Fascinating Álava: its most beautiful villages

Álava is perhaps the most unknown province of the Basque Country. However, despite being the only one that does not have a coastline, authentic gems await in it. Surrounded by a magical natural environment of valleys, hills, caves, rivers and natural parks, Álava hides numerous villages with a medieval air that are worth visiting.


Laguardia in Álava

View of the village of Laguardia in Álava. | Shutterstock

Municipality in the province of Álava framed in the region of La Rioja Alavesa. Laguardia is located on a hill and is surrounded by a wall built by King Sancho el Fuerte of Navarre. Its medieval air can still be detected through its streets and corners, but also in the five gates that give access to the city: Mercadal, Carnicerías, Páganos, San Juan and Santa Engracia.

Its extensive heritage has allowed it to belong to the Association of the Most Beautiful Villages of Spain. In this town, founded in the 10th century as a defense of the Kingdom of Navarre, the fortified churches of San Juan Bautista and Santa María de los Reyes await. Also, Laguardia is full of medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and neoclassical buildings. On the other hand, it is worth mentioning that this town in Alava is full of wineries, since the wine industry is the main pillar of its economy.


Antoñana álava

Antoñana offers an impressive image. | Zarateman, Wikimedia

A council of the municipality of Campezo that is located at the confluence of the rivers Ega and Sabando. It was founded in the 12th century by Sancho the Wise of Navarre as a fortified village on the site of an ancient fort. Its urban structure has undergone few modifications since that time: its streets are joined by cantons and its alleys and passages are covered with wooden structures.

Three parallel streets form the main structure of the town. In the Main Street there are several stone buildings with palatial appearance and coats of arms on their facades, some of them dating from the sixteenth century. In addition, one of the most outstanding features of Antoñana is its wall. This has been integrated as part of the houses of the village, so that windows and balconies overlook it piercing it. On the other hand, the tours through the surrounding mountains are of great interest, highlighting some trails that allow you to know the legendary yew trees over five meters.



Landscape from Marqués de Riscal in Elciego. | Shutterstock

Another of the villages located in La Rioja Alavesa. This town, especially known for its spectacular wineries, such as the Marqués de Riscal winery, holds many treasures. From the viewpoint of Aires de San Roque you can contemplate all the beauty of the town. Elciego has numerous places to see, highlighting the Parish Church of San Andrés, built in the sixteenth century, with architectural styles such as Gothic or neoclassical. Also the Hermitage of Nuestra Señora de la Virgen de la Plaza or its Town Hall are more than worth admiring.


Quejana álava

Fortress of Quejana. | Shutterstock

Small town in the northwest of Álava. The natural parks of Valderejo and Gorbea are very close to this historic village. The village of Quejana is part of the municipality of Aiara and has a remarkable monumental ensemble linked to the lineage of the same name. The home of the former Chancellor of Castile, Don Pedro de Ayala, it is surrounded by green meadows and gentle hills. This fortification was built during the 14th century, being one of the best examples of the Gothic style. This complex is integrated by the Convent of the Dominican Mothers, the Church of San Juan Bautista, the Tower-Chapel or the Fortified Palace.



Our Lady of La Encina in Artziniega. | Shutterstock

Medieval village located in the Valley of Aiara-Ayala in Alava. Its tower houses, emblazoned palaces and cobbled streets make this village a place worth visiting. The town has managed to preserve its historical legacy and enhance its value, in fact, the urban center of Artziniega was declared a Monumental Site in 1995. The Sanctuary of Nuestra Señora de La Encina is located just one kilometer from the center. A building in honor of the patron saint of Artziniega, it is one of the most striking monuments of the town. Also, the waterfall of Artziniega, also known as the dam of La Teja, is one of its points of interest: a short and simple walk, which connects the historic center with the dam in question.



Streets of the town of Salvatierra. | Shutterstock

Town located between the mountains of Entzia and Iturrieta, in Alava. Its first centuries of life were marked by its frontier character and the disputes between the Crowns of Navarre and Castile. The municipality was founded in 1256 by King Alfonso X the Wise on the village of Hagurahin. From this period is its walled medieval quarter, which was declared a Historic Site in 1975. Its main street houses the most interesting religious buildings, such as the churches of San Juan and Santa Maria, both built in the sixteenth century. It is also worth mentioning the old Pilgrims’ Hospital, since the Way to Santiago crosses the town. The natural environment offers the possibility of multiple routes, both by bicycle and on foot.


Samaniego in Álava

Views of the village of Samaniego in Álava. | Shutterstock

Another of the most interesting villages of La Rioja Alavesa is Samaniego. A foreground of vineyards and terraces hides an interesting medieval structure with the Obarenes Mountains in the background. The importance of this town lies in its military location on the border. However, of the walls and castles of yesteryear, only a high tower remains, next to which the church was later built and is still standing today. The stone facades of its streets preserve the medieval atmosphere of this village. Of special mention is the Church of the Assumption dating from the fifteenth century and the Samaniego Palace from the seventeenth century. Also of special interest are its two hermitages: the Ermita de la Virgen del Valle and the Ermita de Cristo.


Markinez álava

Artificial caves of Markinez. | Shutterstock

The natural park of Izki, on the border with the province of Burgos, isolates small villages in the province of Alava. This is the case of one of the most beautiful villages of the province: Markinez, flanked by a ravine. Belonging to Bernedo, this town surprises for its rich environment, where in addition to the spectacular scenery, its artificial caves stand out. Markinez stands out for its emblazoned houses and its noble palaces of great beauty: the Town Hall is a magnificent example. Other places worth visiting in this town are the Church of Santa Eulalia, dedicated to the Annunciation of the Virgin, and the Hermitage of San Juan, built in the 13th century.



Streets of the old town of Labastida. | Shutterstock

Another of the villages of La Rioja Alavesa that you must visit. This village houses an archaeological site where remains of the Celtic populations that inhabited La Rioja in the past have been found. In addition to its importance as an ethnological enclave and the important heritage hidden behind its walls, its winding streets that mold to the hill on which it sits are surprising. The historic center of the village is accessed through the Larrazuria Arch, where you can find various manor houses and palaces, among which stands out the Palace of the Garaizabal. It is also interesting to visit its religious monuments: the Chapels of Santo Cristo or Santa Lucía and the Parish Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción.



Cárcamo and its parish church of La Asunción. | David Pérez, Wikimedia

In the municipality of Valdegovía, at the foot of the Arkamu mountain range, is the village of Cárcamo. This town, known for hosting the independent music festival Ebrovisión, was founded in the 11th century by Martín de Varona. Its medieval architecture is one of the most striking of this environment. What stands out most in its streets are the tower houses and stone buildings. Two main buildings stand out in the village: the church of the Assumption, in Romanesque style with later additions and the hermitage of San Juan Bautista, an austere Cistercian temple with a single nave and Romanesque style, dating from the 11th century.


Labraza álava

View of the village of Labraza in the Rioja of Álava. | Shutterstock

The village of Labraza, in the council of Oyón, sits on the upper course of the Ebro. Its beautiful walled enclosure was awarded as the best preserved in 2008. The town, with a medieval flavor, has several cubic towers that defend an oval urban center with restored narrow streets. Along with the remains of its castle, many of them well preserved and the wall, which serves as a facade of different buildings, there are many houses of Renaissance origin or the Church of San Miguel, whose Gothic walls were part of the defensive enclosure. This underwent major reforms in the 18th and 19th centuries. Another of the must-see places in Álava.

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