If there’s one thing you think about when you say Basque country, the word would be green. In Laguardia however, you couldn’t be more wrong, as you could easily mistake it for being somewhere around the corner from the Mediterranean sea. For me, it was totally different from what I was expecting, especially as I had just come from the capital, Vitoria-Gasteiz just 45km away. It is the only village in the Basque Country that has been incorporated into the Asociación de los Pueblos Más Bonitos de España as of 2021 and when you enter through the old walls, you can see why.
Laguardia is in the region of Rioja Alavesa just 7km from the River Ebro, and 18km from Logroño, capital of La Rioja. To the north, and south the village has mountains to enjoy, the Sierra Cantabria to the north and the Sistema Iberico to the south the latter of which are snow-capped for more than 6 months a year. The village has no train station, but is well- connected with buses from Vitoria and Logroño and fairly well with Haro, all via Alava bus, making it a perfect stopover for the day, or overnight.
For 7 months of the year, Laguardia has mild to cool weather which will require a layer or two, especially at night, ranging from about 9 degrees in January during the day, to a few degrees above freezing at night, similar to Logroño. During the summer it gets hot, but rarely too uncomfortable and compared to the rest of the Basque Country, it is very dry, where by comparison, Vitoria-Gasteiz gets at least double the rainfall, and Bilbao, almost triple. I went at the start of May a few years ago, and jeans, a T-shirt and a jumper was perfect for me.
Depending on what you want to do there, the village will accommodate you with plenty of places to stay, but not many options are available for the solo traveler unfortunately, with almost everywhere offering just double rooms and virtually nothing for a youth hostel setup. Laguardia offers accommodation at around 60€ a night or 30€ per person if you are travelling with someone else, so a little more expensive compared to some of the cities around, but I think it’s still well worth it.
The old town is on top of a small hill with quite a few narrow sandstone buildings crammed together to form a number of romantic and charming streets, leading up to the plaza de los Gaiteros where the main church, The Iglesia de Santa Maria and it’s tower, the Torre Abacial is the biggest attraction of the village, giving you 360 views of the countryside as well as the whole of Laguardia itself. Some of the oldest known ruins in the world, dating as far back as the Bronze age, the Dolmen de San Martín can be visited nearby, though there are many more in the municipal area.
The main reason why people visit might not be exclusively the sights, but the gastronomy, principally, the famous Rioja Alavesa wine. Bodegas and vineyards are dotted all over the place with the typical tasting sessions available in almost all of them. The most famous vineyard is actually out of the centre, known as the Bodega Ysios, with its impressive architecture. Sadly, I didn’t have enough time to go visit it, but at least I got to taste the wine which was pretty special. By no means am I a connoisseur, but it is up there with some of the best red wine I have ever had, and the best thing is you are going to find it everywhere in the village.
Like the rest of the Basque Country, pintxos are quite a common occurrence in the bars, but will have a lot more similarities with that of the gastronomy of La Rioja. Tortilla, hotpot or cazuela style dishes are super common there. As with the whole of the Basque country and La Rioja, you will eat very well in Laguardia, and though I just enjoyed a couple of pintxos as I was saving myself for my visit to Logroño, I enjoyed every bite.
So that’s it about Laguardia, a Pueblo Mas Bonita de España that is easily accessible and a unique taste Rioja that is actually Basque. I would happily go back, and whether you have half a day, or want to spend the night, check it out, you won’t be disappointed.