Calahorra, La Rioja, Spain
Calahorra lies south of the Pyrenees, within the old kingdom of Navarra, in the region of La Rioja. Situated on the fertile plains of the Ebro River which are ideal for grape growing, this area has become famous for its Rioja wine with over 500 wineries. There are wine tasting events to enjoy, and combined with a wonderful cultural experience, visitors find this combination unbeatable.
The town used to be called ‘Calagurris’ during Roman occupation, and there is still evidence of this period in Calahorra. You can see a former Roman Forum in the Plaza del Raso, and in the oldest part of town is a Roman arch. If archaeology fascinates you, the Municipal Museum contains approximately 11,000 ancient artefacts.
Some of the most interesting sites include the Church of Santiago which is an excellent example of the region’s Neoclassic style architecture, the Bishop’s Palace, the Convent of Carmelitas, and the 16th century Church of San Andres.
The Cathedral is located outside the city walls and was originally a baptistery. During the 14th century reconstruction transformed it into the flamboyantly styled gothic building you see today. Inside are several small chapels, and the cloister contains a 12th century bible, paintings, sculptures, precious metal work, and a spectacular cypress tree called El Cipres.
The Parador Calahorra (Hotel Marco Fabio Quintiliano) is an excellent choice of hotels if you are looking for accommodation. This modern four-star hotel is ideally located in the park that runs along the main street of Calahorra, offering a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Easter is always a special time to go, as this is when they celebrate Holy Thursday with a religious procession. For the more daring, in July is the world-famous Feasts of San Fermin in nearby Pamplona, when the notorious event of ‘running with the bulls’ takes place.
If you wish to explore the surrounding towns and villages, there are many of great interest. For instance, the Monasteries of Suso and Yuso in San Millan de la Cogolla are both World Heritage Sites. During the 6th century, the holy San Millan settled in what later became the site for the Suso Monastery. He built a small monastery in the Visigoth style on a hillside, and it was made bigger during the 7th century with a hall built up against the caves to receive travelling pilgrims. Both monasteries are recognised as the birthplace of the first written words in the Spanish language. In fact the library in Yuso holds many valuable ancient documents, and because of its World Heritage significance it is now one of Spain’s most important libraries.
Logrono is another fascinating town to visit. The historic centre has the very impressive Cathedral of Santa Maria la Redonda, that took three centuries to build and was completed in the 18th century. It once stood on the site of an ancient circular Church and inside are outstanding sculptures such as one by Michelangelo representing the way of the cross.
Santo Domingo de la Calzada is a significant town in La Rioja and on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. It was declared a place of National Historic Interest because of its network of medieval streets, the remains of the wall that once surrounded it, its impressive Cathedral, and the old Pilgrims Hospital.
However, if you wish to divert from a culture cultural tour and enjoy the great outdoors while you in Calahorra there are some amazing trails for hikers and horseback riders through the Sierra de Cebollera Nature Reserve. For an aerial view of its beautiful forests and mountains there are also also opportunities to go hot air ballooning. What a stunning way to complete your visit!
About the Author: This article was written by Susan Bartle who is a seasoned traveller and freelance travel writer.
Originally from Canada she currently resides in the UK and recent research has resulted in expert knowledge of the Pousadas and Paradores. Click here to read about other destinations where these luxury hotels can be found.