Walking is the most popular way of completing the Camino de Santiago (north), but a bike will appeal to those preferring two wheels to Shank’s pony! We tried cycling in Asturias, and it proved the perfect way to discover this natural paradise.
Getting on your Bike
Taking to two wheels offers a few advantages, it’s quicker, so it will suit peregrinos with limited time, it will also allow greater flexibility to take diversions and explore or to pause longer in a place which can be particularly appealing for some. Riding a bike can mean less time on the trial, and more time relaxing at stage points along the way.
It seems likely they will also arrive at accommodation earlier, being offered first choice of the best rooms and beds.
Read more about Camino life here: Life on the Camino; A Pilgrim’s Way
Equipment can be loaded on panniers on the bike, meaning a more comfortable pilgrimage as some additional luxuries can be carried and it’s not necessary to load it all into a backpack to be carried.
Although hiking is a great way to see the countryside of the Camino, cycling offers an improved vantage point for enjoying some of the beautiful scenery which the pilgrim trail travels through, perched high in a saddle.
The riding in Asturias isn’t difficult, along well maintained tracks, although there was a short section of single track on our ride, which will put a smile on the face of the purists. Setting off from the pretty town of Llanes, the section we took followed the coastline, providing some outstanding views of secluded bays and sandy beaches.
Before setting off we watched a respectably large group of people playing beach volleyball on El Sablón beach, before heading up to a nearby high point, which provided great views over the beach and town.
Soon, however, we were casually pedalling through Poo and Celorio before arriving at Niembro, where we were greeted by views of the lovely church, which for me, seemed reminiscent of the tidal Mont Saint Michel. It was a fitting finish to our short taster of cycling on the Camino, as soon as it came into view, it seemed to draw the eyes towards it, fixated on the lovely church growing to fill our view as we got steadily closer.
It’s a region blessed with great natural beauty, traditional villages and fishing harbours pepper the coastline and surrounding countryside, while the surroundings and culture seems to encourage a slower pace of life. History came alive for us in Oviedo, where we were treated to a passionate, theatrical tour of old town, finishing at the Plaza de Alfonso II el Casto ‘Peregrinado Oviedo‘.
I’m particularly fond of these ‘living history’ tours, with actors providing informative and entertaining narratives which just make history more interesting. Our guide for this tour, was especially good, her performance was humorous and felt authentic, the journey through the town flew by with plenty of moments to smile as well as listen to her informative commentary.
Along the Way
It’s unlikely you’ll get the Way of St James all to yourself in Asturias, we didn’t. Obviously there is a steady stream of pilgrims hiking along the route and cyclists will have to navigate other road users. Fortunately, on our short leg, there weren’t too many places where we had to compete with vehicles.
It’s ideal horse riding territory however, and we bumped into a small group of Spanish equestrians, but as long as both groups respect each other, allowing each other sufficient room to pass, it just works.
As if to emphasise the traditional culture and slow pace of life of the region we also encountered a horse drawn cart, probably from a local farm. I couldn’t help smiling, it just added to the attractiveness and appeal of a lovely part of northern Spain.
Find more regional attractions: Life on the Camino; Distractions in the Basque Country
After all that cycling and a historical tour of Oviedo it seemed appropriate to enjoy another traditional pastime of Asturias; cider drinking at a contemporary sidreria. Cider drinking in these classic bars is part of the heritage of the region, culturally significant to the Basque country and Asturias. In the land of the unhurried, there’s plenty of time to savour a cider and who am I to argue with tradition?