Travel Guides Spain | Guide to La Rioja

Guide to La Rioja

What to do and see in La Rioja?

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

It is a very fertile part of Spain and has an abundant 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 all of which end up in the Ebro, which also flows through this province. La Rioja is also known as the province with 7 valleys (although in reality there are more).





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

You can do all kinds of sports in La Rioja. There are ski slopes in the mountains: Valdezcaray, the Cebollera mountain 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 production and its related industries (wine distribution, rural tourism...). There are also other important industries such as its textile and shoe industry as well as agriculture. Logroño the capital of La Rioja is its commercial centre.

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

History of La Rioja

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

The Camino de Santiago benefited Logroño and 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 Camino Francés (another pilgrimage), which crosses the Pyrenees and also cuts through Aragon and Navarra. The Camino de Santiago or Ruta del Ebro, actually goes from Cataluña, Aragón, Navarra and La Rioja, where it meets up with the Camino Francés. In La Rioja it starts in Alfaro and passes through Rincón de Soto, Calahorra, Alcanadre, Agoncillo and Varea.
However, the Camino Francés, starts in Logroño and passes through Navarrete, Nájera, Azofra, Santo Domingo de la Calzada and Grañón.

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

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

Things to buy in the Rioja


Lace in Logroño and Alfaro.
Ceramics in Calahorra, Logroño and in Alfaro.
Woodcraft in Logroño, Lardero, Bergasa, Alfaro and Ezcaray.
Frontón balls in Logroño.
Patchwork Quilts in Logroño
Painted silks : scarves, blouses and more in Murillo de Río Leza.

Hotels in La Rioja

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  • The Vendimia and San Mateo Fiestas : These are from the 20th - 26th September. These fiestas are considered to be the most important. They are a national tourist attraction.
  • The San Bernabé Fiesta: 11th June this is the patron saint of the city. Fish, bread and wine are handed out and there is street theatre at the Ravellín walls (las Murallas de Ravellín).
  • Carnivals: These take place in February to mark the beginning of lent.
  • Easter week: 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 Virgen de la Esperanza, patron saint of the city. There is a competition for the best christmas display in shop windows, activities for children, Christmas concerts, nativity scenes and the Reyes Magos (the 3 wise men) procession.

National Parks in the Rioja

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

  • Cebollera Mountain Range National Park: This was declared a National Park in 1995. It has a large number of pine, beech and oak trees. It is a high mountinous area and there are snowy peaks and glaciers. It covers 236.5 kms2. There is an open air sculpture park called "Tierras Altas de Lomas de Oro". There is also an ethnographic exhibition, information centre, and 2 chapels La Ermita de Lomos de Orios and la Ermita de la Virgen de la Luz as well as a display on seasonal migration.
  • Los Sotos del Ebro en Alfaro Nature Reserve: 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 river and very fertile vegetation.
  • La Demanda and Urbión Mountain Range: This mountain range is located in the south of the Rioja and forms part of the Iberian mountain chain. You enter the park through Ezcaray. The Baldezcaray ski resort is located here. The highest peak is 2,262 metres high. It is made up of forests, glaciers and interesting vegetation and there are many different types of wild animals that live here too. The highest point 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 sports here like paragliding and climbing. San Millán de la Cogolla is located here, home to two of the most important monasteries in the province. Suso and Yuso (see above for further details).
  • Toloño and Los Montes Obares Mountain Range: The Obares mountains form part of the Haro 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 and fruit trees. There are marked footpaths and its a good place to go mountain bike riding or horse riding.
  • Ocón Valley: This valley is located between the Ebro valley and the Hez valley. It is a UNESCO biosphere reserve. Its highest point above sea level is 1,338 metres. It is an interesting area historically, culturally and archeologically and is a popular area for rural tourism.
  • Los Cameros: This is situated at the heart of the Cebollera National Park. You can visit la Paz and la Viña caves or go windsurfing or canoeing on the Gonzalez reservoir. You can also go bungee jumping from the Jubera bridge over the river Jubera. You can go paragliding from la Peña Zapatero de Nieva de Cameros or la Peña amarilla de Leza.
  • Valleys in the area known as La Rioja Baja: The rivers Jubera and Cidacos run through here. This is a valley where you can see dinosaur footprints, Celtiberian settlements, Roman remains etc...(especially Contrebia-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 to a large number of vultures.

The area known as La Rioja Baja

: This is between the Cidacos valley and the mountains where the river Cidacos runs through the middle. It is an agricultural area 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 the first to settle here. They named the city Ilurcis. Later the Celts settled here and in 719 B.C and it was occupied by the Romans under the general called Tiberio Sempronio Graco, who called it Gracurris. It was briefly occupied by the Moors and later on it was taken over by the Kingdom of Navarra and the Kingdom of Aragon both of which fought over it. Finally it became a city under Felipe IV from Aragon in 1629.

  • San Miguel Church: 17th - 18th century. A national monument. This church has a Classicist facade and a Baroque altarpiece by Juan de Arregui, 1727. It is curious because you can see storks which nest here.
  • Santa María del Burgo Church: Classicist and Baroque - its Rococo altarpiece stands out.
  • Convento de la Concepción Church: 17th century. Rococo altarpiece and Baroque 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.
  • San Roque Chapel (2 kms away): Baroque with a Norman crucifix.
  • Centro de 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 an important colony of storks.

Rincón de Soto: This forms part of the Camino de Santiago.

Arnedo: Capital of the area. It has prehistoric origins. It gained importance during the Roman occupation because the Roman road between Calahorra and Numancia passed through the town . Later it was occupied by the Moors and from 844 onwards the kings of Navarra and Aragon both 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. It is 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 12th century picture of the Virgin. The main altarpiece is Baroque.
  • Santo Tomás Church: Gothic, it has an interesting Gothic facade and a 10th century Rococo altarpiece.
  • Hospital and La Magdalena Oratory: 16th century. Mannerist image of Mary Magdalene.
  • Nuestra Senorde Vico Monastery (nearby): Founded by Fray López de Salinas in 1456 and occupied by the Cistercian order. The monks here dedicate themselves to prayer and contemplation. They also make pastries, cakes and ceramics. Part of the monastery is dedicated to accommodating pilgrims.
  • Santa Clara Convent (nearby).
  • The Natural Science Theme Park (c/ Santiago Milla, 8, Tel: 941 388 815): This has a collection of fossils, archeological remains and even some dinosaur foot prints found in the region.
  • The Castle: Dates back to the 9th and 10th century.


  • The Vulture Observation Information Centre (c/ Amancio Gonzalez, 2, Tel: 941 394 226): This is an exhibition of the animals found in the region with special attention given to vultures.
  • Fort Tower: A 12th century tower 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, Greek and 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 lots of historical monuments from this period in Calahorra's history. After the Roman occupation the Visigoths settled here followed by the Moors who remained until the city was reconquered and became part of the Kingdom of Navarra and later Castellana.

  • Salvador Cathedral: 12th century Norman, The cloister is Gothic-Plateresque. It contains some very valuable works of art especially the altarpeice, the Santos Martires chapel, the San Pedro chapel, the Cristo de la 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: Classicist 17th 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.
  • The Diocesan Museum (Plaza de las bolas, 1, Tel: 941 13 00 98): Located in the cloister in the Cathedral.
  • The Municipal Museum (c/Angel Oliván, 8, Tel: 941 135 003) Located in a Modernist building, known as the 'Millionaire's house'. The Tourisim information office and a museum with Roman archeological finds are both here.
  • The Humilladero: A 16th century crucifix located at the entrance of the city - this is where pilgrims offer their prayers on entering the city.


  • The Paleontology Museum - La Rioja (c/ Mayor, 10, Tel: 941 194 218): This is a museum 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): You can 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. Interesting altar.

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 Santiago appeared on a white horse in the middle of a battle here.


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


  • 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 medieval times. It still retains its ancient city wall and has an interesting old part full of old houses and some very good bars and restaurants. It is the capital of 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-16th century. Originally it was a walled city with a castle but now only two entrances to the city remain Santa Barbara and San Bernardo.
  • Iglesia de Santo Tomás: This is a Gothic church with a Plateresque facade.

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

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


  • The Santa María la Real Monastery: the church is Gothic. It was built in 1052. In 1079 king Alfonso VI de Castilla incorporated it into the Benedictine Order from Cluny and from 1895 it belonged to the Franciscan Order. The Reina Blanca de Navarra (queen of Navarra), the Duke and Duchess of Nájera and López de Haro all have tombs here. The gothic, Plateresque and Renaissance cloister, Claustro de los Caballeros, is particulary interesting. The church dates back to 1516 and is dedicated to Nuestra Senora de la Rosa. It has an interesting 16th century alterpiece.
  • Monastery and Santa Cruz church - 11th century.
  • 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.
  • Santa Elena Convent
  • The Najerillense Archeological Museum (Plaza de Navarra 3, Tel: 941 360 101): This museum houses prehistoric, Roman, Moorish and Medieval objects and archeological remains from the area around Nájera.

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

  • La Rioja Botanic Gardens (on the Azogra a Hornillos road): It contains 700 different types of plants from all over the world.
  • Iglesia de 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.
  • La Virgen de los Remedios Chapel: This 14th century chapel is located in Ciriñuela.

Santo Domingo de la Calzada: This village was created by Santo Domingo 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. The Plaza de Santo Domingo is at the centre of the village. The house where the saint lived is now the headquarters of the village guild. It forms part of the Jacobean route. In fact this was the largest walled town in La Rioja in the 14th -15th centuries. Nowadays only part of the wall remain and 3 entrances to the town.

  • Santo Domingo de la Calzada Cathedral: Built in 1100 and consecrated in 1106 it was proclaimed a cathedral in 1232. Pre-Gothic. What is really curious is the henhouse opposite Santo Domingo's tomb which always contains a live hen and cock as a reminder of the legend surrounding the miracle performed by the saint 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's tomb and the altarpiece by Damián Forment, its magnificent chapels and the tower are all exceptional.
  • Nuestra Senora de la Anunciación Monastery (c/ Mayor, 1, Tel: 941 340 700): Built in 1601 it depended on the Huelgas 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 particularly interesting. 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 December there is a medieval market.

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

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

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

  • Suso Monastery: This is on the Camino de Santiago. It was built between 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 the monastery. Three queens of Navarra are buried here and there is also the tomb of its founder San Millán made out of black alabaster. In the Middle Ages it 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 is on the Camino de Santiago. A Norman monastery from the 10th and 11th centuries inhabited by the Benedictine Order which was destroyed and rebuilt in the 16th century. The most important monk was Domingo de Silos (later Saint Domingo). The facade dates back to 1661 and the cloister to 1549. It consists of a mixture of styles Gothic, Renaissance and Classicist. The 17th century vestry is particularly interesting as well as the 18th century frescos on the ceiling. The church is Gothic 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 the choir which are from 1729-31 are especially interesting. Its archive and library is 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 this village in the 12th century. He wrote about Saints from that period. His most famous work was called Los Milagros de Nuestra Señora in the 13th century.

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

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

The Alhama and Linares Valleys:

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

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

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

Ortigosa de Cameros: This is a very typical touristic village built on the side of a mountain with pretty houses and churches. The 16th century San Martín church is especially interesting.

  • The Ortigosa caves: Located on 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.

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

Cervera del Río Alhama: This is a village with Arabic influences.

  • Castle: A Medieval castle in ruins which dates 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 used to be the Santa Barbara Royal Tapestry factory. There is an ancient 15th century church too called Iglesia de Santa María la Mayor.


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

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


Golf courses in the Rioja

  • La Grajera 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 Logroño 341, km 12,950
    Tel: 902 442 222

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