Bears and local craftsmanship: ecotourism in south Asturias

The government of Asturias actively promotes Asturias as a major destination for ecotourism: ‘ParaÍso Natural’. No wonder, given the fact that 1/3 of its surface has a nature destination. Also, although Asturias only covers 2% of Spain’s total surface, 67% of its vertebrate species live here, with 75% of Spain’s bird and mammal species.   

One of the main characteristics of intoAsturias is to involve local ecotourism guides and accommodations in our activities. Therefore, one of the tasks for this first year is to visit and establish contacts with ecotourism companies throughout Asturias to explore potential cooperation. Today I visit a company in the southwest of Asturias.

The village where the company is located is 80 km from Oviedo, but the route planner indicates a ride of almost 2 hours. This means it is not just a ride on the highway! And indeed, after about 25 minutes I drive on a long, winding one-lane road. It is a beautiful route along the river Narcea, a large reservoir, small villages and partly through the mountains.

View from the main road into brown bear habitat.

This is also the way to follow if you want to visit some of the most famous National Parks of Asturias. First I pass the exit to Somiedo, a park known for its population of Cantabrian brown bears (Ursos arctos arctos). Then Muniellos, a beautiful oak forest (the largest in Spain) where only 20 people are allowed per day and for which you often must reserve the entrance months in advance. And finally, the Parque Natural de las Fuentes del Narcea, where most activities are organized by the ecotourism company I visit today. Just before entering the village, I stop twice at a spot along the motorway where bears are regularly spotted. A beautiful view, but unfortunately no luck in the middle of the day.

Parking right next to the road from where bears can be spotted.

I am warmly welcomed by a family in a tiny village at the foot of beautiful green hills. Full of enthusiasm they tell me about their tailor-made activities such as bear and wolf excursions, excursions with the four-wheel drive and educational walks. A visit to local beekeepers and goat farms in the hills is also possible. They themselves practice a traditional craft in which they make all kinds of utensils from wood; the workshop is next to the house and I can also try to make a wooden wine bowl. That is not easy! They tell me that this is a very popular activity among visitors.

The ecotourism company is located in the middle of beautiful Asturian green hills.

Very convenient is that the family also offers a nice accommodation of 4 rooms with a total of 11 beds. As in so many rural areas in Asturias, this village and its surroundings face an aging population and young people move to the larger cities. The last primary school in the wide area was closed last year because too few children subscribed. This company shows that there are indeed economic opportunities in the area based on tourism. In this way they contribute to the liveability of the village and the environment. A part of the price of a delicious jar of honey that I buy from them is used, for example, to restore an old wall around beehives to protect them against bear attacks!

Accommodation as a base for the ecotourism activities.

Do you want to know more about the ecotourism activities you can do in this part of Asturias? Send a message to debora.de.block@intoasturias.com and I will tell you more!

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