For the commune in Moldova, see Alava, Ştefan Vodă. For other places with similar names, see Araba.
Historical Territory of Álava1
Flag of Álava
Coat-of-arms of Álava
Coat of arms

Location of the Province of Álava within Spain
Country Spain
Autonomous Community Basque Country
Capital Vitoria-Gasteiz
  Deputy General Ramiro González (Basque Nationalist Party)
  Total 2,963 km2 (1,144 sq mi)
Population (2011)
  Total 322,557
  Density 110/km2 (280/sq mi)
  Ranked 41
  Percent 0.68%
Official languages Spanish, Basque
Parliament Cortes Generales
Congress seats 4
Senate seats 4
Juntas Generales de Álava 51
Website Diputación Foral de Álava
1.^ Complete official names: Arabako Lurralde Historikoa / Territorio Histórico de Álava

Álava (IPA: [ˈalaβa] in Spanish) or Araba (IPA: [aˈɾaba] in Basque, dialectal: [aˈɾaβa]), officially Araba/Álava,[1] is a province of Spain and a historical territory of the Basque Country, heir of the ancient Lordship of Álava. Its capital city is Vitoria-Gasteiz which is also the seat of the political main institutions of the autonomous community.[2] It borders the Basque provinces of Biscay and Gipuzkoa to the north, the community of La Rioja to the south, the province of Burgos (in the community of Castile and León) to the west and the community of Navarre to the east. The Enclave of Treviño, surrounded by Alavese territory, is part of the province of Burgos and, so, belongs to the autonomous community of Castile and León, not Álava.

It is the largest of the three provinces in the Basque Autonomous Community in geographical terms, with 2,963 km², but also the least populated with 322,557 inhabitants (2012).


Built around the Roman mansion Alba located on the road ab Asturica Burdigalam (possibly the current village of Albeniz near Agurain), it has sometimes been argued the name may stem from that landmark. However, according to the Royal Academy of the Basque Language, the origin may be another: The name is first found on Muslim chronicles of the 8th century referring to the Alavese Plains (Spanish Llanada Alavesa, Basque Arabako Lautada), laua in old Basque (currently lautada) with the Arab article added (al + laua), developing into Spanish Álava and Basque Araba (a typical development of l to r between vowels).

Demography and rural landscape

The province numbers 51 municipalities, a population of 315,525 inhabitants in an area of 3,037 km2 (1,173 sq mi), with an average of 104.50 inhab/km².[3] The vast majority of the population clusters in the capital city of Álava, Vitoria-Gasteiz, which also serves as the capital of the Autonomous Community, but the remainder of the territory is sparsely inhabited with population nuclei distributed into seven counties (kuadrillak or cuadrillas): Añana; Ayala; Campezo; Laguardia; Salvatierra; Vitoria-Gasteiz; Zuya.

Physical and human geography

Álava is an inland territory and features a largely transitional climate between the humid, Atlantic neighbouring northern provinces and the dry and warmer lands south of the Ebro River. According to the relief and landscape characteristics, the territory is divided into five main zones:

Tip of the Burunda corridor in Navarre, opening on the Alavese Plains, with the Basque Mountains Aratz and Aizkorri on the right

Unlike Biscay and Gipuzkoa, but for Ayala and Aramaio, the waters of Álava pour into the Ebro and hence to the Mediterranean by means of two main waterways, i.e. the Zadorra (main axis of Álava) and Bayas Rivers. In addition, the Zadorra Reservoir System harvests a big quantity of waters that supply not only the capital city but other major Basque towns and cities too, like (Bilbao, etc.).

While in 1950 agriculture and farming shaped the landscape of the territory (42.4% of the working force vs 30.5% in industry and construction), the trend shifted gradually during the 60s and 70s on the grounds of a growing industrial activity in the Alavese Plains (Llanada Alavesa), with the main focus lying on the industrial estates of Vitoria-Gasteiz (Gamarra, Betoño and Ali Gobeo) and, to a lesser extent, Salvatierra-Agurain and Araia. At the turn of the century, only 2% of the working Alavese people was in agriculture, while a 60% was in the third sector and 32% in manufacturing.[3] Industry associated to iron and metal developed earlier in the Atlantic area much in tune with Bilbao's economic dynamics, with droves of people flocking to and clustering in Amurrio and Laudio, which have since become the third and second main towns of Álava.

Lordship of Álava

List of rulers (modern Spanish names):

The title is attributed to the Castilian kings after 1332.


The Arab invasion of the Ebro valley in the 8th century, many Christians of the diocese of Calahorra sought refuge in areas further north free of Arab rule. The diocese called Álava or Armentaria arose in the mid-9th century. From then until the 11th century the names of several bishops of this see are known, the best known being Fortún, who in 1072 went to Rome to argue before Pope Alexander II in defence of the Mozarabic Rite, which King Alfonso VI of León and Castile had decreed should be replaced by the Roman Rite. The territory of the diocese of Álava, which corresponded more or less to that of the present diocese of Vitoria, was reabsorbed into that of Calahorra, when King Alfonso conquered La Rioja.[4]

No longer a residential bishopric, Álava is today listed by the Catholic Church as a titular see.[5]

Bishops of Alava

For a list, see Antonio Rivera, ed., Historia de Álava (2003), pp. 599–600.

See also


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Coordinates: 42°50.67′N 2°45.62′W / 42.84450°N 2.76033°W / 42.84450; -2.76033

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