Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Visit to Asturias

I had been thinking about a visit to Asturias for some time and finally made the effort to book flights via Easyjet to Asturias Airport for about £65 return. I rented a car for the week, Skoda Fabia and set of for Cangas de Onis which is a sort of gateway town for the Pico de Europas but also convenient for the coast. I stayed for 4 nights in one of the many tourist hotels just about 3 miles outside the town. It was quiet with a steady flow of couples and the odd over-night coach party taking advantage of off-season deals. 

My first excursion was La Ruta del Cares. This is a spectacular walk following Rio Cares with the path cut into the sides of the mountain. It is a long walk and you really need 2 cars to manage it properly but I went more than half way from Poncebos to Cain. After an initial climb the path is level and good and one is treated to breathtaking views, occasional tunnels and the feeling of risk as the path gives way at its edge to deathly drops. There were a good number of walkers and welcome cafes at Cain with a circular walk above the village. In all including my return by the same path I did around 32Km which was probably too much for the first day.

The next day I opted for some seaside and visited Llanes a pretty village with a harbour and fluvial river. From there I opted for a circular walk nearby taking in some rugged coast line, impressive blowholes where water enters the cliffs and passes through caves; on rough water days finds it way out in tall spurts via these 'bufones'. Finally, I headed off for  Ribasadella a rather swanky coastal resort with a great beach and where I had bacalao a la plancha followed by a scary drive along winding country roads in the dark.

On other days I completed different walks, enjoying some great autumn sunshine and the changing  colours of the trees and bracken.

Later that week I visited Olviedo and was shown round this very stylish and historic city by my friend Asun. The city is quite compact and has a very nice pedestrianised area, markets and on the day I was there, traditional music and dancing. We had lunch in quite a posh restaurant and there was a festival which meant that Callos was on the menu - the jury is out on this interesting Asturian treat!

After Olviedo I moved to another national park and stayed in the region of Leon just south of Peurto de Somiedo. I found a very nice pension for only 20 euros a night and enjoyed more walks in the mountains including one to Valle del Lago a most beautiful valley.

On the last day I visited Cangas del Narcea which isn't too interesting but has a great tourist office and a selection of walks and I found an entertaining circular one which took me  through forests of chestnut trees and offered easy-to-pick blackberries along the way.

On my return to the airport I travelled the first 60km on near empty roads and enjoyed winding down from the mountains. As the rain set in it felt as if I had at least glimpsed some of what the region has to offer but it is definitely worth another visit.

More photos here