The Principality of Asturias is not the first choice when people go to Spain. Visitors to Spain tend to concentrate on the classics; Madrid and Barcelona, and justifiably so, they’re great cities. But there are other lesser known areas with amazing natural beauty, history, and regional cuisine. The Principality of Asturias, a small province in northern Spain is one such place; Spain’s underrated province.
A common way to enter Asturias is from Gijon, the major port facing the Bay of Biscay Sea in northern Asturias, Spain. The city is ringed by a beautiful beach dotted with seafood restaurants. Although Gijon is a great introduction to Asturias, the jewel in the crown awaits, Oviedo, the capital of the Principality of Asturias.
OVIEDO: FUN CAPITAL OF THE PRINCIPALITY OF ASTURIAS.
Oviedo did not disappoint. One expects the traditional Spanish town with the massive cathedral in the central plaza surrounded by medieval monasteries, convents, churches and winding cobblestone streets. Yes, there’s that, along with riveting museums and art galleries. What one does not expect is the atmosphere of party central that exists in this city.
There are three main sections of the city reserved for extreme revelry, each more fun than the next. Cider Street has great regional cuisine and cider is served from bottles held up to four feet away from the glass. Tapas Street has a myriad of counter service bars offering killer tapas. The more upscale North Street offers gastronomic works of art at surprisingly reasonable prices. Local musicians wander in and out of these restaurants performing and encouraging the patrons to join in the revelry. Add to that some of the best wine in all of Spain and the end result is the Spanish version of a rip-roaring good time. Sometimes the patrons follow the musicians out to their next stop to continue the fun. It’s quite unique!
PICOS DE EUROPA NATIONAL PARK
The majestic Picos de Europa National Park spans 3 provinces; The Principality of Asturias, Cantabria and Castile and Leon. Created in 1928, it was awarded UNESCO biosphere status in 2003. The park has various protected animal spiecies including bear, various goat spiecies and Iberian Wolf. The scenery is stunning with soaring, snow-capped mountains and streams cascading into the lush valleys.
As can be expected, this area is a hiker’s paradise. Especially spectacular is the challenging Cares River trail hike. The area also offers other outdoor adventure activities like white-water rafting, canoeing, and canyoning.
CANGAS DE ONIS
Cangas de Onis is a small town nestled in the foothills of Picos de Europe National Park in the Principality of Asturias. Two sights distinguish this mountain town. One is the Roman Bridge, a second century AD structure still in use today.
The other interesting sight is a unique statue dedicated to the Asturian emigrant. The Principality of Asturias, along with other provinces of northern Spain, was the source of waves of emigrants that traveled to the Americas mostly in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Many Latin Americans; Cubans, Mexican, Peruvians, Colombians and Venezuelans trace their ancestry to this area and many travel to Asturias to search for their roots or merely feel a connection to the area. This spunky traveler with his little suitcase, eyes fixed on the future in “Las Americas” symbolizes the hope and intrepid confidence of the New World.
In an effort to capitalize on its status as ground zero for Asturian emigrants, the city of Cangas de Onis got smart and created events and a museum to host the descendants of Asturian emigrants from around the world, mostly the Americas. The city has capitalized on the desire of its emigrants’ descendants to know more about their origin.
Have you ever visited the land of your ancestors?