Offering a jaw-dropping rugged coastline, colorful seaside villages, vibrant city centers, and dramatic hikes, there are plenty of things to do in Asturias. Best of all, you will not be sharing with hordes of tourists.
After a local friend kept regaling us with stories of his beautiful Asturias, my partner and I decided to embark on a two-week road trip through this slice of uncharted Spain.
While I have a deep-rooted love for mountains, my Sicilian partner adores the sea. This makes picking a holiday destination challenging, at best. Little did I know, visiting Asturias would well and truly tick both our boxes.
Looking for inspiration on unmissable things to do in Asturias and some of the prettiest places to visit? Read on to explore some of our favorite stops during our 2-week road trip through northern Spain.
Asturias Guide at a Glance
WHERE TO STAY
- Best Beach: Cathedral Beach Galicia
- Prettiest Town: Colorful Ribadeo
- Nicest Route: Day one/day six
- Restaurant: Dinners on the train
- Culture: Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
ALTERNATIVE TRANSPORT: Travers Asturias on the Costa Verde Express
WHAT TO BRING (SUMMER): Hiking gear, raincoat, sunscreen, beachwear, light sweaters as well as shorts, t-shirts and general summery outfits.
12 Things to Do in Asturias
1. Go Hiking in Picos de Europa
Sprawled out across Cantabria, Castillo y Leon and Asturias lies the majestic Picos de Europa National Park. Inside a treasure trove of hiking trails, glacial lakes and soaring peaks promise an adventure-packed holiday for outdoor enthusiasts, from beginners to more advanced.
We spent 6 days in Picos de Europa during our road trip through northern Spain, basing ourselves in Cangas de Onis to explore Cavadonga; an extended stay in Arenas de Cabrales which we used as a base for the dramatic Cares Gorge Hike, finishing off in comfort in Hotel Narbasu to soothe our sore muscles.
Hiking is one of the best things to do in Asturias, but it is noteworthy to mention that the weather in this part of the country is fickle. As photography plays an important role for me, we ended up going to the Cavadonga Lakes three times in order to see the lakes without fog or rain.
2. Spend a day at the beach
Beautiful beaches in Asturias are truly a dime a dozen. The rugged coastline is lined with dramatic cliffs set against a mountainous backdrop and plenty of sandy coves. The coastal road between Luarca and Llanes has a plethora of beaches on offer.
Most of the beaches along the coastline are entirely wild, meaning it’s a bring-your-own kit and caboodle kind of situation. It also means chances are high that you will need to walk across rock formations to reach the waterfront from the parking lot and bring proper footwear along.
Despite visiting in August, the weather was a smidge too fresh for a sunbathing extravaganza. Should you encounter better weather head towards any of the following beaches: Playa de Silencio, Playa de Pumarin, Playa de Sablon, Playa de Santa Marina.
3. Drink Cider in a Traditional Cidreria
Tasting this local favorite in a traditional cidreria is part and parcel of the Asturian experience. This golden liquid, served by the bottle, is ubiquitous around the area and oftentimes cheaper than purchasing water. Best shared with a friend, with a small racion of your favorite snack.
Asturian Cider is not the general run-of-the-mill, sickly sweet, and overly bubbly commercial drink you might have indulged in on a hot summer’s night. The local brew is tangy and, surprisingly, void of bubbles if poured wrong.
Step into any cidreria and the first thing you notice is waiters holding bottle green containers of cider overhead and pouring them into a glass, held just below the waist. A good portion of the liquid tends to end up on the floor, or in a bucket that has been placed there for this very reason. The reason for this spectacle is simple, to aerate the liquid.
Cidrerias are a dime a dozen in even the smallest village. A few of our favorites were Sidrería Tierra Astur in Avilés, where you can book a table inside an actual cider barrel; Sidreria Vega Redonda in Cangas de Onis and the famous Sidra El Gaitero which organizes tasting tours.
4. Hike Somiedo National Park
Somiedo National Park is much less frequented than Picos de Europa National Park. The park was declared a biosphere in 2000 and is home to the Cantabrian brown bears and the elusive Iberian wolf, both of which are easiest to spot in spring and autumn. Word of caution: Bear spotting is best undertaken with a knowledgeable local guide.
We ventured into Somiedo, not for the bears, but for the Brañas (pasturelands) dotted with traditional wood thatched cottages once used by sheepherders, and the prospect of hiking around the Lagos de Saliencia.
The Tourism Office in Pola de Somiedo provided us with maps for various hikes including the 14 km (8.6 mi) Ruta de los Lagos as well as the 6 km (3.7 mi) hike to the Braña de Mumian, which has a large clustering of woodthatched cottages.
5. Catch Sunset Along the Rugged Coastline
There are few coastlines as spectacular as Asturias in northern Spain. From verdant mountains, peppered with colorful cliff-top houses cascading into boat-dotted bays, to craggy coastlines overlooking pristine white sandy beaches, it will elicit a sigh of admiration from even the most beach-averse traveler.
On our road trip through Asturias, we embarked on a beach-hopping bonanza. The weather was gray and overcast, so we swapped our initial plans to head into the water and instead took a slow coastal drive between Luarca and Llanes, stopping at various viewpoints along the way.
It turned out to be one of my favorite things to do in Asturias, and I am firmly entrenched in the beach-averse traveler category. Here are a few of my favorite viewpoints:
FARO DE CABO BUSTO: A little beach bar is located 100 meters before the lighthouse. Perfect place to chill out and watch the sunset.
ERMITA DE LA REGALINA: Ample parking and surrounded on two sides by some of the most spectacular beaches in all of Asturias.
PLAYA DE SILENCIO: A tad more busy than the above two spots, but nevertheless one for the books!
DRIVING TIP | If you are using a GPS, make sure to select “avoid highways” to ensure it takes you along the little coastal roads versus the A8.
6. Explore the Turquoise Lakes in Asturias
I mistakenly thought the Dolomites were the creme de la creme of European mountain lakes. That was before we decided to hike around Picos de Europa and Somiedo National Park in Asturias. Both parks have a set of toothpaste blue lakes, that will quite simply blow your socks off.
LAGO ENOL/ LAKE ENOL & LAGO ERCINA/LAKE ERCINA: Lake Enol and Lake Ercina are the largest of the Cavadonga Lakes, nestled in the Picos de Europa National Park. These Glacial lakes are located 1000 meters above sea level and can be visited via a myriad of different hiking routes.
LAGOS DE SALIENCIA/ SALIENCIA LAKES: Lago Negro, Cerveriz, Laguna de Almagrera or La Mina, and La Cueva are the four lakes that make up the Saliencia Lakes in Somiedo National Park. The four lakes can be viewed along the Saliencia Lakes route (14 km/8 mi hike).
GOOD TO KNOW | The weather in Asturias can be fickle, especially in the mountainous regions. We tried to see the Cavadonga Lakes 3 separate times before we managed to catch them without piles of fog rolling down from the mountains.
7. Chill Out in Gijon
The city of Gijon humms to its own tune. Downtown Gijon is a maze of little streets and traditional houses with large colorful covered balconies, spilling out into the white sandy beach of San Lorenzo. I particularly loved the prime people-watching along the promenade (Paseo Muro de San Lorenzo Gijon)!
We strolled around Cimavilla with its little streets, the verdant hilly outcrop (Cerro de Sta Catalina) offering the perfect place to watch the sunset before heading into the sardine-can traditional cidreria for a bite to eat, washed down with locally brewed cider.
WHERE TO PARK | Free parking at the El Molinon Football Stadium
WHERE TO EAT | Gloria – Esther y Nacho Manzano, Parador de Gijon, Kausa Taberna
WHAT NOT TO MISS | Historical Center, Playa de San Lorenzo, Laboral Ciudad de la Cultura, Cimadevilla
WHERE TO STAY | Hotel Alcomar or other hotels in Gijon
8. Munch Moscovitas in Oviedo
The capital of Asturias, Oviedo, has a lot to offer visitors. We spent two days and could easily have spent another day taking in the lively atmosphere and the surprisingly diverse architecture. Stroll around the historical center, pop into the Oviedo Cathedral, and make sure to try the famous local biscuits, moscovitas, at Confiteria Rialto.
Spend sunset by the Iglesia de Santa Maria de Naranco. It is a little out of town and easiest reachable if you have your own car. We parked alongside Sidreria Vista Alegre, popped in, and got a cold beer (€2.5/beer) before walking up to the UNESCO-classified church.
WHERE TO PARK | We parked at our hotel (Hotel Fruela)
WHERE TO EAT | El Manglar, Confiteria Rialto, Alterna Sidrería
WHAT NOT TO MISS | Historical Center, Oviedo Cathedral, Museo de Bellas Artes, Iglesia de Santa Maria de Naranco
WHERE TO STAY | Hotel Fruela or other hotels in Oviedo
9. Grab lunch in Cudillero
At first glance, Cudillero looks very similar to the little villages of Cinque Terre in Northern Italy. The utterly laid-back vibe, a smattering of bustling restaurants, and unbeatable views make visiting Cudillero one of the very best things to do in Asturias.
When we visited Cudillero it was absolutely jam-packed with daytrippers. After a nice – if slightly chaotic – lunch in Los Arcos de Cudillero we strolled around the harbor and walked the Ruta de los Miradores which connects the various viewpoints over Cudillero.
WHERE TO PARK | José Ramon Martinez Campo or Aparcamentie Puerto de Cudillero
WHERE TO EAT | Restaurante Casa Julio, Los Arcos de Cudillero
WHAT NOT TO MISS | Ruta de los Miradores, nearby Playa del Silencio, stroll through town
WHERE TO STAY | Find hotels in Cudillero
10. Explore Ribadesella
On our way to hike the Picos de Europa, we drove past bustling Ribadesella and had to make a pitstop. Framed by the glistening Cantabrian Sea and the verdant mountains of Picos de Europa, this little town in Asturias is an absolute showstopper and vaguely reminiscent of northern Tenerife.
We went in the early hours of the day, to avoid to large flocks of tourists that descend upon Ribadesella throughout the day. My absolute favorite thing to do was hiking up to the Ermita de La Guia, which offers the very best views over the entire town.
WHERE TO PARK | All along the Sella River. We parked in Parking Alsa and walked into town.
WHERE TO EAT | La Huertona, Quince Nudos, Panaderia Mon Ribadesella (for local pastries)
WHAT NOT TO MISS | Ermita de la Guia, Playa de Santa Marina, Ruta de los Dinosaurios
WHERE TO STAY | Find accommodations in Ribadesella
11. Spend the Day in Lastres
The coastal town of Lastres quite literally swept us off our feet. Surrounded by staggering cliffs and white sandy beaches, perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Cantabrian Sea, lies quite possibly the most picturesque fishing village in all of Asturias. We had a languorous lunch and spent a few hours exploring the village.
Lastres’ narrow streets wind through stone houses adorned with colorful flowers and an eclectic mixture of handpainted ceramics depicting saints, boats, lighthouses, and, sometimes, all of the above together. The steep slopes of town lead down to a little port and a sundrenched rocky beach.
WHERE TO PARK | Aparcamiento Mirador San Roque
WHERE TO EAT | Hotel Lastres Miramar, Restaurante El Mirador
WHAT NOT TO MISS | Viewpoint San Roque, Torre del Reloj, Playa de El Escanu
WHERE TO STAY | Hotel Lastres Miramar
12. Travers With the Costa Verde Express
Spain has a few luxury trains that traverse the country, one of them is the virtually unknown Costa Verde Express. This beautiful train transports passengers from Santiago de Compostela to Bilbao, on a 6-day spectacular journey traversing the regions of Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country
A local friend told me about this train, which, despite permanently being sold out, somehow has remained off the main tourist radar. The full journey is a mere 500 km (300-ish miles), but as the train stops at various towns and cities it takes the full 6 days to complete.
READ MORE | In a stroke of pure luck, I was invited by the Spanish Tourism Board to take this specific train ride. Read my honest experience on the Costa Verde Express.
Additional Places to Visit Around Asturias
We spent a full two weeks in around Asturias and dipped into a few highlights of the surrounding areas. The below recommendations are easy enough to weave into your itinerary if you have a bit of extra time on your hands.
SANTILLANA DEL MAR: Located in Cantabria, Santillana del Mar is known as one of the prettiest villages in all of Spain.
CATHEDRAL BEACH: Praia das Catedrais is lined with arches, columns and vaults, some of which soar a staggering 30 meters (98 feet) in the air.
SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA: This city is the endpoint of the Camino de Santiago and the capital of the Galicia region. Very much worth spending at least one day!
BILBAO: The capital of the Basque Country and home to the spectacular Guggenheim Museum. We ended up spending two days, exploring the various museums and eating our weight in pinchos.
Travel Tips for Visiting Asturias
Best time to travel to Asturias
One of the many beauties of Asturias is its offbeat location, a rare feat for Europe’s most visited country. While traveling to Spain in summer usually means soaring temperatures, overflowing beaches and hordes of tourists, Asturias has none of the above.
On the contrary, with an average of 23°C (73°F) temperatures are decidedly moderate in summer, perfect for long uncrowded hikes or languorous strolls around quiet fishing villages. June to August see the lowest rainfall and are the very best time to explore Asturias.
Vegetarian Traditional Foods in Asturias
As a vegetarian, the food in Asturias was complicated. The region is renowned for its hearty meat stews (Fabada, Pote) and the omnipresence of Chorizo. Mundane things like grabbing a sandwich in a bakery before hiking oftentimes turned into a veritable quest to find a meatless option.
Many of the vegetarian options are coated in a thick layer of Cabrales (Cow’s-milk blue cheese), a very acquired taste. That being said, Tortilla de Patata, Patatas Bravas, Torto de Maiz and Asturian Salade are vegetarian options that are widely available in every restaurant. Larger cities (Oviedo, Gijon and Aviles) have a few dedicated vegetarian restaurants, though they do not serve traditional dishes.
For vegetarians with a sweet tooth, the Arroz con leche (creamy rice pudding) and Asturian Almond Cake are an absolute must.
Is Asturias in Spain Worth Visiting?
The wealth of things to do in Asturias is unparalleled, from conquering the soaring peaks of Picos de Europa to sunbathing on quiet stretches of sandy beach, exploring the many fisherman villages whilst strolling past their colorful houses gracefully cascading into little ports filled with swaying boats or heading into the bustling capital of Gijon for a night on the town.
Asturias has remained blissfully off the well-worn tourist track, ensuring affordable prices, genuine hospitality, pristine nature, and age-old traditions are omnipresent. Whatever you do, don’t let the temperamental weather deter you from exploring this beautiful slice of Spain.
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