A Short Trip Guide to Asturias: Spain’s Northern Paradise

Welcome to Asturias, one of the most, THE most beautiful region of Spain. A region where you will come face to face with stunning mountains, luscious green valleys, small vibrant ports and picture perfect beaches. Trust me when I say this, it is impossible to capture a bad photo here. For a region this small, Asturias does pack plenty of variety in its sights to keep a traveller more than satisfied. Although its cities do have their own charm, it is the natural beauty of Asturias that wins hands down. Are you wanting a short break away from your busy and congested city? Pack your bags because Asturias will certainly not disappoint you.

Itinerary and practical information

My main base was Oviedo, which is well connected to different parts of Asturias as well as to the rest of Spain. It has a direct bus connection to Luarca as well as to Cangas de Onís.

Recommended trip length and when to go

This trip could easily be done in 4-5 days, making it ideal for a short break. You could, of course, modify the trip length depending on your circumstances.
Lying in the northern end of Spain means that the winters can be freezing cold and therefore are best to be avoided.
Summer months (June, July, August) guarantee plenty of good sunshine and the least probability of rain, making it an ideal time to hit the beach. Note that July and August are peak months, so expect to splurge.
Spring (April and May) and autumn (September) are shoulder seasons, but the weather is perfect for hiking in the mountains.
If you want to visit the beach during this time, your best bet would be May and September for a pleasant weather and relatively low rainfall.

How to get to Asturias

By air: Asturias has one airport (Aeropuerto de Asturias) that is located about 45 minutes away from the cities of Oviedo and Gijón, the region’s main transport hubs. There are shuttle buses that connect the airport to these cities- with timetables posted on the airport’s website. It is, however, a small airport that mostly serves domestic flights.

By land: The best way to get to Asturias is undoubtedly overland as this way, you will get to enjoy its spectacular scenery.
Due to Spain’s fantastic public transport system, the whole region is connected quite well to the rest of Spain. If in doubt where to start, you could use the main cities of Oviedo and Gijón as bases.

  • For trains, I use RENFE, but there’s also the option of FEVE trains that connect the northern coast.
  • For buses, I almost always rely on ALSA, when undertaking an inter-regional journey.
  • Use websites such as OMIO, Rome2Rio and Busbud to look at your options and book.
  • Another option is going to the bus or train station to check out the timetables and buying your ticket there. Depending on the day and the destination, you might even be able to reserve a seat for the same day.

How to get around in Asturias

I did my entire trip using buses, without any hassle whatsoever. ALSA covers most routes, although there are a number of private bus companies that are especially good at connecting different villages to cities. Using Omio, Rome2Rio or Busbud should provide you with plenty of sufficient options. As mentioned before, an alternative option to buy tickets is to go physically to a bus station. Cars form another alternative option, although obviously they’re not so good for the environment, and also way more expensive on the pocket.

Where to stay

The top 3 websites that I use to book any accommodation anywhere are: Booking, AirBnB and Hostelworld. Keep in mind that smaller villages will not have AirBnb and hostels available, but you should be able to find hotels at very reasonable prices.

  • For my stay in Oviedo, I booked via AirBnb and as it’s not a big city, you will find plenty of great stays close to the city centre for an amazing price.
  • For my stay in Cangas de Onís, I booked Pensión Solís via Booking. The rooms are clean and cozy with wifi and other basic amenties and the bathrooms have plenty of natural sunlight. There is a terrace where you can sit and enjoy yourself. No meals are provided though, and the owner only speaks Spanish. Payment is strictly accepted in cash.
Basic room in Pensión Solis.
Bathroom with plenty of natural light. There is a shower on left hand side that is not included in the photo.
  • I did not stay in Luarca overnight, however a basic search in Booking and Airbnb reveals plenty of properties. Just be sure to book in advance as this is a scenic town that tends to be fully booked out.

Important links

Navigate the post

Page 2– Travel guide of Oviedo
Page 3Travel guide of Cangas de Onís, Lagos de Covadonga and Covadonga
Page 4Travel guide of Luarca

A Travel Guide to Galicia: Spain’s Celtic connection

Picture this: Lush green land. Rain. Beautiful coast dropping abruptly as it meets the sea, while waves crash with abandon against steep cliffs. Somewhere far away you hear bagpipes. What comes to the mind? You would be forgiven to think that you are somewhere in the Scottish highlands. But you need to shift your focus about 2,500 kilometres south to Spain’s north-western autonomous community: Galicia. 

Galicia is supposed to be one of the lesser known Celtic nations of the world, the more famous ones being Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Cornwall, Brittany and Isle of Man. It is not a high priority for many foreign tourists visiting Spain- certainly not if they are visiting for the first time. Somehow, the absence of bulls, flamenco, searing heat or beach resorts with English speaking staff do not really entice your typical tourist into visiting this area. But if you do decide to venture off the usual tourist path, you will most definitely not be disappointed. 

Bagpipes, known in local language Gallego as ‘gaitas’ are an integral part of Galicia’s folk music. Pictured above is a man dressed in traditional clothing, playing music at Praia das Catedrais.

Itinerary and practical information

I based myself in Ribadeo and Santiago de Compostela, and from there I took day trips to the rest of the places.

In Santiago de Compostela, you can find a number of day tour operators who can take you on a guided tour along Rías Baixas. You can either enquire about them in Santiago’s Tourism Office, or often you can also see them giving out pamphlets in front of the cathedral in Praza do Obradoiro.

Recommended trip length and when to go

Around 1 to 1.5 weeks would be my recommendation, but that is easily modifiable depending on your circumstances.
Summer months (June, July, August) guarantee the sunniest weather and the coast is the best place to be. July and August are also peak months, so expect to splurge.
Spring (April, May) and autumn (September) are shoulder seasons, and you could explore the interior of Galicia, whilst still enjoying a good walk along the coast.
Avoid winter. The weather will be gloomy and so will you.

How to get to Galicia

  • By air: The cities of Santiago de Compostela, Vigo and A Coruña have international airports and serve as excellent bases to start your Galician adventure. They’re not the biggest airports in Spain, so you’ll need to double check if there’s a direct connection from your place of origin or not.
  • By land: Spain has an extensive public transport system, and you can get to Galicia using trains or buses from practically any part of Spain.
    • For trains, I use RENFE, but there’s also the option of FEVE trains that connect the northern coast.
    • For buses, I almost always rely on ALSA, when undertaking an inter-regional journey.
    • Use websites such as OMIO, Rome2Rio and Busbud to look at your options and book.
    • Another option is going to the bus or train station to check out the timetables and buying your ticket there. Depending on the day, you might even be able to reserve a seat for the same day.

How to move around in Galicia

The easiest way to access the best of the coast would be by using a car. Buses form another excellent alternative option. ALSA covers most routes, although there are a number of private bus companies that are especially good at connecting different villages to cities. Using Omio, Rome2Rio or Busbud should provide you with plenty of sufficient options. As mentioned before, an alternative option to buy tickets is to go physically to a bus station.

Where to stay

The top 3 websites that I use to book any accommodation anywhere are: Booking, AirBnB and Hostelworld. Keep in mind that smaller villages will not have AirBnb and hostels available, but you should be able to find hotels at very reasonable prices.

  • For my stay in Santiago de Compostela, I was able to book an AirBnb for 16 Euros per day, very close to the city centre.
  • For my stay in Ribadeo, I booked Hotel Santa Cruz through Booking.com. It’s a no-frills, basic hotel but quite clean and comfortable nevertheless. The breakfast is massive, the owner/ receptionist speaks excellent English and the staff is very helpful and always smiling! What else do you need?

Important links

Navigate the post

Page 2– Travel guide of the Galician coast
Page 3– Travel guide of Santiago de Compostela
Page 4– Travel guide of Galician food

The beautiful melody that is Sevilla

Sevilla (Seville) presents itself as a beautiful flamenco dancer, gracefully twirling to the rhythm of a guitar- the ruffles of her skirt flowing elegantly with each move. Sevilla lingers in one’s memory as a refreshing cirtus scent of orange blossom that permeates through the lanes of its old city. Sevilla is a fine Andalusian horse trotting its carriage along, against a backdrop of cheerful coloured buildings and lush palm trees. Sevilla is the modern Andalusian capital, whilst still retaining its glorious Moorish past. It is a city that is so richly endowed with beauty, poise and flamboyane all at once, that even with many legitimate contenders within Spain, Sevilla manages to rise to the occasion time and again and does it so effortlessly that it almost seems unfair.

A walk through the historical centre of Sevilla

The historical centre of Sevilla, also known as ‘Casco Antiguo’, is home to everything you ever imagined Sevilla, or indeed Spain, to be. It worth taking a slow walk through here, forgetting about your bucket-list for a while. You will be rewarded with stunning architecture, beautiful hidden lanes, spontaneous flamenco, a spirited ambience and some amazing views to devour the best of Andalusian cuisine.

Horse carriages can be seen all around the old city centre. Andalusian horses are a very famous breed, but I’m not sure if this is the best use of them.
The old neighbourhood of Santa Cruz, that is impeccably maintained
Although a modern city now, Sevilla traditionally has been an important religious centre of Southern Spain.
Abanico de pericón, or the Spanish fan. It is used to cool down from an excessively hot Andalusian summer, and is also a prop in the local dance form Flamenco.
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A Flamenco performance in progress. Contrary to popular beliefs, flamenco isn’t the national dance form of Spain. It is actually a local dance form of Andalucía. In fact, there are three places where it is said to be originated: Sevilla, Cádiz and Jerez de la Frontera. A Flamenco performance in Sevilla, therefore, is especially not to be missed.
A glimpse into Plaza de España

Plaza de España was built for the Ibero-American Expo of 1929 in order to showcase Spain’s industrial and technological strengths to different participating countries. These days it houses various government offices. Nevertheless, it is a very impressive building that serves as one of the finest examples of Neo Mudéjar architecture. This style incorporates Moorish design elements (geometric patterns, extensive tilework, calligraphy, horseshoe arches) into more traditional European forms of architecture like the Gothic or the Renaissance style.  Tiny alcoves representing different provinces of Spain line the Plaza’s semi circular body, while its most distinguising feature is a circular moat that carries small boats filled with tourists around the Plaza.

Real Maestranza de Caballeria de Sevilla (The Bullring of Seville)

Completed in 1881, the Maestranza de Sevilla is one of the most iconic structures of the city. A synchronised life and death dance between a handsome, feisty Andalusian bull and a ruthlessly fierce torero (bullfighter) comes out on full display for a total of 14,000 avid spectators to see. Inside, there is a bullfighter’s chapel (Virgen de la Caridad) as well as an infirmary, for obvious reasons. The entire complex also houses a museum detailing Spain’s passionate love affair with this sport.  Although now quite controversial due to its stance on animal rights, the sport nevertheless still enjoys popularity in many parts of Spain.

Catedral De Sevilla (The Cathedral of Seville)

Built on the site of Muslim (Moorish) Sevilla’s grand mosque in 1528, the Catedral de Sevilla is the largest cathedral as well as the largest Gothic church in the world. It is a major UNESCO heritage site, and is also the final resting place of Christopher Columbus (a claim contested by the Dominican Republic). Some structures of the old mosque still remain incorporated into the cathedral’s architecture, such as: the famous Giralda (former minaret) and Patio de los Naranjos (former sahn, or big mosque courtyard with ablution facilities).

La Giralda, which later became an inspiration for Hasan II mosque in Casablanca, Morocco
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View of La Giralda from Real Alcázar de Sevilla.
View from Patios de los Naranjos and Sevilla from La Giralda.
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Retablo Mayor (Major Altarpiece).
Considered to be the largest altarpiece in the world, this gigantic structure bears 28 different scenes from the lives of Prophet Jesus and Virgin Mary (peace be upon them both), as per the Christian tradition. The extensive use of gold for decorating significant buildings was possible due to Spain’s colonial control over Central and South America.
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The remains of Christopher Colombus (a claim contested by Dominican Republic).
Real Alcázar de Sevilla (The Alcázar of Seville)

The Alcázar de Sevilla was built in 913 AD by the ruling Moors as a residential palace for the royalty. In fact, the upper levels of this breathtaking UNESCO heritage monument still serve as residences for the current royal family of Spain, thereby making it one of the oldest functioning palaces. Interesting fact: the word ‘Alcázar’ derives from the Arabic word ‘al-qasr’, which means a castle, a palace, a fort.

Since its inauguration as a royal residence, the Alcázar has undergone several renovations under both Moorish and Christian kings to achieve its present day form. As a result, this palace is a beautiful amalgamation of Moorish, Mudejár as well as purely European architecture.

The imposing entrance to Palacio de Don Pedro within Patio de la Montería.
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Stunning roof detailing everywhere.
Patio de las muñecas.
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Arabic inscriptions along the walls of the doorways around Patio de las Doncellas.
Patio de las Doncellas.

So, what do you think? Has this post made you wanderlust enough to go get lost in Sevilla’s alluring streets? If so, then don’t forget to like this post, subscribe to my blog and also, follow me on my Instagram.

Cover photo: Plaza de España, Sevilla.

Capturing the essence of Ciutat Vella, Barcelona

Exploring Ciutat Vella, the oldest district of Barcelona and wandering through its different neighbourhoods was an experience that really helped me get a feel of the urban culture of this bustling Catalan city.

Ciutat Vella comprises of four neighbourhoods: La Barceloneta, El Raval, El Gòtic and Sant Pere, Santa Caterina i La Ribera. It also has La Rambla- the (in)famous avenue that dissects through the old district with El Raval on one side and El Gòtic on the other. This street has always had more than its fair share of petty crime, naive tourists, overpriced products, and unwarranted client solicitation. The seediness continues into the adjacent suburb of El Raval, which gives it a distinctly urban, gritty feel. 

LA RAMBLA
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Always busy. You can never be careful enough.
FROM THE STREETS OF EL RAVAL
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The neighbourhood of ‘El Raval’ is home to lots of immigrants and one can easily see their diverse identities being stamped on this neighbourhood.
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MACBA Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (Contemporary Arts Museum of Barcelona)
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Antic Hospital de la Santa Creu (14th century): Barcelona’s first hospital to admit female patients was also the biggest of its time. Incidentally, it also became the place where Gaudí passed away.
Notice the red and yellow striped Catalan flag.
La Boqueria
Mercat de la Boquería- old Barcelona’s famous market, full of fresh produce and artisanal products.
Although an exhilarating experience, just watch out for your purse. Make sure the money you lose is in exchange of buying these yummy goods.
A WALK THROUGH ‘EL BARRI GÓTIC’, OR ‘THE GOTHIC QUARTER’
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Basílica de Santa María del Pí
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Basílica de Santa María del Mar
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The interior of the same basílica
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Glorious stained glass windows- an giveaway of Gothic architecture
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PARC DE LA CIUTADELLA AND ARC DE TRIOMF
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Parc de la Ciudatella
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Barcelona’s Arc de Triomf was modelled after L’Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile in Paris, although its design derived some inpiration from Southern Spain’s Moorish past. It was constructed for 1888 Barcelona World Fair as the main entrance gate.
LA BARCELONETA
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The man made beaches of Barcelona: these beaches were only constructed when the city decided to host Olympics in 1992. They are very popular though- with around 7 million people visiting them each year.
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El fin.

Does this give you enough FOMO to visit Barcelona? If not, check out my other Barcelona post about some of the most stunning architectural examples of Antoni Gaudí- a Catalan master artist who left a special mark on this beautiful city.

Cover photo: Basílica de Santa María del Pi