When you are planning a trip to Spain it’s easy to think about beaches, big bustling cities or small quaint villages. But there is another, less obvious option when visiting Spain that is truly amazing and unique. TO the north, before you reach the Atlantic coast there is a small region where one of the best wines in the world is made, a wine that is sold in over 130 countries, a region whose wineries host over 810.00 visitors each year, a region with its own delicious cuisine and with an unmatched ability to help you relax and disconnect. In this article, we are going to go over the best ways to enjoy and get the most out of your vacation in Rioja.
Number one on the list is, of course, tasting the wines. Whether you are traveling solo, with friends or a loved one, there are few more enjoyable experiences than spending a day drinking amazing wine and enjoying the local cuisine. Rioja, however, is not just an area of land, its more than that: Rioja is a “Calificada” Designation of Origin, as it’s known. This means that all the wine produced under this Designation of Origin (DO) must comply with rigorous quality standards. It is one of the few that requires on-site bottling for all the wine produced and the DO also defines the geographical area where you can grow and produce, the maximum permitted yield, the production techniques, etc.
One of the best ways to get to know Rioja wine is visiting a winery. There are over 600 in Rioja that comply with the DO standards and each is like its own small museum filled with history and tradition, where the art is the wine. Guided visits let you see all the detail and care that goes into making Rioja wine and how the winery puts its own personal on their particular product. Even though wineries in Rioja have to meet the same standards, no two Rioja wines are the same. The final product may vary greatly depending on the barrels used to age the wine, the maceration process o simply because of the particular characteristics of the are in which the grapes were grown.
It is also worth mentioning that, although Rioja is known for its red wines, the region also offers a wide variety of whites, rosés and sparkling wines as well. So, no matter what your favorite variety is, Rioja has something for you.
But wineries in Rioja have more to offer than just tasting the wines. It is normal nowadays for wineries to offer tastings, pairings and other activities for groups and special events, but many wineries in Rioja offer more personalized and fun activities like horseback rides, hot air balloon flights, picnics in the vineyard, etc. And many have excellent restaurants on site. So, you can go directly from tasting wines in the cellar to enjoying a meal paired with the wines which are ultimately the best way to enjoy a Rioja.
If you prefer to explore a bit more and search for a Good place to eat outside of the winery, you won’t have to look too hard. Rioja has a unique cuisine that shines thanks to the quality and freshness of its ingredients is on display in traditional and Michelin star restaurants alike. Rioja has a wide variety of restaurants, bars, and cellars that cater to even the most demanding pallet. Lastly, there are also many wine bars scattered across the region and they are excellent places to go, have some tapas and relax.
Another important factor to consider when planning a vacation in Rioja is your lodging. There are many amazing hotels, cottages, and hostels to choose from that offer a wide variety of experiences: from luxurious SPA treatments to sleeping in an actual medieval castle. It doesn’t matter what you are looking for, there is something for you.
There are many things to do at night in Rioja as well, but none better than going for some tapas. There are many great places to go to throughout the region to enjoy some pinchos (the northern way of doing tapas). You will find wonderful places to go bar hopping in the different villages of Rioja like Haro, Laguardia, Elciego, Viana or Alfaro as well as in the capital city of La Rioja, Logroño. Some of the best areas to check out are Laural and San Juan street in Logroño, “La Herradura” in Haro and the village squares in Laguardia and Elciego. The best way to end an amazing day in Rioja is going from bar to bar, trying signature pinchos paired to perfection with some more wine.
If you are planning a trip to the magical wine region of Rioja you can check out our amazing Rioja private tours here.
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