At the beginning of this year, I booked a cheap flight to spend winter in Asturias with my boyfriend Jack. We knew the weather was likely going to be cold, wet and grey as it was early January. However, there seemed to be just enough for two budget travel enthusiasts to see and do in this gorgeous area of Northern Spain. Asturias’ major plus points are supposedly cheese, cider and bears – sold.
3 THINGS YOU REALLY CANNOT MISS:
OVIEDO | a beautiful town, and the reason this winter in Asturias trip was booked (yep, £17 return flights). It’s really lovely and just one night felt a little rushed. There is a picturesque old town as well as the renowned ‘Calle Gascona’, which is packed with cider bars and restaurants.
Also check out: a bargain spot for breakfast is the relaxed and sophisticated La Corte de Pelayo where a café and pincho (coffee and tasty snack) are just €2.40.
SIDRA | so, cider is a BIG thing in this part of Spain. I never knew. It holds real tradition and etiquette too. A few sips worth is poured from a significant height by the barman. At which point you have to down the whole lot (but leave a drops to be thrown in a gutter at your feet.) The pouring is to add bubbles to what is otherwise a flat cider. All in all a bit of a faff, but definitely fun!
CUDILLERO | was our fourth and final night in Asturias, and proved to be a great finale. It is also helpfully only a twenty-minute drive to the airport. It’s truly charming and crammed with stacked, painted houses. There is a multitude of intriguing stepped paths to explore, travelling up from the harbour into the hillside. They do cheat on the cider front though, and have a lot of air machines in the bars!
3 THINGS WORTH A SNOOP:
RIBADESELLA | another of presumably many pretty villages strung along this northern coastline. This one has less of a traditional fishing vibe (unlike CudiIlero) and felt more like an upmarket Spanish resort (or at least it was in its day). There’s a great promenade for a stroll that is dotted with impressive old mansions built by ex-pats who made their money in Cuba. Back in town, we loved the popular bar and restaurant Maria Manuela Bistro.
Also check out: Tazones and Lastres are two other fishing villages that we drove to with a similar vibe. Worth a visit if you have a car and good weather on your side. Unfortunately they felt more rugged and completely empty during winter in Asturias.
PUENTE ROMANO | this beautiful bridge in Cangas de Onis was probably the highlight of this town for me. I think this location is very much a gateway for mountain sports and hiking, so unfortunately during a wet January and winter in Asturias there was little going on.
MYSTERY CAVE | I found this drive-through cave recommended as a detour on another travel blog, and it’s actually surprisingly impressive. The cave is about a 20-minute drive time from Ribadesella; these are the coordinates. Also try locating it right next to the La Solana restaurant, which we didn’t try to find but seems to be well reviewed.
3 THINGS TO STEER CLEAR:
MENU DEL DIA | too often we made the mistake of opting for the undeniably cheap Menu del Dia – usually three courses with wine and coffee for around €12 – and having to roll out in a food coma. Yes, to great value; no, to great quality.
SIDRERIA TIERRA ASTUR GASCONA | having never heard of the cider phenomenon, I was a bit surprised by how touristy the strip of bar-restaurants was in Oviedo. This one, in particular, felt like a TGI Friday so after being shown a table we awkwardly got up and left.
WINTER | yes, we knew the risk when booking flights from London in mid-January! Everywhere was still undeniably pretty and the weather didn’t hamper the trip, but places did feel almost dead. There were hardly any locals out and about, let alone other tourists. Rather than regretting going for winter in Asturias, it just made me want to visit in the summer.
1 THING I WISH I’D DONE:
LAGOS DE COVADONGA | as a subtext to the above point, the weather did actually hamper a trip extension to the lakes. We started the drive up but the snow was far too heavy to risk in the little hire car! Pictures I have seen of the lakes in spring and summer look incredible.
AND KNOW THIS: Asturias is known as the ‘land of cheese’. It produces many of its specialties on a small scale, following traditional techniques. You can taste Cabrales, the most famous local cheese, in any of the towns. Numerous cheese shops are situated in seaside villages such as Llanes, Ribadesella or Lastres.