Are you planning a Wine Trip to Spain? How about the Rioja Wine Route?
La Rioja, Spain, is divided into three major wine regions: Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja – all three open to wine tourism activities. However, away from the main tourist trends, La Rioja wine region also conceals many gastronomic, cultural and natural riches, not to mention its very welcoming population.
Here is a complete guide to exploring the secrets of Rioja wine region!
Top 7 Villages to visit in Rioja
There are many villages to visit in La Rioja. It’s up to you to select them according to the time you have for your stay in the region. You will find there more than fifty establishments, which will allow you to discover one of the Spanish wines with the greatest international prestige. On the Rioja Wine Route, you can even sleep in the middle of the vineyards, and stay in old cellars, hotels and historic buildings.
Haro is the capital of Rioja, a large city with a lot of things to visit.
You can spend the day there visiting monuments, churches and beautiful palaces. But it’s not just for the pleasure of the eyes in Haro, during your visit you will find wine cellars. Indeed, there are many bodegas that are a 100%part of the history of Haro and Rioja wine. The most famous street for eating tapas is calle Herradura, as well as the Station district (Barrio de la Estación), where there are many wineries. The great centuries-old cellars can be visited and a “wine train” makes a special connection from Logroño. Thus, you can visit the rich winery and vinotheque of Rioja Alta, which produces the Villa Ardanza brand in particular.
The landscape of Briones is fields of Rioja vineyards and the pueblo which overlooks the back. The village was very lively during our visit, because depending on the day of your visit, there is a small market in a square with a sublime church. You will find addresses of more classic restaurants in the small streets around the main square. Briones is also a nice great place for walks and outdoor tours, surrounded by Rioja vineyards and with the Ebro at its side.
Brinas is one of the smallest Rioja villages which will only take you a few hours to visit. Located 13 km from Briones, it is a pretty pueblo full of charm. Its particularity is the river that runs along it and which offers a very nice ride. The monuments to visit are not lacking. First, you can start at the Church of the Assumption and then head to the Humilladero, a holy place where prisoners used to stop to make a final confession before being hanged.
There is the pretty Rollo viewpoint, from where you can admire the village and the river.
4. Cuzcurrita del Rio Tiron
Cuzcurrita del Rio Tiròn is a fortified town that was important in the Middle Ages. Its pretty streets, its castle and its San Miguel church are its main attractions. You can also enjoy the banks of the Tirón river which crosses it.
Sajazarra is classified “Pueblos Más Bonitos de España”, it is a very pleasant Spnish village to walk around. The village’s overall architecture is quite old, with a castle in the heart of the enclosure – this city deserves its title!
6. San Vicente de la Sonsierra
From Brioñes, a pretty road leads to the village of San Vicente. From here you can climb up to the castle and take in the great views over the whole Rioja valley.
During your visit to Laguardia, a stop is a must at the Villa Lucia Wine Theme Centre, which is both a very old cellar, an unmissable wine museum with state-of-the-art facilities and a gourmet restaurant. The Red Tempranillo grape variety is in the spotlight. Visits, tastings, entertainment, cooking workshops are organized and waiting for you!
There are still many villages to visit, Cellorigo, Logroño obviously, Labastida, Elcielgo (especially to see the futuristic architecture of the Marques de Riscal hotel) and San Asensio.
It is a real journey through time offered by these charming Rioja villages which have managed to keep their heritage and their authenticity through time.
Top 5 wineries to visit in La Rioja wine region
Do you want to visit a large bodegas or a small ones with traditional know-how?
The dates of the visits can also be a criterion for your wine trip, because not all wineries are open to public during the week! On the Rioja Alavesa Wine Route, you can taste wines aged in medieval caves as well as wines made in avant-garde farms.
Every year, the traditional Grape Harvest Festival is carried out especially at the bodega Lecea.
1. Bodega Lecea in San Ascensio
The bodega Lecea in San Ascensio, is located in a cave, offers a history around Rioja wines dating back to the 16ᵉ century. It is a short visit (doable with children), with a tasting of 2 wines at the end and 2 wines during the visit.
2. Eguren Ugarte in Laguardia
Eguren Ugarte, in Laguardia, has cellars that go down to 17 meters underground and extend over 2 kilometers! Some enthusiasts keep the bottles purchased there in closed niches in their name, where they can come and taste them whenever they wish! This Rioja winery has its own hotel with 21 very contemporary rooms and the landscape is simply superb.
3. Viñedos y bodegas de la Marquesa in Villabuena
At Villabuena, the opulent family winery Viñedos y bodegas de la Marquesa, the tour lasts between half an hour and two hours and passes through three impressive vaulted galleries of cellars.
4. Marqués de Riscal in Elciego
You cannot miss the Marqués de Riscal estate, in Elciego, which is also a very pretty village around its church. There, it’s another dimension, more industrial, with a huge car park, cafeteria, large shop, “city of wine”.
5. Vivanco Museum in Briones
The Vivanco Museum in Briones is one of the places you visit, with its own production, a restaurant and above all an astonishing private museum, incredibly rich, dedicated to culture wine since the origins. It brings together over 4,000 m² tools, machinery, but also precious objects and works of art inspired by wine, from Roman times to Miro, Juan Gris, or Picasso.
Good to know: All visits to bodegas in La Rioja are either in Spanish or English.
Where to sleep on the La Rioja wine route?
Here are 2 addresses that we recommend.
- Cuzcurrita del Rio Tirón: the Hospederia Teatrisso. It is an accommodation with a lot of charm, very quiet, located in the heart of the village. The rooms are really very nice. The breakfast is very generous and allows you to have a good time!
- Elciego: Hotel Marques de Riscal: This fabulous hotel was built by the architect Frank Gehry, it offers luxury services including a Vinotherapy SPA!
How to get to the Rioja Region?
- La Rioja is 3.5 hours from Madrid. It is best to get there by car to be able to move around Rioja villages.
- To get there from Madrid Bajaras Airport, we recommend renting a car.
- To get to Logroño from Madrid by train, count 3h30 by direct train.
- La Rioja Alta is very close to the south of France, only 162 km from the border. Barely 3.5 hours by car from Bordeaux wineries (353 km) on the A-63 motorway towards San Sebastian and Vitoria. It is the fastest and most convenient way to travel in Rioja and discover the world of wine, gastronomy and the history of the region.
- If you are in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department, it will take you just over two hours (195 km) to come from Bayonne by the AP-1 and AP-8, in the direction of San Sebastian and Victoria.
Enjoy your Spanish Wine Trip on the Rioja Wine Route!
FAQ & Useful resources
How to dress to visit Bodegas?
Wine tourism in La Rioja is possible in many ways, but it is by visiting a winery that you can best enjoy your experience. A cellar is a place that has particular characteristics: they are cool, even in summer, so during your visits we advise you to come with warm clothes, more suitable for visiting these places.
When to come and visit La Rioja?
If you travel in spring, you can contemplate green hills where nature, cereal crops, vineyards and architectural heritage mingle. In summer, you will discover the cool spaces inside the cellars where you can taste our wines in peace. In autumn, an explosion of colors floods the vineyards with red, ocher and green hues, which will awaken your senses. The autumn light in Rioja Alta is also very special: warm and golden. Under very pleasant temperatures, you can participate in activities related to the harvest and traditional festivals. And if you like peace and quiet, winter is the ideal season to contemplate the strength that emanates from the bare vineyards.
How many days do you need in La Rioja?
This depends on your interest in visiting Rioja wineries, but the best length of time is a good 2-3 days. You can consider staying longer if you want to visit many wineries, but if you stay just a day it will be too bad to rush your stay.
What language do they speak in La Rioja?
The official language spoken in La Rioja is Spanish.