As you have probably read in other posts of this blog, one day trip to La Rioja is going to leave you yearning for more… But it is not so bad if you plan it carefully.
One day trip to La Rioja will allow you to tour along at least two of the three Rioja wine country subareas so we insistently suggest to drive yourself (kindly choose a sober driver before departure), to get a taxi or to book one of the several Rioja wine tours available to make your transfers easier and not to depend on public transport schedules, neither frequent nor practical. In Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa towns and wineries are quite close to each other, even one area is beside the other, so focusing on any of those will maximize your enjoyment and minimize your time driving. Also it is possible to have a tour along Rioja Oriental, but distances are longer, even though it is true that you will enjoy larger vineyards sightseeing on the way and wider landscapes.
If you want to visit some wineries in Rioja, please consider that any winery tour takes, on average, around 1:30h (including tasting) so think about it when planning your one day trip to La Rioja, and do not include more than three winery visits in one day, taking into consideration that they shouldn’t be too far from each other.
Big wineries, producing the best known Rioja wine brands, usually offer very informative tours with explanations about Rioja wine history, winemaking and ageing process and a standard tasting at the end (usually, a couple of wines). They tend to have a precise tour schedule, also in English, so you will probably have to adapt your timing to it.
A short stay does not mean that you have to give up the chance to visit small-batch producers or boutique wineries in Rioja, actually, we do always recommend it as it will give you a closer view over the diversity of the Rioja wines. In these cases, the groups for the visits are also small, and you can even find yourself alone in the tour with the guide and enjoy a private wine tour. It is common for the guide to be the owner him/herself, a member of the family, or someone very close to the winemaking process guiding the tour, so, it often becomes a friendly conversation rather than a lecture. They will adapt to your timing but their availability will depend on the other duties related with the business (bottling, harvesting, wine fairs, business trips…) so, make sure you book in advance to guarantee your tour.
For the best Rioja wine tours experience, we do recommend to have a “blend” of winery visits including best known Rioja wine brands, family run or boutique wineries and innovative small batch producers.
However, if you want to have a Rioja wine tasting it is not compulsory to book a winery visit. The number of wineries in Rioja with wine-bar facilities are increasing day by day. This means that you can just come over and taste their wines per glass or even savor pre-set flight tastings at any time and with no previous booking. A perfect plan for wine lovers feeling like tasting some specific Rioja wines because, usually, they have available some high-end, signature wines per glass not included in the winery tour tastings. If it is not enough to taste all the wines that you expected, you can always buy some bottles to enjoy in the evening, back in your accommodation.
Curiosity for cultural and historical heritage can be also satisfied during a one day trip to La Rioja but, due to the short time available, it is necessary to make some choices.
Always located in the Rioja Alavesa area you can find some medieval-origin towns as Laguardia, Elciego or Labastida and also many prehistoric burial monuments.
Rioja Alta is also dotted by medieval towns as Briones, San Vicente de la Sonsierra, Briñas, Sajazarra, Cuzcurrita de Río Tirón,… Defensive walls, castles, Romanesque style churches are easy to find on the way. Even when walking along the vineyards you can easily find several ancient stone wine presses, stone burials and vineyard shelters (called “guardaviñas”).
Rioja Oriental has a bimillenary capital, Calahorra, hosting a magnificent cathedral.
If you are very interested in the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, do not miss Santo Domingo de la Calzada and its marvelous cathedral, hosting a couple of live chickens remembering a very important miracle that happened in the town. There is also Nájera, a town that combines the proximity of the vineyards with a very rich heritage, the legacy of being the capital of the Navarre kingdom for over 150 years around the 11th Century.
San Millan de la Cogolla Monastery is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the place where over a thousand years ago the first words in Spanish language were written.
Even though your time is short, do not leave without tasting a bit of the Rioja gastronomy. If a 5-course-menu seems to take too long for you, “pinchos” are going to be the perfect bite! Logroño, Haro or Laguardia have their own “pinchos” bars quarters but, in the same way, “pinchos” can be found at the bar counters of most of the Rioja villages.
For lunch, many restaurants offer “menú del día” (menu of the day) for a reasonable price. It’s a 3-course menu with several options including the most traditional specialities of the Rioja cuisine: patatas a la Riojana, menestra de verduras, bacalao a la riojana, chuletillas al sarmiento, carrilleras al vino tinto,…
Staying in the valley area during your one day trip to La Rioja, you will enjoy a landscape covered mainly by vines. If you want to enjoy the forests and mountainous areas located in the south, it is better to dedicate a full day to that tour, apart from the tour that you can make along the valley.
If you have already found more than one reason to extend your stay in Rioja, check our tips for two days trip to La Rioja.
We will customize the best Rioja wine tours just for you and send you a suggested itinerary and an estimate with no obligation.