If you follow me on Instagram you will have seen that over half-term we travelled to Northern Spain and enjoyed a few days of deep blue skies and warm sunshine. This was my fifth visit to Northern Spain and fourth to the Asturias region. I want to share this beautiful region and this is a (brief) travel guide to Northern Spain. Ideas based on my experiences and tips from my friends who live in the region. It’s a very green area of Spain, dominated by the Picos Europa mountains, national parks and edged by excellent beaches, a short hop from the UK and well worth a visit.
Local Transport and Accommodation
A small train travels from Oviedo up to the coast. Local buses, in my experience are reliable, affordable but limited. This is a mountain region with some of the most beautiful spots accessible only by your own transport. There is plenty of choice of places to stay and good road links. My tip would be to plan an itinerary; book hotels and hire cars before you travel from the UK on a one stop travel site such as Expedia. It’s a popular region with Spanish tourists and outdoor enthusiasts, in high season can be busy, don’t expect that people will be able to speak English. Organise your hotels and car hire before traveling.
This trip we spent time in the Teverga area, from there it is about a 2 hour drive to my favourite walk in the Cares Gorge. The region is compact enough make traveling around straight forward. There is plenty to explore from picturesque mountain villages to stunning beaches. Local produce is high quality and places to eat are plenty.
Cities: Oviedo and Gijon
Oviedo was my first taste of Northern Spain and I’ve been back more than once. It is great city to wander with a beautiful, pedestrianised, old quarter and some striking sculptures in the shopping district. A good selection of shops, including a regular market in the El Fontan. Campo San Fransisco is my recommendation; lovely gardens in the heart of the city.
For a city that gets busy come late evening, my top tip is Gijon. Head to the old quarter Cimadevilla, for variety of bars and restaurants. For families there are fantastic beaches. When my son was little, we spend a couple of happy days, shifting between the shade and playground of the Parque de Isabel La Catolica to the extensive sands of Playa de San Lorenzo. On a rainy day, Gijon aquarium is perfect.
Surfing or simply hanging out, one of the best local beaches is Rodiles. Wooden boards give disability access, it has blue flag status, surf hire and a cafe.
Cuevas Del Mar with its rocky outcrops and caves is a beach for exploring. It is about a 20 minutes drive from coastal fishing town of Llanes. We stayed in Llanes 10 years ago, my memories are of a quaint town, good sea food and coastal walks.
Eat and Drink
I do love cheese and Asturias is a cheese lovers delight with a seemingly endless local choice. My best advice; ask locally and pick up a cheese made in the area you are staying.
Sidra, a local type of cider. However this is a very different cider experience. It’s all in the pouring and spend any amount of time in a local bar and you will witness the Sidra experience. Poured from a height into the glass. Just a small amount, which is drunk in one. Try it!
Activities: Climbing. Biking. Walking
On this trip we stayed in San Martin, in the Teverga area, a small town with a good few bars. This area of Spain is excellent rock climbing. Roca Verde is the local guide-book. The climbing is very extensive with something to please all abilities.
San Martin has some great local biking and mountain biking trails. We spotted families cycling on car-free routes. You’ll find bike hire local to San Martin.
As expected in a mountain region, there are some stunning walking routes. Ask in tourist information for routes. My absolute favourite was the spectacular Ruta Del Cares, in the heart Picos de Europa mountains. The walk uses an old hydro-electric maintenance track, carved into the rock. It has spectacular drops and is not for the faint hearted.
Further along the coast is the region of Cantabria It’s an area, as a family we loved exploring. My blogging mate Eleanor and the Bristol Parent, shared here stay. A good base for exploring the coast of Northern Spain.
Cabarceno Wildlife Park
Cantabria has 750 hectare wildlife park. Tour Cabarceno park on foot or by car. Over 100 species in huge enclosures, it has a real feel of seeing them in a very natural environment. Best wildlife park I’ve visited.
While the UK was bleak and rainy, at the end of October we enjoyed 20 degrees of heat, sunglasses and seats outside for morning coffee. However, the mountains are green and lush for a reason, pack for possible rain and cooler evenings. (This week, there is snow on the mountains).
Travel from the UK is short flight by air, just under 2 hours. Making Northern Spain a good long weekend destination. Fly into Asturias airport. A 45 minute bus ride from the city of Oviedo or fly into Santander. Take the ferry Portsmouth to Santander.
Northern Spain is both beautiful and diverse with a strong character all of it’s own. I really recommend it as a destination. Many thanks to Expedia for asking me to share my favourite bits of Northern Spain.