Stage 43: From Logroño to Nájera

In the vineyards of Rioja


In area, the vineyard of Spain is the largest in the world. The country produces many table wines, but several regions emerge, in red wines, among the best wines of the world. These are Rioja, Ribera del Duero, a little further south in Castilla, and the Priorat in Catalonia. In the north, Galician wines are primarily white wines.

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The wines of Rioja are multiple, because they come from distinct regions with varied climates, altitudes and soils. In the lower regions, they are often fruity, to drink young. When the vines grow on upper hills and the soils are poorer, the wines are more complex, wines of guard.

Rioja is usually divided into three regions.
• La Rioja Alta: region between 400 and 500 meters, less hot, with an Atlantic climate influence, involving freshness and humidity, which is better for wines. The king variety is tempranillo (Temprano means “early” in Castilian).
• Roja Alavesa: a climate similar to Rioja Alta, but the soil is rockier, giving wines as fine, but rounder and denser than in Rioja Alta. The king grape variety is still tempranillo.
• La Rioja Baja: a warmer vineyard, down to 300 meters above sea level in the east of the region, with a rather Mediterranean climate, with significant sunshine or even drought. The wines are more structured. The king variety is Grenache.

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Come on, this is not an insult to the Rioja Baja, but the great wines are mainly in the other two regions, especially in the vineyards near the Ebro. If the well-known wineries Marqués de Riscal and Marqués de Murrieta are located not far from Logroño, other well-known wineries, such as Marques de Cáseres, Muga, Lan, Roda are in Rioja Alta, and Artadi in Rioja Alavesa.

But, it is not so obvious as that. Consider, for example, one of the best-rated wines, a wine from the winery called “Rioja Alta”, simply. This estate has belonged to five families since 1890. These people have 470 hectares in Rioja Alta, 65 hectares in Rioja Alavesa, 63 hectares in Rioja Baja, and even vineyards in Galicia and Ribeira del Duero. They will not tell you easily where the plot is located that gives the best wine.

Wine is classified as in many other regions of Spain in “Rioja” when the wine spends at most a few months in oak barrels, in “Rioja Crianza”, when it is aged at least two years, of which at least one in oak casks, in “Rioja Reserve”, with three years of aging, including one in oak casks, finally in “Rioja Gran Riserva” with at least two years in oak casks and at least three years in bottles.

Today, the vineyards of Roja Alta, where the track runs, are in the southern part of the vineyard. Unfortunately, we will cross these vineyards in the rain. Today, cereal fields are much more discreet, and from vineyard to vineyard, the path gets to Nájera, an ancient capital of Navarre, became Castilian for centuries, before being in Rioja recently.

Slope variations today (+375 meters/-274 meters) are low for a stage of more than 28 kilometers. The Camino francés remains a low altitude course, even if today we do not really walk on the high plateau, but rather on hills. It is flat to the Grajera Park, where the path climbs steeply up the vineyards to the highway. Afterwards, the route is quiet for a long time, usually with a very slight climb, before climbing a little further under the Alto de San Antón, after Ventosa. In fact, the major difficulty, for us today, is the bad weather that makes the roads very muddy. May you enjoy the vineyards on a sunny day.

In this stage, there is a lot of paved roads, which is not common on the Camino francés, even if most of the trip is still on the roads. In Spain, apart from villages and towns, paved roads, for the most part, have grassy strips or dirt on the sides. Thus, the Camino francés is above all a true pathway, compared to other tracks of Compostela in Europe, where the courses are only halfway on dirt roads:


Paved road: 11.9 km

Pathways: 16.6 km

We divided the course into several sections to make it easier to see. For each section, the maps show the course, the slopes found on the course, and the state of the roads.

It is very difficult to specify with certainty the incline of the slopes, whatever the system you use. GPS watches, whether measuring barometric pressure or altimetry, are hardly more convincing than estimates based on mapped profiles.

There are very few sites on the Internet that can be used to estimate slopes from maps (up to 3). Since these programs are based on an approximation and an average around the desired point, there can be large variations from one software to another, depending on the state of the art or the variation between two points (for example a hole followed by a bump very close). Do you want an example? On the GR36 along the coast of Brittany, the altitude is rarely more than 50 meters above the sea. But the path only goes up and down. For a course of about twenty kilometres, a software will give you 800 meters of elevation gain, another 300 meters. Who says true? For having made the course several times, the legs say that the difference in altitude is closer to 800 meters! So how to proceed? We can rely on software, but, we must be careful, ignore slopes given, but only use altitudes. From there, it is only elementary mathematics to deduce the incline, considering the altitude and the distance travelled between two points whose altitude is known. It is this way of doing things that has been used in this site. Moreover, in retrospect, when one makes “in real” the course estimated on cartography, one notes that this way of doing is quite close to the truth of the ground. When one walks often, one has quite quickly the degree of slope in the eye.

In the text, lodging on the course is mentioned, without great details. You’ll find details about housing at the end of the course. The courses were drawn on the “Wikilocs” platform. Today, it is no longer necessary to walk around with detailed maps in your pocket or bag. If you have a mobile phone or tablet, you can easily follow routes live. For this stage, here is the link:

Click here to start the stage on the first section. Avant

If you are not interested in the course, and you only require details information about lodging, you get enter this item.

Click here for details of lodgings. Avant