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Towards the valleys of Ayala: A family valley

Rarely can one find such a small valley that concentrates so much historical importance. The Ayala valley has a medieval flavour, as a result of centuries of confrontation between the different lords who fought to have the control over it. Today, however, it is an oasis of peace in which the wars of the past are only present as a testimony in many of the Ancestral Homes that still remain in the area.

Ayala is a narrow valley of only 14 kilometres approximately, between Amurrio and Artziniega. It is formed by 24 small towns, headed by Respaldiza. In any case, the historical town centre is in Quejana, a country seat of the lineage after which the valley is named.

To begin our journey we can depart from Vitoria-Gasteiz taking the N-622 road to Murgia. Nearby are the Gorbeia Natural Park and the Shrine of Our Lady of Gold. We leave Murgia and head for Izarra, with the well-known boarding school where many spend a large part of their youth, and continue towards Goiuri- Gujuli, where we can refresh ourselves at the magnificent waterfall; Belauntza; Oiardo and Unza. Here a pleasant walk begins to the source of the Nervion river, where the waters plunge in a great waterfall down towards Delika.

Once in Orduña, we stop to visit the parish church and its beautiful High altarpiece which dates back from the 17th century, and the old Customs building and the Town Hall. In any case, the town of Orduña is full of beautiful ancestral homes, palaces and the ruins of the old wall. From here we can continue to the Shrine of our Lady of Antigua, which is visited by the people of Arrastaria every 9th of May in a pilgrimage.

From Orduña we head for Amurrio. The parish church of this town has a 13th century portico, and a beautiful altarpiece carved in the 17th century. It is also worth visiting the Felix Murga Ethnographic Museum. Nearby, but in the outskirts of Amurrio, is the Zaraobe Field, where the old Assemblies of the Ayala Valley used to be held.

Only a few kilometres away we come across
Kexaa- Quejana, a historical centre in teh valley, and the cradle of the Ayala family. There, we can visit the group of buildings Virgen del Cabello, which includes a palace, a tower and a chapel. Inside the chapel there is a copy of the original altarpiece. In the Dominican Convent is kept the Virgin's Reliquary, a gold work masterpiece dating from the 14th century.

We continue our route towards Artziniega, which preserves part of the medieval design of the town. The Shrine of Our Lady of Encina, built in the 16th century, displays a magnificent altarpiece. Right next to the Shrine is the Ethnographic Museum.

To finish our tour along the Alava's northwest, we head for Llodio-Laudio, an important town in terms of demographics and industrial development. We can admire the churches and ancestral homes, and the Basque Gastronomic Museum. We return to Vitoria-Gasteiz via the height of Altube.

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