- MAP Travel
Asturias is a region in the centre of “Green Spain” on the North coast between the sea and the Cordillero Cantabrico, the mountain range which stretches from the Pyrenees to Galicia in the West. ‘It is an autonomous region and consists of only one province.
Asturias is a principality as Felipe, the heir to the throne, and his wife Letizia, are the Prince and Princess of Asturias. In the centre of the region is a triangle of three very different large towns. Oviedo is the capital of the region and has an interesting historic centre while Aviles is the hub of most of the industry in the area and Gijon is a resort which has built up around the old town and a long sandy beach, and is the coastal capital. On either side of this triangle is some of Spain’s finest scenery with expanses of green fields dotted with pretty villages, eucalyptus forests, nature reserves, and rivers reaching the sea as wide estuaries beside golden beaches.
A feature of most of the homesteads is the square barn built on stilts, very often with corn hanging out to dry. These are different from the horreos in neighbouring Galicia where the barns are rectangular with crosses on them to show that the grain has been blessed.
The Asturians pride themselves on their cuisine as fresh fish is brought in daily to Gijon and many smaller ports, and the green fields give excellent grazing for cows, goats and sheep, so that roast meats are a speciality, along with Cabrero, the local cheese. Most famous is La Fabada, the bean stew for which connoisseurs will travel to Asturias from all over Spain.
There are flights to Santander and Bilbao
In Asturias many of the beaches are isolated and reached by following sandy tracks out of villages, and the tourist towns, such as Ribadesella, Llanes, Calonga and Villaviciosa have developed tastefully with villas and carefully planned new houses alongside their beautiful beaches Gijon, on the other hand, is a lively resort with high rise buildings lining the promenade alongside the long beach which stretches from the church on the headland in the old town at the western end to the Isabel La Catolica Park at the eastern end. The estuary at Villaviciosa is a favourite spot for birdwatchers as it attracts a huge variety of birds. Around the town of Ribadesella is the Jurassic coast with its dramatic rock formations, and all along the coast are small harbours, marinas and sandy beaches. There are more than twenty superb beaches between Colunga in the west and Llanes in the east of Asturias.
A town in Asturias that has everything!
I have to give a special mention to Ribadesella, a small town and harbour on the Asturian coast, which seems to have everything to offer. This fishing port has many restaurants serving local seafood, and sidrerias lining the waterfront, behind which is the old town around the Plaza Mayor and church. The main beach, the Playa De Santa Marina lies between two headlands on one of which is a lighthouse and on the other is the Hermitage of La Guia. Below the lighthouse, the Jurassic coastline has extraordinary rock formations and evidence of the early settlements in the town can be seen at the Tito Bustillo caves with some of the best examples of pre-historic cave paintings. The River Sella flows from the mountains into the wide sheltered estuary and reaches the sea alongside the beach dividing the town into two parts – the harbour and promenade leading from the town to the hermitage on one side, and the seafront on the other backed by villas and mansions as reminders of colonial days. At the end of the beach there has been some new development in recent years but this has been carefully planned so is not an eyesore, and with no ugly high-rise there is a feeling that the people care about their town. An interesting feature is a series of six murals along the promenade depicting life in Asturias from prehistoric times to the modern day. Playa De Vega, a large surfing bay, and many small rocky coves are all close to the town, and only a short distance inland are roads leading into the Picos de Europa mountains and the lakes of Covadonga. A small golf course at Berbes, a few kilometres from the town, has recently been extended to become an 18-hole course with spectacular mountain and sea views.
Asturias Paradores Hotels
The Parador de Cangas de Onis
Three kilometres from the small town of Cangas de Onis is the restored convent of San Pedro de Villanueva on the banks of the River Sella in the foothills of the Picos de Europa. This has been beautifully converted into a Parador with a tasteful modern extension joined to the old building by a glass conservatory. It has its own church leading off the cloister where Mass is said on Sunday and is very popular for weddings. A path runs alongside the river connecting the Parador to Cangas de Onis in one direction and downstream to Arriondes a centre for canoeing and white water rafting. The river continues its journey to reach the sea at the lovely town of Ribadesella.
The Parador de Gijon
In Gijon the Parador is set in a tranquil corner of the Isabel La Catolica Park, a 100 year old mill close to the San Lorenzo beach and the town centre. Typical of Paradores in large towns it has an extensive bar menu with a selection of tapas. The bar has an entrance off the street to cater for local trade and tourists in the town.
The Parador de Corias
Parador de Corias, formerly an 11th century Benedictine monastery has been declared a national historic and artistic monument. It has a lovely spa including a Turkish bath, a sauna and heated swimming pool.