A Foodie Road Trip Through Asturias

A foodie road trip through Asturias.

Whenever I told someone that I was headed to Asturias, their eyes grew wide and they exclaimed “You are going to LOVE it! You have to try the (cheese/cider/cachopo/fish/steak etc.)!!!”.

The pure enthusiasm about Asturias and its local cuisine is unrivaled. I’ve never experienced such heartfelt and enthusiastic recommendations– everyone had an opinion to share.

We had decided on a long-anticipated road trip through Asturias for our summer vacation. We’d start in Madrid and travel to the Picos de Europa, making our way across Asturias east to west and visiting both picturesque coastal villages and rural mountain towns. We’d have a total of six days to explore before returning to Madrid by way of Pozos, León (where we’d do a fantastic Spanish cooking retreat).

Asturias, Spain is one of the best hidden destinations in Europe. Read all about my road trip!
Taken from the car window while driving into Asturias.

I contacted the Asturias tourism board before the trip, hoping for some recommendations. They were extremely helpful, and planned us an entire foodie itinerary around the places we were staying!

While we didn’t have time to do everything (and still went a bit too fast and did too much anyway), we did experience a huge chunk of Asturian culture and gastronomy. We are already craving a trip back– six days barely scratches the surface.

Over the next months, I’ll be sharing bits and pieces of our trip, with the hopes of inspiring you to visit this wonderful part of Spain. But for now, here is our route for a road trip through Asturias — a food-focused trip that I could do again and again. Feel free to adjust (and go slower than we did!).

Tip: Bring your appetite and an extra camera battery!

Day 1: Madrid to Potes

Technically, Potes isn’t in Asturias– it’s right on the border in neighboring Cantabria. But it was the most beautiful way to head into Asturias, and one I’d do again and again. Driving through the Picos de Europa is absolutely breathtaking.

A beautiful view of the picos de Europa on our Asturias road trip.
Our first of many amazing views of the trip.

For Foodies

Lunch on the road: We stopped at the famous Landa restaurant located at kilometer 235 on the A6 near Burgos (a little over halfway to Potes). It was a “see and be seen” type of place, but despite this prices are reasonable and the restaurant is gorgeous. We sat outside and enjoyed delicious free range eggs with local morcilla de Burgos (Burgos style blood sausage, which is stuffed with rice and fried until crisp). Our trip had started off on a food high!

Eggs and morcilla at the best place to stop on the A6 near Burgos.
A perfect combo!

Where to Stay Near Potes

Our hotel near Potes was a charming place called Hotel Posada la Casa de Frama. Owner Alberto welcomed us with a huge smile, and we settled in before heading to Potes for dinner.

Where to stay in Cantabria near Potes: Hotel Casa Frama
Hotel La Casa de Frama, Cantabria
Where to stay in the picos de Europa: Hotel Casa de la Frama
Our lovely view from the room.

I had no expectations for Potes, it was completely off my radar. But wow– am I glad we went! A beautiful medieval town in the middle of the Picos de Europa, it was a stunning place to take a walk before dinner.

Potes Cantabria is a gorgeous town in the Picos de Europa. Our first stop on the road trip through Asturias!
Gorgeous Potes.

And dinner didn’t disappoint either. We ate at the charming Asador Llorente, where we enjoyed a view of the mountains and the setting sun.

A simple but amazing salad of roasted red peppers and goat cheese.
A simple but amazing salad of roasted red peppers and goat cheese.
Where to eat in Potes? Try Asador Llorente for a great steak!
A delicious local steak.
Where to eat in Potes Cantabria
Potes at dusk.

Day 2: Potes to Cabrales to Llanes to Arriondas

Driving through the Picos de Europa on a road trip through Asturias.
Driving through the Picos de Europa.

It was a shame we had to leave Potes so quickly (a recurring theme throughout our trip) but we had an 11am appointment at the Queseria Francisco Bada, known by many locals as the best Cabrales cheesemaker.

What is Cabrales cheese you ask?

Quite possibly the most impressive cheese in Spain, Cabrales is an incredible blue cheese made mainly with unpasteurized cows milk following centuries old traditions (including aging in humid caves high in the picos de Europa). We were lucky to have a private tour with the cheesemaker Rosa Maria, who taught us about the painstaking process of creating this wonderful cheese. And of course we bought plenty to take home.

Cabrales cheese caves
The tiny town of Tielve in Cabrales.
Visiting the Cabrales cheese caves.
Visiting the Cabrales cheese caves.

After lunch at the rustic and delicious Café Cares, we were on the road again to an eco-hotel near Arriondas. But on the way, we decided to stop for a walk and a merienda in Llanes, often called the most touristic town in Asturias.

It may be touristy to the locals, but Llanes looked like any beach town in southern Spain on your average Sunday afternoon.

Visiting Llanes, Asturias on our road trip through Asturias.
The rugged coastline in Llanes.
The famous painted rocks in Llanes, Asturias.
The famous painted rocks in Llanes.

Where to Stay in Asturias

Finally, we arrived ready to relax at our hotel, Posada del Valle. Recommended by my friend Kaley, it looked like the perfect place to spend a couple of nights. A renovated priest’s house in the middle of the mountains, this place was restored with charm and is now run as an eco-hotel and organic farm by British couple Joann and Nigel Burch.

Hotel Posada del Valle, a wonderful eco hotel in Asturias.
Our beautiful hotel’s surroundings
Asturian sheep roaming free at Hotel Posada del Valle in Asturias.
The hotel’s native Asturian sheep.

Day 3: Cangas de Onis, Lagos de Covadonga and Ribadesella

Taking advice from Joann, we split our day among Cangas de Onis, the Covadonga Lakes and the fishing village of Ribadasella.

We lucked out and were able to park our car in Cangas de Onis and visit the Sunday market. Before we knew it we were buying cheese, apple jelly and empanadas— and I could have bought my weight in dried beans if I’d had somewhere to put them!

Visiting the Sunday market in Cangas de Onis on our roadt trip through Northern Spain.
The lovely flower market.
Sunday morning market in Cangas de Onis, Asturias.
Lots of goodies for sale.

We bought a knife in a souvenir shop (a common souvenir from Asturias, apparently) and headed to the nearby bus station to take a bus to the lakes. On Sundays, cars aren’t allowed up (and thank GOD because we would have been petrified driving up the tiny, winding roads without a barrier). I was still gripping my seat on the bus, but we made it there and back in one piece.

And let me tell you, the Lagos de Covadonga are a MUST!

I tried to convince Ale not to go, after hearing they were very touristy. I imagined something totally different than what we found. After our 25 minute (terrifying) drive up the mountains, we were at 1100 meters above sea level surrounded by two incredible glacial lakes, the staggering picos, wild cows, and plenty of hiking trails. I can’t believe I almost missed it!

Taking a road trip through northern Spain: the Covadonga Lakes are a must!
The incredible glacial lakes at Covadonga.

Hiking at the Lagos de Covadonga

We took the 2.5-hour trail (which actually took us under two hours) and lucked out because nearly everyone else seemed to be taking the 1-hour trail. The hike was easy but amazing– every moment was incredible. We sat down midway through for our picnic lunch, and just marveled at how lucky we were.

Views from the incredible Lagos de Covadonga, Asturias.
Some of the incredible views.
Beautiful cow at the Lagos de Covadonga, a must stop on any northern Spain road trip.
Cows are a common sight– but be careful!

Once back we caught the bus down and stopped at the town of Covadonga to see the Our Lady of Covadonga Sanctuary. We didn’t go inside, but we did walk through the Holy Cave, which was pretty intense (loud music and lots of nuns). All in all, it was a quick stop of only about 30 minutes before we boarded the bus back to Cangas de Onis.

Ribadasella

From Cangas de Onis we headed to Ribadesella, a small fishing village where the Cantabrian Sea meets the River Sella. We walked through the small town admiring the Casas de Indianos, enormous mansions built by Spanish emigrants to the Americas who had returned with money to burn. Many of these mansions are in ruins throughout Asturias, while others were converted into hotels and restaurants. The ones in Ribadasella were fairly well kept.

An abandoned Casa de Indiano in Cangas de Onis.
An abandoned Casa de Indiano in Cangas de Onis.

Ribadasella for Foodies

In Asturias the locals call the local bars and cider houses chigres and my favorite of the trip was in Ribadasella. El Carroceu is a simple cider house buzzing with locals, offering a short but traditional menu of raciones (which they seem to refer to as tapas in Asturias!).

Delicious mussels at the Asturian cider house called El Carroceu in Ribadasella.
Spicy mussels at El Carroceu.
Grilled squid at an Asturian cider house in Ribadasella. The best place to eat in Ribadasella!
Amazing grilled squid.

Day 4: Lastres to Trabanco to Gijón

From the Arriondas area we made our way to Gijón, stopping in another incredible fishing village called Lastres on the way. It was a Monday which made lunch difficult (the highly recommended Casa Eutimio was closed El Barrigón del Bertín was fully booked), so we settled on a menú del día from one of the only spots in town that had a table. It was quite possibly our worst meal in Asturias (though I say that with a huge note of sarcasm– it was still delicious).

The incredible view over Lastres, Asturias.
The incredible view over Lastres, Asturias.

Trabanco Cider Lagar

Before arriving to Gijón we had a 4pm appointment with Gloria from Trabanco Cider, at the family lagar (factory). We spent a couple of hours learning the history of this wonderful beverage and of one of the most successful families to produce it. And before heading out we tasted cider right from the barrels with local Asturian cheeses, one of the best combinations ever!

Taking a tour of the Trabanco cider factoryl.
Delicious Trabanco cider.

Finally, we made it to Gijón, where we took a walk on our way to dinner at Tierra Astur, an Asturian sidrería with locations in multiple cities. It reminded me a bit of Outback Steakhouse in a very Asturian way. As expected, the food was mediocre, but the atmosphere was absolutely buzzing and the decoration is really cool.

Gijón Asturias on our northern Spain road trip.
Gorgeous Gijón at dusk.
Eating in Gijón
The essentials at Tierra Astur: Cabrales, dulce de manzana, tortos de maíz, and sidra!

Day 5: Gijón to Luanco to Avilés to Muñas de Arriba

Gijón monument
Picturesque Gijón on a sunny day.

Where to Stay in Gijón

Our base for our night in Gijón was Hotel Hernan Cortes, which I loved. We had somehow booked a suite without realizing it, and had two enormous rooms to ourselves. The hotel was old-school in a vintage way– it was a quirky place, but perfectly located and very comfortable. I wish we’d stayed longer!

Our time in Gijón was way too short, I didn’t expect the city to have so much charm! Before heading off we took our last walk and stopped at a wonderful small shop called La Gijonesa, this is the place to buy foodie souvenirs in Gijón!

La Gijonesa the best souvenir shop in Gijón
The best foodie shop in Gijón!
La Gijonesa, the best shop in Gijón!
We could have bought one of each!

Run by Laura and Gaspar, a young couple who completely changed career paths given the economy, they source the best products from all around Asturias (proven by the fact that they stock Francisco Badas Cabrales cheese!) and wrap them in their colorful packages featuring old photos of the area. We stocked up on goodies here, and have been enjoying jams, cheeses, cookies and canned fish back in Madrid!

Where to Eat in Luanco

We arrived in Luanco with one objective: eat a good mariscada (a platter of grilled shellfish). Luckily, I called in time to get a reservation at Restaurante Guernica, which went on to be one of the best meals I’ve had all year.

We splurged on the shellfish and local fish platter for two, which came in two heaping courses. It was an insane amount of food– enough for four really– but we did our best to waste as little a possible. The fish was great but the shellfish– oh that shellfish!– it was incredible. Local clams, velvet crabs, prawns and the star of the plate– bogavante (lobster). I grew up with great Maine lobster, but this was something completely different. The flavor was unforgettable.

A delicious mariscada in Luanco Asturias at Restaurante Guernica.
The most amazing meal ever.
Where to eat in Luarco Asturias
Velvet crab and clams

I would have liked to have spent the afternoon relaxing on the beach in Luanco, but we’d made plans to see the fish auction at the Lonja de Avilés, one of the largest commercial fish markets in Asturias.

After an hour of walking in circles in the hot sun, completely lost, we finally arrived and took a tour of the facilities with a group of about 40 Spanish tourists. It was very interesting, despite our difficulties getting there!

Exploring the Rula de Avilés!
Rula de Avilés

Staying at a Stargazing Hotel

We ended our day at our next hotel in the tiny town of Muñas de Arriba, where Faustino has turned his passion for stargazing into his business, El Observatoriu. Faustino and his wife bought and remodeled three country homes, which they rent out as rustic casas rurales. With every visit you get a stargazing session with Faustino and his super fancy telescope and observatory.

L'Observatoriu in Muñas de Arriba
Another hotel in the middle of nowhere!
Observatory hotel in Asturias
Faustino’s observatory.

Day 6: Luarca to Coaña

Visiting Luarca Asturias
Beautiful Luarca

Almost tired of Asturias’ quaint fishing villages, I’m glad we still visited Luarca. Called “the white village of Asturias” this town was once famous for whale fishing, and is now a great place to spend a day or two.

Visiting Luarca on our road trip through Asturias
Asturias’ white village

After lunch in Luarca on the terrace of Restaurante Sport, we headed to the Castro of Coaña, amazing Celtic ruins near the border of Galicia.

A castro is a pre-Roman settlement, in this case thought to be as old as the late Bronze Age! It was inhabited throughout the Iron Age and later taken by the Romans and also used. The Coaña Castro is one of the best examples– though due to lack of budget only a small part has even been unearthed!

The incredible Castro de Coaña in Asturias on our roadtrip through northern Spain.
The incredible Castro de Coaña
Castro de Coaña
Castro de Coaña

Day 7: Cudillero

Visiting Cudillero on an Asturias road trip.
Bright and colorful Cudillero.

Our time in Asturias was nearly over, and it was time to head on to Pozos, León, where we’d be staying a few days with Esme Tours Spanish Cooking Retreats. But before we left, we squeezed in one more village visit– another that many said was too touristy. And it’s true that there were quite a few tourists in Cudillero, but we walked one of the routes around the steep hills of the village and we were the only ones in sight, enjoying incredible amazing views.

Read more: My life changing experience with Esme Tours

Touristy or not, travel is all about what you make it!

Cudillero from above. A gorgeous stop on our road trip through Asturias.
The views from the top of the town.
Cudillero Asturias is one of the prettiest villages in Spain.
Goodbye Asturias!

Have you visited Asturias? What did I miss? I can’t wait to go back already!

Comments

  1. Asturias is amazing!! I had a similar, positive experience when I went on a road trip with my housemates last November, and while we only had 4 days to split between Asturias and Cantabria, we really enjoyed all the small fishing villages, fresh seafood, and stunning natural wonders there are to see along Spain’s northern coast. If y’all do ever go back, make sure to explore the prehistoric cave art that dots these two regions; the Cueva de Tito Bustillo in Ribadesella and the Cueva de El Castillo in Puente Viesgo (Cantabria) were truly stunning.

  2. Glad to see you stayed in Hotel Posada del Valle! Just thinking about our time there makes me very happy. I really loved Asturias. Probably my favorite region in Spain (so far)!

  3. Sounds like a lovely six days. The colorful packaging at La Gijonesa is so cute. I’m on the hunt for Cabrales cheese here in the U.S. I’ve never even tried it, but it sounds so delicious and I’m on a mission to find it here. A friend in the cheese business said its possible to get it, but it has to be pasteurized. No luck yet, but I’m going to keep searching…

  4. Wow, mouthwatering much? 😛 Spain really does do some amazing food! I haven’t been to Austurias, but Barcelona, Cordoba and Sevilla, and the food did not dissapoint there either! Would love to go back one day! I think the Spanish really know how to do life 😛

    1. I’m from Asturias and I live in Quintes (Villaviciosa). Tazones is my favorite place of Asturias. It’s is a small fishing village, along the harbor are several restaurants with terraces where you can try a fantastic paella!

      1. SOHA – I have just marked Tazones as a must visit. Google earth gives a really great look around. We are staying Llanes 4 days end June 2017, as small fishing/villages are exactly what we are looking for and thought we would travel as far as Cudillero for a day trip. Do you have any other villages that are a must visit or anywhere that you can recommend that would be within 90min drive from Llanes.
        Thank you very much. Andy

  5. Hi, I like your post =I m planning to visit Lagos de Covadonga , can you give me the address or the GPS coordinates for the bus station that takes us to Lagos de Covadonga=I ll be going there on april (it will be on a Thursday). thanks

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