Leaving Nájera on several very pleasant farm roads we cross Azofra and Alesanco to pick up the route towards Cordovín and Badarán. A landscape of vineyards again dominates as the imposing Sierra de la Demanda comes into view on the horizon. The route now leads towards Berceo to reach a first-rate historical and cultural destination which has been declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO: the Monasterios de Suso y Yuso at San Millán de la Cogolla, the birthplace of the Spanish language and a cultural nerve centre in the early Middle Ages. Contemplating the 8th-century Mozarabic layout in Suso in a natural environment where silence prevails, strolling on the paving of the Yuso Cloister, or visiting a room such as its library gives us a real opportunity to interiorise history.
We continue pedalling once more on the route. Now we are heading for the village of Cañas. The 13th-century Monasterio de Santa María de San Salvador, of the Cistercian Order, is defined as a unique space owing to its simplicity and the purity of its lines, and also to the light flooding the entire apse, owing to which it is known as the “Abbey of Light”.
Through the fields of Manzanares and Gallinero de Rioja we come to Santo Domingo de la Calzada, an essential milestone on the French Pilgrims’ Route to Santiago where a visit to the old quarter and the Cathedral is a must. The town originated and grew from the Pilgrims’ Hospital which was founded by the Saint in about the second half of the 12th century, and also from a bridge over the River Oja which allowed the passage of pilgrims. The hostelry encouraged its growth and by extension the Jacobean Route, which made it a very important artistic, religious, and economic centre in the Middle Ages.