There is a place where every corner tells a story and has a reason. Throughout the centuries it played an important role in the course of events. This place lies in the heart of Rioja Alavesa, the home of wine. It is called LAGUARDIA
Laguardia is located in the south of the historical territory of Álava and commands a privileged position within Rioja Alavesa. Its location in the centre of this region is due to the warlike nature of its founder and the defensive purpose to which the kings of Navarre tasked this town, initially naming it “La Guarda de Navarra” (the guard of Navarre).
Tradition has it that at the beginning of 10th century X the Navarrese king Sancho Abarca built a castle on the site to guard and defend the south of the Kingdom of Navarre. In 1164 Sancho VI, the Wise, granted Laguardia a Royal Charter and elevated the community to the rank of town, attracting merchants, artisans and labourers who settled on the hill under the protection of the military castle.
In the 13th century Sancho VII, the Strong, fortified the town with a great wall which, despite the damage suffered during the wars of Independence and the Carlist wars in the nineteenth century, has been perfectly restored.
Throughout the Middle Ages and as a result of conflicts between the kingdoms of Castile and Navarre, Laguardia repeatedly changed owner until it finally fell into the hands of Castile in 1461. In 1486 Laguardia and its hamlets were incorporated into the province of Álava and its Brotherhoods.
Laguardia still retains its medieval layout, consisting of three long, narrow main streets, which are linked together by squares and alleys, and the whole building complex is enclosed by the “old” wall that still retains several towers and the five town gates. The houses of the town, of different eras and styles, have been added to this medieval layout.
The churches of San Juan and Santa María de los Reyes, built in medieval times, are its most important monuments, especially the latter due to its impressive polychrome Gothic portal.
The 16th, 17th and 18th centuries are represented by a considerable number of buildings whose façades feature beautiful coats of arms and carved eaves.
Among the oldest and most notable civil buildings is the 14th century Primicia, located in calle Páganos, in which tithes and offerings were collected. If we continue walking through its streets we enter Plaza de San Juan where the birthplace and family mansion of the fabulist Samaniego stands, constructed in ashlar stone with a beautiful neoclassical façade. The old Town Hall in the Plaza Mayor is also worth seeing, among many others.
Cellars and family caves have been dug out under the whole town and in which, until quite recently, one of its most precious treasures was produced and stored: Wine. The existence of these “caves” constitutes another of the unique characteristics of Laguardia, the subsoil of the Town is totally bored out, and it is precisely for this reason that Laguardia is strictly a pedestrian area. No vehicles are allowed inside the town (there are three public car parks).
In Laguardia many civic religious traditions are still respected, so Easter is very interesting time, and the festivities of San Juan and San Pedro in June, have a magic all of their own.
Laguardia, in addition to being the capital of Rioja Alavesa, is the most popular tourist site in the whole region as it is considered to be one of the most beautiful towns in Spain thanks to its various tourist attractions.
Chiming Clock in the Main Square: The automata, representing the dancers of the Laguardia dance troupe, can be seen at 12:00, 14:00, 17:00 and 20:00
Barbacana Celtiberian Pond: Information and reservations at the Tourist Office 945 600 845
Dolmens of San Martín, El Sotillo, El Alto de la Huesera, The Witch’s Hut (Elvillar).
Laguardia Lake Complex Protected Biotope
Villa Lucía Wine Thematic Centre : Information and booking: 945 600 032
Wineries open for visits: The Tourist Office can provide a list of these. 945 600 845
Footpaths : GR-38 Route of Wine and Fish and GR-120 Ignatian Way
Laguardia provides a full list of services: car parks, hotels, restaurants, wine bars, pintxos bars, tourist train, spa, rural houses, medical centre, tobacconist, pharmacy, butchers, fishmongers, bakeries, clothing stores, etc.
Laguardia is 48 kilometres from Vitoria-Gasteiz, taking the A-2124a through the Puerto de Vitoria mountain pass and the BU- to reach the N-232a which takes us to our destination. This is an interesting scenic route but it is also possible to go via the A-1, N-124 and the N-232a.
Laguardia is less than 20 kilometres from Logroño via the N-232a.