Travelling through the lands of La Rioja Alta is like sailing through a sea of vines that hits the slopes of Sierra Cantabria, the Toloño and the Obarenes Mounts, while we visit well-kept villages with deep-rooted traditions and unique history. Lands that thousands of years ago were home to ancient civilisations that gave way to powerful empires and noble kingdoms, all of which left their mark on this region and its localities. This is the case of San Vicente de la Sonsierra, which treasures a rich historical, cultural and monumental heritage, with important archaeological sites.
The rupestrian Sonsierra, necropolis and winepresses take us back in time to past times when these lands were inhabited by their first inhabitants. Communities of marked beliefs and ancestral rituals that formed part of their culture and in which the culture of wine was already present, a sign of identity of this land, as witnessed by the rupestrian winepresses that have been found to date. Villages, some still to be discovered, others blurred by the passage of time, but whose inhabitants have left testimony of their rites and customs as impressive necropolis where they buried their dead, small pools or piles carved in the rock where they performed their rituals. All of this today makes up a series of invaluable archaeological ensembles.
A short distance from the current village of Peciña and a stone's throw from the road that leads to it, we find one of the most important archaeological sites in La Rioja Alta, made up of a beautiful Romanesque church, a necropolis, a settlement of semi-rupestrian and the remains of fortifications. Around the basilica of Santa María de la Piscina, which we reach from the parking area next to the road that connects San Vicente de la Sonsierra with Peciña, we can find the remains of old watchtowers next to vestiges that allow us to ensure the existence of an old village whose houses were supported on the rocks that in turn served as walls. But without a doubt the magnificent Romanesque jewel that is Saint Mary of the Pool shares the limelight with the imposing repopulation necropolis that extends to its feet. Discovered after some restoration work, there are anthropomorphic tombs from the X century to some sarcophagus from the XIV century, also excavated in the rock we can see a swimming pool or circular basin and an oval-shaped winepress.
Once we have enjoyed this unique space, we set out on our way to our next stop. To do this, from the car park, where it is best to continue leaving our vehicle parked, we walk along the road to Peciña until we find, shortly after, the path that leads to the nearby dolmen. Inside, a tumulus divided into two compartments, remains of more than 30 people were found along with various materials, such as parts of ceramic pots, arrowheads and flint sheets. We are in front of a clear exponent of the diversity of cultures that over time has inhabited this area of La Rioja. Near this dolmen, following, without abandoning it, the path we took to reach it from the nearby road, our next stop awaits us, an entire open-air museum of the flourishing wine industry and its origins.
Surrounded, as could not be otherwise, by old vineyards and almost hidden among the undergrowth that populates the hill where it is located, an authentic winery awaits us with centuries old, in which tasty rosé and white wines were elaborated, and that could well go unnoticed if it were not for the sign that indicates it. A narrow path takes us to this architectural complex, where the countless winepresses that meet here surprise us as soon as we arrive. We clearly observed the cracks carved in the rock, which were used to support the wooden beams of the press used to squeeze the must from the grapes crowded into the winepresses. Must that ran through their drains to be collected in the torcos and transferred to the typical skins to be transported to the cellars for ripening. A true example of the significant history of wine, so deeply rooted today in Rioja.
After reconstructing in our mind the infrastructure that was located here we return on our steps to the car park of Saint Mary of the Pool, from where we will set course towards our next objective, one of the largest necropolis we are going to visit and possibly the most spectacular. To do this we must return to the national 232-a and head towards the nearby San Vicente de la Sonsierra. Shortly after leaving behind the road that leads to Peciña, on our right there is a dirt track that we must follow, a track that seems to lead us back to Peciña, but which will leave us at the foot of the Ensemble of San Andrés, located at the top of a rocky hill, not without first stopping at the winepresses of Hornillos, almost in front of the necropolis and not very well preserved. In San Andrés there are more than seventy tombs with different typologies, a ritual swimming pool, the remains of an old hermitage and two rupestrian presses.
We continue our itinerary returning until the national one to leave in front of us the road that would approach us until the necropolis of Artajona or San Pablo, while, we continue in search of the roundabout that gives access to San Vicente de la Sonsierra, junction from which leaves the road of Rivas de Tereso which we will follow. After passing through a picnic area, we will come across a steep path on the left that acts as a pedestrian path towards Rivas de Tereso, still following the road, shortly after this path, we will arrive at the dirt track that on our right will take us to the vicinity of the next necropolis. A fork in our path marks the right spot to try to park our vehicle and continue on foot along the left path that passes under the remains of the convent. A few metres further on, when the enormous slope that accompanied us gives way at its height, we must cross the vineyard up to the opposite slope, climb up to it and set course again towards the monastery to reach the corner of this new vineyard, save another slope and border another vineyard for a moment in search of the hidden path that gives access to the upper part of the remains of the monastery, where 45 anthropomorphic tombs await us next to the remains of the mural structure of the hermitage of San Martín de Pangua.
Once we have visited this necropolis of complex access, we set a course once again to the road to continue for a few metres towards Rivas de Tereso. Once again we find ourselves in front of a first crossroads without signposting, where we must turn off taking the track on our right. On our back is the road and another battered path that would have also served to approach us on foot to the convent of San Martín bordering the vineyard that marks it out. A long stretch awaits us, just following the perfect dirt track until we reach the largest necropolis we will visit. More than 116 anthropomorphic tombs among which the different burials of children and young people attract attention, small graves that on this occasion become more evident than in other places, either because of their number or because of their state of conservation.
As the end of our route is near, we will see ourselves saying goodbye to this impressive necropolis at the same time as we decide whether to return to San Vicente de la Sonsierra along the same itinerary, or to do so following the track, now asphalted, which without detours will take us to the national road following the marks of one of the paths in the area. Once in the roundabout we will again have two options, to cross San Vicente de la Sonsierra to take the LR-318 that communicates it with Baños de Ebro, or to follow a few meters by the national one towards Ábalos for in the crossing with the track that took us previously up to the Necrópolis de San Andrés to take the asphalted track of our right that communicates directly with the road of Baños de Ebro. Once in it we will have to be attentive, since shortly after leaving behind San Vicente de la Sonsierra, as soon as we pass by the Hondo stream, the signs of the Path of the Dolmens and Hermitages will mark us the paved way that in frank ascent we must follow. The best thing, given the state of the road, is to park our vehicle at the beginning of it and walk the relatively short distance that separates us from this necropolis that dates from the tenth century and marks the point and end of this journey in time.
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.
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Every year during Holy Week an ancestral rite takes place in San Vicente de la Sonsierra known as Los Picaos, it is a religious manifestation of the most important and known in Spain in which the Disciplinants of the Brotherhood of the Holy Veracruz of San Vicente, go out in procession hitting each other in the back with a skein.
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The medieval enclosure of San Vicente de la Sonsierra shows the historical importance of the town. The Baluarte, the Clock Tower, the Parish Church of Santa María La Mayor or the Conjuratorios, curious rogatories that mark its wall, join important heritage resources such as its medieval bridge over the river Ebro.
Distance of the route
20.7 km This figure may vary depending on the route we follow.
Duration of the tour
2h 20min It is the approximate time that it will take us to make the different visits, it can vary depending on the time that we dedicate to each place. To this time must be added that of the displacements.
Time of year
Spring and especially autumn will give us a splendid landscape.
Historical, cultural and landscape. This route gives us to know a great part of the history, the culture and the landscapes of the surroundings of San Vicente de la Sonsierra.
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 18-01-2020. 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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