Asturias information

Introduction to the Province of Asturias
We should actually say "The Principality of Asturias", as this is an autonomous community of the Kingdom of Spain, coextensive with the former Kingdom of Asturias in the Middle Ages. It's a breathtakingly beautiful area on the Bay of Biscay on the north coast of Spain, a walker’s paradise and a wildlife lover’s dream. It is a world away from the over-developed and crowded southern costas and is so rugged, mountainous and verdant that many people liken it more to Wales than to Spain in appearance. Asturias has managed to retain a laid-back, traditional way of life that has largely been sadly lost in the rest of Spain.

Oviedo City
The university city of Oviedo is the centrally located Asturian capital. Don’t let its industrial suburbs put you off. At the centre of the city is the Gothic structure of Oviedo’s Cathedral. Around the Cathedral, which is situated in what remains of Oviedo’s delightfully compact old quarter or casco viejo, are scattered some of the city’s impressive ancient palaces, although unfortunately most are not open to the public.

The main attraction in Oviedo however is a delightful collection of three small pre-Romanesque churches. They all date from the 9th Century and are probably amongst the most remarkable in the whole of Spain. The architectural jewel in the crown is the church of Santa Maria del Naranco which can be reached via a beautiful wooded walking trail from the city centre, at about 45 minutes’ distance. The nearby church of San Miguel de Lillo is equally attractive and finally there is the larger church of Santullano with its unusual secret Priest’s Chamber built into the wall.

Whilst in Oviedo you must sample traditional Asturian cider from one of the cider houses or sidrerias. See below for more on the gastronomy of Asturias.

As a point of trivia, Letizia, the wife of Prince Felipe, the present heir to the Spanish throne was born in Oviedo. They carry the titles of Prince and Princess of Asturias.

Around Oviedo and Beyond
The province of Asturias offers such diverse scenery and attractions that you will be spoilt for choice of where to visit and what to do.

The delightful seaside towns and fishing ports of the Asturian coast are most certainly not to be missed: Llanes (with a lovely beach, Playa Ballota), Villahormes, which boasts a wonderful, safe swimming cove at Playa de la Huelga, tiny Lastres, picturesque Cudillero and mellow Luarca are all great places to chill out, admire the view and sample the Asturian cuisine. For the more energetic, there is a lovely coastal path between Llanes and Pendueles.

For walkers and climbers, the greatest attraction of Asturias is undoubtedly the Picos de Europa National Park, with several summits above 2000m and home to bears, wolves and eagles. There are walking trails suitable for all levels of fitness and ability. One of the most spectacular is the 12km long Cares Gorge where you may be lucky enough to see griffon vultures, kestrels and wallcreepers. From Fuente De, you can travel by cable car to some of the highest peaks in the Picos range. In the winter months, skiing is possible in Asturias.

For a day at the museum with a difference, descend into a mine at the Museum of Mining and Industry in El Entrego or visit the Cider Museum in Nava.

If you get the chance, listen to the traditional folk music of the Asturias. It is characterised by the gaita, a type of bagpipe and traditional drums and is presently undergoing a huge revival in popularity.

The Gastronomy of Asturias
The most archetypal Asturian dish is undoubtedly Fabada Asturiana, a hearty, slow cooked stew of dried white beans, chorizo, potatoes and shoulder of pork. Fabes is the name given to the highly prized, large dried white beans in Asturias and they form the basis of many a dish. Another regional dish to try is Pote de Castanes Mayuques, a stew made with chestnuts and parsnips.

Of course fish and seafood from the Bay of Biscay and Asturias rivers feature heavily on menus. Two regional delicacies are anglerfish (pixin) and sea urchins (oricios) which are sometimes eaten raw. Meanwhile the rivers yield fresh salmon and trout for your delectation. Cider is often used in Asturian dishes.

The favourite dessert of Asturians is Arroz con Leche, rice pudding to you and me. In Asturias the rice pudding is served with a delicious caramelised sugar crust.

The dairy industry of Asturias flourishes due to its climate and hence dairy products and cheeses in particular abound. Perhaps the best known of Asturian cheeses is Cabrales, a strong blue cheese that is left to mature for six months in limestone caverns.

The national drink of Asturias is cider (sidra) and is a dry, non-gassy drink. It must be served in its own peculiar ritualistic manner to get the best effect. Visit a cider house or sidreria to experience the Asturian pleasure that is cider drinking.


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