So, I’ve just returned from a two month trip to Spain and Portugal – and not only has it renewed my interest in Spanish culture and language, I found out how underrated Portugal is to visit, and how much I take the classic British fish and chips for granted.
Now, here’s my map of the places I visited:
I pin everything on a map to remember where I went, but that’s a story for another time. I’m going to tell you the good places and the bad places, tips and whatever have yous if you’re thinking of making an unforgettable Iberian trip.
I’ll be writing an article on Galicia, Portugal and Madrid, but we have to start off with Asturias, where I flew to from Gatwick – one of the country’s many paradises.
Highlight: Ascending the Monte Naranco, a mountain on the outskirts that features the giant Jesus statue. The walk up itself is wonderful, but the view you get from the top is outstanding. For that, I included it in my list of most memorable views I’ve ever seen. The 9th century monasteries on the way up are amazing in their own right, and you could easily picnic by either of them. Or up top – there’s a lot of good picnicking opportunities!
Lowlight: A thing I should mention about Oviedo, for some reason they have midnight bin men! Whoever thought that 2am was the optimal time for rubbish collection was out of their mind! One time, I slept less than three hours because there were building works going on outside until well past 4am. There’s laws for this sort of stuff, right?
Verdict: Oviedo is a real nice city. But I wouldn’t put it high on a visiting list, if you’re just going to Spain for a weekend or a city break. If you’re staying for a while or passing through, it’s perfect. Not to disparage the place, it’s beautiful and lively, but it feels more of a location for other Spanish tourists, rather than city breaking international visits.
Tips: If you’re looking for free WIFI around town, most Alimerka supermarket stores offer it. And peek your head around corners – every alley holds something cool.
Highlight: The route up to the mountain lakes of Los Picos National Park is magnificent – tall, thin canopy trees dominate the valley landscape, the hills are shrouded in fog, enveloping the fields and farming villages. Instead of going to the famed Covadonga lakes, I headed to la Olla de San Vicente, a scenic little lake up top, by bike, which is easier because it’s flat terrain all the way there. It’s bloody freezing, though!
Lowlight: Can’t think of one.
Verdict: Los Picos is magical and enchanting, and probably the closest thing to a rainforest-like environment that you’ll find in Europe. I haven’t even mentioned the Sanctuary and Grotto, which are incredible to visit too. The nearest town, Cangas de Onís is home to the Puente Romano, a famous Roman bridge in the centre of town. But the cathedral is even more impressive. Check out the food and maybe a festival, if you’re lucky!
Tips: If you usually stay at hostels, the Albergue de La Riera is a great spot. It’s €15 a night, (outside of August), and you can use a bike for free from them, which is how I explored Los Picos.
I just cannot find the restaurant where I ate in Cangas, but the food was beautiful! Get a menu del día – mine was €12 for three courses and couldn’t have been any better. Try the fabada asturiana for sure, the local bean and pork delicacy. Not a light meal. And it’s the starter, too!! Around the side of the cathedral, (not the main road), is the Confitería Covadonga, the best bakery I found in the area.
Anything else for Asturias?
If you’re going to go to Oviedo, there’s no need to see Avilés, as it’s smaller and not quite as charming, but the pavements are real nice. Honestly, they are! I wanted to go to Llanes, Cudillero and the various beaches up by the mountains, but I didn’t have enough time, (nor travel opportunities) and am happy with what I did.