While Rioja wine is world famous, you might not realize that there are many tourist attractions in the Rioja area. This makes it a really interesting place to visit. Here are some of the many reasons why you should visit La Rioja, Spain.
Things to Do in La Rioja, Spain
In case you were wondering, the correct Rioja pronunciation is “ree-oh-hah” although if you want to sound more authentic, try saying the “oh” from the back of your throat. There’s much more to the area than just the Rioja wineries. Here are our favorite things to do in La Rioja.
1. Ancient Castles
There are some stunning medieval castles dotted around the Rioja region, including 15th century Castillo de Sajazarra, for which you can only visit the exterior. Castillo de Aguas Mansas is located in the town of Agoncillo and can be visited on weekdays.
2. Battle of The Wine
If you’re visiting the area of La Rioja in late June, you simply can’t miss the Battalo del Vino, aka Wine Battle. Held each year on 29 June in Haro, it’s a good natured festival where dousing each other with Rioja red wine is actively encouraged.
Participants dress in a white t-shirt and red neck scarf, making them easy to identify. Equip yourself with a super soaker, bug spray or even a bucket and get stuck in with the best of them. It’s less touristy than the famous tomato festival and highly recommended.
3. Rioja Wine Harvest Festival
Every year in mid September, the town of Logroño celebrates the Rioja Wine Harvest Festival or Fiestas de San Mateo. Rioja grapes are the star of the show, with grape foot-crushing, festival floats and food stalls.
On San Mateo Day, there’s a procession where children carry the grapes from Rioja vineyards. These are poured into a large wooden barrel and two men dressed in traditional costumes then crush the grapes barefoot.
Haro itself is a charming town known for its red wine, with some picturesque old buildings and churches. The actual capital of La Rioja, Spain is a town called Logrono, however Haro is considered to be the wine capital of the area.
5. Sierra Cebollera
The Parque Natural Sierra Cebollera is definitely worth a visit, but the whole area is stunning. The mountain ranges are popular for climbing, hiking, skiing, and even bungee jumping or paragliding if you’re feeling adventurous.
Parts of the Camino de Santiago pass through the area and the scenery is spectacular.
6. UNESCO World Heritage Sites
The Monasteries of San Millán Yuso and Suso are both registered as UNESCO World Heritage Sites due to their historical importance. The monastery in San Millán Suso dates from the mid-6th century whereas the monastery of Yuso dates from the 11th century and is still a thriving place of worship today.
Not only is their architecture striking, but they are also the birthplace of the modern Spanish language. They’re both located in San Millán de la Cogolla, with Suso meaning upper and Yuso meaning lower.
7. Vivanco Wine Museum
Rioja is one of the most famous Spanish wine regions. Internationally renowned for the consistent quality of its wines, it’s also a truly photogenic region. Nestled in the quaint village of Briones, you’ll find the unmissable Vivanco Winery-Foundation-Experience.
The World Tourism Organization (OMT-ONU) considers it to be the best wine museum in the world and it’s not hard to see why. It’s also recomended by the Travel Channel as one of the best Food and Wine Museums.
Spread over 9,000 square metres, it’s the perfect place to learn more about wine and man’s 8,000 year old relationship with it. The museum includes many artworks and films depicting wine, together with a corkscrew collection of over 3,000 models and much more.
The Vivanco family are passionate about “giving back to wine what wine has given to us” and it shows. Santiago and Rafael Vivanco are continuing the legacy of their great-grandfather who established a Rioja winery many years ago.
Yet there’s much more to Vivanco than just the winery and foundation. Designed to give the visitor a truly immersive experience, there are a range of fun activities on offer, such as workshops, wine tastings and workshops for children.
It’s the food though that’s got us salivating, if these dishes are anything to go by… At Vivanco, they call it winecooking and they incorporate wine into many of the dishes that they serve in the restaurant, gastrobar and private dining rooms.
Visitors to the Rioja wine region should not miss this unique experience, and you can book your tickets here.
And it goes without saying that Rioja wines are unparalleled, thanks to their quality categorization, Denominación de Origen Calificada (D.O.Ca., or Qualified Designation of Origin. There are over 57,000 wine-producing hectares in La Rioja, with 85% of production being Rioja red wine. Having said that, white Rioja and Cava wine is excellent and we have a soft spot for it!
Whatever your age, we’re sure you’ll love exploring this Spanish hidden gem. Have you visited Rioja?
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