The rugged Sierra Cantabria on one side and the capricious course of the Ebro River on the other contribute and give character to this region of Alava known as the Rioja Alavesa, a land of great wines, beautiful landscapes and important history. Its strategic location, together with the unquestionable productivity of its fields, has contributed to the fact that, over the years, several civilizations have inhabited here and many disputes have arisen to control these lands on the banks of the Ebro.
Prehistoric sites, dolmens, Roman architecture, medieval villas, living vestiges of the people who passed through here, are mixed today with modern and avant-garde wineries, tourist and well cared for villages, in perfect balance and in tune with the landscape and nature around them. The route of the Rioja Alavesa will lead us, as if it were a time machine, through the history and landscapes that shape this land, where we cannot forget one of its signs of identity, wine, which is undoubtedly one of the great protagonists of many of the places we will discover.
Gateway to the west in the Rioja Alavesa, Labastida sits at the foot of the imposing Toloño, at whose summit we can find the remains of the ancient sanctuary of Our Lady of Toloño, as well as being a point of union between La Rioja and Álava. This sanctuary has fallen into oblivion, in part, because of the harsh weather conditions that these mountains endure, a natural frontier where different types of climate converge and which, together with the barrier that these mountains create, result in excellent conditions for growing grapes. From the top of the watchtower of the palatial Labastida we can enjoy a beautiful view, not only of the Rioja Alavesa, but also of its neighbour and sister La Rioja. Both, as we can see along the route, merge and intermingle, barely separated by the river Ebro, making us wonder whether we are in one community or the other.
After calmly discovering Labastida, whose noble history can still be seen in the regal architecture of its historic centre, we set off for the next stop on the route, surrounded by vineyards that would almost force us to change the name of this route to the Rioja Alavesa Wine Route. The N-232a is in charge of guiding us, as it crosses this region from side to side, reaching Logroño itself, the capital of the neighbouring autonomous community of La Rioja. In this first part of the route we will pass through this community, which will take us past San Vicente de la Sonsierra and then on to another town in La Rioja, Ábalos. We continue escorted through the imposing mountains until we reach Samaniego, once again in the province of Alava. Here we can walk through its streets, visit the Ermita de La Virgen del Valle and the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, while we continue to enjoy the landscape and the proximity of the mountains to which we will be heading next.
We say goodbye to the town of Samaniego to set off for one of the most spectacular corners of the route. Its privileged location, which provides magnificent views, makes it approachable to many people. We continue as before, following the national road until we reach the junction with the Leza road, which we will leave on our right and, leaving the national road, we will begin the ascent to the Herrera Pass, following the road that leads to Vitoria. The ascent with strong ramps makes us gain height quickly climbing these steep mountains in search of the pass that crosses them. This pass should not be reached, as before reaching the pass we will find the detour that will take us to the Balcony of La Rioja. Here, on clear days, we will enjoy a spectacular panorama that is sure to catch us for a while, the Sierra of La Demanda on the horizon, the zigzagging course of the Ebro and its characteristic meanders... Although if our route coincides with days of low clouds or heavy fog, it is possible that in return we will have the opportunity to place ourselves above the sea of clouds that cover the valley.
We left the mountain behind and returned to the valley, going down the road that brought us here to reach the crossroads with the national road again, while we continued to behold the sea of vineyards towards which we were heading. Now we will cross the national road and head towards the town of Leza, which we will reach quickly. The road leads us through this village, which is well worth a short stop to get to know. We continue our journey by entering the vineyards that surround the road, while, without realizing it, we gradually approach the river Ebro. Navaridas, another coquettish town in the Rioja Alavesa, lies to one side, but the road we are on does not even let us pass it. Suddenly the town of Elciego and its surprising mixture of architecture appears before us. Frank Gehry's latest design blends with the classic Gothic style of the San Andrés parish church or the town's regal emblazoned houses. Elciego is one of the clearest examples of the communion of the wine culture with the surrounding environment and how over the years it has been part of the history and people of this land.
We said goodbye to Elciego and headed for the medieval town of Laguardia, which is located on a hill and dominates everything around it. It preserves the structure and style of that period in a very good condition, surprising the visitor. There are two possibilities: the first one, a little longer, is to continue towards the river Ebro and take the opportunity to visit Lapuebla de Labarca, located on a promontory on the bank of the Ebro, and from there to go to Laguardia; the second one is to go straight to the meeting of this town, moving away from the bank of the Ebro. Once in Laguardia, there are countless corners waiting for us, a mixture of gastronomy, wine culture and history that attracts thousands of visitors every year. Its streets, inside the walled enclosure, emanate a feeling of security and hospitality similar to what the ancient inhabitants of this noble town must have felt. Walking through its streets, visiting its churches, towers and walls or contemplating the panoramic views from its viewpoints is part of the obligatory visit to this town, but there is an underground Laguardia, a Laguardia of caves and family wine cellars that run through the whole underground of the town as if it were another independent town, another clear example of the importance that wine has had and still has in these parts. However, Laguardia and its surroundings do not cease to surprise us and give us samples of its ancient history and the ancient civilizations that lived here, leaving traces of their passage through these lands, such as the largest water tank of the Iron Age that is known in Europe.
We leave Laguardia not without first taking a walk around its lakes, home to numerous birds, to head for the next stop on the route through the Rioja Alavesa, Labraza, a town whose streets are full of history. We have several options to go to Labraza; we can vote to visit the archaeological site of the village of La Hoya, near Laguardia, and then follow part of the route of the dolmens towards Elvillar visiting the dolmen of the Chabola de la Hechicera, El Encinal or Los Llanos, arriving at Cripan and from there approaching Meano, from where we will descend towards Labraza, or we can follow the national road to Logroño, turning off to Oyón and from there continue to Moreda de Álava and then to Labraza. This is an important town in the kingdom of Navarre, with a markedly defensive character, and its walls and medieval structure are in very good condition, taking us back to other times. It is the gateway to the Rioja Alavesa from the east, its location on the border of the Sierra Cantabria and where the Ebro flows further and further away from us, has been coveted for the defence and control of these lands and is the point and end of this route through the Rioja Alavesa.
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.
Sin lugar a dudas, es un paisaje precioso!!!
¿Did you know that...
Along the route you will find different places where ancient necropolis are located. Also in the area it is very common to find old wine presses at the foot of the vineyard, which were used to press the grapes and get the precious must right there where it was harvested.
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
71 Km This distance corresponds to the distance between each place to visit.
Duration of the route
1h 45min It 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 is par excellence a good time to visit this land given the beautiful reddish and ochre tones that the vineyards adopt and which give the landscape even greater relevance.
Historical, scenic and gastronomic. This route takes us to different corners of the Rioja Alavesa that mix history, culture and nature.
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Route information updated on 12-05-2019. 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.
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