The Last Navarrese Possession in Álava

On a high natural hill and surrounded by thick walls stands Laguardia, the main town of the Rioja Alavesa. It’s full of palaces and churches that denote its historical importance, still evident today. At her feet, and as far as the eye can see, a wide tapestry of vineyards surrounds her.

Plan Your Visit to Laguardia

In Laguardia there are numerous mansions and several important churches, as well as its ancient walls; exploring the town can last a whole day. Within the village and its surroundings there are numerous wineries where you can taste local products. Some of the wineries are very traditional in appearance and others have an avant-garde design.

In the section What to See in Laguardia we mention the places of interest in the village, as well as the nearby sites and the interpretation centre. We also mention the option of bird watching in a salt lake or active tourism activities in the surrounding areas and in the Cantabria mountain range park. If your want more adventures, you can go on excursions to the nearby medieval towns of Elciego and Moreda de Álava. To the south is the city of Logroño, with one of the best bar areas in Spain and lots of entertainment on weekends. To introduce yourself to the interesting local gastronomy and to book a place to stay, check out our pages on where to sleep and eat in Laguardia.

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A city from a castle

The present town of Laguardia arose from a castle founded around 908 by Sancho Abarca de Navarra. Originally it was called Laguarda de Navarra. Its position was always one of military and defense, and being that it was one of the main nuclei of the area located in a strategic position, the whole surrounding region could be controlled.

In 1164, Sancho VI the Wise granted Laguardia the status of a villa, or town. The area was fortified and walled by Sancho VII the Strong, who equipped it as a defensive strong point against the Crown of Castile. However, its walls did not prevent it from changing hands several times between Navarrese and Castilian until 1461, when it finally came under Castilian control. In 1491 it was incorporated into the brotherhood of Álava (the forerunner of the province). For this reason, the visit to the walls is the main thing to see in Laguardia.

The writer Felix María de Samaniego was born in Laguardia in 1745. He was a nobleman and a member of the Real Sociedad Bascongada de los Amigos del País. He died in his village in 1801.

iglesia san juan bautista foto antigua laguardia
San Juan Bautista Church

Carlist Wars

During the First Carlist War, Laguardia was a government stronghold that was attacked several times by the Carlists in 1836. During the Second Carlist War it was a Carlist stronghold taken by the liberals.


The wine business has been the basis of the prosperity of Laguardia, together with the growing tourism.

The town centre, being the commercial centre and geographical centre of the Rioja Alavesa, is the first thing to see in Laguardia since still today it retains all the charm of the medieval and modern city. The walls (13th century), perhaps the most defining feature of Laguardia, are made up of huge stone blocks two metres thick and are crowned by battlements that announce the arrival of faraway people. In the distance and in the sunlight, the walls acquire a golden hue that is hard to ignore. The five original gates of the town are still standing: Mercadal, Carnicerías, Páganos, San Juan and Santa Engracia. Entering through the door of the Carnicerías(15th century), we read on a tile: “Peace to those who arrive, Health to those who live, Happiness to those who leave.”

Following the wall from the outside, you can walk around the town along the paths of El Collado, Los Sietes and Plaza Nueva.

Within the walls, the Church of Santa María de los Reyes is the main cultural attraction. Its construction started in the Romanesque period and was finished during the sixteenth century with the completion of its Renaissance façade. It conceals a fourteenth-century Gothic portico inside, with polychrome decor from the seventeenth century. No visitor should overlook its great colour and beauty, as well as the expressiveness of its features and the delicacy of its ornamental details. It depicts the Virgin Mary with the Child surrounded by images from the New Testament and, on the sides, the twelve apostles. One the side of the church is the Abacial Tower, where the abbot was believed to live. Now, it is the remains of the defensive system of the walls built between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, which has lost part of its finish as a result of various modifications. To the north was the castle that Sancho Abarca founded and which gave rise to Laguardia.

Inside the Church of San Juan Bautista we can admire several altarpieces, with the main altar from the 17th century standing out. Construction began in a Romanesque style but was finished in a Gothic one.

The Plaza Mayor is configured as a porticoed structure in which we find the Old Town Hall, which has renaissance features and the imperial coat of arms of Charles V on its façade. There is also the New Town Hall, which displays on its front the town’s coat of arms and has a clock with three automated figurines that occasionally dance to mark the hours. At the base, a metal plate gives us information on the schedule of functions.As with several towns in the surrounding area, in Laguardia you can see numerous stately civil constructions, houses and palaces richly decorated with large stone coats of arms of ancient family lineages. Among them, the Casa de la Primicia is the most notable, being that is perhaps the oldest civil building in the town, dating from the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century. It owes its fame, in part, to the fact that it was here that the tithes paid to the church were kept and, in addition, it is one of the houses carved out by cellar caves. These caves can be traced from the surface through the vents, usually metal, that some buildings have at the bottom of their facades.

Santa María de los Reyes

Another interesting civil building is the Casa Natal de Samaniego (birthplace of Samaniego), the enlightened Félix María Sánchez de Samaniego, author of the famous fables. This seventeenth-century building has some underground wineries, known as Bodega El Fabulista, which produce wines by hand and are equipped for tourist and cultural visits.

In the vicinity of Laguardia there are four lagoons, three of them being endorheic (they are filled exclusively with rainfall), so when the water evaporates, salt flats are formed. With a great variety of plants and water birds, the lagoons have been declared a protected biotope and are well worth a walk to enjoy the nature.

On the outskirts of the city is the Archaeological Site of La Hoya, inhabited between the end of the Bronze Age and the end of the Second Iron Age (about 1500 to 250 B.C.). It has a small museum at the entrance of the excavation site, where a detailed model of the Celtiberian settlement is exhibited along with objects found at the site. A water collection pond was discovered in 1998 in Laguardia, which must have been in full use during the 3rd and 2nd centuries B.C. Nowadays, the Celtiberian Pond, known as the Barbican Pond, and the Interpretation Centre can be visited.

Also of interest are the numerous dolmens (megalithic tombs) found in the area, such as La Chabola de la Hechicera, the most spectacular of them all, in Elvillar.

In the vicinity of the town are large extensions of vineyards and some more modern wineries. Among the latter is the Ysios Winery, built in 2001 by Santiago Calatrava with a peculiar, sinuous design reminiscent of a row of barrels and crowned with wooden beams covered in aluminium. Another interesting project is that of Bodegas Campillo, which was the first of its kind to be designed as a unitary set of vineyards and winery. Its design is reminiscent of a basilica. Other wineries in the town are the Solar de Samaniego, Araco, Palacio, Ruiz de Viñaspre, Vallobera, Solar Viejo, Viña Real and the Señorío de las Viñas. A good option related to wine is to go to the Wine Oil Spa in Laguardia and feel the healing and relaxing qualities of wine. Another related alternative may be to visit the Villa Lucia Wine-Themed Centre.

Must see

Ysios Winery

Basic Facts


42° 33′ 0″ N, 2° 34′ 59″ W


42° 33′ 0″ N, 2° 34′ 59″ W


Along the Paseo de Sancho Abarca and in the Portal de Paganos


635 m


1528 (2013)

San Juan y San Pedro (June 23rd – 29th), San Blas (February 3rd)

Día del Gaitero (May), Belén de Santa María de los Reyes (performances on December 25th, January 1st and 6th, and the first Sunday in February at approximately 13.00)

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