Road Trip to Asturias
Last October, my friend Linnaea invited me to join her and two of her Spanish friends on a weekend road trip to one of the few parts of Spain I still had left on my bucket list: Asturias. Asturias is one of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities and is located along the northern coast. It may not be a typical destination for most international tourists, but, believe me, it deserves to be.
Laura (one of the Spanish friends) picked me up at school, and we began our trip north. Rarely do I get to see Spain by car (as opposed to bus, train, or plane), so, whenever I do, it’s a fun change. We arrived in Oviedo, the capital of Asturias, checked into our ginormous yet cheap apartment right in the center (we each had our own room for €15 a night!), and then wandered out to find dinner.
Dinner was unbelievably good. We found a typical Asturian tavern, and, of course, we started with Asturias’ most important product, cider, different from the typical cider you’d try elsewhere around the world, and even more delicious. I soon learned that there’s a very specialized way to pour Asturian cider, from above the head, and you’re supposed to gulp the cider immediately after it’s poured for full taste. We also dined on an assortment of Asturian cheeses and fried vegetables. Someone send me back to Asturias for the food, stat?
After dinner, we saw some of the beautiful, quiet town by night and continued in the morning. Unfortunately, it was overcast, but the predicted rain held out. Sightseeing in Oviedo was pretty standard Spanish town sightseeing: lots of cathedrals, churches, and other old buildings. At one point, we asked an elderly man for directions, and he led us around the city for a while, giving us his local take on sights. The Premios Príncipe de Asturias, a royal awards ceremony for achievements in a variety of fields, were taking place in Oviedo while we were there, so the city was aflutter, hoping to catch a glimpse of Spain’s prince and princess. We found traditionally-clad performers welcoming Spain’s elite to the ceremony with folk music and dance.
Lunch consisted of cider (obviously), Asturian cheese and sausage, and fabadas asturianas, a traditional Asturian bean soup that we were determined to try while there, and meat with cabrales cheese sauce, another Asturian favorite. More wandering around the town was done before we headed up to the nearby mountains for a beautiful view of the city and some pre-Romanesque shrines that I recognized from a history of Spain class at UCLA. Then, off to Gijón we went!
Gijón is located on the coast and is Asturias’ largest city. We had yet another cheap and huge apartment there, strolled along the beach, and completed our night with tons of cider and silly conversation at one of the town’s most popular sidrerías.
Early the next morning, we set out for some of the smaller towns of Asturias. Despite the rain and wind, we saw the quaint towns of Llanes, Ribadesella, and Llastres. Sure, the weather could have been better, but at least we had a car, and the rain seemed to fit well with the shockingly green landscapes, old buildings, and wildly crashing waves. By night, back in our Gijón apartment, we taught ourselves the official Asturian cider-pouring techniques and walked through the city.
The next day, we woke to sunny skies (finally!), photographed Gijón’s beach, and then drove to my hands-down favorite part of the trip, the Lagos de Covadonga. Making our way up the mountain, snow began to fall on us (snow!), and our we had to pause as a procession of about six thousand cows, without an ounce of hurry in their bodies, meandered across the windy mountain road. It’s clear who really owns Covadonga. We finally made it to the first lake, and I was blown away by the absolute beauty and tranquility of the place, particularly with snow lightly falling around us. Then, the sun returned, making for some of the most beautiful views I have ever seen in my life. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. Without a doubt, one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been. If you get a chance to go to Asturias with a car, whatever you do, do not miss the Lagos de Covadonga.
We continued to the Covadonga monastery, yet another one of Spain’s various monasteries that were built when the Virgin Mary told some regular Joe he just had to do it. This one is definitely unique: it features a chapel built into rocky cliffs above waterfalls. I may not understand the Catholic hype over the Virgin of Covadonga, but it was still quite a sight to see as we ended our Asturias road trip.
The delicious food and cider, the breathtaking, green landscapes, and the warm, friendly people all make Asturias one of my favorite places I’ve been in Spain — or anywhere, really! Visitors to Spain may stick to the tried and true destinations of Barcelona, Madrid, Granada, Sevilla, etc., which are all certainly worth a visit, but consider a trip to one of Spain’s lesser-visited provinces, amazing Asturias.