Our heritage

San Martín de Tours Church in Gazeo

The Historical Territory of Álava

Its strategic enclave has allowed it to see and participate in historical events since the times of the Roman Empire. In the Middle Ages, Álava acquired a key role due to its strategic location—at the crossroads between trade routes, and a border territory between kingdoms—as a consequence, many towns in this region amassed a valuable historical heritage and contiunue to maintain their defensive buildings. This meant that Álava acquired its own legal statute, the fueros, which granted it the right to self-government lasting into the present day and which earns it the classification of Historical Territory. Furthermore, it has its own identity and culture linked with its very own language, Euskera.

Archaeological heritage

La Chabola de la Hechicera Dolmen in the town of Elvillar in Rioja Alavesa.

A significant portion of the archaeological heritage of this territory can be visited in the Museum of Archaeology of Álava, located in the Bibat museum complex. Silent megalithic structures inhabit the landscapes of the Rioja Alavesa and La Llanada Alavesa regions, and several remain from the Roman period, such as the Oppidum of Iruña-Veleia or the Thermal Baths of Arkaia.

Defensive constructions

On the route between the Salt Valley and Valderejo Natural Park, the Tower-Palace of the Varona family in Villanañe is an impressive example of the region’s fortified buildings from the Middle Ages.

As a result of its strategic location, Álava has numerous examples of defensive buildings constructed during the long period of the Middle Ages. Walled villas, castles, towers, and the fortified houses of great lineages hark back to Álava’s medieval history and constitue one of the defining features of its heritage.

Complexes of Monuments

The funeral chapel of the Ayala family belongs to the The Quejana Complex of Historical Monuments, a town in the Ayala Valley.

The Cathedral of Santa María in Vitoria-Gasteiz, declared a World Heritage Site on the PilgrimsRoute to Santiago de Compostela, is a must-see, as is the Basílica of San Prudencio, one of Álavas most significant Romanesque temples. Álava has several dreamlike historical areas that have been declared Complexes of Monuments. Many of these, including that of Quejana, stand as a testament to fundamental lineages from the history of Álava. 

Religious art and architecture

The Monastery of Estíbaliz dates back to the 12th century and is located about 8 km from Vitoria-Gasteiz. This Romanesque treasure is one of the most significant monuments in the Basque Country from the Middle Ages.

Forming part of the Camino de Santiago and the Ignatian Way, Álava is dotted with temples where you can discover treasures of Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque origin, among which we find the Sanctuary of Estíbaliz and the gothic paintings of Gazeo and Alaitza. The Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art, located in the Cathedral of María Inmaculada in Vitoria, brings together an excellent collection of religious works: pre-Romanesque and Romanesque sculptures, Gothic imagery, Hispano-Flemish panels and altarpieces, and paintings by great Baroque artists. 

Ethnographic Museums

Ethnographic Museum of Artziniega

In Álava there are several ethnographic museums you can visit to get close to part of this region’s history and imagine the way of life of the inhabitants of its various districts:

Ethnographic Museum of Artziniega; Basque Pottery Museum in Elosu; Ethnographic Museum Irubidaur in Izarra; Usatxi Ethnographic Museum in Pipaón; Ethnographic Museum of Oyon; Open-air ethnographic museum of Peñacerrada; Zalduondo Ethnographic Museum.

Basque Culture and Euskera

Language and culture are among the most important assets that define the identity of a country. The Basque Country enjoys a unique culture with all its rich creative manifestations. The Basque language, Euskera, has unique ancestral origins, since it does not belong to any known linguistic family. The use of this language has been progressively restored in recent decades and it is currently spoken by almost a third of the population of the linguistic territory.