Why Travel to Asturias?
Asturias, located in Northern Spain, is known as the green coast with a mountainous interior and is famous for its bagpipes and scrumpy cider. It´s full of small, charming seaside towns including Ribadesella, Llanes, and Luarca. Inland it´s dominated by the Picos de Europa National Park, a rugged mountain chain with breathtaking walks. There is a rich Romanesque heritage with remote churches and fortresses like Covadonga, the origins of Christian Spain. At Cangas de Onis surrounded by peaks, where the Reconquista began, is an impressive Roman bridge, and the Capilla de Santa Cruz was founded over a Celtic dolmen stone. Gijon, the largest city has lots to see with nice beaches, lively nightlife, and an attractive Old Town. Oviedo is the capital of Asturias a wealthy, attractive city renowned for its unique 9th-century churches: the best Santa María del Narranco, “ formidable beyond its scale”, its Cathedral, and San Miguel de Lillo. Asturias is also known for its pilgrimage routes: the Northern Way one of the variants of the Camino de Santiago (St James Way) which passes along its coast and the Primitive Way, the oldest which starts in Oviedo.
The Wild Beauty of Picos de Europa National Park
The Picos de Europa National Park, which spreads within the provinces of Asturias, Cantabria, and Leon, is a breathtaking proof of the beauty of Atlantic ecosystems. This unspoiled sustainable natural reserve boasts lush oak and beech groves that cover its rolling hills and valleys, adding to the park´s charm. The park takes its name from the rock formations that dominate its landscape, providing a dramatic backdrop for its diverse flora and fauna. The park is not only a sanctuary for the majestic brown bear and the Iberian wolf, both iconic species in Spain, but also serves as a haven for numerous other species, making it a biodiversity hotspot.
This national park offers a wealth of natural wonders. Its crystal-clear rivers wind through deep gorges, and its towering peaks, such as Torre de Cerredo, pierce the sky. The park´s scenic beauty invites outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers to explore its hiking trails, witness its rich birdlife, and discover the ecosystems that thrive within its boundaries.
Savouring the Flavors of the Asturian Food and Cider
Slow cooking is what describes Asturian cuisine. Distinguished for its hearty and flavorful dishes, which often feature locally sourced ingredients, they do not use many spices or other condiments in their dishes which could distort the natural taste of the ingredients and rely on the purity and authenticity of its local produce. With its proximity to the Cantabrian Sea, fish and seafood play a prominent role, giving rise to dishes like Mejillones Picantes (Mussels in Spicy Sauce), Caldereta Asturiana (Asturian Seafood Stew) and Merluza a la Sidra (Hake with Spanish Cider Sauce). The most iconic dish from this region, Fabada Asturiana (Asturian Bean Stew), a perfect winter stew very easy to make requires little more than leaving the ingredients simmering down in a large pot over a few hours. The main ingredient used in this famous Asturian recipe is large white beans, specifically the Fabes de la Granja, which are grown in the region. These beans are known for their creamy texture and delicate flavour, making them the star of this dish, combined with chorizo, black pudding, cured pork shoulder, potatoes, etc...
Cheese also holds an important place in Asturian gastronomy and boasts one of Europe´s most diverse cheese selections, made from cow´s milk, goat´s milk, or blends of different types milk. The most popular is Cabrales Cheese, a famous blue cheese with a Denomination of Origin, alongside other notable varieties like Gamonedo, Pria, Porrua, Beyos, Casin, Afuega´l Pitu, Peral, Urbies, and more.
Asturian cuisine also includes a rich selection of sweets, reflecting the local´s appetite for desserts. Traditional favourites are Arroz con Leche (Rice Pudding), Almond Tart, Brazo de Gitano (A type of Swiss roll), Milhojas de Crema (Custard Millefeuille), Almond Pastries, Carajitos del Profesor de Salas (Hazelnut Biscuits), and festival specialities like Frixuelos (Crepes), Casadielles (Walnut Popovers), Panchones de Carnaval (Brown Bread Pastries), Huesos de Santo (made from marzipan), Teresitas (made from tea) for All Saints Day and Tocinillo de Cielo (pudding made with egg yolks and syrup).
Asturian cider, known locally as Sidra, is a beloved and integral part of Asturian culture in northern Spain. Made from locally grown apple varieties, Asturian cider is renowned for its light, musty and tart, but slightly sweet taste perfect for enjoying during the warm days of summer. What sets it apart is the unique tradition of "Escanciar," where the cider is poured from a height into a glass to oxygenate it, enhancing its aroma and flavour. Sidrerías, specialized cider houses, offer an authentic cider-drinking experience to enjoy this crisp and refreshing beverage.
The Enchanting "Gaita Asturiana" Asturian Bagpipe
The Gaita Asturiana is a traditional bagpipe native to the autonomous communities of Asturias and Cantabria on the northern coast of Spain. Although it may seem unbelievable, the Asturian bagpipe has been making music for quite some time in Asturias. In fact, there are records from the Middle Ages, specifically from the 13th century, where its presence and importance in daily life are evident. This distinctive bagpipe is characterized by its melodious sound, which is achieved by the use of reeds and a bag made from animal skin. The Gaita Asturiana is often played during festivals, celebrations, and traditional gatherings, filling the air with the evocative tunes of Asturian folklore. Its music has a deep connection to the region´s history and identity, serving as a powerful reminder of Asturias´s rich cultural traditions and musical heritage.
Capital of Asturias: Oviedo
Population: 224,005 (2023) inhabitants