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Alava´s Rioja: The cradle of wine

The red soil characterises this part of the province, moulded and enriched by the vineyards. The sumptuous medieval temples, the vestiges of prehistoric civilisations, together with its precious wine and its not less precious food, determine the character of Alava's Rioja.

In order to discover the charm of this ocre land one must take the A-2124 road that passes through Treviño County and from which the ruins of the medieval walls around the town of Peñacerrada-Urizaharra can be seen. The temple has a beautiful Romanesque facade and a magnificent altarpiece from the 16th century. Continuing down the Herrera pass we arrive at the Lookout of La Rioja, a privileged vantage point from which to contemplate the surrounding area.

At the crossroads to Leza we continue towards Laguardia-Biasteri, the capital of Alava's Rioja, located on top of a hill. The dolmens that dot the way attest to the prehistoric settlement. Laguardia is an important tourist destination due to the beauty of its streets - they preserve the original design and part of the wall - and buildings. The fans of Felix Maria de Samaniego's fables will enjoy a visit to his house, a neoclassical building which has been restored and turned into the House of Wine. Santa Maria de los Reyes church, a gothic art jewel built at the beginning of the 12th century, and San Juan Bautista Church, Romanesque in origin but with a mix of other styles, add special charm to this vine growing town.

Together with its historical and architectural wealth, wine and wine making is no doubt the great magnet which makes this town one of the most visited in Alava. The wineries, which offer the possibility of having a meal and sample all the wines produced in the area, arouse the travelling spirit of the most home-loving person. Wine is part of the daily life of the people who live in this area, and proof of that is that the houses have private caves where the vine juice ages at the ideal temperature.

At the foot of Laguardia is the Settlement of La Hoya, which dates back to the Bronze Age and is a very interesting archeological site. "Los Molinos" Ornithological Park and Laguardia Lagoons, declared protected biotopes, complete the varied tourist offer of the capital of Alava's Rioja.

At a short distance from there, in Elvillar-Billar, are the dolmens known as The Witch's Hut and The Bone Keeper's Hut. After passing Assa-Asa we head for Oion, the most industrialised town in Alava's Rioja, located only a step away from Navarre and Logroño. It is worth mentioning the church of Our Lady of Assumption and the archeological group formed by the palace and the tower of the Count and Countess of Bureta. The route continues through Moreda-Moreta, Labraza, Kripan and Lanciego-Lantiziego, a former hamlet of Laguardia with a good deal of
houses and palaces displaying coats of arms.

On our way back, we go through Lapuebla de Labarca-Lapuebla de Labarka, Elciego, Navaridas and Leza, towns where we can admire the plateresque porticos of the parish churches. Passing by Samaniego, on the slope of "The Castle" hill, we come across Labastida-Bastida. In this baroque town it is a must to visit the hermitage of the Saint Christ and the parish church of Our Lady of Assumption. The latter is particularly interesting on Christmas Day, when a performance involving shepherds is held, with old dances and songs. The name Labastida makes reference to the wall - bastida means fortress - of which some ruins still remain, as well as many beautiful big rambling houses displaying the coats of arms, amongst which of special beauty is the 18th century Town Hall.

Buradon Gatzaga-Salinillas de Buradon is the last stop in our itinerary through the cradle of wine, which ends where it began, following the N-1 road.

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