La Rioja

You have now left Navarra behind you, and the basque ‘feeling’ which has been fading since Roncesvalles will now disappear almost entirely. The widespread use of the name La Rioja, which first appears in a charter from 1099, is fairly new; prior to that, it was referred to as the province of Logroño. From a legal perspective, the name La Rioja was not legitimized until after the 1975 death of Francisco Franco when Spain transitioned into a democratic monarchy.

La Rioja is the second smallest autonomous community in Spain and the smallest along the Camino Francés. The camino will pass through several of its larger cities, including Logroño, Santo Domingo de la Calzada (which is next to the “río Oja”, and Nájera. It will also pass through several smaller villages, whose populations seldom exceed 200.

La Rioja has made its mark on the world as one of Spain’s largest producers of wine. Enjoy it while it lasts, which is only about 60km worth of walking along the camino. If that strikes you as too little, consider a detour to the Monasteries of Yuso and Suso; just enough to prolong your stay and explore some of the finest Monasteries around.

To the south of Logroño lies the town and castle of Clavijo. It was there in 844 during a battle between Ramiro I of Asturias and Abd ar-Rahman II of Córdoba that the legend of Santiago Matamoros was born. The legend tells of the return of Santiago (centuries since deceased remember) on a white horse and dressed for battle. Such a sight energized the Christian fighters (who had been on the losing side of the Moorish invasion) who went on to defeat Abd ar-Rahman. The scene is depicted in countless places along the camino, with Santiago riding high and the moors trampled underfoot.