National Geographic Traveller (UK)

Wild-at-heart things to do in Asturias

From searching for brown bears in the Cantabrian Mountains to cycling along ancient bridle ways, adventure awaits in this Spanish principali­ty


In between the Bay of Biscay and the Cantabrian Mountains is Asturias, a green-blue patch of northern Spain that’s best experience­d outdoors. Think spotting bear cubs snuffling about in spring, surfing some of the region’s 200 beaches in summer or hiking through the Peloño Forest Nature Reserve in autumn before feasting on hearty fabada bean stew. Rubicund faces and robust spirits abound here — it’s evident in the fishermen hauling in their catch at Puerto de Vega and Avilés markets and in the farmers working the land in the shadow of the Picos de Europa mountain range.


There are seven UNESCO Biosphere Reserves packed into this principali­ty. Chief among them is Picos de Europa National Park, which was created in 1918. This hikers’ hinterland is laced with trails, such as the 7.5-mile Cares river route, which takes about six hours. Inside the park, you’ll also find the high-altitude Lakes of Covadonga — well known to cyclists all over the world — next to the town of Cangas de Onís. Keen climbers, meanwhile, can tackle the limestone peak of 8,264ft Naranjo de Bulnes.


The region’s sea-faring heritage comes to life in fishing villages such as Llanes, Ribadesell­a, Cudillero and Luarca — which you can drive east to west in one day. Don’t miss the chance to see mackerel, sardines and red mullet being traded at the lively rula (auctions) in Puerto de Vega and Avilés. When you’re not feasting on boat-fresh spider crabs (fished from December to July), there are also 200 golden beaches to explore. Favourite stretches among surfers are the left-hand river break of La Barra off Rodiles and the consistent reef break of Tapia.

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