Asturias is a small principality in the northwest of Spain. Squashed between the glistening peaks of the Cantabrian mountains and the Bay of Biscay (map), 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. Hence, there are plenty of things to see and do in Asturias to keep visitors occupied for days or weeks!
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.
Search for hotels in Oviedo (Booking.com).
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.
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. Check out this tour of Picos de Europa from Santander.
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.
5. Visit 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.
Search for hotels in Gijón (Booking.com).
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.
Search for hotels in Avilés (Booking.com).
Read more about Centro Niemeyer.
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!
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.
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.
Search for hotels in Cudillero (Booking.com).
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.
How to get to Asturias
Asturias can easily be reached by air from Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia. There are also international connections with London and Paris. Asturias Airport is located in Castrillón, 14km from Avilés, 40km from Gijón and 47km from Oviedo. The principality also makes for a great road trip, which would also allow you to explore the rest of northern Spain and the neighbouring Basque Country. Check for rental cars: