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Guide to La Rioja

Guide to La Rioja


LaRioja
is both a province and an autonomous region located in the North ofSpain. It is situated between Castilla La Mancha to the south, Castilla Leónto the west, Aragón to the east and Navarra and the Pais Vasco to the north.The capital of La Rioja is Logroño - see Guideto Logroño

It is a very fertile part of Spain and has anabundant supply of water due to the 7 major rivers that flow through it: the Oja,the Najerilla, the Iregua, the Leza, the Jubera, the Cidacos and the Alhama allof which end up in the Ebro, which also flows through this province. La Riojais also known as the province with 7 valleys (although in reality there are more).

La Rioja is a small province but it is veryrich in natural resources - it is one of Spain's most famous wine producing areasas well as having an interesting landscape. It has an important hisortical heritageand there are endless possibilites for visitors.

You can do all kinds ofsports in La Rioja. There are ski slopes in the mountains: Valdezcaray, the Cebolleramountain range, in the Obarenses and the Cantabria and Demanda mountain ranges.Climbing, hiking, bungee jumping, paragliding and canoeing (in the Najerilla,Oja, Tirón, Iregua, Leza and Cidacos rivers) are all popular sports here.You can also go on a trip in a hot air balloon. You can go horse riding (in Navarrete),hunting or fishing or play golf.

La Rioja's main economy is wine productionand its related industries (wine distribution, rural tourism...). There are alsoother important industries such as its textile and shoe industry as well as agriculture.Logroño the capital of La Rioja is its commercial centre.

It iswell connected by air (the nearest airport is La Rioja-Agoncillo, on theN-232 road to Zaragoza, Tel: 941 277 400) by rail and also by road. The A-1 motorwaywhich passes Burgos connects it to Madrid which is almost 388 kms away, Bilbaois 137 kms away on the AP-46 motorway (with pay tolls), Barcelona is on the AP-48motorway (with pay tolls) 478 kms away and you reach Zaragoza which is 176 kmsaway on the same road. There is a good coach service too which connects La Riojato the rest of the country.

History of La Rioja

The first to settle here were the Celtiberians in the 4th centuryon the Monte de Cantabria. Varea was an important settlement during the Romanperiod because the river Ebro which leads to the sea could be controlled fromhere. Some Roman remains have been conserved in Varea which is now a neighbourhoodin Logroño. From the 6th century onwards the city of Logroño beganto take shape. In the 10th and 11th centuries La Rioja's economy started to evolvethanks to the Ruta Jacobea (the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela) andthe areas belonging to Alfonso VI, king of Castilla in 1095. Logroño meanwhilewas always on the border between the kingdoms of Castilla and Navarra and so wasthe setting for many wars.

The Camino de Santiago benefited Logroñoand helped the economy grow significantly. La Rioja is a meeting point for the Ruta Jacobea, which goes from the river Ebro and joins up with the CaminoFrancés (another pilgrimage), which crosses the Pyrenees and also cutsthrough Aragon and Navarra. The Camino de Santiago or Ruta del Ebro,actually goes from Cataluña, Aragón, Navarra and La Rioja, whereit meets up with the Camino Francés. In La Rioja it starts in Alfaroand passes through Rincón de Soto, Calahorra, Alcanadre, Agoncillo andVarea.
However, the Camino Francés, starts in Logroño and passesthrough Navarrete, Nájera, Azofra, Santo Domingo de la Calzada and Grañón.

Fromthe 16th century La Rioja's prosperity grew thanks to its wine producing industry.

Fromthe 19th century onwards it industrialized and factories were established, therailway was built and wine production was modernized. A large number of wine cellarswere established and now there are more than 500 in the province. Nowadays muchof the industry in this region revolves around wine production one way or theother whether it be labelling bottles or even producing corks.

Thingsto buy in the Rioja

Crafts:

Lace in Logroño and Alfaro.
Ceramics in Calahorra, Logroñoand in Alfaro.
Woodcraft in Logroño, Lardero, Bergasa, Alfaroand Ezcaray.
Frontón balls in Logroño.
PatchworkQuilts in Logroño
Painted silks : scarves, blouses and morein Murillo de Río Leza.

Hotelsin La Rioja

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Fiestas

  • The Vendimia andSan Mateo Fiestas : These are from the 20th - 26th September. These fiestasare considered to be the most important. They are a national tourist attraction.
  • The San Bernabé Fiesta: 11th June this is the patron saintof the city. Fish, bread and wine are handed out and there is street theatre atthe Ravellín walls (las Murallas de Ravellín).
  • Carnivals:These take place in February to mark the beginning of lent.
  • Easterweek: In March or April. In Logroño and the San Vicente de la Sonsierra"Los Picaos" which are a national tourist attraction.
  • Christmas:Here the Christmas season starts on 18th December in celebration of the Virgende la Esperanza, patron saint of the city. There is a competition for thebest christmas display in shop windows, activities for children, Christmas concerts,nativity scenes and the Reyes Magos (the 3 wise men) procession.

NationalParks in the Rioja

Despite its rich landscape, numerous valleys andrivers that run through it La Rioja only has one national park. However we haveincluded mountain ranges and valleys in our guide. All of the places listed area good option for a day trip. They also offer the visitor excellent opportunitiesto do all sorts of sports.

  • Cebollera Mountain Range NationalPark: This was declared a National Park in 1995. It has a large number ofpine, beech and oak trees. It is a high mountinous area and there are snowy peaksand glaciers. It covers 236.5 kms2. There is an open air sculpture park called "Tierras Altas de Lomas de Oro". There is also an ethnographicexhibition, information centre, and 2 chapels La Ermita de Lomos de Orios and la Ermita de la Virgen de la Luz as well as a displayon seasonal migration.
  • Los Sotos del Ebro en Alfaro NatureReserve: This has rivers and forests on the banks of the river Ebro in Alfaro.The scenery here is enchanting with winding paths, small islands in the riverand very fertile vegetation.
  • La Demanda and UrbiónMountain Range: This mountain range is located in the south of the Rioja andforms part of the Iberian mountain chain. You enter the park throughEzcaray. The Baldezcaray ski resort is located here. The highest peak is 2,262metres high. It is made up of forests, glaciers and interesting vegetation andthere are many different types of wild animals that live here too. The highestpoint above sea level in this mountain range also known as the Picos de Urbión is 2,228 metres high. It is the source of many rivers. You can do lots of sportshere like paragliding and climbing. San Millán de la Cogolla islocated here, home to two of the most important monasteries in the province. Susoand Yuso (see above for further details).
  • Toloñoand Los Montes Obares Mountain Range: The Obares mountains form part of theHaro gorge. The Toloño mountain range is on the other side of the gorge.The river Ebro flows through this area which consists of lots of vineyards andfruit trees. There are marked footpaths and its a good place to go mountain bikeriding or horse riding.
  • Ocón Valley: This valleyis located between the Ebro valley and the Hez valley. It is a UNESCO biospherereserve. Its highest point above sea level is 1,338 metres. It is an interestingarea historically, culturally and archeologically and is a popular area for ruraltourism.
  • Los Cameros: This is situated at the heartof the Cebollera National Park. You can visit la Paz and la Viñacaves or go windsurfing or canoeing on the Gonzalez reservoir. You can also gobungee jumping from the Jubera bridge over the river Jubera. You can go paraglidingfrom la Peña Zapatero de Nieva de Cameros or la Peñaamarilla de Leza.
  • Valleys in the area known as La RiojaBaja: The rivers Jubera and Cidacos run through here. This is a valley whereyou can see dinosaur footprints, Celtiberian settlements, Roman remains etc...(especiallyContrebia-Leukade). Or you can visit a spa or go on day trips on the Cebollera-Arnedilla-Cidacos'green' route.This area forms part of the Biosphere reserve and is also home toa large number of vultures.

Thearea known as La Rioja Baja

: This is between the Cidacos valley andthe mountains where the river Cidacos runs through the middle. It is an agriculturalarea where grape vines, olives and different types of cereals are grown.

Alfaro:Capital of the area. It is an ancient city full of history. The Iberos were thefirst to settle here. They named the city Ilurcis. Later the Celts settledhere and in 719 B.C and it was occupied by the Romans under the general calledTiberio Sempronio Graco, who called it Gracurris. It was briefly occupiedby the Moors and later on it was taken over by the Kingdom of Navarra and theKingdom of Aragon both of which fought over it. Finally it became a city underFelipe IV from Aragon in 1629.

  • San Miguel Church: 17th- 18th century. A national monument. This church has a Classicist facade and aBaroque altarpiece by Juan de Arregui, 1727. It is curious because you can seestorks which nest here.
  • Santa María del Burgo Church:Classicist and Baroque - its Rococo altarpiece stands out.
  • Conventode la Concepción Church: 17th century. Rococo altarpiece andBaroque picture of the Virgin.
  • The old part of the city:This is full of large Mudejar-Aragonese houses.
  • Pilar Chapel (3 kms away) Built in the 16th century in a Classicist style.
  • SanRoque Chapel (2 kms away): Baroque with a Norman crucifix.
  • Centrode Interpretación de los Sotos del Ebro (Plaza de España, 1,Tel: 941 182 999): This centre has displays on the history of Alfaro and on the Sotos del Ebro Nature Reserve which is home to animportant colony of storks.

Rincón de Soto: This formspart of the Camino de Santiago.

Arnedo: Capital of the area.It has prehistoric origins. It gained importance during the Roman occupation becausethe Roman road between Calahorra and Numancia passed through the town . Laterit was occupied by the Moors and from 844 onwards the kings of Navarra and Aragonboth fought for control of it. In 1653 king Felipe V granted it the title of city.It is an agricultural area where olives, grape vines and cereals are grown. Itis also a base for La Rioja's shoe industry.

Things to do and see:

  • San Cosme and San Damián Church: 17th century. There is a 12thcentury picture of the Virgin. The main altarpiece is Baroque.
  • SantoTomás Church: Gothic, it has an interesting Gothic facade and a 10thcentury Rococo altarpiece.
  • Hospital and La Magdalena Oratory:16th century. Mannerist image of Mary Magdalene.
  • Nuestra SenordeVico Monastery (nearby): Founded by Fray López de Salinas in 1456 andoccupied by the Cistercian order. The monks here dedicate themselves to prayerand contemplation. They also make pastries, cakes and ceramics. Part of the monasteryis dedicated to accommodating pilgrims.
  • Santa Clara Convent (nearby).
  • The Natural Science Theme Park (c/ SantiagoMilla, 8, Tel: 941 388 815): This has a collection of fossils, archeological remainsand even some dinosaur foot prints found in the region.
  • The Castle: Dates back to the 9th and 10th century.

Arnedillo:

  • The Vulture Observation Information Centre (c/ Amancio Gonzalez, 2,Tel: 941 394 226): This is an exhibition of the animals found in the region withspecial attention given to vultures.
  • Fort Tower: A 12th centurytower which was once part of what is now a ruined castle. Part of its wall remains.
  • Spa - Thermal baths.


Calahorra: This forms part of the Camino de Santiago. It has Iberian, Celtic, Greekand Basque origins dating back 2000 years. This was once a Roman colony called Calagurris - it was the last Spanish city to fall to Rome. There are lotsof historical monuments from this period in Calahorra's history. After the Romanoccupation the Visigoths settled here followed by the Moors who remained untilthe city was reconquered and became part of the Kingdom of Navarra and later Castellana.

  • Salvador Cathedral: 12th century Norman, The cloisteris Gothic-Plateresque. It contains some very valuable works of art especiallythe altarpeice, the Santos Martires chapel, the San Pedro chapel, the Cristo dela Pelota chapel (patron saint to the Pelotaris) and the renaissance choir stalls.
  • Santiago Church: 16th century Baroque with Neoclassic towers.
  • Las Carmelitas Descalzas del Carmen Church: Classicist17th century
  • Las Carmelitas Descalzas de San José Church:Classicist 17th century
  • Archeological remains - La Clínica:Roman remains dating back to the first century.
  • The Episcopal Palace: 16th - 18th century. Consists of various sections.
  • TheDiocesan Museum (Plaza de las bolas, 1, Tel: 941 13 00 98): Located in thecloister in the Cathedral.
  • The Municipal Museum (c/AngelOliván, 8, Tel: 941 135 003) Located in a Modernist building, known asthe 'Millionaire's house'. The Tourisim information office and a museum with Romanarcheological finds are both here.
  • The Humilladero: A 16thcentury crucifix located at the entrance of the city - this is where pilgrimsoffer their prayers on entering the city.

Igea:

  • ThePaleontology Museum - La Rioja (c/ Mayor, 10, Tel: 941 194 218): This is amuseum about the region's geology and paleontology.

Enciso:This is a very picturesque village in the mountains near Calahorra.

  • The Paleontology Centre in Enciso (c/ Portillo, 3, Tel: 941 396 093): Youcan see footprints of dinosaurs found in the region here.
  • Castle: Medieval dating back to the 10th century, located on top of a hill.
  • Santa María de la Estrella Church: 15th century. Interestingaltar.

The area around Logroño: The Iregua valley, the Camero Nuevo mountains, the Leza and Jubera valleys.

Logroño:This is the capital of La Rioja (see above)

  • Clavijo Castle: This castle is 15 Kms from Logroño. According to legend the apostle Santiagoappeared on a white horse in the middle of a battle here.

Navarrete:

  • San Juan de Acre Hospital : This hospital was taken down brickby brick. Its door was used as the entrance to the cemetery.
  • LaAsunción de la Virgen Church: 16th century, Baroque. The altarpieceis also Baroque.
  • Alcanadre: Located on the Camino de Santiago.In the Norman 12th century church here there is a picture of the Virgin with referencesto Templars.
    Agoncillo: Situated on the Camino de Santiago.
  • Aguas Mansas Castle : 14th - 15th century. It has a coat of arms ofthe entrance to Cruz de Calatrava. Now it is used as the town hall.
  • NuestraSenora de la Blanca Church: There is an alterpiece with Jacobean references.

Jubera:

  • Jubera Castle : 9th - 10th century. Part of the wall and towers remain.The castle is on a hill overlooking the village.


The area known as La Rioja Alta:
This is where the Oja, Tirón,Ebro and Najerilla valleys are located. It is a fertile area mainly grape vines,cereals and fruit.

Haro: This is an elegant town dating back to medievaltimes. It still retains its ancient city wall and has an interesting old partfull of old houses and some very good bars and restaurants. It is the capitalof the wine producing area and the wines from here have an excellent reputation.The plaza Mayor is at the centre of the city.

  • Fort Tower: 15th-16thcentury. Originally it was a walled city with a castle but now only two entrancesto the city remain Santa Barbara and San Bernardo.
  • Iglesia de SantoTomás: This is a Gothic church with a Plateresque facade.

Casalarreina:This is a small picturesque touristic village near Haro. There is a 16th centuryconvent (Convento Dominico de La Piedad) in the Reyes Católicos and Plateresque styles.

  • Briones: This is a historical, touristicvillage with some very pretty monuments: the Renaissance and Reyes Catolicos 16th century La Asunción Church as well as the San NicolásPalace and the Santo Cristo de los Remedios chapel.

Nájera:

  • TheSanta María la Real Monastery: the church is Gothic. It was built in1052. In 1079 king Alfonso VI de Castilla incorporated it into the BenedictineOrder from Cluny and from 1895 it belonged to the Franciscan Order. The ReinaBlanca de Navarra (queen of Navarra), the Duke and Duchess of Nájera andLópez de Haro all have tombs here. The gothic, Plateresque and Renaissancecloister, Claustro de los Caballeros, is particulary interesting. The church datesback to 1516 and is dedicated to Nuestra Senora de la Rosa. It has an interesting16th century alterpiece.
  • Monastery and Santa Cruz church - 11thcentury.
  • The Castle (Castillo de la Mota): 12th century- only the tower and part of its wall remain
  • Santo Hospital del Refugio:This 17th century hospital was built to treat Jacobean pilgrims.
  • SantaElena Convent
  • The Najerillense Archeological Museum (Plazade Navarra 3, Tel: 941 360 101): This museum houses prehistoric, Roman, Moorishand Medieval objects and archeological remains from the area around Nájera.

Azofra: This is an agricultural village with Arabic origins. It belonged the Lordof Cidamón and Montalbo until the 19th century. It forms part of the Caminode Santiago.

  • La Rioja Botanic Gardens (on the Azogra a Hornillosroad): It contains 700 different types of plants from all over the world.
  • Iglesiade Nuestra Senora de los Angeles: 18th century church

Cirueña:This is an agricultural village (mainly grape vines, cereals and fruit).

  • San Andrés Monastery and church: 10th century.
  • LaVirgen de los Remedios Chapel: This 14th century chapel is located in Ciriñuela.

Santo Domingo de la Calzada: This village was created by SantoDomingo to help pilgrims. He started with the hospital which is now a Parador,the bridge over the river Ojá and a temple. It is a medieval village. ThePlaza de Santo Domingo is at the centre of the village. The house where the saintlived is now the headquarters of the village guild. It forms part of the Jacobeanroute. In fact this was the largest walled town in La Rioja in the 14th -15thcenturies. Nowadays only part of the wall remain and 3 entrances to the town.

  • Santo Domingo de la Calzada Cathedral: Built in 1100 and consecratedin 1106 it was proclaimed a cathedral in 1232. Pre-Gothic. What is really curiousis the henhouse opposite Santo Domingo's tomb which always contains a live henand cock as a reminder of the legend surrounding the miracle performed by thesaint when he saved a man's life. The church is similar to those found along the Camino de Santiago. The vestry, the 14th century cloister, Santo Domingo'stomb and the altarpiece by Damián Forment, its magnificent chapels andthe tower are all exceptional.
  • Nuestra Senora de la AnunciaciónMonastery (c/ Mayor, 1, Tel: 941 340 700): Built in 1601 it depended on theHuelgas de Burgos Abbey. From 1873 onwards it has depended on the Calahorra Diocese.The church inside is Classicist and its Baroque 18th century altarpiece is particularlyinteresting. Pilgrims are accommodated in the Casa del Capellán.
  • San Francisco Church: Built in the 18th century.
  • The Town Hall:Located in an 18th century building.
  • Las Bernardas Church
  • Fiestas:In August there is a fiesta to celebrate Santo Domingo's miricles and in Decemberthere is a medieval market.


Grañón
:This is the last village on the Jacobean route. It is a mainly agricultural area.

  • San Juan Bautista Church: 15th century, it has a Renaissancealtarpiece.
  • Mirabel hill: There used to be a castle belonging tothe Order of the Templars. Good panoramic views from the top of the hill.
  • NuestraSenora de Carrasquedo Chapel: 2 kms away - Baroque, 17th century.

SanMillán de la Cogolla: This village dates back to around the year 500when hermits lived here. For example, Millán (later Saint Millán)- this is where the village's name comes from. There are 2 monasteries in theriver Cárdenas valley. Both form part of the Camino de Santiago

  • Suso Monastery: This is on the Camino de Santiago. It was builtbetween the 6th and 11th centuries. It has been a World Heritage Site since 1997.You can visit the ruins. For example the caves where the hermits lived and themonastery. Three queens of Navarra are buried here and there is also the tombof its founder San Millán made out of black alabaster. In the Middle Agesit was a cultural and political centre. The Glosas Emilianenses the first texts in Spanish and in Basque came from this monastery.
  • Yuso Monastery (Tel: 941 373 049): This is also a World heritage Site. It ison the Camino de Santiago. A Norman monastery from the 10th and 11th centuriesinhabited by the Benedictine Order which was destroyed and rebuilt in the 16thcentury. The most important monk was Domingo de Silos (later Saint Domingo). Thefacade dates back to 1661 and the cloister to 1549. It consists of a mixture ofstyles Gothic, Renaissance and Classicist. The 17th century vestry is particularlyinteresting as well as the 18th century frescos on the ceiling. The church isGothic dating back to 1504. The choir stalls arefrom 1540 and the pulpit is Plateresque.It is still inhabited by the Agustinos Recoletos monks. The song books for thechoir which are from 1729-31 are especially interesting. Its archive and libraryis one of the best in Spain with 300 original books and more than 10,000 volumes.

Berceo:The illustrator Gonzalo de Berceo was born in thisvillage in the 12th century. He wrote about Saints from that period. His mostfamous work was called Los Milagros de Nuestra Señora in the 13thcentury.

San Vicente de la Sonsierra: In Pesciña you can seea waterfall near a dolmen.

  • Semana Santa Fiestas: These fiestasare famous for los Picaos (public self flagellation during the easter procession). Organised by the Vera Cruz brotherhood. These fiestas date back tothe 16th century.
  • Historical monuments: the castle, thefort and the church are all national monuments. The Santa Maria church is Gothic16th century.

The Alhama and Linares Valleys:

Lumbreras: The San Andrés Ethnographic exhibition: This is a museum with displays on traditional tools and local customs.

SanRoman de Cameros: Ecomuseum El Molino del Corregidor: This shows how the last mill worked.

Villoslada de Cameros: Centrode Interpretación de Sierra Cebollera(on the Montenegros roadTel: 941 468 216): This is an exhibition about the Sierra Cebollera National Park.

Ortigosade Cameros: This is a very typical touristic village built on the side ofa mountain with pretty houses and churches. The 16th century San Martínchurch is especially interesting.

  • The Ortigosa caves: Locatedon the outskirts in the Encinero mountain. It has 2 caves: La Paz and la Viña,236 metres and 114 metres, both full of stalactites and stalagmites.

Aguilarde Alhama: There is a 12th century castle built on top of some rocks here.

Cervera del Río Alhama: This is a village with Arabicinfluences.

  • Castle: A Medieval castle in ruins whichdates back to the 11th and 12th centuries. It is located on the San Antonio rock.
  • Iglesia de San Gil: It has 12th century choir stalls.

Ezcaray:This is a pretty touristic village. The town hall is interesting because it usedto be the Santa Barbara Royal Tapestry factory. There is an ancient 15th centurychurch too called Iglesia de Santa María la Mayor.

Inestrillas:

  • Fort Tower: It has turrets, the wall dates back to the 12thand 13th centuries.
  • Contrebia Leukade - Pre-Roman settlement: Thisis in the Alhama mountain range. If you visit the Centro de Interpretacióndel Río Alhama (a museum) you can see the remains of the Celtiberiansettlements as well as remains from the Neolithic period and the Bronze Age. Thereare remains of Roman defensive systems and dolmens too.

Trevijano: This is at the beginning of the Cameros mountain range and is where you can seethe largest dolmens in La Rioja. This is where the Collado del Mallo dolmen is.

Sports

Golf courses in the Rioja

  • LaGrajera Golf Course (18 holes, par 72)
    on the Burgos roadkm 2,In La Grajera park
    Tel: 941 511 360
  • Rioja Alta Golf Club (18 holes, par 72)
    Avenida de Navarra, 11, Cirueña
  • Moncalvillo Golf Course (18 holes, par 72)
    On the road to Logroño341, km 12,950
    Tel: 902 442 222

If you want to contact us or addany information please write to us at: [email protected]

Travelling to La Rioja?The following links may also be useful
Guides provinces borderingwith La Rioja and beautifulplaces in Spain nearby
  • Logroño
  • Navarra

Video: La Rioja Wine Country, Spain (Noviembre 2020).