Photo of Asturias and Cantabria

Visit Asturias and Cantabria

Pretty beaches, elegant seaside towns, quiet fishing villages and the Picos de Europa make this a delightful region for summer holidays.


The region of Asturias and Cantabria is a long narrow strip along the north coast of Spain. Its regional capital is the delightful city of Oviedo.

With beaches, little coastal towns, the lively university city of Santander and the magnificent backdrop of the Picos de Europe, a lovely verdant and very peaceful stretch of mountains, there is lots to tempt visitors. One of the most famous sights of the region is the Caves of Altamira with their magnificent pre-historic cave paintings.

Below we introduce the two provinces of Asturias and Cantabria with suggestions and highlights to enable you to plan your ideal Spanish holiday.


Rocky coves with sandy beaches and a backdrop of the Picos de Europa mountains will tempt you to the Asturias Province.

LlanesThe coastal area of Asturias (and Cantabria) is known as the Costa Verde, or green coast and it is the coastal towns and villages that most holiday makers in Asturia visit. Its name evokes the many lovely coves with tree covered cliffs reaching down to the sandy beaches and sea below. The sea here is the Atlantic Ocean and so colder than the waters of the Costa Brava and Costa del Sol but less commercialized as well.

Dotted along the coast are a number of attractive little villages and towns including Ribadesella, Llanes, Castropol, Figueras, Luarca, Cudillero and Lastres.

Inland are the stunning mountains of the Picos de Europa, a relatively undiscovered mountain range which is very verdant (and yet does have some snow covered peaks), full of bubbling streams, gorges and pretty little villages which look as though they have been lost in time. Be sure to take a walk through the Cares Gorge - 1000m deep and 12km long.

Cangas de Onis in the mountains is surrounded by great scenery and Castro de Coana has an interesting Celtic settlement. Salas has a castle from which you get great views and Covadonga has an important religious sanctuary and was the starting point of the Spanish Reconquest.

When hiking on the various trails often you will not see another hiker buy may meet one of the very long horned cattle which also use the trails but which are fortunately extremely docile. The mountain range is now a National Park and spreads over Asturias and Cantabria and also the Castile and Leon region. Sotres makes a good base for walkers.

For some city life visit Oviedo, the regional capital with a charming medieval centre. Aviles also has an interesting medieval centre and Gijon has some good beaches and nightlife.


The world famous Alamira caves, parts of the Way of Saint James pilgrim route, more great beaches and, of course, the Picos de Europa are some of the reasons visitors come to Cantabria.

The Altamira Caves with their wonderful cave paintings are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and not to be missed. Other treasures include the Magdalena palace in Santander and the Modernista building designed by Gaudi in Comillas.

ComillasIf you are looking for beaches then head for the stunning Santillana del Mar (also home to the Altamira caves), Suances, the elegant Santander, Santona, Laredo and Castro Urdiales. San Vicente de la Barquera is one of our favourite resorts on the green coast.

Inland the pretty town of Reinosa has typical Cantabrian architecture and Lierganes was awarded Historic-Artistic status for its interesting classical architecture. Potes is one of the most attractive villages in the region and has a delightful old quarter and Mogrovejo is thought to be one of the most beautiful villages in Spain as is Barcena-Mayor. Carmona is also a charming village and Puente Viesgo is also attractive and has some excellent caves nearby.

Take the cable car from Fuente Dé up to a wild rocky area with great views of the surrounding Picos. If you are looking to do some skiing then head for the small, attractive Alto Campoo ski resort.

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Places to visit: Towns and Villages

Alatamira Caves, Cuevas de Altamira - some magnificent pre-historic art is in these UNESCO-listed caves. Unfortunately they are now closed to all but a very small number of visitors to preserve the paintings however there is an excellent replica sight and museum.

Alto Campoo - a small ski -resort in the Picos de Europa.

Aviles - an interesting medieval centre.

Barcena Mayor - a picturesque village with lots of the typically balconied houses of the region. Situated in the Cabuerniga Valley.

Cangas de Onis - has a lovely Roman bridge and fantastic mountain scenery. It is close to Covadonga said to be the starting place for the Reconquest and now a large religious shrine with an attractive Neo-Romanesque basilica.

Carmona - another pretty village in the Cabuerniga Valley.

Castro de Coana - Remnants of one of the largest Celtic villages in Spain can be seen here.

Castro Urdiales - a fishing town with an attractive harbour, it is a popular holiday resort.

Comillas - a very good resort which has lots of Modernista buildings including the El Capricho designed by Antoni Gaudi. This is now a restaurant and a great place to eat.

Cudillero - lots of colourful houses surround the port.

Gijon - the largest city in the region is surrounded by industry but once in the centre the city is pleasant, has good beaches and nightlife. The different coloured houses on the harbour are very attractive.

Llanes - an excellent seaside town on a rugged stretch of coast and with the Picos de Europa providing a backdrop.

Laredo - with a lovely beach and an attractive old town. Now a thriving holiday resort.

Luarca - a very attractive town surrounded by cliffs and with a really excellent harbour.

Mogrovejo - one of Spain's most beautiful villages. Mogrovejo is a mountain village in the Picos de Europa.

Oviedo - the cultural capital of Asturias is a lively university city. It has a medieval centre and in the city and around are lots of examples of Pre-Romanesque architecture. Particularly noteworthy is the church of Santa Maria del Naranco.

Potes - step back in time as you wander around this lovely old town. An excellent base for visiting the Picos.

Puente Viesgo - a lovely village in a beautiful setting and some excellent caves full of stalagtites, stalagmites and lots of prehistoric paintings.

Reinosa - a pretty town in typical Cantabrian style.

Ribadesella - a lovely seaside town and holiday resort. Visit the nearby Caves of Tito Bustillo which have lots of prehistoric drawings.

Salas - the town has a castle with a tower you can climb for good views of the surrounding countryside.

Santander - the lively capital of Cantabria with a popular seaside suburb of El Sardinero.

Santillana del Mar - perhaps the highlight of a visit to this part of Spain. This beautiful town is a must. If you can - stay in one of the two Paradors that are in this town. Be warned though, it is very touristy.

Santona - a fairly busy holiday resort and fishing town.

San Vicente de la Barquera - definitely one of the better resorts in this region. Surrounded by sea and entered by a long causeway.

Sotres - an excellent base for a walking holiday in the Picos.


UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Asturias and Cantabria

Cave of Altamira and Paleolithic Cave Art of Northern Spain, Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country

Monuments of Oviedo and the Kingdom of the Asturias, Asturias

Pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela


Fine Arts Museum of Oviedo, Museo de Bellas Artes - housed in an 18th century palace the museum contains a good selection of paintings.

Archeological Museum of Oviedo, Museo Arqueologico - housed in an old monastery it contains pre-historic, Roman and Romanesque exhibits.

Fine Arts Museum of Santander - includes works by Goya.

Archeological Museum of Santander - has artifacts from caves in Cantrabria

Maritime Museum of Santander - has a collection of whale skeletons.

Museo del Pueblo de Asturias, Gijon - has a large bagpipe collection!


Gardens of the Magdalena Palace, Santander - a palace and gardens all on the tip of the peninsula and so surrounded by sea.

Paradors of Asturias and Cantabria

The paradors of Spain are luxury hotels set in historic buildings or modern buildings in fabulous locations. The paradors of Asturias and Cantabrias offer you a converted palace, an 8th century monastery and an ancient mill amongst others. Paradors are always situated in historic and/or beautiful locations and visiting the paradors is a great way to tour Spain.

Parador de Argomaniz - Argomaniz

Parador de Cangas de Oniz - Cangas de Oniz

Parador de Coriaz - Coriaz

Parador de Fuente de - Fuente de

Parador de Gijon - Gijon

Parador de Limpias - Limpias

Parador de Santillana Gil Blas - Santillana Gil Blas

Parador de Santillana del Mar - Santillana del Mar

See also:

Map of Asturias and Cantabria and places to visit

Asturias and Cantabria places to visit