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Asturias: Discover the real Spain

Go off-grid along this green stretch of the Iberian Peninsula, wedged between Galicia and Cantabria. Combining exquisite landscapes with an excellent foodie scene, Asturias is slowly revealing itself to be one of Spain’s must-visit regions

Asturias: Discover the real Spain

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Ultimate Experiences

A place where you can surf at sunrise, descend to the depths of a mine before lunch and track roaming bears in silent valleys in the afternoon, Asturias crams everything from soaring cliffs and mountain streams to hundreds of majestic beaches into its borders.

Take the plunge
For a sense of calm, start out at the Fitu Lookout and catch your breath at the top of this 1,100m-high balcony, stationed between the handsome towns of Arriondas and Colunga. Dramatic views roll out in every direction: of staggering peaks, including those of the Picos de Europa and the Cantabrian Mountains; and of more than 100km of captivating coastline fringed by the bluest of seas. Trace the outline of the Bay of Biscay and decide which stretch of sea you’ll dip your toes in, before gazing over towns such as Caravia, Colunga and the cider-making capital of Villaviciosa tumbling down the hillside.

View from the top
For yet more jaw-dropping views, hit the hiking routes that criss-cross the mountains and lower valleys. Novice and serious climbers will relish days tackling the region’s rugged and mountainous nooks and crannies. Every level is catered for, whether you’re after an easy morning stroll or want to take on something more challenging — for the more adventurous types, the thrilling multi-pitch routes of Naranjo De Bulnes in the Picos de Europa is worth a try. Adrenalin-loving travellers needn’t stop there: paragliding above Asturias is a momentous way to discover its dramatic landscapes. Tandem flights can be launched at the Següenco lookout, with views of the Cantabrian Sea, the mountains and the Royal Site of Covadonga rolling out beneath you.

Two-wheeled travel
If you like to work up a sweat, cycling tours across this wild, untamed region of northern Spain are a big deal, too. Taking hardy cyclists past tiny coves and pretty coastal villages, the routes up to the peaks of Covadonga Lakes, Angliru and La Farrapona are seriously spectacular. But at an incline of 30% and emulating the Cycling Tour of Spain (La Vuelta a España), they’re not for the faint-hearted.

Untamed beauty
Elsewhere, unspoilt Asturias is also an inexplicably charming place to track the endangered brown bear. Elusive they may be, but the numbers of these native creatures have been steadily growing; it’s estimated there are around 250 brown bears lurking among the crags and deep valleys of the region. Head to Somiedo Nature Park and Fuentes del Narcea, Degaña e Ibias Nature Park, whose swathes of dense native forest offer some of the best chances of bear-spotting. As for the beaches, Asturias is sprinkled with some beautiful, blissed-out arcs of sand. Take La Griega — a glittering sandy beach where locals soak up the rays, take to the water for an enchanting swim, and break from the sun with plates of superb seafood on shady terraces. It’s also the setting for the world’s biggest dinosaur footprints — wind your way along the upper footpath on the beach’s eastern side to peer down at these goliath reminders of the Palaeolithic era.

A walk on the wild side
Away from the well-worn paths lies the Muniellos Forest Nature Reserve: this protected patch of woodland is a stellar spot to explore on foot. One of the most spectacular Atlantic ecosystems in Europe and the largest oak forest in Spain, Muniellos is all wild rivers in the shadow of mountains and wetland forests of birch, holly and beech. Pick up the trail to the four mesmerising lagoons of Candanosa Peak, and you’ll be following the footsteps of roaming bears, wolves, foxes, wild boars and roe deer. Rarely has getting back to nature felt so good.

Cultural experiences

The Original Way of the Camino de Santiago, or the Camino Primitivo, takes star billing when it comes to cultural charms. The 198-mile route links the capital of Asturias, Oviedo — home to the El Salvador Cathedral — with Santiago de Compostela, a magnificent cathedral of austere elegance and the final resting place of the Apostle St James. Taking on this walk, you’ll be tracing the first ever pilgrimage made to Santiago, undertaken by King Alfonso II in 813. Picking its way along sedate paths through the mountains, woodland and pretty towns such as Las Regueras, Grado and Salas, this is a trek not short of a view or two. The path eventually leaves Asturias at the Acebo Pass and continues into the province of Lugo in Galicia.

Spirituality runs deep here — and to embrace the whole spirit of Asturias, you also have to embrace the parties that are crammed in to the calendar. There’s the Canoe Festival during the first weekend
of August, where punters descend on the region to battle it out on the Sella River.

Then there’s July’s Natural Cider Festival in Nava, where you can indulge in a draught of cider or two and the Humanitarian Festival in Moreda; combining gastronomy and folklore, it’s filled with nostalgic charm. Prepare to be blown away, too, at Antroxu (carnival) in Avilés and Gijón, where spruced up dancers sashay in line with booming floats.

Food experiences

Asturias also has some serious foodie credentials, with a remarkable number of rustic tapas bars and Michelin-starred restaurants pulling out all the stops with avant-garde menus. Traditional fabada asturiana is a heart-warming stew of beans and smoked sausage, while casseroles, fritos de pixín (deep-fried monkfish), empanada (small, savoury pies), the sickly sweet arroz con leche (rice pudding) and dishes focusing on seafood all make up the region’s culinary repertoire. Cheese is all the rage, too, and the variety is astounding; namely Casín, Afuega’l pitu, Cabrales and Gamonedo, the latter two of which are matured in the dark and damp caves of the mountains.

Essentials

How to get there
EasyJet flies direct from Stansted, Vueling flies direct from Gatwick and Iberia flies from Heathrow.

Best time to go
All year round

More info
asturiastourism.co.uk

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