One of Spain’s most famous wine regions, La Rioja takes its name from the Río Oja, which flows from the mountains down to the Río Ebro, the latter marking the northern border of La Rioja province ( Confusingly, the demarcated wine region and province are not quite the same thing, since many of the best vineyards are on the north bank of the Ebro, in the Basque province of Araba – Alava in Castilian, the so-called Rioja Alavesa. Nevertheless, the main wine towns are all in La Rioja proper, starting with the enjoyable provincial capital, Logroño, which is a great place to spend a couple of days eating and drinking. The province is traditionally divided further into two parts, with the busy little wine town of Haro being the mainstay of the Rioja Alta. This makes the best base for any serious wine touring, though there are casas rurales in many of the surrounding villages, too. It’s also here, west of Logroño, that the Camino de Santiago winds on towards Burgos. East of Logroño is the Rioja Baja, the southeastern part of La Rioja province, which has quite a different feel – there are vineyards, but the main attraction is following in the footsteps of La Rioja’s ancient dinosaurs.

Logroño is the hub for all local bus and train services, but if you want to do any more than see the towns of Nájera, Haro and Calahorra, it’s far better to have your own transport, as connections to the smaller villages are rarely convenient for day-trips.

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