5 Top Reasons To Visit La Rioja


la rioja

Wine awaits you in La Rioja

By Liz Carlson

Why plan a trip to La Rioja. Here are five good reasons.

1. Off the beaten track: Have you ever heard of La Rioja, Spain? Don’t worry, not too many people have. It’s one of the smallest autonomous communities here, and one of the least visited. This  region is one of the best kept secrets in Spain! If you are an adventurous traveler like myself, lured by the road less traveled, and want to know the locals, then La Rioja is a must-see. Without congested roads of tourists, it has many captivating sights, landscapes and activities.

Landscape in La Rioja, Spain

2. Wine: if you have heard of La Rioja, I am guessing you know about its connection to wine. La Rioja produces some of the world’s finest vino tinto (red wine). The region is covered with vineyards and wine is one of the main sources of industry here, which is the main reason I love it so much. Everywhere you look, you find a wine theme, from bunches of grapes as decorations to wine served just about anywhere.

The best time to visit is in the fall, with its  rolling hills of red, orange, yellow and beautiful mountain backdrops. Tucked away in the countryside are hundreds of bodegas (wineries)  where you can tour, have tastings, and hunt for your favorite wine. My favorite bodega so far has to be Marqués de Riscal in the little village of Elciego, a very old winery redesigned  by Frank O. Gehry, the same architect who designed the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.  You could live here for years and not visit them all!

la rioja

Marques de Riscal Hotel, designed by Frank Gehry

3. Pinchos: if all my chatter about the wine wasn’t enough to convince you to come to La Rioja, the food is equally famous and delicious! Logroño, the capital of La Rioja, is a small city that is big on food. Famous for pinchos, coming from the Basque word pintxo, a variation of tapas, they are a portion of food served on a piece of bread  held together with a toothpick.

Eating ‘pinchos’ in La Rioja, Spain

Pinchos are served just about everywhere in La Rioja, but by far the best area in Logroño is on a street called calle Laurel. This narrow winding street in the old quarter  is packed with pincho bars, each with their own specialty. On the weekends, it’s filled  with locals socializing.  Hopping from one place to another, they eat many different pinchos until they are full, downed with  glasses of Rioja wine of course.

The most famous pincho in town is called the champi (from the Spanish champiñón, mushroom), and it consists of three grilled mushrooms coated in a rich, buttery garlic sauce, skewered on a slice of baguette and topped with a shrimp. Did I mention it costs 1 euro?

 4. Beautiful places, great location: La Rioja  feels less disturbed, more isolated, more rustic, and even more genuine than many other places. The skies are wide and blue, all against a vibrant green landscape with mountains and vineyards. It is nestled in-between the Basque Country, Navarre, Aragón, and Castilla y León.

La Rioja is close to big cities making it an easy stop. One of my favorites  is Laguardia, a beautiful hilltop medieval village on the border of Basque Country. It also has magnificent views of the surrounding mountains and vineyards, along with great bodegas and high quality restaurants.

5. San Mateo: Every September there is a week-long festival devoted to Saint Matthew (San Mateo) that marks the beginning of the wine harvest.  Thousands from Northern Spain pour into Logroño for the festival wearing blue or red kerchiefs around their necks, proclaiming their allegiance to the city. Wine flows in one of the fountains, and  streets are packed  day and night.

San Mateo Festival in Spain

Marching bands push through the streets followed by friends and family singing and dancing in their wake. Food and wine fights are typical. Water is dumped off balconies into the crowds. Every hour is bustling with food tastings, parades, grape stomping, concerts and fireworks. Unlike many of the bigger festivals in Spain, such as San Fermín in Pamplona (the Running of the Bulls or Las Fallas in Valencia, San Mateo is predominately a local festival. So if you really want to get to know Spanish culture, check it out.

Liz writes at Young Adventuress on traveling and expat life abroad.

13 Responses

  1. Lauren says:

    I’m sold Liz! How is spring for a visit?

  2. admin says:

    Right? I need to get to La Rioja too! So much wine, so little time….


  3. Rod Younger says:

    Its magical, especially at harvest time – I spent a week there a few years ago as I have family and friends in Leza and Torremontalvo – might post all the pics on picasa/facebook if I have time but you can see three of them at http://books4spain.com/blog/?p=387 and also buy the Finest Wines of Rioja for only £8.99 plus free shipping!

  4. Rod Younger says:

    Forgot to mention – I did a 3 day tour of Ribera del Duero in Oct, including a visit to Vega Sicilia – very difficult to get into and here is an article Ribera del Duero – an expert’s tour that my friend who organised it wrote (inlcudes a pic of inside Vega Sicilia – I have more I may post!): http://books4spain.com/blog/?p=891

  5. admin says:

    Why is it hard to get into?

  6. Am hoping to go this year, so it was good to learn more about the area – thanks!

  7. Tom Perry says:

    I enjoyed reading your post. As a fellow ‘logroñés’ you hit the nail on the head. I have a blog where I write about the Rioja wine business. If you’re interested, the link is http://insiderioja.wordpress.com

    Take care, Tom

  8. admin says:

    Thanks Tom. What’s your favorite Rioja then?

  9. Cailee says:

    Hello, great tips! This July I am visiting a friend who lives in Logrono. I will be there for 19 days and was wondering besides wonderful food and wine, where should we go and what should we see in the area? Thanks!

  10. admin says:

    Please go to our post 5 Reasons To Visit La Rioja, http://www.thespainscoop.com/5-top-reasons-to-visit-la-rioja/
    We are in the process of redoing our site, and reorganizing. Will you be going to Bilbao or Pamploma?

  11. Cailee says:

    I’ll be in Logrono, but we will travel all around La Rioja and maybe a few surrounding areas

  12. admin says:

    Hi Cailee, Let us know what you do in La Rioja besides drink wine. It is such a beautiful part of Spain. Have a great trip.

  1. January 22, 2012

    […] 5 different cities home all over the country, so I daresay she can speak with some authority).  Top 5 Reasons to Visit La Rioja Advertisement LD_AddCustomAttr("AdOpt", "1"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Origin", "other"); […]

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