Kelsey, a Tour Consultant in our Toronto office, was lucky enough to travel on our tour of Barcelona and Northern Spain. Previously unfamiliar with the northern region of Spain, here’s what she discovered—and fell in love with—while traveling across Asturias.
Before my trip, I had woefully underestimated the appeal of these Northern regions—places that so often get overlooked when people think of Spain. Naturally, I thought of Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, even Granada—beautiful destinations that, while amazing, are the first (and sometimes only) places that come to mind when thinking of Spain.
So imagine my shock when my absolute favorite part of Spain was not a warm beach scene, but rather a province tucked along the northwestern coastline: Asturias! Probably best known for its beautiful town of Oviedo (popularized by Woody Allen’s’ Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona), Asturias is chock-full of stunning coastlines, beautiful mountain landscapes, and outdoor opportunities for adventure and nature lovers. Here are some of the best things to seek out when you’re in the Asturias region!
Until recently, Asturias was fairly isolated and as such, many of their resources came from the locals’ very own backyards. With the majority of work being outside and consisting of hard labor, the Asturian meals had to provide lots of energy to get through the work. Additionally, if we take into account their bitter cold winters in comparison to their southern counterparts, locals in the Asturias tend to eat heavier meals. Beans, sausage, dark meats, and stews are go-to dishes for most of the region, along with a plentiful supply of fresh seafood!
Asturias is also very well-known for their own special cider, or sidra. Found almost everywhere you go in this region and beloved by the locals, this cider is special in the way that it is poured. By holding the bottle high above the head, the server expertly pours the cider into a cup held across the body and at hip level. While most people would undoubtably spill all over themselves and the floor, experienced pourers hit the cup every time, releasing the natural mix of the flavors in the drink. Even if you’re not a fan of the taste, seeing the pour is simply an experience!
If you’re looking to hike through beautiful mountains or kayak down a river in Spain, you’re in the right spot! The geography of this fine province is so wonderfully varied that any outdoors lover could spend countless days here. From the amazing coastline of the Atlantic Ocean, boasting many beautiful beaches and secluded coves, to the incredible views high on the Picos de Europe (Peaks of Europe), you will not be disappointed. The lush green forests offer hikes and walks for the newest of hikers all the way to experienced and adventurous climbers. Numerous beaches and coves offer opportunities for great surfing and sea kayaking, and many even have training schools available for first-timers!
With so many incredible kayaking and canoeing opportunities in Asturias, the region now boasts an annual festival every August. National and international competitors come from all over to take part in the International Descent of the River Sella. Over a thousand kayakers begin in the town of Arriondas, a small village at the base of the Picos de Europa. About 20 kilometers later, the race ends at the coastal community of Ribadesella. This race is the central component of a larger festival that includes other sporting events, music, and, of course, incredible food.
There’s a huge Celtic influence in Asturias that might surprise people, and it was certainly something I didn’t expect to see. The Celts inhabited parts of Asturias and northern Spain as they were beginning to settle in the British Isles and elsewhere, sometime during the Iron Age. Many of the Celtic people made homes here, and their influence is still apparent today. The triskele, a triple spiral design common in Celtic culture, can be found all over jewelry and architecture throughout Asturias. You can also see examples of the Celtic history in the names of rivers and mountains. This history is something the locals are extremely proud of. I could tell our local guide in Asturias loved being from the area and was proud of her culture!