10 Things to Know Before Visiting La Rioja

Visit La Rioja region of Spain
Visit La Rioja region of Spain | © Miguel Ángel García / Flickr
Esme Fox

The Spanish region of La Rioja lies in the north of the country, surrounded by the Basque Country, Aragón, Navarra and Castilla y León. If you’re thinking of going for a short break, here are ten things to know before visiting La Rioja.

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It’s Spain’s best wine destination.

La Rioja is Spain’s biggest and best wine destination. The region produces 280 to 300 million litres of wine per year and comprises approximately 63,593 hectares of vineyards. It’s here where you can sample the best of the country’s reds at some of the top wineries.

Wine grapes ready for harvest in La Rioja Spain

If you’re coming from abroad, it’s best reached from Bilbao.

La Rioja does have an airport, but it’s mainly for domestic flights, so if you’re travelling here from abroad, the best way of reaching the region is from Bilbao Airport. From here, it’s just an hour and a half drive south.

The tapas are just as good as the wine.

You’ve more than likely heard of Andalusian-style tapas, and Basque pintxos, but have you heard of Riojan tapas? La Rioja, and the city of Logroño in particular, has its own style of tapas. Here, many bars specialise in one specific ingredient; for example, there is one bar that only serves mushrooms and another that specialises in spider crab fish cakes. Read our list of The Best Tapas Bars in Logroño to learn more.

Tapas at La Taberna del Tío Blas, Logroño, Spain

Its capital, Logroño, is well worth a visit.

The Riojan city of Logroño is not very high on travellers’ lists of the top Spanish cities they want to visit, but it should be. It may not have lots of famous attractions, but it’s charming, pretty and has a lovely Old Town centre. Some of the places to see here include history museums, science museums, historic bridges and churches.

It’s dotted with many important pieces of religious architecture.

As well as wineries, La Rioja is known for its magnificent pieces of religious architecture. Among the most famous are the Cathedral of Santo Domingo de la Calzada and the UNESCO World Heritage Suso and Yuso monasteries in the town of San Millán de la Cogolla.

Visit the Monestir de San Millán de Yuso, La Rioja, Spain

It’s the birthplace of the first written words in the Spanish language.

It’s said that the first words in Spanish were written down in the Yuso Monastery in the 11th century, when texts were being translated from Latin. These were known as the Glosas Emilianenses. It was also here where the first known Spanish poet, Gonzalo de Berceo wrote down his first verses.

It’s home to some amazing natural attractions.

As well as bottle green vineyards, La Rioja comprises, high dramatic mountain ranges, other-worldly lunar-like landscapes, rolling hills and winding rivers. Some of the best places to see the natural side of La Rioja are the Sierra de Cebollera Nature Reserve and the Arnedillo Biosphere Reserve.

Visit the Sierra de Cebollera Natural Park in La Rioja, Spain

It’s best to hire a car to explore it properly.

La Rioja is a remote region of Spain, filled with fields and vineyards. It only has one city, and the rest of the places are small towns or villages. There are buses with routes between some of the towns, but the best way to explore it properly, especially the more remote vineyards, is to hire a car.

The Camino de Santiago runs through the region.

The famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route runs through the region of La Rioja and the city of Logroño, meaning that the people here are used to international travellers, and there are lots of inexpensive places to stay and eat.

The Camino de Santiago runs through La Rioja

It’s an excellent place for adventure sports.

Drinking wine is not the only sport visitors can enjoy in La Rioja, there’s everything from horse riding and hiking to hot-air ballooning over the vineyards and driving 4x4s across its rocky landscapes.

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