When anyone mentions Northern Spain, Asturias immediately comes to my mind. If nature is what you are looking for, the mountains are blanketed with green trees, sprinkled with rambling rivers. All of which kiss the coast and create gorgeous beaches and postcard photos. You can experience extreme adrenaline sports or just a float along the river. Of course you will want to eat and drink your way around the area as well. Don’t let its size fool you, Asturias is a small, but power packed autonomous community in Spain. Come along with us and Visit Asturias!
Just as with our visit to Galicia, it was on our bucket list to visit Asturias Spain! Asturias contains some of the territory that was part of the larger Kingdom of Asturias in the Middle Ages. It is divided into eight comarcas (counties), and is bordered by Cantabria to the east, by Castile and León to the south, by Galicia to the west, and by the Bay of Biscay to the north. In the map below, you will find a medium green sliver, along the northern Spanish coast. This is Asturias!
During the Moorish invasion of Spain in the 700’s, the Moors did not find mountainous territory easy to conquer, so areas along the coast of northern Spain never became part of Islamic Spain. It was interesting to see how different the architecture is to the southern part of Spain we know so well. We noticed the difference immediately as we drove along the northern coast from Playa de Catedrales on to Oviedo.
The flag of Asturias
The flag of Asturias caught our attention. The bright blue color and the Victory Cross was interesting, but it’s the letters hanging from the horizontal axis that we focused on. The letters are: Α and ω
Alan’s (and Anya’s) initials! Actually, they are the Greek letters Alpha and Omega (lowercase), and are a reference to the Book of Revelation 1:8,
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, says the Lord God, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Time to Visit Asturias Spain!
We only had a few days to visit Asturias, but we have a lovely taste and want to spend more time in the future. We had reservations to stay in the mountains in a small town named Arriondas, but first we needed to check out the capital of Asturias. Yes, along the way we decided to stop in Oviedo, just 30 minute inland from the northern coast. Usually when we may and exploratory stop on a travel day, we find the city center and roam around a bit, but this time was different.
Being drawn to Oviedo
There was a little something more drawing us towards Oviedo and it wasn’t anything we would find with the Asturias turismo or in the northern Spain guidebooks. Nope, this time it was all about people!
A few years ago, our blog readers (the Martinez family) reached out to us to say they were interested in moving to Spain. They had family heritage in Asturias and were currently living in the United States. The had several questions about moving to Spain, schools and such, so we had a nice chat with them via Skype. The kids remained in touch for a while and now they have been living in Oviedo for 2 years! Of course we wanted to meet them, so Oviedo was officially on our 8 week road trip plan.
The empty mall
We arrived in Oviedo on a Sunday, which really isn’t a good day to explore, as many things are closed on Sunday. We entered the city and just took the first exist to find a restroom. There was a huge shopping mall just off the highway and surprisingly it appeared to be open on a Sunday. We quickly found parking, found the facilities and then realized we were in an empty mall. Yes the doors were open, but none of the shops were.
No worries, as we weren’t there to shop anyway. They did have a nice sitting area and free wifi, so we took advantage of that to ping the Martinez family. We had no idea where they lived, nor did we know exactly where we were. They suggested we meet up in the center of town near Campo San Francisco Park, in the center of Oviedo Asturias.
What’s the date?
So off we went on the 5 minute drive to Campo San Francisco Park. As it was Sunday, it was much easier to find parking in the center of Oviedo. We met up with the Martinez family and had a bit of a chat. We even stopped to take a group photo next to the date made from grass, along the edge of the park. Did you know that each day they change the date on the grass. Apparently they have grass cut outs ready to go each and every day. So cool!
Oviedo private tour
We were all chatting non-stop, but we did manage to stop for ice cream and have a picture with Mafalda (photo in our gallery below). Following the park, it was time for a little tour of the city center. Yes, they were kind enough to take us on our own private tour, and they are just full of wonderful information about their city.
We walked down to the cathedral and enjoyed the big plaza. Then it was on to Calle Gascona, the street full of Sidra Houses (cider). Asturias is known for its Sidra and the unique way in which they serve it to you as well. Keep on reading and it a bit we will show you a little video of our Sidra Experience in Arriondas. Just at the end of the road we saw the Pre-Roman Fountain “La Foncalada”. Of course we snapped a few photos and then headed back towards the park.
It was a brief but very pleasant visit to Oviedo. We all immediately fell in love the with the city and will certainly return for a longer visit. We can’t thank the Martinez family enough for taking the time to spend the afternoon with us and show us around. They are really a great and generous family. It was time to continue our journey to Arriondas Spain.
Our drive was about 1 hour from Oviedo through the most gorgeous mountains. It was green, green everywhere, which was a welcomed change from southern Spain. It seems no matter where we are in Spain, there’s always something making us feel like we are in California, Nevada or Utah. As we were driving along the gently winding road, there was also a river along side us. This reminded us of the Tahoe area, back in the USA.
When we arrived to our town of Arriondas, the first impression was great and again reminded us of the Tahoe area in the USA. The Sella River runs through town and there were rafting and canoeing shops everywhere you looked. It had one main street, full of shops, restaurants and Sidra bars. The air was crisp and the energy was buzzing. This was going to be a great place to spend a few days!
The heat wave
We pre-booked 3 nights in Arriondas and were going to take this time to go canoeing, enjoy some Sidra and just relax with nature. Well the next morning we were up and out of our hotel early, it was time to go canoeing! We spent the full day on the river and the crisp cool water was very refreshing, especially because this was the day the heat wave arrived. More on our canoeing experience later.
Yes, the mercury made it up to about 95’F that day, but the humidity was something else. This was fine and dandy when we were frolicking around in the river. Then we returned to our “no AC” hotel room, and it was the pits. We quickly cleaned up after our day out on the river. Then we headed out to find some AC and a place for dinner. Well we found some food, but the AC was difficult to come by. After eating, the kids headed back to the room, while Alan and I stayed out to partake in the Asturian culture.
Asturias Sidra Time!
Alan and I headed over to the Sidra bar, just a few doors down from the hotel. For less than 2 euros, we were served a full bottle of Sidra (little by little). Asturian cider is a big part of the culture, and is unique as it is the only one in the world which is poured from a height.
When I say from a height, you should watch the video below. They hold the tilted glass down low, near their thigh and the bottle way up over their head. Then they pour into the edge of the glass, but most of them don’t even take a peek at the glass, they just find their way. This style helps the cider form a froth and aerates the beverage giving it the sensation of being carbonated.
Apparently just the perfect degree of oxygenation is obtained and the cider is ready to drink in one generous gulp, known as a “culin” in cider slang. Oh and you aren’t supposed to drink the entire contents of the glass. The last little bit is thrown onto the floor. Then you wait for a waiter to walk by again to pour more for you. You don’t have your own waiter at your table, they all pitch in and pour away. It was a fun experience and left us wanting to try all of the Sidra houses, just to see if it was any different. As I was saying, it is just one more thing which will draw us back to the Asturias for another visit.
The moods turned sour and sassy
As I mentioned before the heat wave arrived and wasn’t going anywhere for a few days. At midnight it was still hot outside and it was even worse in our room. None of us slept very well, as the temperature didn’t really drop much at all that night. We awoke the next morning and were in for another scorcher, but this time we didn’t have planned activities in the water all day. This time it was a work day and time to get some writing done. Let’s just say, none of us were in a pleasant mood.
It was just 10am and we were all very tired and miserably hot! How were we going to make it another night and get some work done as well? Everyone was cranky and not happy with the restaurant choices in town either. When you are hot, hungry and tired, it makes for an interesting family dynamic. Okay let’s get real, we were all grumpy, cranky, sassy, short-tempered and miserable.
A quick change in plans
There wasn’t much in our control to fix the situation. We sought out AC at the grocery store and picked up some pre-made salads to eat. That was a very temporary fix, but it certainly wouldn’t sustain us for the next 24 hours. This time it was time to make a family decision and make a quick change in something we had complete control over, where we were staying.
Even though we had prepaid for 3 nights at our hotel, we decided to find a place with AC for our final night. When I was doing the original planning the average temps in the area looked very pleasant and rooms with AC were difficult to find, so I chose one without AC. Now it was time to try to find something with AC and just forfeit the money we already paid for the last night.
Well, of course there wasn’t much available in town. We found a few things about 20km away, but they were just along the road and not really in a town. So the next family decision was to go ahead and move on to our next destination a little early, so it was off to Santander.
Let’s just say this was the right move for sure. Moods and spirits changed and we were back on track. I hate to think of the state of mind we all would have been in if we stayed one more night. We just stayed one night in a hotel with AC and then moved on to our prepaid accommodation in that area. We will get into all of that later, but for now we say so long to Asturias. Not to worry, you still touched our hearts and we look forward to returning.
There are also many organized tours for you to enjoy from being active on walking or biking tour, to enjoying a food or wine tour. There is so much to do and Viator has so many great offers for you. Click here to see their latest Spain Deals!
So now it is time for you to Visit Asturias with our photo gallery. Enjoy!
More information about Asturias Turismo (Asturias Tourism)
Do you plan to visit Asturias or have you already been? Tell us all about it in the comments below.