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For the municipality in the Philippines, see Asturias, Cebu.
Comunidad Autónoma del Principado de
Flag of Asturias
Flag of Asturias
Image:Locator map of Asturias.png
Capital Oviedo
 – Total
 – % of Spain
Ranked 10th
 10 604 km²
 – Total (2003)
 – % of Spain
 – Density
Ranked 12th
 1 056 789
 – English
 – Asturian
 – Spanish

Statute of Autonomy January 11, 1982

 – Congress seats
 – Senate seats
President Vicente Alberto Álvarez Areces (PSOE)
Gobierno del Principado de Asturias
Anthem Asturias, patria querida

The Principality of Asturias (Asturian: Principau d'Asturies or Asturies) has over 3500 years of recorded history and is an autonomous community within the country of Spain. It is situated on the north coast facing the Cantabrian Sea (Mar Cantábrico, the Spanish name for the Bay of Biscay).

The capital is Oviedo, and other noteworthy cities are the major seaport Gijón, the largest city in Asturias, and the industrial town of Avilés. Other towns include Mieres, Langreo, Pola de Siero, Cangas de Onís, Cangas del Narcea, Grado, Pola de Lena, Pola de Laviana, El Entrego, Villaviciosa, and Llanes. See also List of municipalities in Asturias, Comarcas of Asturias.

Asturias is bordered to the east by Cantabria, to the south by Castilla y León, to the west by Galicia, and to the north by the Cantabrian Sea.



Traditional 'horreo' grain barn ('horru' in the Asturian language), Parque Natural de Redes. December 2004
Traditional 'horreo' grain barn ('horru' in the Asturian language), Parque Natural de Redes. December 2004

Due to its situation and difficult terrain, the territories along the north coast of Spain were never part of Islamic Spain; the north served as the nucleus of a small Christian enclave, the Kingdom of Asturias, which was linked to Spain's visigoth kingdom. For this reason since the 14th century the heir to the Spanish throne automatically takes the title Prince of Asturias, much as the heir to the British throne is the Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall.

After the fading of the 'Regnum Astorum' (Kingdom of Asturias), this historic land survived as a marginal territory in the north of Spain, although it provided the Spanish court with high-ranking aristocrats and played an important role in the colonisation of the Americas.

During the 18th Century, Asturias was one of the centres of the Spanish Enlightenment. The renowned thinker Benito de Feijoo settled in the Benedictine Monastery of San Vicente, Oviedo. Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos, a polimath and prominent reformer and politician of the late 18th century, was born in the seaside town of Gijón (Xixón in the Asturian language).

The Industrial Revolution came to Asturias with the discovery and systematic exploitation of coal and iron resources. At the same time there was significant migration to the Americas; those who succeeded overseas often returned to their native land much the wealthier. These entrepreneurs were known collectively as 'Indianos', for having visited and made their fortunes in the West Indies and beyond. The heritage of these wealthy families can still be seen in Asturias today: many large 'modernista' villas are dotted across the region, as well as cultural institutions such as free schools and public libraries.

Like all Spain, Asturias played its part in the events that led up to and include the Spanish Civil War. In 1934, the left-wing workers' movement fought the right-wing government of the Second Spanish Republic in the so-called 'Revolution of Asturias'. Troops under the command of Francisco Franco were brought from the North African colonies to put down the rebellion and a ferocious repression followed. As a result, Asturias remained loyal to the democratic republican government during the war, and was the scene of an extraordinary defence in extreme terrain, the Battle of El Mazuco. With Franco eventually gaining control of all Spain, Asturias - traditionally linked to the Spanish crown - was known merely as the 'Province of Oviedo' from 1936 until Franco's death in 1975. The province's name was restored fully after the return of democracy to Spain, in 1977.

In 1982 Asturias became an Autonomous Community within Spain's federal constitution. The Asturian regional government holds comprehensive competencies in important areas such as health, education and protection of the environment. Since 1999 the President of the Government of Asturias has been Vicente Álvarez Areces, of the Spanish Socialist Worker's Party (PSOE).

Geography & Climate

The Picos de Europa, from Parque Natural de Redes. December 2004
The Picos de Europa, from Parque Natural de Redes. December 2004
Playa de Ballota, near Andrin, Llanes. June 2005
Playa de Ballota, near Andrin, Llanes. June 2005

The key features of Asturian geography are its rugged cliffy coast and its mountainous interior.

The Cantabrian mountain range (Cordillera Cantábrica) is Asturias' natural border with León province to the south. The Picos de Europa National Park forms the eastern range and contains the highest and arguably most spectacular mountains, rising to 2648 metres at the Torrecerredo peak. Other notable features of this predominantly-limestone range are the Parque Natural de Redes in the central east, the central Ubiñas south of Oviedo, and the Parque Natural de Somiedo in the west. The Cantabrian mountains offer opportunities for activities such as climbing, walking, skiing and caving, and extend some 200 kilometres in total, as far as Galicia province to the west of Asturias, and Cantabria province to the east. Asturias has two impressive ski stations, San Isidro and Pajares, both of which are easily accessed by road from the capital, Oviedo. In this era of climate change snow fall is unpredictable, but the skiing season generally runs from December to April inclusive. Perhaps surprisingly, climate change appears to have benefited the ski stations in recent times: relatively heavy snowfalls sustained the stations in the winters of 2003/2004 and 2004/2005.

The Asturian coastline is extensive, with hundreds of beaches, coves and natural sea caves. Notable examples include the Playa del Silencio (Beach of Silence) near the fishing village of Cudillero (west of Gijón), as well as the many beaches surrounding the summer resort of Llanes, such as the Barro, Ballota and Torimbia (the latter a predominantly nudist beach). Most of Asturias' beaches are sandy, clean and bordered by steep cliffs, on top of which it is not unusual to see grazing livestock.

The climate of Asturias, as with the rest of northwest Spain, is more varied than that of southern parts of the country. Summers are generally humid and warm, with considerable sunshine, but also some rain. Winters are fairly mild but with some very cold snaps. The cold is especially felt in the mountains, where snow is present from November till May. Both rain and sunshine are regular weather features of Asturian winters.

Tourist Attractions

Oviedo Cathedral and Plaza. April 2005
Oviedo Cathedral and Plaza. April 2005

Major attractions include...

The Picos de Europa National park, and other parts of the Asturian mountain range: The most famous peak in the park is the Picu Urriellu, also known as Naranjo de Bulnes (2519 m), a molar-shaped mountain which glows orange in the evening sun, hence its name. Weather permitting, it can be viewed clearly from Camarmeña village, near Las Arenas de Cabrales.

The shrine to the Virgin Mary of Covadonga and the mountain lakes (los lagos), near Cangas de Onís: Legend has it that in the 8th century, the Virgin blessed Asturian Christian forces with a well-timed signal to attack Spain's Moorish conquerors, thereby taking the invaders by surprise. The Reconquista and eventual unification of all Spain is therefore said to have started in this very location.

The Asturian coast: especially the beaches in and around the summer resort of Llanes, and the Playa del Silencio near Cudillero fishing village.

Other places of interest are...

Ceceda village: east of Oviedo along the N634 road. Of particular interest in this exemplary settlement are the traditional horreo grain silos, raised on stilts so as to keep field mice from getting at the grain.

The Dobra River: south of Cangas de Onís, famous for its unusual colour and natural beauty.

La Mesa (The Table): an unusually-shaped peak above the village of Tuiza de Arriba, high in the Ubiñas mountain range south of Oviedo.

The coastal way (senda costera) between Pendueles and Llanes: This partly-paved nature route takes in some of Asturias' most spectacular coastal scenery, such as the noisy bufones (large water spouts created naturally by the erosion of the sea) and the Playa de Ballota.

The unusual rock formation on the beach at Buelna village: east of Llanes. Best viewed at low tide.

Food and Drink

Asturias is especially known for its seafood, such as fresh squid, crab, shrimp and sea bass. Salmon are caught in Asturian rivers, notably the Sella; the first fish of the season is called campanu (from campana, a bell tolled to signal the first catch).

The most famous regional dish is Fabada Asturiana, a rich stew made with large white beans (fabes), shoulder of pork (lacón), black sausage (morcilla), spicy sausage (chorizo) and saffron (azafrán).

Apple groves foster the production of the traditional alcoholic drink, a natural cider (sidra). This refreshing tipple is traditionally poured in small servings by an expert server: the bottle is raised high above his or her head, so as to oxygenate the brew as it splashes and sizzles into the glass below.

Asturian cheeses, especially Cabrales, are also famous throughout Spain and beyond; Cabrales is known for its pungent odour and strong flavour. Asturias is often called "the land of cheeses" (el pais de los quesos) due to the product's diversity and quality in this region.


For many centuries the backbone of the Asturian economy was coal mining, steel production and fishing. Production of milk and its derivatives has also been traditionally strong, with products from the Central Lechera Asturiana being exported all over Spain. The main regional industry, though, is steel: in the times of Francisco Franco´s dictatorship, it was one of the most powerful in the world. The then state-owned ENSIDESA company is now part of the privatised ARCELOR Group. The industry created many jobs which resulted in significant migration from other provinces in Spain, mainly Extremadura, Andalucía and Castilla y León.

The steel industry is now in decline, as is mining, as a result of competition from Eastern Europe, high costs of production, and declines in global steel demand. Regional economic growth is below the broader Spanish rate, though in recent years growth in service industries has helped reduce Asturias's high rate of unemployment. Large out-of-town retail parks have opened near the region's largest cities (Gijón and Oviedo), whilst the ever-present Spanish construction industry appears to continue to thrive.

Asturias has benefited extensively since 1986 from European Union investment in roads and other essential infrastructure, though there has also been some controversy regarding how these funds are spent, for example, on miners' pensions. These subsidies are lately in doubt, given the expansion of the Union in 2004 to include the poorer states of the former Communist bloc.


Asturias is served by Ranon Airport (OVD), which is about an hour's road journey from Oviedo, near the northwest coast and the industrial town of Avilés. A UK-based international carrier, Easyjet, began daily flights to the airport in March 2005. Internal Spanish carriers such as Iberia and Spanair also serve Asturias, direct from Madrid and Barcelona, Brussels, London, Paris, Seville and others. Eastern Asturias is now quite easily reached from Santander.

Spain's national RENFE rail network also serves Asturias well; trains regularly depart to and from the Spanish interior. Major stops are the regional capital, Oviedo, and the main coastal city, Gijón. FEVE rail company links also the center of the region with Eastern and Western Asturias.

There is also a bus service within and without the region, run by the ALSA company. It links Avilés, Gijón, Oviedo and Mieres with Madrid, several times a day. There are also services to Barcelona, Salamanca, León, Valladolid, La Coruña, Bilbao, Seville, San Sebastián, Paris, Brussels or Nice, to name just a few.

Famous Citizens

Leopoldo Alas, 19th century author of La Regenta, a seminal work in the Spanish literary canon

Fernando Alonso, Formula 1 racing driver, 2005 World Champion

Letizia, Princess of Asturias, a native of Oviedo and wife of Felipe, Prince of Asturias

Severo Ochoa, 1959 Nobel Prize winner for Medicine

Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos, philosopher, politician, Enlightenment thinker.

See also

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