In Asturias, rural Spain comes right down to the sea - not
in a couple of short protected areas, but along a good proportion of
the Asturian coast. Not everywhere, of course. Asturias, like much of
northern Spain, has an industrial heritage - but the surviving vestiges
of Asturias's industrial past are not so much on the coast. Asturias'
most popular tourist centre, Aviles, was once a major industrial port,
but the cranes and gantries have long since fallen silent, and today
Aviles is better known as a quaint town beside an estuary, with a
fishing port, some good beaches nearby, and a lot of fine countryside
Much of the Asturias coastline remains very rural
With its ancient Celtic culture, its rocky
shoreline and its more modern industrial heritage, Asturias
has much in common with Cornwall Wales or Scotland .
There is still some industry in Asturias, but only a shadow
the large mining and steel complexes that existed half a century ago.
It is mostly located inland from Aviles and Gijon - the latter being a
city that is the largest city in Asturias. The rest of Asturias - which
means by far the major part of the region - is rural to very rural.
Asturias's industrial heritage can be explored in two museums in the
valley, near Oviedo - a mining museum with simulated underground
trip, and the Iron and steel museum, housed in a former cooling tower.
Santa Maria del Naranco, one of the oldest churches in Europe. Photo
and its early mediaeval heritage
Asturias has Europe's greatest number of
or Visigothic monuments - monuments dating from the "dark ages" of
civilisation, from the seventh to the tenth centuries. The
of Spain was the only part of the Iberian peninsula not to have been
conquered by the Moors - and consequently the only part to remain
Christian at a time when Moorish Spain converted to Islam. This - and
the fact that the mountainous area of Asturias lies on the fringe of
Western Europe - left the area with an early Christian heritage that is
the oldest in Spain. Oviedo's "pre-Romanesque" monuments are
listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site; of particular note are the
Visigothic church of Santa
María del Naranco which stands on a hill
overlooking the city, San
Miguel de Lillo, close by, and the
Camara Santa, or holy chamber, that is part of the city's cathedral .
Oviedo is reputed to be the cleanest city in Europe - which is not
altogether surprising for the capital of an area that is sometimetimes
nicknamed Switzerland by the sea.
Street in old quarter of Aviles
Aviles is a delightful small city;
nothing spectacular here, but a very pleasant old centre, largely
pedestrianized, with some impressive old buildings, such as
Palacio Ferrera, now a hotel. Many of the old houses in this part of
Spain are painted in bright colours, making the town distinctively
different from most Spanish towns. The fishing port is easily
accessible on foot from the old town; but a car or public transport is
necessary in order to visit the town's fine sandy beach, located in the
suburban area of Salinas.
Salinas is a prim old-fashioned seaside
suburb, that developed at a time when Aviles offered plenty of good
jobs in industry close by; its beach is a broad sandy Atlantic
beach, with some good seafood restaurants along the edge. The coast to
the west of Aviles is very attractive - a succession of rocky
headlands, small sandy coves, and longer beaches, largely unspoilt by
the development of holiday homes and seaside apartment complexes.
Gijón is an active seaport,
though no longer the major industrial seaport that it used to be. It is
a popular stop for yachtsmen and coastal sailors touring round the
Gigon peninsula, from San Lorenzo beach. Photo
In Roman times Gijón - located at the northern
end of the Ruta de la Plata or Via Delapidata, was an important centre
on the Atlantic metal trading route. Gijon's town centre is an
attractive old town with a fine arcaded Plaza Mayor located on the
narrow point of the isthmus on which the old town was built. From the
Plaza Mayor there is a view out over Gijon bay and one of the finest
sandy beaches on the Spanish Atlantic coast. Beyond the Plaza Mayor
lies the barrio of Cimadevilla, the peninsula on which the town first
evolved. Little is left of historic Gijon on this peninsula, beyond
some archaeological sites; this part of Gijon was mostly redeveloped as
a residential area in the twentieth century.
attractions in Gijon include the relatively new Aquarium, with its
freshwater and seawater areas; and the Asturias railway museum,
has the best collection of steam locomotives and historic rolling stock
The dramatic peak of Naranjo de Bulnes - photo J. Lacruz
The Picos de Europa were the first area of Spain to be designated as a
National Park. Divided between
Asturias, Cantabria and Castilla y Leon - the Picos are among the
and most well preserved areas of high mountain in Europe: located
barely twenty miles inland from the coast, they are part of the long
mountain range that runs from the
Pyrenees to the Cordillera Cantabrica, marking the northern edge of
Spain. The Picos de Europa are the
part of the Cantabrian Cordillera, and the greatest peaks are
at Torre de Cerredo
( 2,648 m / 8,688ft)
and Naranjo de Bulnes (2519 m)
in Asturias, bastions of naked rock surging skywards, and much favoured
by rock-climbing enthusiasts. Below the peaks, the Picos de Europa and
surrounding upland areas offer great opportunities for hiking,
mountain-biking and other outdoor activities. Among the most popular
parts are the glacial lakes of Covadonga, the way up to which
also a long and well-known climb for cycle road-racing in Spain.
The Picos de Europa also offer marvellous opportunities for
bird-watching, their many precipitous crags being a haven for large
birds of prey, both vultures and eagles.
Wonderful beaches - including many only accessible on foot
Other places, other sites
Along the coast of Asturias, there are a number of small fishing
ports that have largely avoided the ravages of coastal development.
Among the most attractive of these are Cudillero - between
harbour and hills - the little fishing village of Tazones, or the
small town of Llanes
(photo top of page). But between them, there are mile upon
of unspoilt coastline, mostly rocky and rugged, but with many beautiful
little coves and beaches, often reachable only on foot.
Right in the east of Asturias, the very pleasant
small town of Colombres
has an interesting museum of Spanish emigration to the Americas. It is
housed in the colonial-style mansion built by one of Asturias's
"Indianos", men who emigrated from poverty in Asturias in the 19th
century, made their fortune in the New World, then returned home in
later life as rich men.
The north coast of Spain is one of the oldest inhabited areas in
Europe, and its prehistoric caves are among the most famous in the
world. Several caves, decorated with prehistoric art, can be visited,
the most significant of these being the Tito Busillo caves,
near Ribadesella, a UNESCO World heritage site. These caves have what
is probably the finest prehistoric cave paintings in Europe, that are
still open to the public, paintings similar to those at Lascaux
(Dordogne, France) or Altamira (Cantabria), which are both closed
to the public for reasons of conservation. The Tito Busillo caves are
open to the public from mid April to early November, from
Wednesday to Sunday. The prehistoric art interpretive centre, on the
same site, is open all year except January, also from Wednesday to
One other interesting spot nearby is
the basilica of Covadonga,
a large 19th century pilgrimage church
located in the Picos de Europa national park. The shrine marks the spot
where the Asturians defeated the Moors in the year 722, starting the
long process of the "Reconquest" of spain for Christianity, that was
only completed in 1492 with the final expulsion of the Moors from their
last fief, the caliphate of Granada.
Today, the "Ruta de la Reconquista" is the name given to a 70 km hiking
trail through the Picos de Europa, starting in Covadonga.
Celtic Spain - Asturian bagpipes. Asturias shares an ancient
cultural heritage with other parts of Europe's "Celtic fringe"
By car via
the southwest corner of France, San Sebastian and Santander.
ferry: Brittany ferries operate direct ferries from
Portsmouth and Plymouth to Santander in neighbouring Cantabria. LD
Lines sail from Saint Nazaire (France) to Gijon.
Asturias: Easyjet fry from London Stansted to Asturias
airport, near Aviles.
profusely in the mild atlantic climate of coastal Asturias
the independent traveller, a choice of hotels and hostales in
Gijon, Aviles and Oviedo and their surrounding areas.
city & star rating
a broad choice of hotels and the best discounted online
links will take you to Booking.com,
Europe's leading online hotel booking portal
Ruta de la Reconquista hiking trail, through the Picos de Europa
on this page:
About-Spain.net except when otherwise indicated.
Photos from external sources are reproduced under the Creative commons