What We Love About Visiting Asturias, and Think You Will Too
We love visiting Asturias. Have you heard of this region of Spain? It’s located on the northern coast and is referred to as Spain’s natural paradise. It only takes one day there to see why. From dramatic coastline to snowcapped mountain ranges, this land has the best of both worlds for any nature-lover. Add to that the culture and gastronomy, and we’re especially in love. Then, there’s the history and the people…As you can see, we could go on and on. So instead, here’s our current list of what we love about visiting Asturias, and think you will too.
That Hidden-Gem Vibe
Simply put, Asturias is less-crowded. Most visitors to Spain are still flocking to more typical destinations, like the warmer sunny coasts of Andalusia and cities like Barcelona and Madrid. Those are wonderful too, but visiting Asturias will introduce you to things about Spain that aren’t as known. It magically feels like a new discovery.
The Train Ride to Asturias
For visiting Asturias, we’ve taken the train from Madrid to Oviedo. This is a beautiful ride. It takes you out of the drier, yellowy plateaus of Castilla y León, into the lush, green mountains of Asturias. The beautifully, striking change reminds you of how diverse the terrain, and other things, can be in Spain.
The local people of Asturias are amazing. When visiting Asturias before, we were offered by a local their own car for seeing the countryside! Talk about generous and kind. We didn’t take them up on it, but it goes to show the generosity and openness of the people. Asturians are kind and welcoming. They’re also generally interested in others and very family-oriented.
Asturians are Classy
No matter their age, the people in Asturias take pride in how they care for themselves and how they look. You’ll see right away that Asturians like to dress well. Amalia loves it and especially likes to say how classy they are. You can especially see it when the whole family goes out for a daily stroll in the park. It’s not unusual to see three generations together and they will each be dressed in their ‘Sunday best’ and with one impressively gorgeous baby stroller.
The Colors of Asturias
Green! Of course, that is the most obvious color of Asturias. It’s spectacularly green everywhere you go. Dark, light, ferny and thick, every shade and form of green seems to exist in this lush land. Being so verdant, Asturias is also rich with other colors. The vibrant ocean-blues and the rainbow spread of wildflowers in spring and summer, are a feast for the eyes. Add the sunlight, and there’s something magical about how the air itself seems to change color, even when it’s grey with overcast skies and rain.
Asturias’ Favorite Drink, Sidra Asturiana
Sidra is Asturias’ hard apple cider. It’s natural and refreshing, with a more earthy and fermented taste than your typical hard ciders. We love it because it’s not as sweet and it’s great for your digestive system. In Asturias, there’s an art to serving and drinking it, which is what makes it even more fun and tasty. The traditional, true way of serving it is by a person, but they also have dispensers now for oxygenating it, which we confess we used.
Calle Gascona, The Street of Cider
Now that you know about how amazing Sidra is, you’ll want to know where to enjoy it. Start on the famous street in Oviedo, Calle Gascona. This is one street dedicated to local restaurants and bars that specialize in Sidra Asturiana. It’s a great time.
Another Traditional Drink, Solera
If you haven’t noticed yet, we love Spanish vermút (vermouth). Well in Asturias, their Solera is vermouth taken to a whole other level. Also called vermút solera, you’ll see it aged in barrels and usually served right out of those barrels. Watch out – it’s strong. But oh-so divine.
Fabada, A Signature Dish of Asturias
Delicious, comfort food. That is what Fabada Asturiana is for us. A stew-like dish, it especially hits the spot on a cold winter’s day or a rainy day in summer. To learn more about Fabada and where to eat it in Oviedo, check out our post: La Paloma – Our Favorite Lunch in Oviedo.
A Dish Called Cachopo
This popular Asturian dish is made of two large veal steaks with Serrano Ham and cheese in the middle. Then it’s lightly breaded and fried. While Amalia is not such a great fan, Eric loves the dish. When made well, it’s really delicious.
Asturian Dessert, Requesón con Miel
Amalia will never forget first having this. The artisan dessert is a natural cottage cheese that is beaten smooth and drizzled with local honey. We know, very simple. But so good. It looks and tastes a lot like natural yogurt, but even better.
El Camino de Santiago
Asturias is where the original track of this famous route goes through. It’s from Oviedo to Santiago de Compostela and called El Camino Primitivo. We have yet to hike much of it, but its seashell signs and stone landmarks are all around Asturias. Even in Oviedo, the capital city, you’ll see brass seashells marking the way for pilgrims to follow. And you’ll see those pilgrims passing through the towns and villages since the trail goes right through many of them.
Celts in Asturias!?
For foreigners, one of the biggest surprises about Asturias is their Celtic heritage. Their folk culture consists of wearing kilts and even playing bagpipes. There’s also a lot of Celtic designs in the historical architecture.
The Kings of Asturias
Image Above: King Alfonso II, El Casto – 7th King of Asturias
All throughout Oviedo, you can see impressive statues of the kings of Asturias. King Pelayo is an especially important figure, although considered as mythological as he is historical. History goes that he was a Visigoth nobleman who founded the Kingdom of Asturias, and eventually was declared the first King of the Spanish Monarchy. He is also famous for winning the battle of Covadonga against the Moors. Definitely fascinating history.
In the picture above, the statue of King Alfonso II, 7th king of Asturias, looks like he is wearing a kilt, but it was actually chainmail.
*Thank you so much to a recent blog reader and fellow Asturian who corrected us regarding the statue above, which king it commemorates and what he was wearing.
The architecture in Asturias is stunning. You can see pre-Romanesque styles in the cathedrals and ancient palaces. Then there is charming, rustic style of the rural houses and small villages. The hórreos are especially unique and interesting. They were built above the ground on triangular posts and were used as granaries. Today you can still see them all around Asturias, now used as living spaces or for storage.
The Picos de Europa
These majestic mountains are a mountain range in the eastern part of Asturias. They rise up to some impressive heights and can be snowcapped for much of the year. The most popular spot to visit is the mountain lake of Covadonga. If you’re into some serious, rugged hiking, the Picos are the place for you.
The Coastline of Asturias
Did you think we forgot? No way! Asturias is especially famous for its amazing coastline. There are amazing views all along the dramatic cliffs that drop into the Bay of Biscay. What is most enjoyable, are the small fishing villages that are on little bays or terraced steeply on cliff sides. Some of these are considered to be some of the most beautiful villages in Spain.
So about those beautiful villages…They are endless in Asturias. Some of our favorites are Tineo and Tuña (which doesn’t even have a stop light in it), and the coastal town of Cudillero. These and the many others are truly an experience of old-world Spain and will have you feeling like you’ve gone back in time.
Rural Hotels and Accommodations
Not only are these rural hotels charming, but their relaxing, tranquil and a place for experiencing the delicious local gastronomy. Some are called Casonas Asturianas, and there are a few Paradors. They are primarily based on historical buildings that have been restored into amazing accommodations, for a local experience.
Well, by animals we mainly mean livestock. They’re an important part of the economy and agriculture of Asturias. And they’re adorable and friendly to encounter. It’s not rare to see horses, donkeys, goats, sheep and cattle throughout the region.
The Park San Francisco in Oviedo
Oviedo is the capital of Asturias, and right in its historic center, is the Parque San Francisco. This is one of Amalia’s favorite spots in all of Asturias. For being a somewhat small park, it holds an amazing variety of trees. They tower high and canopy over the enchanting walking paths that wind throughout. Enjoy a picnic on the soft, green grass or sit back in one of the park benches. There’s the ancient remains of the convent that used to be there, now only a single stone archway. At one end are two large fountains and at the other end, a small duck pond with fish, turtles, and even peacocks strutting about. Stop at the tiny outdoor bar there for a lovely coffee or drink under the regal trees.
Monte Naranco in Oviedo
Monte Naranco is another great place to enjoy the outdoors, yet just on the outskirts of Oviedo. This small mountain has a large statue of Jesus of the Sacred Heart on its summit, which you can drive to. Along its lower edge is a paved path for walkers, runners, and cyclists. It hugs the mountain side and provides gorgeous panoramic views all along the way. There are more trails that continue up and all over the mountain. Make sure to also visit the stunning pre-Romanesque buildings of Santa Maria de Naranco. They are a little less than half way up the mountain. You pass them on your way driving up to the summit, or you can hike there as well.
The Dolmen de Merilles
This ancient, megalithic rock structure is on top of a mountain in the western part of Asturias. We have hiked there once, when we were staying in the very tiny village of Tuña. It’s a beautiful hike to enjoy and an impressive, ancient structure to see. There was even something there we didn’t expect, which you can read more about in our post, The Horse Club of the Dolmen de Merilles in Asturias.
Last, but not least, is Amalia’s family history. Her grandfather was an Asturiano and from the tiny village of Tuña. Their ancestor, General Rafael Del Riego, was an important figure in Spanish history. He was Amalia’s 4th great uncle, and was general of the armies of the first Spanish Republic. In Tuña, you can see the house where he was born. Today it is commemorated with a plaque from the Spanish government, and their family coat of arms. There is also a bust of him in the tiny plaza in the village and a square named after him in the nearby village of Tineo. In the center of Oviedo, there is a plaza named after him, where another bust of him is standing. It’s been remarkable to visit these places and learn about Amalia’s family history and roots. For that especially, Asturias holds a special place in our hearts.
Visiting Asturias, An Ever-Growing List of Loves
Every time we visit Asturias, there are more things we fall in love with. We are going again this October and excited to see if we still catch some fall colors. For this upcoming trip, we’re going to focus on the coastline and its fishing villages. Then we’ll also visit Covadonga for our first time, and enjoy more of the Picos de Europa.
Do you know Asturias? We’d love to hear about what things you love about this part of Spain, and any recommendations you have for us discovering it even more. If you’ve never been, what from our list interest you the most? Either way, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
Written by Amalia & Eric
Founders & Producers of Move to Traveling
We’re Amalia and Eric – a traveling couple who are living a traveling lifestyle. Do you love to travel? Perfect! Come along…