My husband and I are planning a 2 week trip to Basque and La Rioja areas for the last 2 weeks of September. We are very interested in the Wine Festival and I’m looking for input from those who have experienced the Festival before. If we only stay in Logrono for part of the week, is it better to be there for first or second half of the week long festival? Or is there so much to experience throughout the whole week that we should plan to be there the whole time? Thanks for your input!
Just for some info...Rioja wine region is divided into Rioja Alta (Haro as the most relevant place), Rioja Alavesa (this is the Basque Rioja section, with Laguardia as the most important town) and then Rioja Baja (normally considered as the less interesting, what may not be true, and covers La Rioja and Navarre, basically).
La Rioja is an autonomous region (Spain has 17), next to the Basque Country (another autonomous region), but wine is produced only in certain areas. It´s common to consider La Rioja as Rioja wine region, which is not totally correct. Logroño is the capital of La Rioja autonomous region, it offers a few wineries (but not that many, most are outside town), and it celebrates the San Mateo (St Matthew) festival, from 19-26 September this year. At the same time, it´s also the harvest festival in that town (but there are others in the area), and there are multiple activities, being Sept 21 the big day of the celebrations. It´s party time with many activities every day, as it happens in all festivals in Spain.
Thank you, Mikel, for the info. We definitely plan to spend time in Haro and exploring as much of the whole area as we can with our time. I’m thinking that it likely does not make sense to spend a whole week in Logrono. Where else would you suggest that we spend a few nights within La Rioja? Haro? Thanks again!
Or should we plan to divide the (roughly) week between Logrono (for the festival), Haro & LaGuardia?
If your visit will be just confined to the Rioja wine region and La Rioja, you may want to take either Haro or Logroño as a base, with visits to Laguardia (a must), Labastida, Elciego, Sajazarra...all wine towns and with great wineries to visit (I´d avoid the big names and try to visit the small, family owned ones). Also, Santo Domingo de la Calzada and the monasteries of Yuso and Suso (San Millán de la Cogolla) are a can´t miss visit if in La Rioja. You may also consider side trips to the beautiful and unspoilt Salt Valley (https://vallesalado.com/SALT-VALLEY-HOME) or Vitoria-Gasteiz, the capital of the Basque Country, small and walkable and with a very nice old town.
While Santo Domingo de la Calzada has little to offer with regard to attractions, it is a nice town to use as a base for day trips. We've used it as a base on 2 previous trips and are doing so again later this year. For lodging, there are two Paradors in town; one by the cathedral and one a couple blocks away from it.
Mike has given you a pretty good overview of the Rioja situation.
Especially the part about the Harvest Festival is the fiesta of Logroño, and its patron saint San Mateo. Saint Mathew is the 21st, which this year falls on a Monday. If you wanted to stay in Logroño, I would recommend that come on Sunday night. Only Logroño has the Monday off, but on Friday night, Saturday and through Sunday, a lot of people from around Logroño come to party. The official start is the noon the 19th with the launching of the rocket from city hall. It is not as bad as San Fermines, but you can skip it.
On the 21st there will be the traditional procession for San Mateo, and then the ceremonial Grape stomping. My favorite event is the Chuletada, which is usually on the 21st. This is when they barbeque 800kg (about 1900 pounds) of lamb chops over grape vines. For 2.50€ you get a lamb chop and a cup of wine. The whole town smells like BBQ.
Whichever night you come, you should stay for the fireworks. They have them every night and they are quite impressive.
Thank you all very much! I was already very excited about our trip and now even more so!! When we visited Italy 2 years ago our favourite part was visiting small towns and stopping at many “non- touristy” places along the way. We can’t wait to do the same in Spain!