La Guardia – Rioja

We pick things up as we drive into La Guardia. This little village on top of a hill is one of those quaint little places that is both forgotten in time and modern all at the same time.

The walls of the buildings look like they were erected just last week however some of them are centuries old. It has all the modern facilities yet only a couple of hotels. There are pintxo bars and restaurants scattered throughout the narrow, pedestrian-only streets, as well as a supermarket (supermercat) and may fresh food stalls.

We stayed in a cute little B&B called Casa Rural Erletxe which was built into the city wall alongside one of the guard towers. The accommodation was a perfect fit for the town and was very comfortable and clean with an awesome breakfast each day and at 4€ per person per day, it was very reasonably priced.

The only negative would be that the room was a bit warm and there was no air-conditioning. If you were there in the height of summer it could be quite uncomfortable.

After arriving and unpacking we actually met up with our next door neighbours from Australia, Alain & Rita. They are visiting Alain’s mother in Geneva and decided to visit Spain around the same time as us.

As luck (or good planning) would have it, our travel times aligned and they met us in La Guardia.

We headed off to one of the Pintxos (Tapas) bars on the city square for some wine and nibbles.

After this, we wandered the laneways a little and eventually went to dinner. Language is starting to become an issue as we head further away from the traditional English speaking tourist areas and as such ordering is becoming a little more “interesting”.

We managed, however, and had a nice meal and while I understand this is a big potato growing region, the addition of “fries” to most meals made it feel far less “local” than we’d hoped.



On our first full day in this region, we had a few things booked to make the most of our time here. We started off with breakfast at our accommodation which consisted of Tomato Bread, Pastries, Jams and Fruits, along with a wide selection of teas and coffee.

We visited the Tourist Information and purchased some tickets for a tour of the church, but more on that later. We wandered around the streets and eventually came to the “Abbey Tower” which was open to tourists for a small fee, provided you are happy to climb the easy 80 odd steps to the top.

The view from the tower is quite spectacular so it is well worth a visit. You simply don’t get views like these in Australia. So get out there people!!

After our tower visit, we made our way through the laneways to a Pintxos bar where we had a pre-lunch beverage. Ideally this should have been Cava or Vermouth, however, we had a Rosé.

Lunch today was booked in the nearby town of Páganos at a restaurant called Héctor Oribe. This is a Michelin listed restaurant but doesn’t have any stars, although it could easily be worthy of a star in my humble opinion.

The food and service here are beyond exquisite. For a place that looks relatively non-descript on the outside, it sure is deceiving and wow is it amazing.

We were the first to arrive at 1:30 pm but most people started arriving from around 2 pm. We still haven’t gotten used to these late lunches despite our best efforts.

On the way back to La Guardia we stopped for some quick drone footage of the surrounding area.

Our day wasn’t over just yet though as we had a booking for a winery tour in the town. Yes, there is a winery in the town and is actually in an underground cave. Most of the homes in La Guardia have their own underground cave, and this one, in particular, is being used as a place to age, bottle and store wine.

The tour consisted of a short video explaining the particular process they use to make the wine, and then we went down into the cave area. The cave itself was much larger underground than the footprint of the house was above and in past years, many of the caves were connected.

The connecting corridors have since been sealed off as you can’t have the neighbours sneaking over and taking any of that precious wine!

The tour finished with a wine tasting of a number of different vintages in varying levels of quality. All of which were very nice, especially their Reserva wines.

Our day wasn’t over just yet as we had tickets to visit the Church of Santa María de los Reyes. This is an interesting experience and another which can’t be judged by looks on the outside. The church is unique in that the “portico” is on the inside and as a result has retained a lot of its original character and design.

After the busy day, we had a relatively quiet evening in mind. The winery owner recommended two restaurants for us to try, the first one was not serving food, the second was called Capricho de Baco and is set into the east facing wall, with entry from the outside.

Apart from a minor mix up with the bill, this was a very pleasant place to eat, with a cool breeze and quality food. Highly recommended.



Our second full day kicked off again with a yummy breakfast before heading for the car to take a little winery tour around the area. This consisted of a loop which took us to Haro, a nearby town which had a number of tasting rooms all within walking distance.

Along the way, we took the opportunity to snap a picture of the Ysos winery. We didn’t plan on visiting, but just wanted to stop by as the architecture of the building is quite unique.

Check out the cloud rolling over the mountain range in this photo! Reminds us of Karl the Fog in San Francisco.

We made it to Haro just on 11 am, which is when the wineries open. First was Bodegas Roda where like all we visited, tastings are to be paid for. We tried one of their medium priced red wines which was quite lovely so we purchased a bottle.

Next stop was Bodegas Lopez do Leredia which, if nothing else, had a very funky and odd looking tasting room.

Last stop in Haro was Bodegas Muga. This is a very grand looking place which was very busy. They had quite a range of tasting options including tasting “flights”. We opted for a couple of glasses of Rosé which we enjoyed so much we purchased a bottle.

We departed Haro on our way back to La Guardia but were in need of some lunch so we stopped in at Vivanco, which is a sort of wine museum in the area and quite a significant looking establishment. We had some pintxos from the bar along with a couple of glasses of Rosé, followed by a cheese plate.

Again, the Rosé was quite refreshing so we purchased a bottle for our time in Lekeitio, which is the next town we visit.

On our way back we stopped in to check out Bodegas Marqués de Riscal, which is a large producer of wines, so large in fact that this brand of wine is sold in Dan Murphy’s in Australia and we’ve enjoyed quite a bit of it in the lead up to our trip.

They have a Rosé which is not actually available in Australia, so we picked up a cold bottle to enjoy on our return to La Guardia.

The building was designed by the architect of the Guggenheim so we followed a little goat track up the hill to snap a photo.

We enjoyed our Rosé and some of the Vino Tinto (red wine) that Gary and Alain purchased in the courtyard of our accommodation, along with some Iberico ham we’d purchased in Barcelona and some sausage and cured beef that Alain picked up from a local store.

Dinner tonight was a mixture of Pintxos and some Raciones at a restaurant. The Pintxos/Tapas approach is so cool and you can graze as you please, and there always seems to be more food coming along.

The pintxos bar we chose was making the most delightful potato tortilla (Spanish omelette) so we had some of this along with some drinks. Even this little kid was getting in on the omelette action!

Our last dinner with Alain and Rita was completed at a restaurant close to our accommodation where we enjoyed some traditional Spanish cuisine.

Tomorrow we pack up the bags, load them into the BMW 218d and head off to Lekeitio while Alain and Rita will continue on their journey and head towards the west of Spain.


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