Asturias is a region of Northwest Spain known for its rugged coastline, mountain landscapes, religious sites, and medieval architecture. While the natural landscapes answer the calling for outdoor adventures, the cities offer chances to experience the local history and culture. When it comes to sampling the best features of Asturias, there really is a little bit of everything.
Luanco, Asturias, Spain
In Asturias, the rugged coastline and rolling green countryside sometimes steal the show. Picos de Europa National Park in this region is also a must-see, home to a stark mountain landscape further inland with rare species like the Cantabrian brown bear, wolves, and lynxes. This is the region for adventurous explorers and nature lovers looking to experience some of Spain's untouched environments.
In the cities, especially Oviedo, there are plenty of opportunities to sight see for days. The Parque San Francisco, for example, is one of the biggest parks in Oviedo, complete with gardens, paths, ponds, and even peacocks. Then there is El Museo de Bellas Artes, in the plaza of the Cathedral, which contains works of Asturian artists as well as Picasso and El Greco. While there are also many historic churches and buildings in the city itself, there are also two quaint little pre-Romanesque churches located just outside on a hillthe churches of San Miguel de Lillo and Santa Maria del Naranco.
In a city like Gijon, there are also plenty of beaches, gardens, and access to archaeological findings dating back to Roman times.
Oviedo is the capital city of this region, and home to many places that merit as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Most of these can be found in the old part of Oviedo, called the "Casco Antiguo." Here the cobbled streets are lined with beautifully restored buildings and squares, some of the most notable being the Velarde Palace, the Town Hall, the plaza del Fontan, the Palace of Torero, and the Palace of Camposagrado. Old town is also full of small traditional shops, an open-air market, and plenty of options for dining. Gijon is one of the region's coastal cities, most known for its Roman past, museums, sculptures, and architecture. Given its location by the sea, Gijon is also a good location for beaches with a handful of nice leisure spots located along the bay. Aviles is another port city that serves as the main point of entry with its airport. Most of the cities are also host to lively festivals throughout the year.
Activities of Asturias vary depending on which part of the region you visit. In the cities, for example, you could spend days sight-seeing cathedrals, churches, cobbled streets, markets, and historic districts or absorbing the culture and history to be found in museums. On the other end of things, the more remote coastline, countryside, and mountains of Asturias offer opportunities for the outdoor explorer like hiking, backpacking, and wildlife watching. And then, of course, there is the more developed stretch of coastline good for beaches and water sports.
Food and Dining
With its northern limits being bordered by coastline, Asturias is a region where seafood and fish are common staples. The Spanish word for seafood is "Marisco," and some popular shellfish shellfish include "centollo" or spider crab, "necoras" or velvet crab, "percebes" or goose barnacles, and mussels. Pulpo a feira is another common seafood dish of octopus prepared with oil, salt, and hot paprika. Then there are empanadaspies made with a traditional dough, filled with onion, pepper and some meat, usually tuna, veal, or seafood. Some other popular items of Asturias cuisine include:
Fabada: a bean stew made of Asturian white beans, red sausage (chorizo), black pudding (morcilla), and diced bacon.
Cachopo: a breaded and fried kind of "sandwich" made with ham and cheese, similar to Cordon Bleu but much bigger.
Cider (Sidra): The cider of Asturias is natural cider and has a reputation all over Spain.
There are also more than a hundred different kinds of cheeses in Asturia as well as desserts like frisuelos which are similar to French crepes, and arroz con leche, a kind of rice pudding.
Asturias airport is located near Aviles, and is easily accessible by bus from the three main cities of Gijon, Oviedo, and Aviles. The airport has flights to and from London, Stansted, Amsterdam, Brussels, Lisbon, Milan and Rome, Basel, and Zurich, and various destinations in Germany. Within Spain there are flights to Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Malaga, Alicante, Palma de Mallorca, Sevilla, and the Canary Islands.
By bus, you can enter the region from Madrid. Tickets start at around 30 euro each way and can be prebooked through a company like ASLA, which runs most intercity buses. The ride by bus takes a little over 5 hours.
By train, you can also reach Asturias from Madrid. Though tickets will be a bit more expensive than the bus (starting at 45 euro), this method is the more scenic option.