Asturias, Spain – So, Where Is That?

Asturias is wet and lush! Lots of rain in this part od Spain!

Asturias is wet and lush. Lots of rain means green landscapes

By Regina Winkle-Bryan

‘Asturias? Where’s that?you may be thinking.

If you are, you’re not alone. Asturias is off most tourists’ radars when they come to Spain with flamenco, sunshine and fiesta on the brain. There’s no flamenco in Asturias, nor is there sunshine most of the year (as you will see in my photos). There are, of course, fiestas in Asturias, but that’s not saying much because there are fiestas everywhere in Spain. Do not expect the same all-nighters in Asturian cities as you would in Barcelona or Madrid.

Oviedo - a large city in Asturias

Oviedo – a large city in Asturias

So why come to Asturias? Because most people don’t. I saw very few non-Spanish travelers in this region of Spain, which is popular with Spaniards from the South in hot summer months. The exception to this is the Picos de Europa, a National Park which is well known among Europeans. The Picos de Europa are  mountains where lakes and local flora and fauna can be enjoyed if the rain and fog let up – to be clear: it rains a lot here and sunny mist-free days are rare. I felt like I was back in Oregon for most of my visit. Still, the Picos de Europa are one of Spain’s most impressive natural sights if you go at the right time. I did not go at the right time (it was March) and so saw what looked like the edge of a lake shrouded in thick fog banks.

Behold the fog

Behold the fog common around the Picos de Europa

No matter what the weather is doing, Covadonga, its basilica, and a visit to see La Santina in her cave overlooking a waterfall are worth a jaunt into the Picos. They say that young women who wish to get married should throw a coin in the water below the Santa Cueva, or the Holy Cave, at Covadonga and that if they do love will surely come their way. I wanted to participate but didn’t have any coins and didn’t feel like a five euro bill would have the same effect. Happily ever after thwarted. Damn!

A view of the Santa Cueva from outside

A view of the Santa Cueva from outside


Make a wish, and love might come your way!

Make a wish, and love might come your way


La Santina - Covadonga

La Santina – Covadonga

I should also mention some of the history behind Covadonga. Does the name ring a rusty bell for you? It didn’t for me which is why I was embarrassed to learn that this was where Don Pelayo defeated the Moors in 722. This win marked the beginning of the end of the Moors’ control of Spain, though it took quite a long time afterwards for Spanish kings to reconquer the Iberian Peninsula. Don Pelayo’s bones are up at Covadonga, and looking around the rugged terrain, it’s easy to see why he and his troops had the upper hand.

Don Pelayo at Covadonga

Don Pelayo at Covadonga with fog in the background


Basilica at Covadonga

Basilica at Covadonga

After his big win Pelayo became king. For 57 years the nearby village of Cangas de Onís was the capital of Spain. Hence the popular Asturian saying: Cangas de Onís is Spain, the rest is just conquered land.’ These days it’s pleasant to visit Cangas de Onís for an afternoon, have lunch, eat some creamy Asturian cheese, and admire the rivers Sella and Güeña that run, rich with trout, through it.

Cangas de Onís

Cangas de Onís


Cangas de Onís - typical Horreo

Cangas de Onís – typical Horreo

One of the largest cities in Asturias is Oviedo, which quite frankly surprised me. It was a stunner. Lots of pink stone buildings, flower-filled plazas, lush parks, cozy shops and cafes, and an incredible number of bronze statues portraying days-gone-by. And it’s clean. So clean. Barcelona, where I live, is a real pig’s stye in comparison. Of course, Oviedo’s spic-and-span sidewalks may have something to do with all the rain.




Oviedo, Asturias

Statues around Oviedo, Asturias


Oviedo - Spain

Oviedo – Spain

Better than the tidy streets were the free tapas which are more than just your average olive or handful of popcorn. I was served a mini rice and pork tapa in a wee cast iron pan when I ordered a Coke. Free food always makes me happy, even if I don’t eat pork.

Yes, those are sausages - Oviedo

Yes, those are sausages – Oviedo


Drinking age is 16 in Oviedo bars!

Drinking age is 16 in Oviedo bars

All in all, I liked Asturias. I’d like to return in the summertime when the fog has lifted and the sun is shining on the Picos de Europa. Give this region of Spain a go if you’re interested in seeing a less touristy part of the country. Remember, Cangas de Onís is the real Spain, at least according to Pelayo.

3 Responses

  1. Kirsten Carpentier says:

    Great scoop!! Oregon with castles…!! I went to Oviedo many years ago and it made quite an impression on me then as a very lovely town with an interesting history. Thanks for all the photos and reminders!

  2. admin says:

    You are welcome! Glad you enjoyed Oviedo. Like to see more tourists go to the unusual places.

  3. AsturPlaya says:

    That’s just a glimpse of Asturias, a tiny tiny bit of what you will actually see here.

    Mountains, sea (you forgot the sea!), awesome food and people, great fishermen villages and some many hidden places to see that you’ll have to move here to have the time to discover them all.

    So do come, first of all to visit the Asturian beaches:
    AsturPlaya recently posted…RodilesMy Profile

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