Discovering Northern Spain’s Hidden Treasures
By: Mary Luz Mejia
Tucked away on the verdant, north western coast of Asturias sits the picturesque fishing village of Luarca. So picturesque in fact, that it’s considered one of the most attractive harbors in all of Spain. Blue, red and white ships of varying sizes dot the harbor while white-painted buildings tidily line the terraces overlooking the sea. On a recent trip to northern Spain hosted by Trafalgar, this was but one of many “hidden treasures” our Travel Director Javier has in store for us. And it’s these kinds of insider experiences and add-on surprises, very often not found in guide books, that make a destination come to life for any curious traveler.
A similar sense of wonder envelopes the group when we drive up the winding roads leading to the pink marble hued Basilica of Our Lady of Covadonga. Set high up in the Picos de Europa mountain range, the basilica stands shrouded in a fine mist, giving the place a mystical quality. Fittingly so, given the area’s colorful history of Catholic warrior Don Pelayo’s battle against invading Arab troops that greatly outnumbered his in 722 A.D. The following events, as summarized by Javier, are nothing short of extraordinary. Cole’s Notes: Don Pelayo and his men miraculously win against their opponents when, by all rights, they couldn’t have. In a nearby cave, prior to the battle, Don Pelayo places a statue of Our Lady and asks for protection during the seemingly impossible battle ahead. Today, that cave is a shrine where devotees come to give thanks, reflect or pray.
When it’s not history coming to life before your eyes, Javier takes our group off the beaten path to visit natural wonders just as spectacular as the man-made ones. When the tide is low, travelers take off their shoes and walk among the Praia de Cathedrais in Galicia. Here, the power of the sea has carved out 30 meter high buttresses from the rock, mimicking the majesty of Spain’s many cathedrals. At every turn, there’s a new vista of unique arches to admire. Our group stands by the water’s edge as there are still a few hours till low tide, deeply inhaling the salt-tinged ocean breeze, admiring nature’s magnificent handiwork and the cathedral of the sea in all of her sun-dappled glory.