A Three-Day Road Trip Through Spain’s Asturias Region
It’s 10:30pm on a summer night and the town’s cobblestone streets are filled with people. Restaurant seating spills out in front of colourful buildings. Crowds hover outside gelato shops. And despite how late it is, the sky is still a dusky blue.
This is Llanes, a port town in the Asturias region of northwest Spain. While Madrid, Barcelona and even Bilboa also in northern Spain are beautiful in their own right, the villages of Asturias showcase the country’s slower-paced side. If you’re heading there and only have limited time to see it, here’s how to make the most of it.
Day One – Drive Madrid to Llanes
After spending a few days in Madrid exploring its city centre and Plaza Mayor, indulging in tapas and Spanish wine and catching a Flamenco show or two, rise early to begin your drive to Asturias. The journey takes roughly four and a half hours so break it up with lunch and wine tasting at any winery in Spain’s La Rioja region, famous for its top quality wine.
Llanes and its surrounding villages have a number of rural houses and apartments for rent. Book ahead and use it as your base for the next three days. After settling in, head back out to Llanes’ town to stroll around its medieval centre. If you’re lucky and here during summer, a multi-day fiesta with carnivals might be on. It’ll attract large crowds of locals and see carnival rides brought to the streets. Wander down to Llanes’ fairy light-framed harbour before ducking into any busy marisquerias (seafood eatery) you see with table space.
Day Two – Explore the beaches of Asturias
Everything starts later in Spain so never guilty for sleeping. When you’re ready to tackle the day, head to a bakery for a pastry and café con leche before you start exploring the beaches. With more than 200 beaches and no less than six UNESCO-listed Biosphere Reserves, there’s plenty to see. Highlights include Playa de Gulpiyuri, Playa de Torimbia and Playa Palombina. It rains most days in northern Spain so come prepared with an umbrella.
For dinner head to family-run Llagar Sidreria Cabanon. The restaurant is known for their sidra, alcoholic cider – a popular drink in Asturias. Waiters pour it into a glass from high above your head to aerate it, release its bubbles and make it taste its best. Its taste is distinct – musty, tart and slightly sweet.
Day Three – Climb above clouds at Los Picos de Europa
Wake early for a big at-home breakfast with supplies from a local grocery shop – you’re going to need the energy today. Drive an hour to Los Picos de Europa National Park in the Cantabrian Mountains. If you’re lucky, the misty clouds hovering alongside the soaring mountain range you’re about to climb will already be visible from the car park. The views will only get better.
Take the Teleferico de Fuente De cable car 800-metres through the clouds to reach the top. Here you’ll find open meadows with wild horses and grazing cattle, sparkling lakes and patches of snow. There are several hikes to do, so research and plan ahead. To finish your day, head to the picturesque town of Potes. Walk along its river and stone bridges and browse in its souvenir shops before settling on a place for dinner. Be sure to pick one with a balcony overlooking the water.
If you have more time
There’s enough to do in Asturias and its surrounding areas to keep you busy for a week. El Soplao Cave runs roughly 30kms, nine of which are open to the public. Discovered in the early 20th century it’s known for its spectacular and eccentric limestone formations. Dress warmly and don’t bother bringing a camera – you won’t be allowed to take photos inside.
Lagos de Covadonga is also worth a visit. An hour and 15 minutes inland from Llanes, the drive to it is said to be the most beautiful in the country. The sight itself features two glacial lakes, set against snow-capped peaks.
Published 07 August, 2018