How to get to Rioja from UK/Ireland
Rioja is a geographically small area spread across the regions of La Rioja, Basque Country and Navarra. It is nestled under the Basque Mountains, and south of the Atlantic coast of Spain at Bilbao. The main places of entry from the UK are Bilbao and Santander (which can be reached either by ferry or international flight) and Zaragoza, with its international airport. You can bring your own car on the ferry, or arrive as a foot passenger/by airplane and hire a car on arrival. In addition, a number of towns are accessible from these arrival points by bus or train.
Alternatively, if you fancy a driving holiday, it can be very pleasant to drive down from the UK through France, and then return on the ferry from Bilbao to Portsmouth/Plymouth. Or if flying you could try a 2-centre holiday, as Bilbao is well served with flights to a range of European destinations as well as the UK.
Unlike many Spanish beach resorts which are dead out of season, Rioja is a region with plenty to offer outside the main summer season. And oodles of Spanish culture year-round.
Getting to Bilbao from the UK – by airplane
Unlike many Spanish holiday resorts, Bilbao has year-round flights from the UK, making it an ideal destination even outside the long summer holidays. For example, why not visit Haro at Easter to experience a vibrant “Semana Santa”, or in June for the unmistakable “Wine Battle” (see Events).
Sample direct international flights to Bilbao
There are also direct flights from a range of other international destinations, including Venice, Amsterdam, Munich, Paris, Brussels, Lisbon, Geneva, Dusseldorf, Athens, Istanbul…. (with Volotea, Vueling, KLM, Lufthansa, Airfrance, Iberia, Brussels Airlines, TAP Portugal, Eurowings, Aegean, Turkish Airlines….).
Getting to Santander from the UK – by airplane
Flights to Santander airport from UK/Ireland are only available with Ryanair. Nevertheless, flights depart from a great range of UK locations so you might find it preferable to Bilbao, especially if you are in Scotland. Again, flights are available year-round. The table below shows the flights available from UK/Ireland.
Flights available from UK/Ireland
Getting to Zaragoza from the UK – by airplane
The Rioja area is also easily accessible from Zaragoza airport to the south east of the region. Ryanair has regular flights from London Stanstead four to five times per week throughout the year. Zaragoza is 70 – 100 minutes drive away from a number of towns of interest, such as Logrono and Alfaro, and the wine region of Gravelos. It is an ideal route if you fancy a long weekend at the Rioja Spa Triangle to warm you up over the cold winter months.
Getting to Rioja from the UK – by ferry
Alternatively, if you want to bring your car, or your dog, or simply prefer a relaxed trip on a ferry boat to the rush of an airport, you can easily travel to Bilbao by Ferry from the UK or Ireland. Brittany Ferries offers transport for foot passengers and cars to Bilbao from Rosslare (2 hours’ drive from Dublin) and Portsmouth (2 hours’ drive from London). The crossings from Rosslare operate year round, twice per week in each direction, whilst the crossing from Portsmouth is available twice per week in each direction from April through to November. In addition, they operate crossings to Santander from Portsmouth and Plymouth. They run from Portsmouth twice per week in each direction from April through to November, and from Plymouth twice per week in each direction from April through to November.
The ferry is a relaxed option for travelling with a car or as a foot passenger. If you do take the ferry it is worthwhile paying the extra supplement for the Commadore Lounge. It may seem expensive, but you get complementary food and drinks throughout the day (including alcoholic drinks). The crossing will be at least 24 hours, so the bar tab and coffee stops can add up!
If you are travelling without a car, there are plenty of options for hiring a car in Bilbao.