Treat yourself to the unique flavors of northern Spain on this 9-day journey along the Rioja Vineyard Trail. The beauty of the countryside is only matched by the care that goes into the food and wine. The curvature of the Guggenheim Museum creates open bright spaces. The Rioja Vineyard Trail brings you into the valley and has you exploring the foothills and tasting all the spellbinding flavors of the countryside. Enjoy panoramic views and ancient monasteries, customized tasting menus and a unique...
Bilbao – Almost Touching the Vine
Welcome to Bilbao, a city in northern Spain that has combined the beautiful romance of narrow walkways with the modern architecture of the Guggenheim. The Old City is filled with cobblestone streets. Away from the historic center palm trees line the esplanade and you can hear the water lapping against the sea walls. The city is rich with earthiness and maintains a strong dedication to its role as a major European art center. The Nervion River divides the cityscape and you can see the pastel colors of the buildings that run along its banks.
Casco Viejo is the old quarter which brings you to the city’s jovial cafes. The aromas of pinchos, which are similar to tapas, fill the streets of Las Siete Calles, the city’s original seven streets. Bacalao, a traditional dish made of cod and roasted potatoes is succulent and often accompanied by a crisp white wine. The city opens itself up to you with friendly arms and a charm unique to Bilbao’s history. In the evening you can watch the sunset reflect off of the sweeping, glistening walls of the Guggenheim Museum.
Rio Ebro Valley – Connect the Morning
The morning is peaceful along the old streets of Las Siete Calles. After breakfast you head to the Guggenheim and go beyond the titanium walls that shimmer in captured light. The museum was constructed in the 1990s and is a piece of artwork as admired as the work it contains. The World Architect Survey called it “one of the most important works completed since 1980.” The museum is decorated with glass, titanium, and limestone, all molded together to create curvatures that allow natural light to fill the atriums.
The interior is clean and fully illuminated. Contemporary artists fill the bright spaces of the museum, including Richard Serra. His work, The Matter of Time, consists of eight sculptures reaching up to 14 feet tall. You can walk around and even inside the pieces, becoming an interactive part of the space and finding its secret niches.
In the afternoon your private guide will meet you in the lobby and escort you to a small village in the Rio Ebro Valley. The region’s cuisine is unique due to its location, giving it access to seafood from the coast, meats from the plains, and vegetables from around the fertile land of La Rioja.
Rio Ebro Valley – A Matter of Taste
Wake up to the scent of rich earth and vibrant vines. Mountains surround the valley and roll along the vast blue sky. The colors of the hillsides are a mixture of gold and green. After breakfast you make your way to Muga, a winery that takes pride in is usage of oak. The barrels are made specifically to create the remarkable flavor that the winemakers look for in the vineyard’s array of varietals. The aging rooms are calm and the warm sun creates a unique enriching aromatic scent. When you step out along the vineyard you come to El Estepal, the flatland of the valley that leads up into the foothills. The range of the landscape creates the diversity of the grapes’ flavors.
The climate and the soil create the personality of each grape. In the afternoon you will have a three-hour private wine tasting tour and course that will take you through the Bodegas Luberri. The view from the vineyards is incredible; it is as if you have woken up in the spirit of the land. You look out over the panorama and find the silhouette of mountains in the distance that resembles clouds. When you taste the Cepas Viejas Rioja you find a hint of complex dark fruit and traces of blackberries. The earthiness takes you back to the field and the marvelous vista where the sensual essence of the valley beats.
Rio Ebro Valley – Wrapping Around the Vine
The sunlight pierces the subtle morning mist. The countryside is vast around you but the aromas of breakfast are rich. After breakfast you make your way to the wine museum of Dinastia Vivanco. The exhibits fill six rooms that overtake 43,055 square feet of space and portray over 8,000 years of viniculture history. Each gallery is wide open and contains artifacts of winemaking history including ancient presses and also information on the origin of wine and the traditions of Rioja. The Garden of Bacchus is located on the museum grounds. This space contains over 220 varieties of grapes and offers flavors that span the far reaches of the world.
The air is filled with the scent of sweet juices and musty earth. When you explore the museum you are experiencing the rich history of production and the evolution of flavors around the world. In the afternoon you can walk to the peak of San Lorenzo, the highest point in the region at 7,447 feet above sea level. Look out over the valley and find the lush colors smiling back at you. Your secluded moment in the mountains is a breath of fresh air with a spectacular view.
Arnedillo – Deep in the Ground
Today you will make your way to the village of Arnedillo to indulge in the comforts of the quiet and natural setting. The waters around the city are known for their therapeutic qualities and have been enjoyed since the 13th century. After you settle in you will venture into the countryside to a location known for its dinosaur fossils and footprints. The Coll de Nargó area is home to archaic nesting sites in the mineral-rich hillside. Dozens of eggs and fossilized footprints have been found and attributed to sauropods, dinosaurs with long necks, long tails, and small heads. The air breeze rustles the leaves of the trees that rise up the hillside. The air is fragrant with dry earth. You return to the Arnedillo and the tranquil streets of the village.
Arnedillo – The Colors of the Woods
The valley is often dry beneath the outreaching branches of verdant vineyards. Today you make your way to the Hayedo de Santiago beech forest. During the fall the leaves paint the canopy and the ground with the exceptional yellows, oranges, and reds. In the summer, greenery covers the sky. The cool air sweeps between the trees. The leaves swirl into the air when the breeze blows through. The scent of the surrounding flora is herbaceous, emanating familiar scents from pine to cedar.
Enjoy a romantic picnic in the forest and indulge in the natural privacy. The cured jamón, a dried and cured ham, is savory and the variety of cheeses is decadent as each one melts in your mouth. Sip a local wine and indulge in the aromas of stone fruits and delight in a lingering finish. In the afternoon you can return to the village and relax in the thermal baths near the hotel. The water is warm and inviting. You feel rejuvenated and soothed in the tranquil ambiance of your own private and luxurious getaway.
San Millan – The Rioja Alta
The landscape changes from endless vineyards to sweeping forests and steep, rocky gorges that tower above you. At the top of the mountainside you find the monasteries of San Millan. The air is fragrant with pine and oak trees. The view over the rolling hills is lush and verdant. The village peeks out from the greenery with sandstone gold colors. The two monasteries are famous for helping birth the Basque and Spanish languages. The Monasterio de Yuso was constructed in the 11th century, and San Millan de Suso was built in the 6th century.
The architecture of Suso Monastery is filled with mozarabic arches. The brick laid ground and the shapely doorways create a unique ambiance inside the monastery walls. The scent of earthen brick is mixed with aromatics. Each step you take reverberates off of the walls and against the deep history of the town. In the evening you will dine in a quaint and small restaurant that overlooks the dramatic rock formations below. The beautiful golden scenery enhances the flavors of dinner at sunset.
Trapagaran – A Sculpted Forest
Delicate clouds decorate the sky and run along the bright blue. The surrounding mountains of the Bizkaia region flow into one another. Some are capped with snow and others shimmer with careening water. After breakfast you make your way to the Meatzalde Goikoa Parkea, an incredible sculptured forest that intermingles the natural landscape with artistic sculptures made from raw materials. The Hustión lakes are translucent turquoise and flicker in the sunlight. The hillsides are a remarkable deep green.
Walk along the path and find a variety of interpretations of life, beauty, and nature. A large industrial fork rises from a boulder. An iron square frames the scenic rocky outcrops. A female silhouette poses against the background of reflective turquoise water. Some of the artwork even camouflages itself into the landscape. The countryside has taken an even more romantic turn in its display. It has become an outdoor museum blending the natural splendor of the region with the imaginative beauty of creative artists.
Bilbao – An Ending Trail
The cold air of the mountains is refreshing in the morning. The sweet and rich flavor of coffee warms you from the inside out. After breakfast you will return to Bilbao to make your flight home. The mountains recede into the distance. Their peaks remain prevalent along the horizon. The rocky ridges shift into sweeping foothills. The foothills become endless rows of vineyards. The luscious flavors of your wine tours flood your memories as you reminisce on aromas of buoyant minerals and sensual dark fruits.
You arrive at the airport and check-in for your flight. You may not be ready to go but the romance you enjoyed within the secluded villages and along the wine trail will continue. If you want to stay longer in Spain, consider extending your trip.
- Indulge in the decadent flavors of special menus that will bring out the spectacular tastes of each ingredient
- Enjoy a private wine tasting course with a celebrated winemaker
- Discover the exceptional exhibits at the Dinastica Vivanco, a wine museum with an inclusive botanical garden filled with diverse varietals
- Visit Coll de Nargó, home to the oldest dinosaur nesting site in Europe
- Relish in the thermal baths of Arnedillo Village
- Explore the Monasteries of San Millan, cradle of the Bask and Spanish languages
- Take a romantic stroll through the Sculpture Forest around the hills of the Bizkaia Region
Embrace the hillside and the traditional small dishes known as pinchos as you experience an ineffable romance through the famous Bask Region of Spain. Venture through the Rioja Vineyard Trail to savor the flavors of the wine and the cuisine. This custom tailored tour will bring passion to the glass and the plate as you taste your way through remarkable wineries and magnificent villages. Stroll through the combination of forestry and sculptures, and explore antique cellars located deep beneath the sprawling vines. Step onto the trail to find the majesty and intimacy of Rioja.
Your Spain tour begins with your arrival in Bilbao. The city is an amalgamation of medieval history and grand modern architecture. In the morning you will have time to visit the fabulous Guggenheim Museum. The edifice twists and curves to allow the sunlight to naturally flow through the glass windows. In the afternoon you will sit on the edge of Mirador de Tolono to look out over the Rioja valley and witness its precious microclimates. The following day you will venture out to the surrounding wineries to discover the charming flavors of Rioja wine.
The region is filled with boutique vineyards which have received accolades both nationally and internationally. The valley is wide and open to the view of the surrounding mountains, including a panorama of the castle at Davalillo. In the evening, partake in a three-hour private wine tasting tour with one of the region’s foremost experts. The wine museum of Dinastia Vivanco contains related artifacts and exhibits that offer insight into viniculture and brings winemaking into a brand new light. Venture to the summit of Sierra de San Lorenzo for a beautiful vista of the valley at large. Outside of the village, you will discover the largest dinosaur nesting area in all of Europe at Coll de Nargó, filled with fossilized eggs and footprints.
Explore the beech forest at Hayedo de Santiago and spend the afternoon indulging in the thermal baths of Arnedillo Village. Journey to the ridge that houses the monasteries of San Millan. The charming nearby town and the ancient monasteries offer insight into the culture and heritage of the region. The Meatzalde Goikoa Parkea is a sculpture park that creates a unique mixture of natural forest and sculpted artwork, oftentimes even blending the two together. Eventually, you will return to Bilbao to make the flight home but the majesty of the Bask countryside and the Rioja trail is endlessly magnetic.
$2,155 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
- In-country transportation
- Some or all activities and tours
- Expert trip planning
- 24x7 support during your trip
Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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