While La Rioja is the smallest region in Spain, it features a surprisingly diverse landscape. The lush forests, jagged mountains, quiet stone churches and all-important vineyards in the area make dramatic backdrops for an evening spent swirling world-famous wines and tasting regional versions of tapas. It all adds up to make La Rioja an ideal destination for a unique retreat. Here are the top reasons why you should add it to your travel list.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
In La Rioja, tapas are a bit different than those you’ll find in the rest of Spain. The streets in the regional capital, Logroño, are densely packed with tapas bars, with many specialising in one particular dish. These smaller meals are called pinchos, and it’s standard practice to bounce from one bar to the next to sample the plates – similar to a bar crawl but infinitely classier. Bar Soriano serves delicious garlic mushrooms and shrimp, while Umm No Sólo Tapas offers creamy croquettes. Elsewhere, Bar El Perchas is known for its pig ears stuffed in a bun. Start hungry and visit as many places as you can.
While the Cathedral of Santo Domingo de la Calzada dates back to 1158, it continued to be modified until the late 16th century, with newfangled features such as a baroque tower and circular skylights added. Visit after dark for the night-time tour, which uses colourful lights to guide you through its various gilded ornaments. Up next is a guided tour of the ochre-brick Monasterio de Yuso. This church’s interior is so elaborate that it’s described as “decadent gothic”.
Get ready for the booziest fight of your life. The Haro Wine Festival takes place on Saint Pedro’s Day each year – 29 June. After a 9am mass (to repent for what you’re about to do next), the whole town prepares for La Batalla del Vino (the Battle of Wine). Local winemakers supply tankers that participants use as ammunition for an all-out wine war, dowsing everybody in sight with the staining red liquid. When enough white shirts have been ruined forever, the competitors head to Plaza de la Paz for live music and even more drinking.
Build up an appetite for your nightly wine and tapas tastings by hiking through the diverse nature parks dotting La Rioja. Take a stroll along the wide, mirror-like River Ebro, or journey through the lush forests in the Sierra de la Demanda foothills. Also, venture to the southeastern valleys to find the hot springs of Cidacos and Alhama, a Unesco Biosphere Reserve. There are several thermal spas and outdoor pools to enjoy here, framed by pebbles and clear as crystal, and many are free to dip into.
Looking to inject some adrenaline into your trip? Pedroso Canyon hosts canyoning excursions that cater to people of all levels. If you’re feeling brave (and brought a change of clothes), rappel down the side of a waterfall. For something a bit slower yet equally thrilling, go up in a hot-air balloon to get a bird’s-eye view of the wineries that you’ll probably be visiting later. Then, there are numerous horseback-riding tours for when you get back down to earth.
The Camino de Santiago is also known as the Way of Saint James. This ancient pilgrimage is a collection of different walking and cycling trails, though they all lead to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, where Saint James the Great is rumoured to be buried. One of these routes, the French Way, winds through La Rioja and is a great way to take in the region’s mountains and rivers.
La Rioja is incredibly close to Bilbao, at just a 60mi (97km) drive away, meaning it’s easy to rent a car for the day and venture out to see what it has to offer. Stop by the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, sitting on the riverbank like an enormous, titanium ship. Afterwards, nibble on fresh Bay of Biscay seafood at the Ribera Market, or simply pull up a chair in one of the many tapas bars. Bilbao is one of the closest airports (and ferry ports) to La Rioja, so you can start or end your holiday with a cultural weekend in the city.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.