Principality of Asturias (Principado de Asturias) is a small region in the north of Spain surrounded by mountains opposing the Bay of Biscay. It enjoys an oceanic climate, with abundant precipitation, which is the reason why its landscape is always green. The Picos de Europa Mountains, the National Park of Covadonga, or the one in Somiedo, are some of the places not to be missed, and have to be admired for their landscape and nature. In the mountain range that crosses the north of the country some animals in danger of extinction, like bears and capercaillies, still live.
Geographically, Asturias is a crossing place of the Way of Saint James to the Cantabrian coast. It is a different path from the French way but was much used during medieval times, reason why many villages through this route preserve innumerable monuments, with many important jewels of Romanesque style. Asturias also marks the beginning of the Ruta de la Plata (Silver Route), constructed in Roman times from Astorga to Merida, going south. A few kilometres away from the mountains, the beaches and cliffs, sprinkled with marine towns, offer another possibility for the traveller.
Asturias is an isolated territory surrounded by mountains, and because of that, Asturian valleys have been a refuge for popular ancient beliefs and myths that have resisted the passage of time there. The songs and dances of Asturias are a very original folklore, which can be appreciated during numerous summer celebrations. In some towns the festive beginning of the summer is celebrated on Saint Peter’s day with the rise of ‘arbolon’, a tree of considerable height that is cut down and transferred to the main square, usually by the young people of the town.
The celebration of the canoes is the most important festivity in Asturias. Initially, in 1930, it was a fluvial excursion in which several friends wanted to enjoy the Sella River. This experience was very successful, and in 1946, on the fluvial train that took fifteen wagons, it was possible to count up to 285 cars and more than 20 buses that followed the white water canoeing. Today thousands of people annually celebrate the International White Water Canoeing of the Sella River on the first Saturday of August, a great playful, festive event in which canoeists cross 20 km of the Sella River, between Arriondas Bridge and Ribadesella Bridge.
Climbing the Naranco de Bulmes Mountain, trekking (the mountain route of Cares, from Poncebos to Cain, is one of the most famous in all of Europe), practicing speleology, or fishing in rivers (there are reserves specialized in salmons, reos or trouts), are some of the other many activities that the visitor can carry out in this beautiful region.
Asturias has a magnificent artistic heritage. Prehistory has left the legacy of the caves in Buxu or Candamo. Pre-Romanic architecture, painting and metal works shine in monuments like Santa Maria del Naranco and San Miguel de Lillo in Oviedo, or the Cross of the Victory, symbol of the region that can be seen in the regional flag. The Roman domination left in these lands the walls and thermal baths in Gijon and the gold mines in Allande, Tineo and Tapia.
Romanesque art is represented all over the region because Asturias is the only peninsular kingdom that was not conquered by the Arabs in the VIIIth century, a reason why this zone had great importance for the later Christian Reconquest. In medieval times the Jacobean routes popularised the region all over Europe because it crossed Asturias, leaving behind religious monuments like the monastery of San Pedro de Villanueva and Santa Maria del Junco in Ribadesella. The cathedral of Oviedo is a witness of the arrival of the Gothic style to the region; and later centuries contributed to the regional art a multitude of palaces, Renaissance cloisters, neoclassic facades and modernist buildings that all emphasize a historical process in constant evolution.
Popular traditional art is also present in this autonomous community, which keeps its more ancestral traditions alive. The “horreos,” bread makers and stone cabins are a vivid testimony of a culture that has not succumbed absolutely to modernity. And the clay craftwork has a concrete sample in the Faro ceramics.
Milk makes Asturias one of the most important regions producing artisan cheeses in Europe: the one from Cabrales is most famous, in addition to being a fundamental ingredient in a very popular sweet, the rice with milk pudding. A popular Asturian dish in entire Spain is “fabada,” cooked stew with “fabes,” a type of bean, accompanied by garlic sausage, blood sausage, “lacon,” and bacon.
Gastronomy is a fundamental element of the Asturian idiosyncrasy, which has a rich variety of products like “potes,” red meats of cow and ox, trouts, salmons, seafood (sea urchins, spider crabs, “andaricas,” barnacles, “ñoclas”…), sea bream, and baked sea bass, are some of the plates that the innumerable restaurants of the zone offer to please the visitor´s tastes. The typical drink in Asturias is cider, an elaborated ancestral drink from apples with strong ties to everyday life, culture and leisure in the region. The village of Nava is one of the capitals of cider and celebrates an annual fair in which many professionals promote and commercialize this drink with exhibitions in the technological innovations of the sector are shown. Groups of bagpipes, typical instruments of the region, and many cider servers are there to liven up the evening.