Few works of art are as spectacular and breathtaking as those created by nature. And Spain’s Asturias region is the gallery in which to experience some of the finest.
A mountain realm on Spain’s north coast, the Principality of Asturias is crowned by the majestic Picos de Europa, which rise to an altitude 2650 metres above the sea – just 15 miles from the shore. At the heart of ‘Green Spain,’ it’s a province spanned by a swathe of verdant highlands sloping down to beautiful beaches on the Cantabrian Sea.
From the iconic peak of Naranjo de Bulnes to the sparkling waters of Lago del Valle, and lush forests teeming with flora and fauna – all ripe for exploring on foot – a wealth of natural wonders awaits you. It’s a natural paradise enriched by culture and heritage. Pre-Romanesque architecture sits side-byside with Palaeolithic cave paintings and a traditional folk music scene. And after a brilliant day on the trail, you can round it off with authentic local cuisine.
Nature in abundance
The natives of the region will tell you that ‘Asturias is Spain’. It’s certainly home to more than its fair share of Spain’s natural wonders: nearly 40 per cent of the Asturias landscape is protected in one form or another. Five nature parks, ten nature reserves, nine protected landscapes, 39 natural monuments and a large part of the Picos de Europa National Park are all found within the principality of Asturias, along with six officially recognised UNESCO Biosphere Reserves. In total, a third of Asturias is protected.
The forests and mountains are a haven for wildlife, supporting a rich ecosystem of plants and animals. Walking in the midst of amazing scenery, there’s plenty to be looking out for. Golden eagles and bearded vultures soar freely in the skies, while Iberian wolves roam the forests and nimble ibex find footholds on the rocky mountainsides. Asturias is also home to a very special inhabitant, with big paws and brown fur.
Asturias’ most beloved residents are its 200 Cantabrian brown bears. Two metres long from nose to tail and weighing up to 200kg, they are also Spain’s largest animal. A once threatened species, numbers are slowly recovering due to conservation efforts. With the help of guides, you can look for signs of the bears in their natural habitat, and if you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of these magnificent creatures.
Somiedo Natural Park
Somiedo became Asturias’ first Natural Park in 1988 and a Biosphere Reserve in 2000, thanks in part to its wealth of flora and fauna, and is a stronghold of the Cantabrian brown bear and home to over 100 species of bird, including the Cantabrian capercaillie and golden eagle.
The park is also the location of several glacial cirque lakes which, collectively known as Conjunto Lacustre de Somiedo (Somiedo Lake System), are a designated natural monument. The best way to explore these spectacular mountain lakes is via the Lagos de Saliencia trail.
Starting high, with stunning panoramic views of the Upper Saliencia Valley, the route takes in Lago de La Cueva, Laguna de la Mina (regularly dry during summer months), Lago Cerveriz, Lago de Calabazosa (also known as Lago Negro – the Black Lake) and Lago del Valle – the Lake of the Valley and the deepest in Asturias.
Sapphire gems set in a limestone-peaked landscape, it’s a photographer’s dream and a walker’s paradise.
How to get there
You can fly direct to Asturias airport (OVD) in around two hours from Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted with Vueling, Iberia and easyJet airlines respectively. At the time of checking, return fares in June were available for as little as £37.