Following our recent family weekend in La Rioja, I’ve put together a quick guide to the La Rioja region. Let´s talk about some of the best wineries in La Rioja and all the cool things to see and do in this Spanish Autonomous Community.
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A Quick Guide to La Rioja: Best Wineries in La Rioja
What is La Rioja known for
La Rioja is the smallest region in Spain. But it is an absolute must on every Spain bucket list since this tiny Spanish autonomous community is an actual synonym for top-class quality wine. You simply can´t visit Spain and miss some of the best wineries in La Rioja.
Within this unique region, you will find hundreds of bodegas (e.g. wineries) where you can follow the traditional Spanish wine-making process in detail: from wandering around the vineyards and harvesting grapes to buying the artsy bottles and enjoying wine-tasting tours.
While most international travelers visit La Rioja for its famous wineries, the region is known for some unique attractions that should not be missed. So, with this post, I wanted to create a quick guide to the La Rioja region to give you travel ideas beyond the usual wine tasting.
How to get to La Rioja
The best way to explore La Rioja at your own pace is to rent a car (I usually check for the best deals via rentalcars).
Depending on your destination in La Rioja, a trip by car might take you 1,5-2.5 hours from Bilbao, 3,5-4 hours from Madrid, and 4,5-6,5 hours from Barcelona.
If you plan a road trip in La Rioja and have a few holiday weeks in your pocket – keep in mind that you can easily combine it with my other trips – Navarra road trip, Soria Road Trip, Basque Country Road Trip, Northern Spain Road Trip, and even The Pyrenees Road Trip.
By public transport
Where to stay in La Rioja
The main cities of la Rioja region are Loroño and Haro.
One of the most unique luxury hotels in La Rioja is Hotel Marqués de Riscal (designed by Frank Gehry, right by the famous Marqués de Riscal vineyards).
More budget-friendly options with wine-related activities – Agroturismo Valdelana, Hospederia de los Parajes, and Hotel Spa Tudanca Aranda. If you prefer local and boutique stays check – Apartamentos Señorio de Haro, Casa Rural La Calera, and Santa María Briones.
Books&Movies about La Rioja
If you need more visual inspiration before traveling to Spain, check my list of popular Spanish TV shows. Fans of the old cinema, these movies were filmed in La Rioja: Calle Mayor (1956), El sur (1983), Oro Fino (1989). Also, there is a TV Show Gran Reserva and The Way (2010).
If you are looking for vineyard vibes on-screen – check A walk in the clouds (1995), one of the most charming international romance movies, The Summer We Lived (2020), and the TV Show The Vineyard (based on one of the best-selling Spanish novels).
To prepare yourself for exploring the best wineries in La Rioja and educate yourself on the wine culture check Wine Isn’t Rocket Science (it´s the one you can see in the picture, but in English; also you can get it in Spanish – El vino no tiene misterio) Wine Folly: Magnum Edition, Windows on the World Complete Wine Course, Wine Simple: A Totally Approachable Guide from a World-Class Sommelier, The Concise Guide to Wine and Blind Tasting, Decoding Spanish Wine, and Peñín Guide Spanish Wine,
Things to see in La Rioja
Best wineries in La Rioja
Some of the most iconic wineries in La Rioja are Marques de Riscal, Ysios, Baigorri, Amaren, Cune, Viña Real, Solar de Samaniego, Torre de Oña, Valdemar, Bodegas Franco Españolas, and Muga.
All these bodegas are well-established on the tourist track. But keep in mind that all of the wineries in La Rioja are known for their top quality, so picking the best ones is mostly a matter of personal taste. With 576 bodegas in the region (and over 41,505 hectares of vineyards) you can spend years exploring La Rioja in order to pick your own favorites.
On a more personal note – I currently like Muga and Habla for the red wine, and Marques de Riscal and Albariño for the white wine. You can read more in my post about Local food souvenirs from Spain.
I love exploring lesser-known museums in Spain and adding a cultural twist to my road trips. Must-see museums to explore the wine history in La Rioja are the Vivanco Museum of Wine Culture and the Museum of La Rioja.
Historical sights in La Rioja
If you don’t want to build the whole trip around wine, there are many cultural activities in the region of La Rioja.
Even though the Spanish province of Teruel is number one when it comes to dinosaurs, Centro de Centro de Interpretación Paleontológica de La Rioja in Igea is a great place for history geeks (a great match if you are visiting Spain with kids).
Moreover, La Rioja has an ancient Celtiberian settlement (like the famous Numantia in Soria) – Contrebia Leukade. Fans of the Roman Ruins in Spain can’t miss Calahorra and the Romanic church of San Cristobal in Canales de La Sierra.
Castles of La Rioja
If you like dreamy Spanish castles, once in La Rioja, you must have a look at Castilo de Cornago, Castillo de Cuzcurrita, Castillo de Sajazarra, Castillo de Davalillo, Castillo de Clavijo, Castillo de Aguas Mansas, Castillo de Arnedo.
Camino de Santiago Via La Rioja
The region of La Rioja lies on the way of one of the most ancient and famous pilgrimage walks in Europe – El Camino de Santiago (called The Way of Saint James in English). El Camino Frances starts in the Pyrenees and goes through Logroño, Navarra, and Aragon.
Also, Logroño is a part of Ruta Jacobea del Ebro, which connects Tarragona and Astorga.
Festivities of La Rioja
Every region in Spain has its epic festivities, La Rioja is no exception. The most famous celebrations in La Rioja are Danza de Anguiano, the wine battle of Haro, Mercaforum in Calahorra, and Fiestas de la Vendimia in Logroño.
Beautiful small towns of La Rioja
Those of you who plan to visit La Rioja in search of top Spanish small towns and secret villages can not miss Calahorra, Haro, Santo Domingo de la Calzada, Najera, Arnedo, Cervera, and Torrecilla en Cameros.
Hiking&Sports in La Rioja
Nature lovers in La Rioja should dedicate a few days to exploring new Spanish hikes in the Natural Parks of Sierra Cebollera and Sierra de la Demanda.
If you are traveling in winter and don’t mind spending a few days skiing in Spain – visit Valdezcaray (2,260 m) ski slopes. Also, La Grajera is known for its golf field, and in El Rasillo you will find lots of water sports.
Beautiful Landscapes in La Rioja
From all the otherworldly beautiful Spanish landscapes of La Rioja particularly stand out Peñas del Valle del Cidacos, Peñas del Iregua (these actually remind me of Mallos Riglos in Aragon), El Picuezo y la Picueza (similar to Gredas de Bolnuevo in Murcia and Bardenas Reales in Navarra).
The autumn colors of Hayedo de Sierra de Toloño aren’t any less impressive than the famous El Hayedo de Otzarreta of the Basque Country.
Unique Experiences in La Rioja
If you want to add some unique Rioja experiences to your memory box, check these tours: Exclusive Vineyard Golf, Urban Outdoor Escape Room Game In Logroño, Rioja Winery & Traditional Lunch, Tour Olive Groves and Mill with Tasting, Cycling experience with wineries and Private Activity Honey Shop Experience.
If you are visiting La Rioja on a romantic trip to Spain, there are a few memorable couple ideas you can share with your partner: a hot air balloon ride over the vineyards, vinoterapia SPA, or simply follow the steps of Ernest Hemingway and visit Bodegas Franco-Españolas for dinner and wine tasting.
La Rioja with kids
If you are visiting La Rioja with kids don’t miss Tierra Rapaz, a theme park and educational center for birds of prey (raptors).
To ignite the imagination of the little ones check out the Sculpture Park Tierras Altas Lomas de Oro. At the same time, Centro de Interpretación Paleontológica de La Rioja in Igea is great for the fans of dinosaurs.
One of the must-stops for foodies in La Rioja is the street Calle del Laurel in Logroño known for its delicious tapas. Also, you can book unique foodie tours in La Rioja – Jamon Iberico Farm Tour and Customized Rioja Food&Wine Tour.
Legends of La Rioja
La Rioja has its very own famous Spanish legends – like Batalla de Clavijo, Caballo Blanco to Santiago, and Ahorcado de Santo Domingo.
No matter whether you simply plan to explore the best wineries in La Rioja or want to discover unique local landmarks, the region is worth a visit.
Have you ever visited La Rioja or maybe planning to go anytime soon?
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