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Completely encircled by walls, the hilltop town of Laguardia overlooks the fabled vineyards of Rioja, south of Bilbao. Inside the walls, where no cars are allowed, its narrow stone-paved streets are lined by medieval buildings. Among these are homes still occupied by the same families that built them in the 12th century. At the crest of the hill sits the church of Santa María de los Reyes, with one of the most outstanding Gothic portals in Spain. Unlike most, its stone figures and reliefs retain much of their polychrome painting. The original portal is inside a later vestibule. The main street leads from this church to the Romanesque church ...

Completely encircled by walls, the hilltop town of Laguardia overlooks the fabled vineyards of Rioja, south of Bilbao. Inside the walls, where no cars are allowed, its narrow stone-paved streets are lined by medieval buildings. Among these are homes still occupied by the same families that built them in the 12th century. At the crest of the hill sits the church of Santa María de los Reyes, with one of the most outstanding Gothic portals in Spain. Unlike most, its stone figures and reliefs retain much of their polychrome painting. The original portal is inside a later vestibule. The main street leads from this church to the Romanesque church of San Juan. Both were way stops on the Camino de Santiago – the Way of St. James. Hidden below Laguardia’s buildings are layers of stone passageways that once provided shelter and escape routes, along with storage for the wine from the vineyards that stretch across the flat valley below. In startling contrast to the town’s gray medieval stones, one of these — Bodegas Ysios – stands below the town, its undulating roof of accordion-folded aluminum and ground-hugging curves designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. Many of these tunnels are still vaults for wineries and visitors can see them as they taste wines in the bodegas. Close to the hilltop town are the prehistoric Dolmen of San Martín and the archaeological site of La Hoya, a Bronze Age settlement dating from before the first millennium BC, with a museum and reconstruction of one of the houses.

Barbara Rogers
About the Expert

Barbara Radcliffe Rogers has written or coauthored more than 30 guidebooks, including The Portugal Traveler, Drive Around Portugal, City Spots Munich, City Spots Helsinki, City Spots Stockholm, Eating New England, and the Maine section of Thomas Cook's Independent Traveller USA.

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Barbara Rogers for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: A town and municipality located in the province of Álava, in the Basque Country, northern Spain.
  • Language: Spanish, Basque
  • Currency: Euro
  • Research: Wikitravel | Wikipedia
  • Weather: Rainfall | Daylight

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Fall, for the wine harvest, or spring. Summers are very hot.