Rioja Alavesa Dolmen Route - arabaturismo
Our ancient legends speak of witches and spells, and dolmens have a magical aura making these megalithic constructions totally unique. Dolmens served as mass graves between the Neolithic and the Bronze Age, containing some personal belongings of the people buried in addition to offerings.
Álava is home to more than 70 dolmens, many of which are located in Rioja Alavesa, where this cultural route takes place. A stroll among these constructions is a journey through the history of the region. Interestingly, the word dolmen comes from Breton and means ‘table of stone’, clearly in reference to their shape, as they are comprised of enormous vertical slabs and one or more horizontal stones covering them.
This route goes through part of Rioja Alavesa from west to east, following the road from Labastida to Laguardia. If you take it in search of the oldest remains of its inhabitants, you’ll find unique spots where each stone tells a story.
1. La Cascaja Dolmen
You’ll find the first construction 500 metres from the town of Peciña. This grave contained craniums and bone fragments from more than 31 people in addition to animal remains and materials like pots and arrowheads.
2. El Montecilloko Dolmen
On the way to Villabuena, you’ll find a dolmen was altered by looting and use as a place to store stones. It was once 3 metres tall. Excavations led to discoveries of human bones and ceramics.
3. Layaza Dolmen
Get back on the N-232 toward Laguardia. Close to the intersection with Leza on the right and Vitoria-Gasteiz on the left, you’ll find the Layaza Dolmen. When it was discovered in 1955, it had lost the roof slabs and the corridor was hidden by dirt and stone. The monument as we see it today is the product of a 1988 restoration project.
4. El Sotillo Dolmen
Continue toward Laguardia and you’ll find a sign leading to the next stop: El Sotillo Dolmen. It has been restored, but previously only six of its 13 slabs were visible. Although the burial mound remains, you can tell that it has been flattened. When it was discovered, 13 bodies were found in addition to a magnificent funeral offering.
5. San Martin Dolmen
Very close to Laguardia, you’ll find one of the most important dolmens in Álava. Excavations revealed two different levels of use divided by a slab. The older, lower level contains most of the burials and characteristically Neolithic objects. The upper level contained a single cadaver with a funeral offering characteristic of the Copper Age.
Next to the grave there is a small hut or guardaviñas common in the traditional rural architecture of Rioja Alavesa, covered by a corbel dome made of rocks taken from the dolmen's burial mound.
6. Alto de Huesera
Just before Laguardia, at the intersection leading to Elvillar, you’ll find Alto de la Huesera. This dolmen was recently restored. The remains of 130 people were found inside. Some consider it to be the best dolmen in Rioja Alavesa.
7. La Chaboleta de la Hechicera
When you reach Elvillar, you’ll find the most well-known dolmen in Rioja Alavesa, and one of the most important in Euskadi. There are all sorts of legends about it, including the legend of its namesake, which tells of a witch’s chants on the morning of Saint John's Day. It’s the perfect setting for the Basque mythology, magic and witchcraft that its coven celebrates every 14 August for Rioja Alavesa Charm.
8. El Encinal Dolmen
On the road to Kripan, you’ll find El Encinal Dolmen. Six of its seven slabs remain standing. A remarkable Roman cameo notably appeared in a large pit dug in the centre of the chamber for an unknown purpose.
9. Los Llanos Dolmen
Following the road to Kripan, you’ll find the last dolmen on this route. It no longer has its roof slab, but its burial mound is still in tact as well as six large standing slabs. Skeletal remains of 100 people were found inside, in addition to tools from the time period.
In addition to these ancient dolmens, La Hoya Settlement, Celtíbero Pond and Alto de Castejón Archaeological Site are a few historical sites that tell the history of Álava. These constructions tell us that in the distant past, Álava was the chosen home of different peoples who left their mark on this land, a place with a remarkable past.
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