Welcome to Asturias, an enchanting natural paradise stretching along the Cantabrian Sea. A land of rolling mountains, spectacular beaches, cliffs to cause even the most daring to tremble, colorful villages, resplendent natural wonders, and unforgettable cuisine.
Coming to Asturias by car is a great way to acclimate to the region. After traversing a lengthy tunnel, a natural landscape spreads out before you – everything is covered in green. Of course, Asturias has its big cities, like Oviedo and Gijón, but it also boasts the charm of rural areas and diminutive villages.
We’re heading to our first stop, Villaviciosa, a regional highlight because it is home to La Ría de Villaviciosa, one of the estuaries nurturing northern Spain’s matchless environmental treasures. After strolling through the cobbled streets of its historic downtown, we dine at Lena, the gourmet cider house belonging to Chef Jaime Uz, who earned a Michelin star for his Arbidel restaurant in Ribadesella. The menu includes cider house classics like cachopo (veal tenderloin, ham and cheese), hake omelet, or new-fangled seafood, all flawlessly prepared using the region’s best ingredients. To quench your thirst, ask them to pair a cider to each of your dishes – they have more than 20 varieties!
Come morning, we continue to explore all that Asturias has to offer. The day begins with tours of some of the Principality’s most spectacular sites: the Covadonga Sanctuary and Lakes. Driving toward the Picos de Europa Mountains, we encounter a striking structure in a breathtaking natural setting, Santa Cueva de Covadonga, a pilgrimage site encompassing the sacred cave carved into the rock, a waterfall, and the basilica. Legend has it that the Virgin appeared to Don Pelayo, Asturias’ first king and key figure in the Reconquest of Spain and guided him to what had seemed an impossible victory. The site is truly majestic and worth a visit.
Next stop, the hamlet of La Salgar, part of the small Asturian town of Arriondas. It is home to Casa Marcial, the restaurant owned by Nacho Manzano and his sisters that celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2018. Beyond the plethora of events and special gatherings that have drawn the crème de la crème of Spanish gastronomy, Casa Marcial serves singular gourmet cuisine made primarily with regional and local ingredients. Should you decide to sample their succulent menus, the restaurant’s star dishes will surprise you, like slow-cooked rice with free-range Caleya chicken or hake with liquid salad.
For our second night, we take up residence in the small village of Luces, home to 200 souls. Here stands the imposing Relais & Châteaux Palacio de Luces. What was, in the 16th century, a small palace has become one of the best representatives of the region’s hotel industry. Beyond the original structure, there are contemporary buildings that achieve a remarkable blend of past and present. Mother Nature reigns here, creating a restful ambiance of profound peace and quiet, a place that beckons you to unwind, read, take a walk. When it is time for dinner, we choose Chef Ignacio García Canellada’s restaurant, Balcón del Sueve. The menu showcases Asturian fare, each ingredient expertly prepared. We loved the langoustine salpicon and the Cantabrian Sea lobster, as well as the excellent, eco-friendly Asturian calf sirloin steak. For lunch, be sure to try the simmered dishes, like the fabada (Asturian cassoulet), the pote (Asturian stew), or the tasty verdinas con centollo (beans with spider crab).
Just before daybreak, isn’t it best to start the day with a little exercise? We take a dip in the fantastic indoor heated pool at the hotel’s wellness center. Feeling peckish? It’s time for breakfast, as the dark of night yields to the bright light of day. We feast on local cold cuts and cheeses, organic yogurts, and a potato-nut omelet.
The time has come to leave this land of abundance: An ideal last activity is to explore the village of Lastres, about a mile from the hotel, listed as one of the most beautiful villages in Spain. Lastres clings to a hillside that rolls down to the sea. To enjoy a sweeping view of the village, you must climb to the San Roque viewpoint; from there, you can see the port, the small, colorful village, and the omnipresent Cantabrian Sea. Asturias was a delight… and we will no doubt be back!