The Makings of Asturias
Celts and Visigoths, a rugged coast and spectacular mountains all combine in this hidden gem of northern Spain. Two professors of archaeology from Oxford University guide you through Celtic castros and pre-Romanesque architecture as you enjoy some of the most inspiring yet lesser-known sights in Atlantic Europe.
- The beautiful scenery of north-western Spain; mountains, seacoasts, and forests.
- The impressive ‘castro’ strongholds of the Celtic tribes who resisted Rome.
- Some of the finest pre-Romanesque early-medieval buildings in Europe.
- A dedicated itinerary led by two specialists in their field, supported by a local Asturian guide.
The first half of our two-centred tour is based in the attractive coastal town of Navia and focuses on the Iron Age ‘castro culture’ of the Celtic Astures, which is also an ideal way of exploring the remoter areas and wilder landscapes of the region. The second half of our tour is based in Oviedo, capital of the post-Visigothic Kingdom, from where arose a highly accomplished Christian art and architecture, the reconquista of Spain from the Moors, the pilgrimage to Santiago, and the ultimate origins of the Spanish nation.
See the ‘Itinerary’ tab above for full itinerary details.
Dates & Prices:
- 22–29 May 2020. Only £1675.
- 11–18 September 2020. Only £1675.
- Single supplement only £190. Reserve your place early for the lowest price.
- Seven nights’ accommodation with four nights in Navia and three nights in Oviedo.
- All breakfasts and four evening meals, three of which are in traditional local restaurants.
- Daily excursions with all transport, entrances and guiding.
- Airport transfers in Asturias.
- Flexible flight arrangements.
- 100% TTA financial guarantee.
Your Tour Directors
Gary Lock is Emeritus Professor of Archaeology at the University of Oxford, where he has taught and researched for many years. He specialises in the Iron Age, has carried out fieldwork in the UK, Spain and Italy, and co-directed the recent ‘Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland’ project.
Mike Sibly graduated in history from Cambridge University and is now a member of Oxford University’s History Faculty, and an Emeritus Fellow of St Anne’s College, Oxford. He has taught at the university over many years and was Deputy Registrar until 2015. Amongst other things he has published two translations of medieval accounts of the Albigensian Crusade, and recently walked the pilgrimage route across northern Spain to Santiago de Compostella.
Some of the castro archaeological sites on the first half of this tour are in mountainous terrain, but they simply require some gentle uphill and downhill walking in order to get around them. There are no hikes or long walks, the pace is always gentle, and most of the sites on the tour will present little challenge for those with a reasonable level of mobility and independence. Please feel free to ask us for more details.
Flights and Extended Stays
Flights are added on a personal basis rather than included in the tour price. This gives you complete freedom to choose your preferred departure airport, flight times, length of stay, airline etc. We will be pleased to quote and book flights for you, and any extended stays, or you can book your own if you prefer. Flights booked with us are fully ATOL protected and can be available from as little as £100 return.
How To Book
Reservations & Enquiries: To reserve your place or enquire further simply fill in the booking form on this page, or call us on (UK) 0121 444 1854. There is no commitment and no payment at this stage; reservations are purely provisional until we have confirmed availability and proceeded with booking and payment.
Booking & Payment: Once you have checked availability and reserved your place, we will require your full details and a deposit of £250 per person to secure your booking. This can be done with a credit/debit card over the telephone (0121-444-1854) or by sending us a completed booking form and cheque. To print a booking form click here.
See our booking conditions for further details.
All Hidden History’s tours include a host of fully guided excursions and interesting talks to create an enriching travel experience. They also include some luxury and leisure by choosing great hotels and keeping the itineraries fairly relaxed and varied. More about What to Expect…
- Departure Time22 May 2020 and 11 September 2020.
Day 1: Arrivals.
You are met on arrival at Oviedo airport and transferred to your hotel in the delightful Spanish town of Navia (45 minutes), where you can meet your tour directors, Gary Lock and Mike Sibly. Your four night stay here includes two evening meals in typical local restaurants, the first of which will depend on everyone’s flight arrival times.
Day 2: Navia, Castro de Coaña and Castro de Pendia.
After breakfast, Professor Lock will present a lecture setting the scene for the first half of our tour in which we explore the cultural and natural heritage of western Asturias, focusing on its magnificent Celtic castros. We then visit Navia’s main archaeological site, Castro de Coana. This large and impressive fortified settlement from Iron Age and Roman times has long been at the heart of archaeological research in the region, and now also has an interesting interpretation centre on the castro culture. Walking through the site, we see a fortified ‘acropolis’ and a lower settlement where some 80 houses are visible, together with a network of streets and squares running between them.
After time for lunch in the town, we follow the valley of the River Navia upstream. The valley has been designated as an historical park and the road passes through mountains cloaked in forests, with views over the Arbón reservoir. We detour to the village of Pendía and take a short walk (500 metres) through evocative woods to reach Castro de Pendia. Here we find examples of Asturian ‘saunas’ and ‘communal buildings’ as well as houses. We then return to our hotel in Navia.
Day 3: Castro de Chao San Martín, Grandas de Salime, Tumulus del Canadeiro and Os Castro Taramundi.
Today we head into the wild interior of Asturias, where the landscapes of the Cantabrian Mountains offer spectacular views, traditional villages and a host of myths and legends. We stop at Castro de Chao San Martin, a key site in our understanding of castro culture. Settlement began here in the Bronze Age, around 800 BC, and grew into a major Iron Age and Roman centre for the mining of the region’s gold deposits. We also visit a nearby Bronze Age burial tumulus (del Canadeiro) and stop for lunch in the mountain town of Grandas de Salime. In the afternoon we see another fine castro at Os Castro Taramundi and we complete our day’s circuit by following the scenic Navia valley down to our hotel.
Day 4: Castro de Cabo Blanco, Ribadeo, Cathedral’s Beach and Castro de Mohías.
Heading west along the beautiful Asturian coastline, our first visit is to Castro de Cabo Blanco, dramatically sited on a coastal promontory. It is one of a group of maritime castros along this stretch of coast and has impressive defences which, by Roman times, enclosed a vast area extending landward from the promontory, making it one of the most important castros of the region.
We break for lunch in the lively port town of Ribadeo, on the border between Asturias and Galicia. The Old Town and harbour are an attractive mix of handsome old galleried and stone houses, and the restaurants and tapas bars are well known for their gastronomy. After lunch we stop at the most famous of the area’s beautiful beaches, Cathedral’s Beach, where constant pounding from the Atlantic Ocean has sculpted the rocks into dramatic formations, including huge natural arches which resemble cathedral architecture.
On our way back to Navia we can stop at the last of our castros, Castro de Mohías, which preserves an excellent urban layout of homes and streets. Returning to our hotel, Mike Sibly will introduce the next theme of our tour, the pre-Romanesque, before we enjoy an included dinner in one of the town’s splendid restaurants.
Day 5: Transfer to Oviedo via the churches of Santianes de Pravia, Santo Adriano, Santa Cristina de Lena.
We move on chronologically and geographically today, transferring to Oviedo, the capital of Asturias since Visigoth times. En-route we begin our exploration of the region’s important pre-Romanesque heritage with a stop at the church of Santianes de Pravia, founded as a chapel for the King of Asturias in the 8th century AD. The foundation stone has an intriguing inscription in the form of a letter labyrinth, which appears to have inspired Salvador Dali’s painting A Propos of the ‘Treatise on Cubic Form‘ by Juan de Herrera. Next we visit the church of St Adriano de Tunon, founded as a monastic church by Asturian King Alfonso III in the 9th century. It survives more or less in its original condition and contains well preserved mural paintings.
We continue into Oviedo, where we break for lunch in the attractive city centre before an afternoon visit to the nearby UNESCO World Heritage site of Santa Cristina de Lena. This is one of the best preserved and beautifully sited of the pre-Romanesque churches of Asturias, dating from around 850 AD. Returning to Oviedo, we settle in to our well-appointed city centre hotel where dinner is included this evening.
Day 6: Oviedo and the Church of Santa Maria de Bendones.
Oviedo was the capital of the Asturian kingdom throughout the 9th century, and is today the capital of the modern principality. It contains a very rich architectural history, with many buildings dating back to the early medieval period, and now national monuments of World heritage status. Our tour begins just outside the city in the little hamlet of Bendones whose church of Santa Maria was built around 800 AD and has an unusual design for the time. We continue with a visit to the area of Oviedo known as Monte Narenco. Here Asturian King Ramiro I built his royal palace in the 9th century, a complex of buildings which included Santa Maria de Narenco, originally the main hall of the palace, and the striking basilica of St Miguel de Lilo, with its Visigothic, Byzantine and Carolingian architectural influences.
We also visit the Cathedral church of San Salvador. Built mostly in the flamboyant Gothic style, it has long guarded the greatest symbols of Asturias, relics also visited by the pilgrims heading for the holy city of Santiago de Compostela. We break for lunch in the city’s Old Quarter, where the tapas bars are highly recommended, and where you can explore the quarter’s pedestrianised streets and enjoy the atmosphere of this elegant, historic city. Dinner is independent this evening.
Day 7: San Julian de los Prados and Salvador de Valdedios,
This morning we visit the oldest and largest of Oviedo’s surviving pre-Romanesque buildings, San Julian de los Prados, with its remarkable set of early 9th century murals. We also visit the attractively-sited little church of Salvador de Valdedios, just outside Oviedo and almost certainly part of an Asturian royal estate. Returning to the city centre we break for lunch and a relaxed final afternoon with the chance to visit the city’s archaeological or other museums before an included farewell dinner in one of Oviedo’s typical cider houses – an opportunity to celebrate your week’s experiences, new knowledge and friendships.
Day 8: Departures
You will be transferred from your hotel to Oviedo airport for your flight home. Or why not stay longer and enjoy more of the cultural and natural splendors of northern Spain?