Just an hour and a half south of the Basque city of Bilbao lies the famous La Rioja wine region, home to some of Spain’s best vineyards. Take a little tour with us to see some of its best towns, bodegas, restaurants and hotels.
Travelling south from Bilbao past the capital of the Basque Country, Vitoria-Gasteiz, you’ll reach the small town of Haro – the gateway to Spain’s celebrated La Rioja wine region. Besides being home to a number of excellent wineries, Haro is the home of the famous Batalla de Vino festival, held each year in June – one of the world’s biggest wine fights. Spend the day here touring some of the town’s best vineyards including Bodegas Muga, Bodegas Lopez de Heredia and Bodegas Roda. Stay overnight at Los Agustinos, one of Haro’s most luxurious hotels. Located in a former convent that was founded in 1373, it’s decorated with gorgeous antiques.
On day two of your tour, take the road south of town for the 11-minute drive to the quaint town of Briones. Standing on top of a hill, surrounded by ochre-coloured earth and rows of vineyards, Briones is where you’ll find the excellent Vivanco Bodegas and Museum of Wine Culture. Here, you’ll not only get to tour the vineyards and the cellars, but also learn everything there is to know about one of the world’s most beloved wine varieties. For something a bit different, book yourself in for lunch inside the bodega’s unique wine caves, cut into the hillside. Later, for dinner, try the 17th century vaulted-wine cellars of Los Calaos de Briones for an atmospheric treat.
On day three, take a 10-minute car ride to the town of San Asensio with its well-preserved old town, castle and impressive manor houses. Wine tradition here can be traced back to as early as the 16th century. The town is home to numerous bodegas and is famous for its clarete wine. Every July, both locals and visitors join in the Clarete Wine Battle and drench each other in this rose coloured drink. Continue on to Eltziego, a 20-minute drive to the east to spend the night.
Elciego is home to the Bodegas Marques de Riscal and its futuristic hotel. Designed by architect Frank Gehry – who also designed the famous Guggenheim Museum Bilbao – the hotel in fact mirrors its older sister in its structure of undulating metallic surfaces. Tour the vineyards and stop for a few tastings before spending the night at this magnificent hotel. Don’t forget to book yourself in for dinner at the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant with its very own chef’s garden and well-stocked cellar of over 200 different wines.
Take a little detour northwest the next morning to see the Bodegas Ysios – one of the most impressive around. Designed by Santiago Calatrava, it was created as a symbol of La Rioja wine country and aims to mimic the mountains behind it. The rest of day five sees you travelling just 25 minutes south to the city of Logroño. Located along the River Ebro, it’s the largest city and capital of La Rioja region. Its picturesque plazas and cobbled streets are filled with wine and pintxos (Basque-style tapas) bars – the perfect spots to try some of the Basque Country’s most famous culinary dishes. This is also the place to book yourself on a unique tour of the surrounding vineyards – why not try a La Rioja cycling tour? Stay overnight at the Hotel Marqués de Vallejo – a chic hotel located in the city’s historic quarter, filled with polished concrete, driftwood sculptures and unique bright red furniture.