La Rioja Travel Guide

Explore the natural beauty and cultural richness of La Rioja with our comprehensive travel guide. Discover the best places to visit, activities to do, food and drink scene, and local culture and customs.

La Rioja, a small region in northern Spain, is famous for its wine, natural beauty, and rich cultural heritage. With its charming towns, stunning landscapes, and outstanding cuisine, La Rioja offers an unforgettable travel experience. In this comprehensive guide to La Rioja, we will explore the best places to visit, activities to do, food and drink scene, and local culture and customs.

Introduction to La Rioja

La Rioja is located in Northern Spain, in the Iberian Peninsula, bordered by the Basque Country to the north, Navarre to the northeast, and Castilla y León to the south and west. It is famous for its wine production, as well as its picturesque landscapes and charming towns. La Rioja has a rich history and culture, reflected in its many museums, monuments, and festivals.

List of Places to Visit in La Rioja

La Rioja offers an extensive list of places to visit, ranging from culturally important attractions to natural wonders and outdoor adventures. Here are some must-visit places:

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

  • Museum of La Rioja: This museum showcases the region’s rich history and culture through exhibits of archeological finds, traditional crafts, and local art.
  • Santo Domingo de la Calzada: This historical town has one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Spain, the Cathedral of Santo Domingo, home to live roosters and hens, as well as the shrine of Santo Domingo, the patron saint of pilgrims.
  • Monastery of Yuso: This UNESCO-listed monastery houses one of the most significant libraries in Spain, as well as a museum with artifacts from the medieval period.
  • Calahorra: This town has a rich Roman history, with various archaeological sites such as the Roman bridge, the Roman theatre, and the Diocesan Museum.

Natural Attractions of La Rioja: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

  • Sierra de Cebollera Natural Park: This natural park is a great place for hiking and fishing, with its stunning landscapes, crystal-clear streams, and abundant wildlife.
  • River Ebro: This river offers a great opportunity for a leisurely boat ride or for fishing trips.
  • Laguna Negra: This natural reserve is a peaceful oasis surrounded by pine trees and dramatic limestone cliffs, perfect for hiking and nature-watching.
  • Vineyards: La Rioja is renowned for its vineyards, many of which offer tours and wine tastings.

Hiking/Biking Routes of La Rioja

La Rioja is an ideal destination for hiking and biking enthusiasts, offering a wide range of trails and routes for all levels of experience. Some popular options include:

  • The Camino de Santiago: A famous pilgrimage route that passes through La Rioja, starting in Roncesvalles in Navarra and ending in Santiago de Compostela.
  • The Rioja Alta Wine Route: This route takes you through some of the most beautiful wine-growing regions in La Rioja, such as Haro and Briones, with magnificent views of vineyards, mountains, and historical sites.
  • The Cameros Range: This range offers a variety of hiking trails, ranging from easy walks to more challenging routes.
  • The Green Way: This former railway line that has been converted into a bike path, with stunning views of the countryside and several charming towns along the way.

Best Things to Do in La Rioja: Activities and Tours

La Rioja offers a wealth of activities and tours for all types of travelers. Here are some must-try experiences:

  • Wine Tasting: La Rioja is renowned for its wine, so no trip is complete without a visit to one of the many wineries in the region.
  • Gastronomic Tours: La Rioja is also famous for its cuisine, so foodies should not miss the opportunity to savor some of the local dishes, such as roasted lamb or Riojan-style potatoes.
  • Hot Air Balloon Rides: Take a hot air balloon ride over the stunning landscapes of La Rioja for a memorable experience.
  • Cultural Tours: Discover the region’s rich history and culture through guided tours of museums, monuments, and old towns.

Week-Long Itinerary for La Rioja

Here is a sample itinerary for a week-long trip to La Rioja:

Day 1 Visit the historical town of Santo Domingo de la Calzada and its cathedral.
Day 2 Explore the vineyards of Haro and enjoy wine tastings.
Day 3 Go hiking in the Sierra de Cebollera Natural Park.
Day 4 Discover the Roman history of Calahorra and its archaeological sites.
Day 5 Visit the Monasteries of San Millan de la Cogolla and Yuso, UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Day 6 Take a hot air balloon ride over the vineyards and scenic landscapes of La Rioja.
Day 7 Relax in a local spa and enjoy some traditional Riojan cuisine.

Food and Drink Scene of La Rioja

La Rioja is renowned for its wine and gastronomy, offering a wide range of dishes and beverages that reflect its rich culinary heritage. Some must-try dishes and local beverages include:

Must-Try Dishes

  • Roasted Lamb: A staple of Riojan cuisine, this dish is prepared with tender baby lamb seasoned with garlic and parsley.
  • Riojan-style Potatoes: This dish features pan-roasted potatoes served with chorizo, bell pepper, and tomato sauce.
  • Pilgrims’ Eggs: This dish is a popular starter, consisting of eggs cooked in tomato sauce, similar to shakshuka.

Local Beverages

  • Rioja Wine: Red wine made from Tempranillo grapes, famous for its bold flavors and aging potential.
  • Rioja Alavesa Wine: Similar to Rioja wine, but produced in the Alavesa subregion, known for its high altitude vineyards and cooler climate.
  • Patxaran: A traditional Basque liquor made from sloe berries, often served as a digestif after meals.

Where to Stay in La Rioja: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

La Rioja offers a variety of accommodation options to suit all types of travelers and budgets. Some popular choices include:

  • Parador de Santo Domingo de la Calzada: A historic hotel located near the town’s cathedral, offering luxurious rooms and fine dining.
  • Marques de Riscal: A modern hotel and winery designed by architect Frank Gehry, offering stunning views of the vineyards and mountains.
  • Casa Rural El Retiro: A charming guesthouse with a rustic feel, located near the Sierra de Cebollera Natural Park.

What to Buy in La Rioja: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

La Rioja offers a variety of souvenirs and local products that make for great gifts and memories of your trip. Some popular ones include:

  • Wine: Of course, bottles of Rioja and Rioja Alavesa wines are a must-buy for any wine lover.
  • Olives and Olive Oil: La Rioja is also famous for its olives and olive oil production.
  • Ceramics: The region is known for its ceramics, with some towns offering unique designs and styles.
  • Local crafts: From handmade jewelry to pottery, La Rioja has many talented artisans creating one-of-a-kind pieces.

Local Culture and Customs of La Rioja

La Rioja has a rich cultural heritage, with various festivals, traditions, and customs. Some notable ones include:

  • San Mateo Festival: This festival, held in September, celebrates the patron saint of Logroño, with music, dances, bullfights, and parades.
  • Batalla del Vino: This wine battle takes place on June 29th in Haro, with participants throwing wine at each other in a friendly competition.
  • Regional Dialect: Riojano, a Spanish dialect with influences from Basque and Aragonese, is spoken in the region.

Best Time to Visit La Rioja

The best time to visit La Rioja is during the spring and fall, when the weather is mild, and the vineyards are at their most picturesque. Summer can be hot and crowded, while winter can be chilly and rainy.

Do’s and Don’ts of La Rioja


  • Try the wine and gastronomy: La Rioja is famous for its wine and culinary scene, so make sure to indulge in some local flavors.
  • Respect local customs: Riojans take pride in their traditions and customs, so be respectful of them.
  • Take care of the environment: La Rioja’s natural wonders are its greatest asset, so help preserve them by respecting nature and minimizing your impact.


  • Waste wine: La Rioja’s wine production is a labor of love, so don’t waste it.
  • Be loud and disrespectful: Riojans are friendly and welcoming, but they appreciate good manners and respectful behavior.
  • Ignore safety precautions: Whether you’re hiking, biking, or driving, always follow safety precautions and guidelines.

Safety and Health

Safety in La Rioja

La Rioja is generally a safe destination, with a low crime rate and friendly locals. However, as with any destination, travelers should take common-sense safety precautions, such as keeping valuables secure and being aware of their surroundings.

Health in La Rioja

La Rioja has a good healthcare system, with public and private hospitals and clinics available in major towns. No special vaccinations or health precautions are necessary to visit the region, but travelers should take care to protect themselves from the sun and stay hydrated during the hot summer months.

Getting to La Rioja: Transportation Options and Logistics

Airports Near La Rioja

The closest airports to La Rioja are:

  • Bilbao Airport: About 80 miles to the north
  • Vitoria Airport: About 40 miles to the northeast
  • Logroño Airport: A small airport that offers domestic flights.

Bus Stations Near La Rioja

La Rioja has a good network of buses, with routes connecting major towns and cities. Some popular bus companies include La Estellesa, AUTORRES, and ALSA.

Other Options

The most convenient way to travel to La Rioja is by car, allowing you to explore the region at your own pace. Car rentals are available at major airports and cities.

How to Get Around in La Rioja

La Rioja is a relatively small region, with good road and rail connections. Some popular transportation options include:

  • Car rental: The most flexible and convenient way to explore La Rioja at your own pace.
  • Bus: La Rioja has a good network of buses connecting major towns and cities.
  • Train: There are regular trains connecting Logroño with other major cities in Spain.

Where to Go Next from La Rioja: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

La Rioja is a great base for exploring other nearby destinations, such as:

  • San Sebastian: One of the most popular tourist destinations in the Basque Country, known for its beaches, cuisine, and cultural scene.
  • Pamplona: The capital of Navarre, famous for its San Fermin festival and its Gothic architecture.
  • Burgos: A historic city in Castilla y León, with a rich architectural heritage and a famous cathedral.


La Rioja is a destination that offers something for everyone, from wine enthusiasts and hikers to culture lovers and foodies. With this comprehensive guide, you can plan your perfect trip to La Rioja and experience all its natural beauty and cultural richness.