Ten things to do in Asturias

picos-de-europa-national-park

Picos de Europa National Park

Asturias is a small principality in the northwest of Spain. Squashed between the glistening peaks of the Cantabrian mountains and the Bay of Biscay, Asturias is home to great natural beauty, a rich cultural heritage and varied culinary traditions. It is a land of gushing rivers, lush forests and impressive mountains whilst its dramatic coastline is punctuated by towering cliffs, secluded coves and over two hundred beaches. More than one-third of Asturias’ land area constitutes protected nature reserves, the largest in Europe. The bustling Asturian towns are another draw. From the mondaine chic of Oviedo to care-free Gijón, the largest Asturian towns each have a distinct character that is definitely worth exploring.

Through the centuries, the mountains and the sea played a pivotal role in shaping the history and culture of Asturias. Shielded by the lofty peaks of the Picos de Europa, Asturias was one of the few regions on the Iberian peninsula that escaped the conquest of the Moors in the 8th century. Marked by the famous battle of Covadonga in 722 A.D., the ‘Reconquista’ (the movement to liberate the Iberian peninsula) began in Asturias – a fact that till this day instills much pride among Asturians. These days, excellent road and air links make Asturias a lot more accessible but it still remains an off-the-beaten path destination for many tourists. There are no hordes of tourists in Asturias, but rather a multitude of natural, historical and cultural gems waiting to be discovered. Here are ten things to do in Asturias:

Ten things to do and see in Asturias

1. Visit Oviedo. Oviedo is a delightful city for a leisurely stroll. Admire the eclectic architectural styles, visit the Cathedral, walk around the El Fontan market or sit at one of the many terraces and order a cider. Discover which part of the human anatomy is mimicked by Calatrava’s Congress Centre. And head up to nearby Monte Naranco to admire pre-romanesque art at a UNESCO World Heritage site and for stunning views of the city.

The town hall in Oviedo

Asturian cheese at the Oviedo market

The El Fontan market in Oviedo

The design of the Congress Centre mimics a certain part of our body!

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2. Discover the rich culinary traditions in Asturias. From the famous grilled meats at Tierra Astur in Oviedo to the freshest seafood at Casa Lin in Avilés, or Asturian refinement at La Corrada del Obispo in Oviedo and the gastronomic delights at San Pelayo in Llanes, Asturias is a treasure trove of culinary highlights. Choose some of the best dining options from Mesas de Asturias, a collection of restaurants and cider taverns that stand out on account of their excellent quality and service.

Grilled meats at Tierra Astur in Oviedo

Refinement at La Corrada del Obispo

Fresh seafood at Casa Lin in Avilés

3. Go hiking in the Picos de Europa. The Picos de Europa National Park offers spectacular scenery and some of the best hiking trails in Spain. Visitors can also opt for a guided drive through the park with leisurely strolls along the shorter trails. The views of the impressive peaks, verdant slopes and deep-blue lakes are astounding.

Sheperd houses in the Picos de Europa National Park

4. Drink from the fountain at the Covadonga Sanctuary. If you’re not married, a single sip from this fountain will get you tying the knot within a year – at least, that’s what the locals say. 🙂 If you’re already married, well, simply enjoy the refreshing, sweet taste of this pure mountain water.

The rose-coloured Santa Maria basilica at the Covadonga Sanctuary

The famous fountain in front of the San Fernando church

5. Gawk at the impressive Laboral Cultural Centre in Gijón. This elaborate complex is an architectural gem. Located in the outskirts of Gijón, the Laboral City of Culture boasts an immense square flanked by grand buildings with stunning façades.

The main square of Laboral Cultural centre in Gijón

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6. Visit the Centro Niemeyer in Avilés. The Centro Niemeyer is one of the newest cultural centres in Asturias. Designed by the famous Brazilian architect, Oscar Niemeyer, the complex features striking colours, seductive curves and fascinating exhibitions.

The Centro Niemeyer in Avilés

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7. Mingle with the locals at a sidreria. Sidrerias or cider taverns are an integral part of Asturian culture. Locals gather at their local cider tavern for a round of cider, delicious food and the latest gossip. Sooner or later, you’ll be invited to try your hand at pouring cider. Go for it!

Pouring cider in Asturias

8. Stay at an historic indiano house or ‘Casonas de Indianos’. ‘Indianos’ were emigrants who returned from the Americas in the 19th century. After making their fortunes in the New World, they returned to the motherland and built stunning villas, many of which are now museums or hotels/B&Bs. The Casona de la Paca hotel in Cudillero is a gorgeous example.

The Casona de la Paca Hotel in Cudillero

9. Explore the Asturian coast. Go surfing or simply laze at one of the 200+ beaches. Stroll around picturesque fishing villages like Cudillero or walk the coastal path above the cliffs of Llanes.

The fishing village of Cudillero

The coastal park in Llanes

The Playa de Toro in Llanes is famous for its pounding surf & rock formations

Search for hotels in Cudillero.

10. Visit UNESCO World Heritage and Biosphere sites in Asturias. There are many of them, from the Tito Bustillo caves (with its unique paleolithic cave art) to the Covadonga lakes, one of five World Biosphere sites, these sites are testament to the rich cultural and natural heritage of Asturias.

The Covadonga lakes

Note: my trip to Asturias was part of a blog trip organised by the Tourism Board of Asturias and Tourism Spain.

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13 Responses to “Ten things to do in Asturias”

  1. Keith Jenkins 10/06/2014 3:54 pm
    #

    Thank you for the correction. I’ve changed the date.

    Cheers,
    Keith

  2. Hotelnights 10/06/2014 2:48 pm
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    Good Morning,
    good post about Asturias. However please note there’s a big mistake in it.. The battle of Covadonga was fought in 722 a.d. nos in 822… 100 years before!

  3. Kay 20/07/2011 6:18 pm
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    I have seen the rose-coloured Santa Maria basilica at the Covadonga Sanctuary and it is truly something you must all go to view in person. Love these tips, great blog!

  4. velvet 10/07/2011 4:32 pm
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    Thank you very much for your comment Cristina! Very happy that you like the post. I think those ten things definitely sum up the best that Asturias has to offer and I hope many visitors will read this post before their visit.

    Kind regards,
    Keith

  5. cristina alvarez 10/07/2011 7:35 am
    #

    Your post is great!!!!!! you’ve really captured the atmosphere of Asturias, the hidden kingdom in the mountains. I agree those are the top ten you can not miss in Asturias. Thanks Keith. From ASTURIAS every one says so !!!!

  6. Claudia Looi 15/06/2011 10:28 pm
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    Amazing pictures…what a great introduction to one who knows little about Asturias. You capture the fresh seafood at Casa Lin so well…yummy.

  7. velvet 15/06/2011 9:33 pm
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    You’re welcome! It’s not hard to write about Asturias. You have an absolutely stunning homeland!

    Cheers,
    Keith

  8. Xana 15/06/2011 9:23 pm
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    Hi!
    Thanx a lot for this great post about my lovely homeland Asturias!
    Great work!
    Cheers!

  9. velvet 15/06/2011 1:30 pm
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    Hi Andy,
    Thanks for your lovely comment. Asturias is truly stunning and yes, it’s pretty incredible that it still is pretty much off the beaten path. It’s so different from the rest of Spain too.

    Cheers,
    Keith

  10. Andy Montgomery 14/06/2011 6:02 pm
    #

    Fabulous post, Keith and great images. You’ve really whetted my appetite for a visit to Asturias! It seems incredible that such a diverse and clearly stunning part of Spain could have remained shy of the popular tourist trail…until now 🙂

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