I admit I knew very little about Asturias before visiting. My knowledge was limited to knowing that its capital is Oviedo and that it is one of the regions of Northern Spain. In fact, I didn’t even know that there is an airport in Oviedo. Not only that – it turns out that there are budget flights that connect it to the UK and to the rest of Europe, making it very easy to reach and cutting down any excuse Brits may have for not visiting.
Truth be told, I didn’t even know that the Camino del Norte, one of the pilgrims’ routes to Santiago de Compostela, goes through Asturias and even through Oviedo. As I worked my way along the Camino del Norte and after having already crossed the beautiful Basque Country and the incredibly green (and just as pretty) Cantabria, I had the chance to spend a bit of time roaming around the region and all I can say is that it truly is magnificent. Asturias well deserve a visit and I can’t wait to go again. Yes: Asturias is simply spectacular.
My visit of this region started out with a bang when I arrived in Sablón beachfront, in Llanes – what a great introduction to Asturias. Sablón is a lovely, small urban beach in the heart of Llanes. There was a beach volley tournament on the day I visited, and it was also very sunny and warm – so the beach was lively with people playing, enjoying the sun and swimming.
On the West of Sablón there is the viewpoint of San Pedro, which can be easily reached through a path and where there is a nice promenade: the sight of the beach from up there is truly amazing.
Once in San Pedro, I rented a bike and followed a path along the coast, that is part of the Camino del Norte to Santiago de Compostela. Easy for the most part, I have to say that some bits were actually quite technical and required good mountain biking skills. The same path can be actually walked (as most pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago actually do) or even done on horses. What really matters here is that the views are stunning. How could it be otherwise when there are 32 gorgeous white sand beaches, with crystal clear waters, in the space of 45 km?
But there’s more than just beautiful beaches in Asturias (as if that wasn’t enough to make me fall in love already!).
The capital, Oviedo, is a beautiful, lively and stylish city, packed with history and incredibly atmospheric. The Old Town is where the Cathedral with the Holy Chamber is located, as well as some other churches and monasteries. Being right along the Camino del Norte to Santiago de Compostela, Oviedo was a beacon of Christianity in the late Middle Ages. It still safeguards the Holy Shroud.
Still, what I enjoyed the most about Oviedo was the peaceful yet vibrant atmosphere. I enjoyed walking around the city centre, spotting the locals sitting at the tables of inviting cafés to have a late afternoon drink and then getting into one of the most popular pubs in town, Tierra Astur. There, I had a real feast of a dinner – which included tasty cold cuts such as ham and spicy chorizo, local cheese, and some of the most delicious pork ribs I have ever had, all duly accompanied with the famous Asturian Sidra (cider).
Indeed, sidra is one of the most popular drinks in Asturias. This is generally poured by waiters with studied, choreographic moves with the intent of pouring the drink onto the glass from as high as possible, in the attempt to incorporate as much air as possible and give it a sparkling texture. Only small amounts are poured at once – so that all sips are sparkling. And whatever little is left in the glass, is meant to be poured on the floor. The overall effect – between the food and the cider – is very convivial and friendly and I made the most of it.
Charming villages and peaceful atmosphere
The beautiful villages that are scattered along the coast of Asturias are the cherry on an already perfect cake. I visited a few, and could not tire of them.
The Camino del Norte to Santiago de Compostela goes through Luarca, so I felt it was a good opportunity to visit. Luarca is known as the white town, for its many white houses and buildings that help preserving its charm. It is built around an S-shaped cove that sits between sheer cliffs. The areas I enjoyed the most were the historic centre, the promenade and the port. There is a small river that divides the town in two, and several bridges connect the two sides.
The overall impression I got when I walked around is that of a small community where people still care about each other, and always welcome visitors. There, grandparents take children out on afternoon walks. People meet at the bar to have a sunset drink and to view the football match. I walked inside one while the 2016 Eurocup game Spain v. Italy was playing (and Italy was actually winning) and talked to a few locals. We laughed at the fact that whether Italy or Spain would win, our life would still be the same and we would be friends nonetheless. Just the kind of welcoming atmosphere that makes me enjoy a place even more.
However, it is Cudillero that literally stole my heart. This small, picturesque fishing port sits on the side of a mountain. Hanging from this mountain, the brightly colored houses overlook the small bay where the port is located. There are many viewpoints scattered around various sides of the village and, going down the hill, all of the footpath eventually lead to the main square.
The view from above is simply spectacular. Right there, while I was working my way to the top, a few proud locals stood at their window or at their door, looking outside, breathing the cool breeze, admiring the seagulls as they played in the sky, and chatting up to locals, explaining how they like to keep local traditions alive, even if this means not enjoying modern comforts like that of a car to carry heavy groceries home (there’s no way a car can go through those narrow alleys). To top this off this idyllic setting, a bunch of cats relaxed in the sun, giving the entire place an even more charming aura.
Yes, Asturias are really amazing and I can’t wait to visit again. If you haven’t been there yet, you should put it on the top of your travel list!
This article is written in partnership with Spain Tourism Board and the local tourism board of Asturias, and in cooperation with The Travel Mob as part of the #InGreenSpain and #VisitSpain campaigns. All the views and opinions expressed are my own and based on my personal experience. The views expressed are honest and factual without any bias.