Asturias: Where Cows Climb Mountains Better Than Cars
This December, we had a long weekend at school, and a group of nine of us ended up mapping out a trip to the region of Asturias, Spain. Asturias is a place I've had my eye on for over a year. It is famous for some of the most stunning mountains in Europe, cows, cheese and apple cider. Who knew heaven was a place on Earth, right?! Turns out this little corner of the world is just as beautiful and special as I imagined it to be, but it definitely threw us for a few loops along the way.
Our first day was spent driving through the winding valleys of La Rioja, jagged and mountainous Pais Vasco, and stopping to walk around in Santander, the lovely beachy capital of the region of Cantabria. We took some time to eat breakfast, walk up the coast, and check out a castle on top of a hill before getting back on the road to cruise the rest of the way down the Asturian coast and into the mountains where we'd be staying.
Asturian Coast and Mirador del Fitu
As we drove into Asturias, we were all excited to check out some of the lesser known treasures of the region. We stopped in a small coastal village called Ribadesella, which boasts lovely colorful buildings and a giant sparkly bear as a Christmas decoration. We stopped here to grab lunch and of course, take a photo of Sam with the bear. Probably the happiest he has ever looked in a photo.
We got back on the road just in time to head to a lookout point called Mirador del Fitu. We got there right as the sun was setting, and though my photos may not show it, this was one of the most spectacular views I have seen in my life. Props to our friend Chloe for doing the research to find the place; it was such an incredible way to see Asturias for the first time. We continued driving to reach our little mountain town of Ligüeria that night.
Ligüeria and the Asturian Countryside
Our Airbnb was a cozy cabin in Ligüeria, the town of 11 inhabitants that the listing description did a poor job of warning us was actually located on top of a mountain. The drive up to the top was described as "slightly treacherous," but in the pitch black night, the gravelly path with no barrier between the car and the edge of a cliff was nothing short of terrifying. In most spots on the road there was only room for one car, so our biggest fear was that another car would try to come down the mountain as we were headed up. Luckily, this only happened once and all of the cars made it out unscathed. This trip featured some of the scariest roads I've ever been on in my life, and this actually wasn't number one on the list. The day after we arrived in Ligüeria we attempted to go on a hike, made a wrong turn and spent what felt like the entire day bouncing up a jagged, mud covered mountain road that seemed to be on a never ending incline. In our tiny, yet faithful rental car our hands shook and we held our breaths, and eventually stopped to ask some Spanish farmers if there was a way we could ever get off this nightmare mountain road. For the sake of my anxiety level, I will not attempt to fully tell that story, but my friend Ellen did a great job of explaining it all here.
Aside from the heart-stopping paths along the way, staying in a tiny mountain town was absolutely incredible, and I'd recommend a similar experience (maybe in a slightly more accessible location) to anyone looking to visit Asturias. From the countryside, you can see the true essence of Asturias. We got to see cows and goats climbing mountains, wake up with views of the Picos de Europa, and see the Asturian village residents walk around in wooden shoes. We even had a baby and mother horse wander into our back yard one night. In an attempt to give the horses a treat, I accidentally threw a carrot at the baby, and I think I will probably be sad about that forever.
Oviedo and Gijón
The next day of our trip, we decided to venture into the most well-known cities of Asturias, Oviedo and Gijón to see a different side of the region. Oviedo's rainy streets were dotted with sculptures from Woody Allen (for the film Vicky Christina Barcelona set partially in Oviedo), to the mayor sitting on a bench, to some famous Botero pieces which are my all time fave. Christmas carols played on speakers lining the town and we got to eat amazing Mexican food food lunch, so even though I was drenched by the end of the day, Oviedo's magic made my heart and my belly full and happy. We finished out the day by walking around Gijón, watching the waves smash against a moody coastline, and collecting the necessary beverages we now knew we would need after driving up to Ligüeria again after nightfall.
We rounded out the trip by going to a Cider museum in a little town called Nava. We figured you can't leave Asturias without visiting a cider museum, right?! However, we didn't account for the fact that we'd spend our last night in the cabin having a little too much fun celebrating our last dark journey up the mountain. This included playing beer pong with pieces of carrot because we didn't have ping pong balls. Needless to say, I was pretty hungover the next day, and consuming alcohol was basically the last thing on my mind.
We went anyway because #yolo, and the museum guide said we could get through the museum activities rather quickly. What she failed to mention was that we would be forced to do several very loud activities including pretending to play the bagpipes and drums while our other friends were forced to dance along. One by one the guide dragged us all up on stage and made us play for our crowd of hung over friends who were moving from side to side while basically wincing at the sound. The next activity was a game where you had to throw a heavy metal coin into a metal frog's mouth. At this point I tried to run away and the lady tried to physically prevent me from passing her without playing. I told her I had a headache and it was too loud, and later she poured me a cup of cider saying is was the best cure for resaca (hangover). We practiced pouring cider and left laughing at one of the most bizarre museum experiences of our lives.
Despite the mishaps along the way, our Asturias trip turned out to be one of the most epic journeys I've been on yet in Spain. We got to experience the incredible nature in the north, see life in a tiny mountain town, bond with amazing new friends, and have lots of fun and laughs along the way. The car issues, the baby horse incident (I'm sorry, world), and hungover cider tour have now become hilarious memories that have helped solidify my love for little Asturias, and I can't wait to go back and experience those mountains again in the near future.