Alava information

Introduction à la province d'Alava
La province intérieure d'Alava, au nord de l'Espagne, est l'une des trois provinces basques qui constituent cette région. Sa capitale, Vitoria-Gasteiz, est la deuxième plus grande ville basque après Bilbao. Alava, nichée dans les contreforts des Pyrénées, est bordée par la rivière de l'Ebre et, avec son climat doux et agréable, est réputée pour ses paysages montrant des collines recouvertes de vignes et pour ses vins raffinés.

The capital of Alava, Vitoria-Gasteiz, is a quietly elegant city that well merits taking some time to explore. Bilbao airport is around 60km distance and the city is also served by plenty of bus routes and trains. Vitoria is a small, compact city that is easily explored on foot. Its mediaeval centre (the casco viejo) is full of Gothic churches, Renaissance palaces and elegant architecture. Make sure to visit the Cathedral of Santa Maria (the building that inspired Welsh author Ken Follett to write his novel, “World Without End”, the sequel to “The Pillars of the Earth” – there is a statue of him situated next to the Cathedral), the porticoed Plaza de Virgen Blanca, the 14th Century church of San Miguel and the Artium Museum of Contemporary Art, which also hosts numerous cultural events every year. In mid-July Vitoria plays host to a world-famous annual jazz festival with Herbie Hancock and Jamie Cullum amongst the line-up of notable performers in 2011. If your taste in music is heavier, an annual rock festival takes place in Vitoria too. The likes of Ozzie Osbourne, the Cult and Paul Weller feature on Azkena Rock Festival’s line-up for 2011. The streets of the old town are lined with bars, bodegas and eateries where you can choose from a hearty and good-value menu del dia or you could happily graze your way around Vitoria choosing speciality pinxtos (tapas elsewhere in Spain) that usually accompany a small glass of beer or wine. See Gastronomy below for further information of the food and drink of this region.

Around Vitoria and Beyond
Oft overlooked by the traveller in Northern Spain, Alava offers such a diverse range of beautiful scenery and charming hamlets with stunning mountain backdrops, not to mention its fine wines and gastronomy, that, put together with its very agreeable climate, it should be on every tourist’s “Must See” list. On the plus side, you will not find yourself shoulder to shoulder with crowds of people in this sparsely populated province. The towns of Mendoza, Salvatierra and Laguardia are well worth a visit, this latter town being the centre of the wine-growing region of Rioja Alavesa. It serves as a the perfect base for a winery tour of the area and you will find plenty of information about the bodegas you can visit in Laguardia’s tourist office. Izki national Park in the South East of the province of Alava, 31km from Vitoria, provides an ideal destination for a day or more’s hiking or mountain biking. It is an unspoilt area, located on a high plateau and surrounded by mountains, rich in flora and fauna, including the largest reserve of Pyrenean oak trees. There are also excellent golf courses here for the golf fanatic. Further natural delights of this area include the protected wetland Biotope of Laguardia, home to a wide variety of bird species, the reservoirs of Zadorra where you will also find the Mendijur Ornithological Park and Observatory and the beautiful Botanical Gardens at Santa Catalina, situated in the Sierra Badaya mountain range. In Salinas de Anana, why not pay a visit to Salt Valley where you can take a fascinating guided tour around the spectacular landscape of traditional salt pans?

The Gastronomy of Alava
Alava is internationally renowned for the wines produced from the long-established vineyards that flourish in its landscape and climate. From young wines through to Grand Reserve Riojas, there are wines to suit every palate and purse. Many bodegas open their doors to the public for tours and tastings. Try another speciality wine of the region, txakoli – a naturally fizzy white wine. If wine isn’t your preferred tipple then how about Alava’s ciders? They are not as gassy as the ciders you may be used to and provide a welcome thirst-quencher on a hot day. When hunger takes over, sample some of the province’s gastronomic specialities such as wild mushrooms (perretxikos), cheeses such as the lightly-smoked, nutty-flavoured ewe’s milk cheese, Idiazabal or for the sweet-toothed, “goxua” a deliciously naughty sponge cake with made with cream, custard and caramel. If your appetite is small or you simply want to sample many of the delicious dishes available, don’t forget that many bars (and restaurants) serve pinxtos – small and very affordable portions of a dish, usually served as an accompaniment to a drink.


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