Independent Agricultural Tourism Website.

Wineries, Grapes Harvest, An Old Town with Personality.  

(Versión Castellano)

Certainly one of the places that reserves most significance to us, is Laguardia in Spain. This small town represents the begining of agricultural tourism for us. For that reason we want to dedicate a full page to tell that story.

If you are not in the mood to read it through, you can skip the text and enjoy the pictures. If you like stories, this page is for you because it will give you the details of a great experience resulting in a different approach to your vacations. Enjoy it!

Do you have a story to share with us? Send it to us with your pictures and we will publish it!

Laguardia, Alava

The origins of Laguardia (originally known as Lagoardia de Navarra) dated circa 900, when King of Navarra, Don Sancho Abarca III, built a castle to guard the limits of Navarra from the attacks of the Moors and the Castilians. 

Laguardia was founded when King Don Sancho VII, gave the privileges and jurisdiction with the “Carta de Fundación” (letter of foundation) in 1164.

The original castle became one of the most important castles in zone due to its location and strategic military mission. The original castle stood up for more than 700 years until 1875, to rebuild the fortified town that is today.

As most of towns in the basque territory, Laguardia has a name in Euzkera. This town is also known as Guardia by the basque community.

The town offers an exquisite balance between the tradition and the modern life. Its magnificent walls preserved the old tradition and architecture of Laguardia.  As consequence of its origins, this town is covered by a subterranean network of tunnels and passages.  Almost every house in old town has its own tunnel, used today as cellars. 
We can count over 200 cellars in this little town, which due to the geological characteristics of the terrain, the natural temperatures and humidity levels found in these tunnels made an excellent cellar to preserve and age wine.

From wince cellars, and  ultra modern wineries nearby to the most interesting prehistoric testimony with the dolmen route nearby, make of this area a unique place to enjoy, relax and why not?  to surprise you loved one with a different and romantic getaway in the land of the good wine.

"Laguardia" (our story)


As with everything that starts by chance or by mistake, we discovered our favorite way of traveling.   In one of our first trips to Spain we planned to stay in Madrid for about 5 days to later continue with our journey to Logroño in Rioja, and then San Sebastian in Guipuzcoa.  We took the precaution to make reservations in hotels that would accommodate our budget and at the same time offer a good location in the city. 

So our homework and research was concentrated in hotels in Madrid and in San Sebastian, where the tourism were going to be at its peak due to certain events in these cities.

I still remember a conversation I had with my wife while we were working out the details of our trip;  “-Do we need to make reservations in Logroño?", Nah!.. We will be arriving on Wednesday. It's not possible for this middle size town to be booked in the middle of the week… we will manage it”, she said.

But Madrid was a different story. We searched, we compared, we looked for reviews and finally we took our best shot with one small hotel and we chose to stay nearby “Plaza del Sol”, as it is a very convenient and touristic area. Well, it looks like despite all the research, the results were not even close to what we expected.  We found ourselves walking up the stairways with our luggage and our room was on the third floor facing an internal patio. The view from the room was facing other rooms and windows from the building next door… you can imagine the privacy we had! On top of this, the room was so small that it had just the space to walk around the bed and the bed was so small that my feet were hanging from the edge.  In other words, a total nightmare…

Madrid was packed and not even the top class hotels were available with such short notice. Fortunately we were able to move two nights later, and enjoyed our last nights of good sleep without interruptions or funny noises.   Our fault here was to assume certain details: when you make a reservations on the internet, you don't necessarily get the room they show you on their website.  This was Strike #1 – Do not assume.

No place is too small...

So we left Madrid to our final destination for the day; Logroño, right in the limit between “Rioja Alavesa” and the southern part of the “Basque Country”

We drove for about four hours, including the stop we made in Burgos to visit the big Cathedral (that by the way, it is worth to visit).  Logroño was holding a lot of activity and it appeared to us that there were more people than normal.  As we walked around and looked for a hotel, we learned that the city was hosting the grape harvest festival!. 

Wine producers and visitors from different parts of Spain and Europe had converged in this town!.. And we thought that finding a hotel here was going to be easy… Ha! We found absolutely no hotel room from 5 starts to half start categories. The accommodations were simply all taken… now what?!
After a three hour search, we decided by 8:30pm to drive away and go to the closest town, Vitoria-Gasteiz.
This was Strike #2 – Never underestimate a small city .  Events are a common practice in European countries. Learn their annual calendar before you go.


We took route A124 to Vitoria-Gasteiz hoping to find accommodations in that city. But nothing worked this time either; we came accross a construction road block after a twenty minutes drive!.  I started to feel that it was going to be a long night, but I was determined to reach our destination in one way or another.   At one moment Cecilia showed me a very small sign that said “Vitoria-Gasteiz” pointing in to a very small road.  I did not think about it twice and I decided to drive and take this small and dark road.

No signs, no marks in the pavement either, we were driving in a zig-zaging road with vineyards on both sides and nothing nearby at first sight.  At this point we had no idea what road we were driving on, but we trusted that little sign.

Within 10km we reached the first town La Puebla de Labarca.  There were a few lights and another small sign pointing to our destination in an intersection. This second road, somehow better marked, took us into darkness again.  The full moon was spectacular, but a long drive was our plan for the rest of the night.

After a 10 minutes drive we noticed a well lit structure, like floating in the air, just a few kilometers ahead.  The road was definitively taking us in that direction and minutes later we arrived in Laguardia. A fortified old town, standing on a hill, surrounded by vineyards and wineries. The structure that we saw from the distance was the structure of the wall around the old town that was carefully illuminated.

When we arrived, we stopped at a hotel with the hope to find a room to stay… again, no luck! But we decided that at least we were going to have dinner there before continuing to Vitoria-Gasteiz.

People like Acier made the difference to visitors like us

While we were waiting for our order, we started to talk to our friendly waiter (his name: Acier) and we mentioned our experience of not finding hotel, not even there.  He looked at us and said “- I don’t believe that in 1,200 people town there is not a single place were you can spend the night.”  That was when he gave us a time-out sign and picked up the phone to talk to somebody.

Five minutes later he came back and asked us if we were ok spending the night in a winery… I have to be honest; I pictured ourselves sleeping in a small room, with one bulb hanging from the ceiling, next to the wine barrels. My first reaction was to ask “-Is it clean?”  I was not going take us to sleep in a “dumpster”, I thought.   But Acier said we were going to be fine there, and we believed in his criteria.  We agreed to stay, and he asked us to leave the table as it was, he promised to slow down the kitchen, to give us enough time to drive down the road and get to the winery before 10pm to pick up the key.

As we were driving down the road we could not believe how things were turning out so interesting, and 5 minutes later we were arriving to the old building of Antigua Bodega de Don Cosme Palacios.  A beautiful construction built in rock and big solid wood doors and windows. There was a young lady waiting for us to give us the keys before she concluded her work day.
We could not believe how beautiful the room was, stone walls, a window with a view to the vineyards, the mountains, and the full moon.  Complimentary bottle of wine with glasses for two and tickets to the winery … That was the comfort of a four star hotel in the middle of the mountain.

We returned to the restaurant very grateful to Acier.  He was the master of making a difference to visitors like us. He made excellent suggestions for dinner with the right local wine. We had one of the most exquisite dinners of the whole trip and we still remember the flavors and texture of the wonderful creations by the chef (we had no chance to give our compliments in person).

We spent two nights in that jewel town with 1,200 habitants, more that 200 private cellars underground and even a art gallery shop. With a lot of history since its origins circa sXIII, Laguardia was a magnificent post of observation that was fortified during the war of Spain against Napoleon. Walking around the old town and enjoying the view from the high esplanade, it is almost mystic and the relax sensation that traps you making you fill welcome.

In essence, we learned that not even the best organized trip could guarantee that everything will be as expected, that a trip with less planning and confining tight schedules opens a range of opportunities to discover less known areas. Do not underestimate a small town, because you will probably find unique places that you would not be able to find in any other way. And from this trip we love to say Just go, drive, mingle and discoverand you will never regret doing it. In other words the experience of Agro-Tourism.

Marqués de Riscal - El Ciego
Frrank Ghery

Unfortunately AgroTravels did not have the opportunity to visit El Ciego since 2002.

During 2005/2006 period, this unique architecture, designed by Frank Ghery, was built as a five star hotel to become part of the infrastructure of "Marqués de Riscal" winery.

This hotel in the middle of Rioja in Alava, is a different approach to the concept of agricultural tourism

Either you stay or just visit the winery, this unique structure stands out by its style, luxury design, and a great blend with the old art of making wine.

Winery and Cellar Visits

If you are in Rioja, please do not miss the opportunity to visit the wineries, cellars, and the typical degustation catacombs, spreaded across the region.

Natural climate and geological conditions make of these cellars a unique place due to its tradition and artisan process.

In this region you will be able to taste thousand of local small productions that will never see the light of exportation, and to an incredible low price.

Here a list of wineries you can visit (in Spanish but easy to understand)