Located on Spain’s northern coast beside the Bay of Biscay, Asturias is still somewhat of a secret holiday destination to just about everyone. Everyone except the Spanish themselves who descend on the region during summer to escape the blistering heat of the plains (in summer, temperatures in Asturias are a perfect 25 to 28C). It’s a mystery why Asturias is still a secret considering it boasts an enviable mix of ingredients that include a countryside with emerald rolling hills dissected by wide rushing rivers, dramatic jagged mountain ranges, historic towns and quaint fishing villages as well as a coastline that veers from plunging cliffs to golden sandy coves lapped by clear cyan seas.
Asturias is proud to be different from the part of Spain which lies on the other side of the Picos de Europa; a stunning mountain range that helped keep the Moors at bay in the 8th century when the region was a sanctuary for Christians. As a result the culture owes more to Celtic and Roman influences than to Islamic ones – bagpipes and cider bars (nearly every bar is a sidrería) as opposed to flamenco and sangria. It was from Asturias that the reconquest of Spain began and the Asturians are quite rightly proud of their unique heritage.
The best way to arrive is by air and coming in to land at Asturias airport provides a tantalising glimpse of what goodies lie in store. The capital Oviedo, 40km from the airport, has a bustling attractive medieval quarter and is a good base for exploring the rest of Asturias whislt Gijón on the coast is a town of two seafronts; one with a golden beach and an unattractive 1970s façade, the other with historic buildings and a chic marina. Possibly best of all is Avilés, a town that has risen triumphantly from its steel factory ashes to become an attractive destination with a mix of the historic and contemporary (Oscar Niemeyer Centre) as well as good restaurants and vibrant bars. The town of Llanes, below the Picos de Europa mountain range, is ideally placed for exploring fishing villages that tumble down the hillside and a coastline with sandy coves galore as well as a landscape where bears, wolves and wild boars roam and magic fountains promise love.
Before I visited all I knew about Asturias was that Spain’s Prince Felipe was Prince Felipe of Asturias and that Javier Bardem tried to seduce Scarlett Johanssen and Rebecca Hall there in the movie Vicky Cristina Barcelona. After visiting I can’t believe that such an absolute cracker of a destination can still be relatively ‘undiscovered’. During my visit I was asked ‘what one thing about Asturias would you recommend to others?’ I was stumped. There are too many ‘Buzz’ factors to be enjoyed on a visit to Asturias to just provide one answer. If I were to reel off the qualities I wanted from an ideal destination the list would include historic architecture, great restaurants, picturesque villages, beautiful beaches, stunning scenery, breathtaking walking routes, lively bars, ambient weather, lakes, rivers, friendly locals and plenty to do and see. The truth is Asturias has all these..and more. It is simply quite an enchanting destination.