscape.
3-In addition to tasting the wines created here, do not forget to try the rich gastronomy of the area, a mixture of tradition and modernity that ranges from the typical grilled chops to gourmet dishes made with valuable products obtained here.
4-Each and every one of the proposed dolmens on this route has its own charm and uniqueness. Take the time to enjoy them and the surrounding environment and do not give up trying to find them if you have missed the entrance to the path that leads to one of them, as they are worth a visit.
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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.
Algunos no son sencillos de encontrar, pero por lo general el paisaje donde están es muy bonito.
Romanesque jewel from La Rioja
An emblematic place where devotion and tradition come together
Find out what to see in...
¿Did you know that...
In the Domen de La Chabola of La Hechicera every year towards the festivity of the Virgin of August a coven is celebrated with goats, witches, spells and magic rituals. The people of El Villar gather around the dolmen to perform this dramatised performance that attracts more than one curious visitor.
Don't miss out...
The unbeatable views of the Ebro Valley as it passes through these lands from the Balcony of La Rioja, a viewpoint that you will find shortly before reaching the top of the Herrera pass as you head towards Vitoria. A wide esplanade from which you can calmly contemplate the river's flow and the towns and cities that lie before us.
Distance of the route
20.4 Km This distance includes the sections by tracks and paths.
Duration of the route
1h 20min This is the approximate time that it will take us to cover the distance that separates us from each place, to which we will have to add the time that we dedicate to each one of them.
Time of year
Autumn and spring, although we will find different attractions throughout the year, these are the periods of greatest scenic value.
Landscape and historical. This route takes us to different corners of La Rioja Alavesa that mix history and culture with the beauty of the landscape that surrounds each place..
From the commitment of SENDITUR with Nature and the respect to the balance of the environment, SENDITUR urges you to travel in a responsible way, with low environmental impact and respecting at all times the Natural, Cultural and Social environment wherever you go.
Besides sharing with all of us your experience on the route we would be grateful if you could write to us to inform us of any erroneous or outdated information you may have found, or simply to let us know what you think at Thank you.
Route information updated on 12-03-2019. 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.
All the times are approximate and take an orientative character, the stops have not been taken into account, no matter how small they are. All the information related to the route, texts, images, videos, maps, diagrams, tracks, towns, and places of tourist interest are published as a guide, and may not coincide with the current state of each place. Before undertaking any activity, assess your technical knowledge, your physical condition, find out about the weather and the variations that the route may undergo, equip yourself correctly, be prudent and responsible at all times, and do not exceed your capabilities. SENDITUR is not responsible for any misuse or inappropriate use of the comprehensive guides of its routes and/or publications as well as its electronic guides, nor for any variations in their descriptions for the aforementioned reasons, and recommends that everyone be responsible and prudent in carrying out the activity. We also encourage you to read books and specialised guides to complement the information described above.
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