Overview:

La Rioja shares a trait with the Champagne region of France, in that it is better known by a global audience for the quality of its wine than the allure of its cities or the charm of its countryside. But La Rioja is a beautiful, overlooked corner of Spain, filled with hundreds of vineyards that scar the low, green landscape as they slope up and down through the valleys.

The winding roads of the region are dotted with evergreens; tiny pueblos crowd about old churches and little patches of open space characterise this area which is amongst the most thinly populated parts of the whole Iberian Peninsula.

There is almost a flicker of northern Europe in La Rioja: something French or German or Czech. Spanish it is, but it is as far from the sandy beaches and dusty squares that we associate with the country as it is possible to be.

For a holiday amongst nature, for wine-lovers and for a calm but quaint snapshot of Spain, La Rioja has few peers. Only a short distance from the coast, it is within easy reach for any British tourist.