by Genevieve McCarthy, Owner of Cellar Tours
Flanked by the majestic Picos de Europa mountain range and facing the sea, Llanes in Asturias has one of the most dramatic settings in Spain.
The town is compact and quaint and features a medieval core bursting to the brim with cozy cider houses and busy tapas bars, a picturesque fishing port, three charming cove style beaches and a number of gorgeous coastal walks.
Llanes became a prominent town under King Alfonso IX of Leon in the 13th century and there are still remnants of the medieval wall that surrounded the town, and a wonderful medieval tower, in addition to the beautiful Basilica of Santa Maria, the chapels of Santa Ana and the Magdalena. But it is the Palacios de los Indianos that distinguish this lovely town. The Indianos were emigres who traveled to Cuba and Mexico in the 1800’s and early 1900’s and brought back vast fortunes made in tobacco, textiles and banking, building wonderful colonial mansions which now characterize the region of Asturias, an in particular this part of Eastern Asturias, near the border of Cantabria.
Llanes and Mexico are still very much linked and in summer the town swells with visiting Mexicans descended from these Llaniscos, many of which still have family houses in the area. Indeed there are some fantastic Mexican restaurants in the area founded by these descendants such as Chibiski in Llanes and El Mexicano in the nearby colonial village of Colombres, both highly recommended. The nearly 150-year-old local newspaper El Oriente de Asturias, has a great archive of some of the best known Indianos.
Llanes is a town but also a province,
extending 30 kilometres along the coast and inland to the Sierra del Cuera mountains. There are approximately 14,000 residents in the area, and the area is pristine with beautiful coastal hamlets and unspoiled rural pueblos. There are 30 white sand beaches in Llanes, and some of the loveliest include stunning Andrin and twinned Ballota, dramatic Cuevas del Mar, dreamy Antilles in Cue, astonishingly beautiful Torimbia with its
half moon bay, lively Palombina in Celorio, surfer heaven San Antolin and breathtaking, amusingly name Poo, pronounced Poe in Spanish.
There are also two unique interior beaches with no sea shore, both declared natural monuments- Cobijeru and Gulpiyuri. The sea water surges through tiny natural tunnels in the limestone cliffs high tide to these unusual beaches, and they are great picnic spots for families with small children.
Another unique geological phenomenon in Llanes is the Bufones.
These natural sea geysers shoot through holes created by erosion near the cliffs and make an impressive, loud whoosh when the waves come crashing in and shooting water out through these small holes. The best ones are the Bufones de Pría, the Bufones de Arenillas, the Bufón de Santiuste and the Bufón de Santa Clara. Going inland, you will find magical meadows and local architecture such as the Horreos, which are used to store and dry
the corn and other grains off the ground and away from scavengers and damp.
Asturias is home to literally hundreds of artisan cheeses,
and Llanes province is rich in terrific local cheese. Some of the best ones included the smoked queso de Pria, the delicate cow’s cheese from Quesería Picurriellu in the Valle Oscuro, the sublime mixed goat and cow’s cheese from Queseria Bedon and the semi cured sheep’s cheese from Queseria Collera in the beach town of Vidiago. The cheeses perfectly accompany the locally made and abundantly consumed sidra, natural cider.
Ciderhouses, called Chigres, are everywhere in this area and you can get a wonderful plate of local artisan cheeses at virtually all of them, a gourmet luxury.
Llanes is a town and a region that will enchant you and have you returning summer after summer!
What to see and do
In Llanes, visit the old town, Paseo San Pedro- a 1km long coastal promenade overlooking cliffs, and the Playa de Toró beach- best place for an aperitif at sunset overlooking the ocean. In the area, there are a number of cute villages to visit for lunch before or after a beach session such as Nueva, Buelna, Naves, Cue, Barro, and Andrin. The whole region has a vast network of paved coastal walking and cycling paths and there are delightful walks between Poo and San Martin, Naves and Bedon, and Pendueles to Bustio, to name only a few. Llanes is also on the northern coast pilgrimage path of St James – the Camino de Santiago- and you will see many pilgrims on these paths.
There are endless excursions you can enjoy from Llanes under an hour drive. For culture and shopping, Oviedo and Gijon are great Asturian towns. Oviedo is especially known for theatre and antiques. For meandering along the coast and enjoying great seafood spots for lunch, Tazones and Lastres are absolutely idyllic little fishing villages with unbelievably fresh fish eateries, also very well priced for the high quality. For bustling markets, Cangas de
Onis has a marvellous country market on Sundays which guests can finish off with a chigre lunch and a digestive walk around the Lakes of Covadonga.
Where to eat
In Llanes town-
The Mirador de Toró has a wonderful position overlooking the sea and mountains and features elegant, fresh seafood and locally sourced meat. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mirador-de-Toro/164115653630519
El Bálamu is THE place in the port for the freshest, most spectacular seafood and a trendy setting too. https://www.facebook.com/elbalamu/
Covadonga, which regularly has lunch time lines of people waiting outside, offers delicious and hearty local cuisine at out of this world prices. Fabada, an Asturian white bean stew slow cooked with chorizo and morcilla, is a must here. https://www.facebook.com/Restaurante-La-Covadonga-1392347917652575/
Chibiski, a Mexican restaurant run by descendants of Llanes emigres, is wonderful and their Carnitas tacos are the best. They have a great selection of Mexican beers and juices, too.
In Llanes province-
Casa Raul in Naves is a sweet little village restaurant with fantastic tapas such as goat’s cheese croquettes with red pepper jam, monkfish bites, corn tortos with delish fillings, and sautéed prawns and octopus. https://www.facebook.com/Casa-Ra%C3%BAl-112474058821228/
Sidreria Llagar Cabañón, also in Naves, is one of the best cider houses in the region, and located in a beautiful historic building with a massive grill where they roast up the best meat fest in the region, and a lovely little covered patio. They make their own cider on site www.sidreriacabañon.com
Casa Pilar in Nueva is very popular with the locals and renowned for its fresh Cantabrian seafood
Casa Poli in Vidiago is a traditional cider house, again, very popular with the locals and good value, generous portions of local dishes. http://www.casapoli.es/
Where to stay
In Llanes, you will find mostly humble inns and inexpensive hotels, the best one is Hacienda de Don Juan which is housed in a Casa de Indianos and has a nice little spa circuit https://www.haciendadedonjuan.com/en
For luxury, the Relais and Chateaux Palacio de Luces is a half hour drive on the coast near Lastres
And another luxury option in the mountains is the marvellous Pueblu Astur, recently opened in 2016, at a 40 minute drive. http://www.puebloastur.com/