La Rioja information

Introduction to the Province of La Rioja
Think of the province of La Rioja in northern Spain and the first think that comes to mind is, no doubt wine. La Rioja is Spain’s most famous wine of course and the province’s economy relies heavily on the wine industry. But there is far more to La Rioja than alcohol. It has some fine mediaeval villages, magnificent mountains and superb food too.

Logroño, La Rioja’s capital city, is a place that not many tourists to Spain seem to have heard of. It is however a city that deserves to be visited, not least for its food.

In fact there are so many tapas bars (around fifty) packed into the old quarter (Casco Antiguo) of Logroño, particularly on the pedestrianised Calle Laurel, that the locals have a nickname for “doing the tapas bar circuit”. They call it “La Senda de Los Elefantes”, the path of the elephants, due to the tell tale heavy-footed waddle of those who survive until the end. If you like your food then Logroño will be a paradise for you. See below for more on the gastronomy of La Rioja.

If you can drag yourself away from the tapas bars, take some time to explore Logroño’s monuments, mostly located in the old quarter. The Cathedral of Santa Maria de la Redonda with its twin-towered austere looking façade, the magnificent 16th Century Santiago el Real situated near the River Ebro on which Logroño was built, the Church of San Bartolome, the Church of Santa Maria de Palacio and the 18th Century Baroque Palacio de Espartero (which now houses La Rioja Museum) are all monuments of note.

To relax and walk off some of those tapas, make your way to one of Logroño’s open spaces such as the Parque del Ebro beside the river, or the Parque del Carmen.

Around Logroño and Beyond
The town of Haro in the northwest of the province is the centre of the wine making industry here. It is famous for its annual Haro Wine Festival and the Battle of the Wine that takes place on 29 June when the streets become awash with red wine and the participants (who wear a white tee shirt and a red neck scarf) spray each other with the stuff until everybody is a fetching pink colour.

West of Logroño the town of Santo Domingo de la Calzada is a stop off point on the famous pilgrims’ trail, the Camino de Santiago that passes through the province.

The twin monasteries of 6th Century Suso and 11th Century Yuso at San Millan de la Cogolla are World Heritage Site monuments and are so beautiful that, even though they’re not actually on the Camino de Santiago trail, most pilgrims make a detour to visit them. It is believed that it was here that the Spanish language first took its written form.

Of course a visit to La Rioja wouldn’t be complete without a visit to one of its bodegas. Many open their doors to the public and you can see the wine making in process, taste the end result and no doubt come away with a bottle or two.

The glacial scenery of the Sierra de Cebollera National Park is truly stunning. The park is densely forested and home to a rich variety of flora and fauna, including mountain cats and otters. In the Sierra de la Demanda mountain range of which part is in La Rioja, it is even possible to go skiing in the winter at the ski resort of Valdezcaray.

The Gastronomy of La Rioja
La Rioja may be most well known for its fine wines but its food is excellent too. Typical dishes that you might encounter (and sample as tapas too, don’t forget) include Pimientos del Piquillo (sweet red peppers), Chistorra (chorizo with garlic and paprika), Menestra de Verduras (a stew of green beans, artichokes and asparagus), Trucha a la Riojana (trout stuffed with ham), Cabrito (roasted kid), Guingillas (fiery green peppers) and Caparrones (a vegetable stew with chorizo sausage).

La Rioja’s long wine-making traditions go back to the 11th Century BC and it was the Romans who started the vineyards here. Some of the best wines are the red Tempranillos but La Rioja also produces some fine whites. Visit some of the region’s bodegas to discover more about the traditional art of wine making and to sample some of La Rioja’s fine wines.


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