Spain: more than bulls and Barcelona.
I’ve lived here for almost three years and still have yet to visit Barça (people saying it like that are extra, avoid them). However, I have seen my fair share of this beautiful and historical país. There are several things I don’t love about Spain: their government, their fear of spices and sauces, Madrid. Seriously, people, get out of that city. Fly into the airport, jump into a rented car, and drive. Madrid is not Spain just like NYC isn’t the United States. It’s just one little section of it. Of course there are sights to see and pictures to take, but the awe-inspiring beauty of Spain is found in all the different regions. Andalucía has great beaches, cheap food and drinks, incredible mudejar architecture, and so much *problematic* history. Galicia has THE BEST seafood. Eat the pulpo. Amazing. I have dreams about it. The Basque Country also has some interesting and messy history, their own untraceable language, and Dragon Stone. You can walk up the stairs, just like Dany did before she went (undeservedly) batshit. A less famous region, Murcia, has secret little cove beaches and less touristic Semana Santa processions.
Now, I haven’t been to every region. There’s Extremadura, which has a huge almond tree blooming experience. There’s Catalonia, which has a lot of political unrest. There’s Castilla y León, which is massive and I’m assuming there’s something there.
But the absolute best part of Spain is Asturias. I couldn’t imagine a more serene and picturesque place. The continuous mountain ranges, massive cliff beaches, tiny towns, and endless activities made this my most exciting viaje in Spain.
The most helpful advice I could ever give you is to RENT A CAR. People, people, please. It is the only way to truly experiences the wonders of Spain. You can explore all the little nooks and crannies of this beautiful peninsula when you have access to a vehicle. I will dedicate an entire post to the process of car rental in Spain (specifically Madrid) to help inform those who wish to try this mode of travel.
EXCURSIONS & OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES
Asturias is great for those outdoorsy folks. You have your biking excursions on twisting trails through dense forests. We did the route starting from the bike rental place, Teverastur, in the small town of Entrago. The Senda del Oso have multiple trails, but they all lead to the two protected Asturian bears. These little guys were so cute, although seeing them in their not so large protective cages was a downer. This rare species of bear is seriously endangered and only exists in this area. Seeing them makes you think about how all the land you just biked through used to be their habitat and now the few bears still alive are left with almost nothing. The biking excursion can be a reflective experience, if you encourage it!
Kayaking! Kayaking! Kayaking! This excursion is so necessary. It's extremely popular so you need to book beforehand, especially in the high season (summer). If this is your first and last time in Asturias, I would kayak down the Río de Sella. It's a long, wide river that goes through the town, Arriondas, and eventually makes it to the sea in the north. We booked with Apiol Adventure, which was a great company. They had all the materials you need to kayak, even wetsuits. They provide you with food and water in a sealed barrel, so that you can enjoy lunch along the river. There are bars you can stop at along the way, to have a quick cider and ración. There were two different lengths we could have done. A shorter one that was about 7 km and a longer one, the one we did, that was about 14 km. The longer trip was very easy and totally doable. The river isn't too rough. There are sections with a stronger current, but those are the best parts! Definitely a must do while you're there!
Okay so the north isn't known for the greatest climate. It rains a lot. Like, a lot, a lot. BUT that makes the landscape even more lush and green. If you go to Asturias at the right time and if you're lucky you'll get to see that bright shining sun. I'd say that the optimal times to visit would be in late spring, summer, and maybe even early fall. Summer will be fantastic because it won't be painstakingly hot like in the south of Spain, but it also won't be too wet and rainy.
HOW MANY DAYS THO????
How long you spend in Asturias really depends on how much time you have available. We were there for about 5 days. I'd say that that's the minimum amount of time you'd want to be there. It's enough to let you see everything you really need to see, as well as do some awesome outdoor activities and excursions. To do right by this region, I'd suggest a week or a week and a half.
Here you can watch a very casually edited video with snippets of our awesome ass experience. I've also added a quick little list of the most essential things to see and stuff to do in Asturias. And of course, the food you HAVE TO eat while you're there.
Places to Stay:
Towns to visit:
- Cangas de Onís
Stuff to see:
- Santuario de Covadonga
- Playa de Catedrales (technically Galicia)
- Lagos de Covadonga
- La Senda del Oso (see the 2 bears)
- Río Sella
- Playa de Cuevas del Mar
- Playa de Gulpiyuri
- Bufones de Pría
- Parque Nacional de Picos de Europa
Things to do:
- Kayaking - Río Sella
- Biking excursion - La Senda del Oso
- So many hikes - Picos de Europa, Covadonga, Proaza, Senda Costera
- Street markets in Oviedo
- Museo de la Sidra
Cuisine to try:
- Cider, cider, and more cider
- Pote de Grelos
- Asturian cheese
- Patatas bravas (with Cabrales cheese)