- Dec 15, 2021
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You'd be forgiven for thinking that idyllic fishing villages like Luarca and Cudillero in Asturias no longer exist in Spain: most such picturesque coastal towns have become tourist centers with souvenir stores on every corner, nary a fisherman in sight and in every nook and cranny a tourist snapping a selfie to upload to Instagram. Not so for these tiny ports, whose location in the far northern Spanish region of Asturias has preserved their seafaring spirit and kept the selfie-taking hordes at bay.
The beauty of Luarca takes the form of a large aquatic S, around which man and his initial maritime activity, now mixed, have found a millimetric accommodation, with a large influx of tourists in summer, when its native demography quintuples. It is also by its own merits the capital of a council, that of Valdés, which is one of the landscape and cultural references of western Asturias.
Luarca's fame has crossed many frontiers to become one of the most famous towns in Asturias. In part it has been for having as its most illustrious son, and buried in its beautiful cemetery overlooking the sea, Severo Ochoa, Nobel Prize for Medicine, but his fame goes beyond individualities, it has also earned it based on many other merits.
The Negro River meanders continuously in its last stretch. It is not a typical estuary. The river does join the sea, but it does not do so openly, it seems introverted, and based on detours, bends and bends, finally ends up flowing into the Cantabrian Sea in a kind of sigh.
In this town, known for its charm as the White Village of the Costa Verde, there are two clearly differentiated areas. The old town houses the oldest and most traditional neighborhoods, all of medieval origin, such as La Pescadería, La Barandilla and El Camboral, which surround the port and the church like a great amphitheater. Inland, and on both banks of the river, we find the more contemporary Luarca aesthetically speaking. Emerged in the nineteenth century, is currently the place that concentrates most of the trade. From one side of the city to the other we can cross up to seven bridges over the river. They communicate daily the two sides of an urban area that, without further clues, could be a mess but that in the end is simple, with great symmetry in its forms.
We can not pass through Luarca without feeling the traditional atmosphere that still retains its appearance. To get started in the seafood and cider is usually an ideal place, as there is a proliferation of chigres with a strong seafaring and Asturian accent. In the fishing port area we will also find some reasons to sit down to a more elaborate table, with restaurants of great culinary knowledge and the smell of the sea in every corner.
Cudillero (pop. 5,000) is the kind of fairy-tale place to conjure up after a dreary day at the office: a tranquil seaside oasis where you wake up to the distant tinkling of buoys, stroll barefoot along empty beaches and spend your afternoons in the harbor cafes. Luckily, a five-hour drive from Madrid, or three hours from Bilbao or Santiago de Compostela, you can make that fantasy come true.
With its amphitheater of colorful clifftop houses around the centrally located Plaza de la Marina, Cudillero could get by on its picture-postcard appearance alone; otherwise it might as well be on the Amalfi Coast. But the town has more than enough culture to keep you busy. Centuries of virtual isolation from inland Spain (due to the area's intractable geography) gave rise to Cudillero's peculiar Nordic-influenced dialect (legend has it that it was founded by Vikings), exuberant folk dancing, seafood-based cuisine and pagan-influenced festivals like L'Amuravela, which is held every June and culminates in the incineration of life-size papier-mâché giants, similar to Valencia's Fallas.
Cudillero is as vibrant as its pastel-colored facades; here we break down our favorite way to spend a weekend in one of Spain's prettiest (and most unknown) ports.
Cudillero's high season runs from June to August, when rain is scarce and the town fills with seasonal residents and vacationers who liven up the plazas and sardine-can tapas bars. The colder months are comparatively less crowded and quieter, which favors introspective travelers looking to relax.