VLOGS AND BLOGS
48 HOURS IN ASTURIAS
TOP THINGS TO DO IN NORTHERN SPAIN
Coming from New Zealand, we love the ease of travel in Europe — a weekend getaway to another country was practically impossible for us without full blown holiday preparation. Travellers in Europe have so many options, but often frequent the same hustling cities for their weekend trips, full of tourists, no nature in sight, commercialized with little tradition or culture. We recently had the chance to check out an alternative, Asturias in the North of Spain, and by the end of this post you might just want to reconsider your next 48 hour trip and head to this natural paradise instead!
Why North Spain?
For starters, it’s extremely easy to get to from London with daily direct flights to Oviedo. After a quick 2-hour flight you can be in Northern Spain eating tapas and sipping on cider just a few minutes later. Yes to that.
After spending the weekend in Asturias we completely understand why the catch phrase for this region is ‘Natural Paradise’, as you’ll see from our 48 hour guide below there’s such a diverse range of landscapes in the region. The scenery is stunning, the air is fresh, there’s mountains and beaches within minutes of each other and the most incredible national park to explore.
If hiking, swimming, kayaking or quad biking sounds like your kind of weekend trip then you’re in luck. If you’re more laid back or a city slicker you can eat, drink, relax, shop or get lost amongst the cobblestone alleyways. No matter what your vibe, you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something that suits you here.
Perhaps the biggest highlight for us was the culture, traditions and lower tourist numbers. This area is real, genuine and felt like a traditional Spanish experience that we fell in love with. Their age old recipes are still served, the way they consume cider is packed with tradition and the streets aren’t packed with tourists. It’s a winning combination.
If you’ve only got 48 hours in Asturias, there’s so much you can pack in, it seems cliché to say ‘this place has it all’ but for real, this place literally has it all. Here’s our top things to do in Northern Spain over a weekend:
Stay in Oviedo
You’ll likely land at Asturias Airport in Oviedo — the capital city of Asturias and definitely not a city to skip, despite the urge to head straight for all the green of the region. We stayed in the heart of the old town at Barceló Oviedo Cervantes and highly recommend a central hotel for your stay as well. This area of the city is easily walkable which makes getting around a dream!
Strolling the streets of Oviedo is like no other; it feels Spanish, you feel immersed in a local experience that other weekend destinations can’t deliver. It’s so accessible that you barely need a map or recommendations from us here, strolling and observing is the way to go. Within a few minutes of each other you’ll stumble across markets, squares with restaurants and bars, churches, shopping plazas, cathedrals and museums. What we loved most was all the statues and monuments, it’s like walking through an outdoor art gallery. A highlight is a dog statue called Rufo, he was a local homeless dog that the locals of Oviedo loved and commemorated with his own statue. Be sure to stop and pat him for us, you’ll notice the bronzed area on his head from all the others that have done the same!
Head to Picos de Europa National Park
Without a doubt, this was our favourite stop and number 1 recommendation for your trip. We’ve travelled to nearly 50 countries and can honestly say this national park has some of the most amazing scenery we’ve ever seen… that’s kind of a big deal coming from New Zealanders as well.
Picos de Europa was the very first national park in Spain and is understandably under UNESCO protection. The highlight of the park could be the mountain views or the wild life roaming around freely, but for us it was the glacial Lakes of Covadonga. After the most stunning drive up the 2,000+ metres our jaws almost hit the floor when we reached the lakes, it’s one of those things you need to see to believe. Maybe it was the altitude, maybe it was the fresh air, but something about this place feels special.
This is one of the few places you’ll see queues though, it’s a popular spot so prepare yourself to wait in a couple of lines to get on the buses that take you up to the lakes. It’s also not for the faint of heart, the winding roads can get a little sketchy but you can trust us, it’s all worth it when you get to the top.
Eat all of the food
We filmed a full video and wrote an entire blog post on the top 10 foods in the region, we highly recommend you read that to understand just how deep the tradition of food goes and how delicious it all is. Regardless, we couldn’t possibly write a 48 hour guide and not reference one of the largest selling points of the North!
Whether it’s enjoying the traditional experience of cider at a Sidrería, indulging in the huge selection of local cheese or eating your body weight in fresh seafood, you wont be disappointed here. Asturias has stayed true to tradition in a lot of ways, so the food served in restaurants isn’t re-catered to tourists necessarily, it’s the real deal and made with the same fresh ingredients and love it has been for generations.
Take a trip to Gijón
Just a short 30-minute drive from Oviedo is the coastal town of Gijón – the largest city in the Asturias region. Always a good sign, Gijon is actually incredibly popular for the Spanish to visit and for good reason as well, it’s a charming place with a lot to offer.
While you’re there, take a stroll along the enormous coastal boardwalk and watch the surfers do their thing. Catch the sunset overlooking the Elogio del Horizonte monument, also known as ‘the toilet bowl’ monument to locals. Get lost and find your way through the narrow streets and alley ways. Shop up a storm at the tiny market stalls and observe the locals going about their day with a smile on their face.
Visit the Fishing Port of Llanes
This place is literally where the mountains meet the sea. Huge limestone cliffs surround the colourful town, so there’s some amazing view points to check out. There’s a small beach just metres from the old town, which is nestled among some breath taking cliffs as well. It’s a crazy mixture of old town, beach and cliffs all so close together that you would struggle to find anywhere else.
We recommend some time wandering around the empty streets in the early morning for the best experience, learning some of the history of the area and enjoying the local coffee and snacks. This is a nice time to feel the calm and peacefulness before it gets busier as the day goes on, great people watching from your seat with a coffee in hand is the Spanish way so embrace it!
We didn’t have a huge amount of time left as our weekend came to a close, but we couldn’t skip over this stunning view point that you have to check out. There’s plenty of great places to catch a sunrise or sunset in Asturias with it’s nature, cliffs and beaches – but it’s a short drive to our favourite recommendation, Mirador de Torimbia. This view point overlooks two beaches, Torimbia and Toranda. If you can only visit one view point during your time here, pick this one! It also has a huge cliff point with walking trails and panoramic views overlooking both beaches – we’ve got some video footage to share from here soon that will sell you on it even more.
Asturias Is Amazing
The scenery, the food, the traditions and the people made our 48 hours in Asturias truly special – yours will no doubt be just as memorable. The truth is we spent the last few hours of our trip online trying to figure out when we could come back, stay for a month and explore deeper! As you can see, in just 48 hours our love for this region of Spain grew strong and we hope to be back again soon.
Adiós (for now) Spain!
Dane & Stacey
* Disclaimer: We were invited by Turismo Asturias & Spain Tourism to experience Northern Spain and share what it has to offer. As always, all views & opinions are our own.