Asturias Getaway: A Hiking and Spanish Course in the Picos de Europa

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Picos de Europa hike
La Ruta de las Agüeras in the Picos de Europa

What… and where is Asturias?

Asturias is a region in Northern Spain nestled between Galicia and Cantabria with Galicia to the East and Cantabria to the West. Unlike dry, warm and Arabic influenced Southern Spain in the Northern Regions of Asturias and Galicia you will find wet, green, verdant land and a Celtic influence most easily seen in the traditional music (bagpipes) and the lingering remnants of Celtic civilization.

Why Visit Asturias?

So many reasons! The Picos de Europa. The stunning coastline, phenomenal seafood and charming fishing villages. The historic cave paintings (Altamira to name the most famous).

The ability to experience a part of Spain almost untouched by international tourism and where, in small villages, you’ll see life being lived much as it was in long ago. People harvesting their own apples to make cider at home, raising their own animals to eat, making cheeses and trading for anything they don’t have that their neighbor does.

 

Panes, Asturias, Spain
View of mountains in Panes behind my apartment

 

 

Panes, Asturias
my morning walking path

 My experience with a Spanish/Hiking course in Asturias

I wanted to combine taking a Spanish course with some fun outdoor activity like hiking (always my first choice!). I also really had been wanting to visit Asturias (I’m a sucker for lush, green, coastal regions).

You can imagine that a super specific Google search like Spanish immersion + hiking + Asturias doesn’t wield many results (though if you did this search in Andalucia you’d have dozens or more!). So I found Peak Me language school pretty easily as it popped up on the top of my list and was the only results that fit my search terms.

After a look at some of the photos of the beautiful mountain hikes they take students on and googling the village they were in I was sold. This was exactly what I was looking for.

There were options for different types of experiences, all combining Spanish courses with activities such as hiking the Camino de Santiago, hiking + pilates, hiking, or yoga + pilates. I opted for a hiking and Spanish option with one day of yoga-pilates thrown because I figured it would be a good idea to spend a day loosening up my muscles and stretching out my body after a lot of hiking (especially since I’m super out of shape since moving to Madrid!)

How the days at Peak Me were scheduled:

10-2pm Spanish courses

break for lunch (depending on which accommodation option you chose you can either go out to lunch somewhere or cook in your own apartment)

3-4 hours of hiking or yoga-pilates

On Friday you will have your afternoon free after class (no scheduled activities)

I opted for an apartment versus a hotel (as I always do since I love cooking for myself and I work remotely so I still have to carry some work with me even while traveling). From the front door of my apartment building it was a 3 minute walk to the Peak me school and I had this view from my balcony to enjoy every day:

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What was great about this experience?

Everything.

From staying in a tiny, peaceful, mountain village surrounded by panoramic mountain views to the amazing coastal and mountain hiking experiences and the comfort of having my own apartment a few minutes from the Spanish school this was a great way to spend a week.

I got to work on my Spanish grammar and improve my vocabulary while also getting out and being active and enjoying fresh air in beautiful scenery and learning about a culturally different area of Spain.

Ana, the owner of Peak Me, was fantastic and picked me up from the train station on the Sunday that I arrived and made sure everything went smoothly during my stay. She is also a local who grew up in Panes (the village where Peak Me is located) and has returned, after many years in the U.K to run this passion based business in her home town, sharing its beauty with the world.

This is a common story in Spain: children coming back home to where their parents live and either taking over the family business or starting their own. And I love it!

Asturias coastal hiking
One of many stunning views on our coastal hike the second day of the course

These are the types of businesses I enjoy discovering and getting to know the locals behind. And these are the types of experiences that will provide you with some of the richest experiences and memories in Spain.

If you love hiking and nature and are thinking of trying a Spanish language holiday in Spain, I highly recommend Peak Me.

Want to see a few videos that will transport you to Asturias….?

Day one

Coastal Hike Ocean Views

The soothing sounds of Panes

My video review of Peak Me

 

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43 Comments

  • This looks like it was an amazing experience. It is rare in today’s world to find a corner of it that is still unspoilt. It is great to see that the children come back home. In so many other places villages are dying because everyone has left for the cities.

    • Janine-this is definitely one of those regions where everyone young has left the region. But if you are lucky enough to have property and savings and/or an entrepreneurial idea you can come back home and try to help boost the local economy while also sharing your region and culture with others.

  • I like the sound of the Asturias, though I haven’t been there. Spain has so much more to offer than the normal tourist destinations. And Peak-Me sounds like a great resource.

    • thanks Fiona- Yes absolutely getting off the beaten path in Spain really pays off. Especially hitting Spain NOT during July or August really helps. But also, most people go South in Spain. I prefer North. but both are amazing and there are so many different cultural (and food and beverage and language) traditions in each region.

  • I’d never even heard of Asturias! You’d assume that every corner of a Western European country like Spain would’ve been discovered, so it’s nice to see a quiet off-the-beaten path spot. Those lush green views from your balcony are so pretty! I’d love to combine a language and adventure experience like this. It seems like you had a great balance of class time, hiking time, and free time on Fridays. Do you think someone could do this as a Spanish Language beginner?

    • Hi Jackie

      I agree-it’s so cool to find regions that have not been touched as much by extreme tourism. There are many places in Spain like this up North. People tend to go straight to Barcelona and Andalucia where it’s hot and dry etc etc. You could DEFINITELY do this program as a beginner. 90% of their students are absolute beginners.I was more advanced because I live in Spain but I’d go just for the amazing hiking guides (who are local and know all the history and best routes etc) and the opportunity to stay in such a lovely small village and not be completely alone 🙂

  • Hiking is something I would do in a new place – and I’m really happy to read about your experience in Spain! The language lessons is a plus, actually it is a great idea, as nature and environment can improve one’s concentration. Did you find it easier to retain new vocabulary? 🙂

    • Marianne- absolutely! When you learn new vocabulary and then go out and use it it certainly helps solidify it in your memory:. If I could do this type of program a couple of times a year I would! Just as much for the nature as for the Spanish (though I live in Spain I work in English so I like to go travel solo to new places where I’m forced to use my Spanish at a higher level)

  • What a beautiful part of Spain! I particularly like the combination of Spanish lessons with hiking and getting outside into the lush, green areas. Thanks for this info, definitely bookmarked for my trip to Spain next year.

  • Thanks for sharing this hidden gem! I have yet to visit this part of Spain, but I love the sound of getting off the beaten path and interacting with local business owners who are passionate about showing off their homes. Hiking + yoga sounds like a great combo, I’ll have to keep this package in mind if we make it there someday!

    • Flo-you’re welcome! 🙂 The prices are very very affordable as well which is another benefit of doing a program like this in Northern Spain

  • I took a similar kind of intense Spanish language course in Mexico. I do wish I had gone to Spain instead, Asturias is a region of Spain I’ve not really been to – other than driving through. I have stopped in Galacia. The hiking after the Spanish lessons must have been a great way to relax the mind – I know how tiring all the translation and concentration can be. This does look like a woderful way to learn Spanish and see Spain!

    • James- how is your Spanish level now? 🙂 and where did you go in Galicia? If you like Northern Spain and love the outdoors you would LOVE Asturias!

  • How fantastic. I’ve done language courses in Spain but had no idea there were any that combined language with outdoor adventure. I’m totally sold, but I was sold on your very first photo. I’ve actually been to Altamira and will never forget it, even if you’re in a replica cave beside the real one.

    • Carol-Wow you were so close to here! There are super tight restrictions on how many people can enter Altamira so we weren’t able to go but must have been amazing! I’m already planning how to get back to this are in Spring and discover more-this time in a car (road trip baby!)

  • I would love to visit the Asturias! I took an intensive Spanish course in Costa Rica, though it wasn’t set up to combine activities like hiking, pilates, yoga etc – I love the concept though, sounds like a really well rounded experience and a chance to not only learn the language but immerse yourself into local life as well. Great opportunity to visit the countryside and explore the surrounds. What a great idea for a language school!

    • Megan- I agree! What better way to stay motivated in a language course than to do things you love?! Plus you learn really cool additional vocabulary like….. names of flowers or plants or trails. And if you are in a super tiny village like this you must speak Spanish everywhere you go so you don’t get to lapse back into English 🙂

  • The Picos de Europa look absolutely amazing! I love that there is a celtic influence – I find that interesting when I visit places, to know the background of a place. How’s your Spanish now? Also, where do you find the apartments when you travel? Is there a site you use or do you just walk up?

    • Paige-

      My level is getting much higher-Spaniards tell me I’m advanced when I speak but I still don’t know the future tense and certainly can’t write like a bilingual yet :). As far as apartment I typically use Airbnb unless I’m in Spain then I use Toprural.com or other sites for casas rurales (rurally located affordable accommodation -not hotels). Though with this program they have all the accommodation on their site listed with contact info and price so it’s super easy (and cheap in this area of Spain!)

  • The experience you had seems amazing! 🙂 It’s pretty strange that I know so well the South of Spain, but I’ve never been in the North! I must remedy! 🙂

    • Clara-

      that’s pretty normal. Most people do Barcelona and Andalucia but never make it to Basque Country, Galicia, Asturias and Cantabria…. but these are my favorites! Where are you favorite spots in Southern Spain?

  • This looks right up our street. We love hiking and getting closer to local life. Having spent 6 months in South America, our Spanish is at a pretty good level but it can always improve and this looks like a fun way to brush up. The balcony views are beautiful!

    • true! there is always room for improvement-plus the prices are so good I’d go just as much for the hiking as the Spanish! 🙂

  • Thanks for sharing this gem of a landscape – I’m in for the hiking part 😀 ! As for learing Spanish… I’ve almost given up. I’m unteachable. Though I’m regularly travelling to Central/South America I somehow manage to get along with a horrible mixture of Spanish & French 🙁

    • well that’s how you start right? Use what you have-throw in any other latin based language you have and hope something works and over time accumulate more and more! 🙂

  • I haven’t been to Europe so I count on the things I read. It is refreshing to read about Spain that is not about Barcelona, Madrid, etc. I honestly had no idea that this kind of place exists. The photos are already rejuvenating itself and yoga-pilates sounds like a good idea. Also, I study Spanish years back but I had to stop because it’s difficult to study a language that you don’t get to practice but I am keen to study it again. How is your Spanish course going?

    • Hazel-

      couldn’t agree more about learning a language-you must put it into practice to really retain it! 🙂 My Spanish has finally gotten to a really good level after a year here (even though I work and live 85% in English) thanks to doing a couple of immersion programs like this and some solo travel where I have to speak in Spanish in remote areas 🙂

      c’mon over to Spain and practice your Spanish I’m sure you’d enjoy it! 🙂

  • What and where is Asturias was actually my first question. Lol. When I was in Spain a few years back I learned about the Arabic influence, specifically in the south in cities like Seville. But I find interesting that the North is green and lush with a Celtic influence. Wow. Now I’m not much into hiking but learning to speak Spanish in Spain. Friggin awesome. Great pictures. Very beautiful place.

    • thanks Christopher!

      Ha, yes I thought the same thing when I first heard of Asturias (and Galicia!) had never heard of them. Outside of Spain we don’t talk about the names of the regions as much as we do the cities-but in Spain everything is about the regions! 🙂

  • This sounds great! I love the mix of learning spanish and exercise – although it does seem like a busy day. I also always get an apartment where I can. Sounds you had the ideal experience where it is more like you are living somewhere rather than just being a tourist. How was your spanish by the end?

    • Hola Amanda- I do love feeling like a local :). My Spanish was already at a relatively high level when I arrived since I’ve been in Spain a year (though I work in English and live in English 80% of time which I’ve tried to change but is hard since I’m not a student in a Spanish university or working with a Spanish company!) but these weeks of immersion always kick it up another notch because speaking so much and for so many hours of the day really helps with higher retention. Plus being in small villages means that almost no one tries to speak to you in English (unlike big cities like Madrid where people always want to practice their very good English) so you get to speak all the Spanish that you have 🙂

  • The magic of learning a new language, Spanish combined with the experience of the great outdoors is indeed a great combination. Hiking theAstorias is something I would love. Except for English, all other European languages are literally Greek and Latin to me, maybe I would start with Spanish!

  • You’re absolutely right, the Celtic heritage and scenery in northern Spain make it much more resemblant of Ireland or Scotland than the arid plains of Andalusia. It was a great idea to learn a language in a small town where you can really immerse yourself in the culture, looks like you had so much fun. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  • I can’t think of anything better than staying in a little town surrounded by that landscape. I’ve still never actually been on a hike abroad but this seems amazing!

    • oh…. hiking is one of the things I love to do when abroad-I always look up a local Meetup.com hiking group if I’m in a city-they exist now all over the world and it’s a great way to meet other locals and to see beautiful nature that’s a bit different than at home! 🙂

  • What a beautiful and scenic place! The rock formations are amazing. Sheila and I are avid trekkers, and we would love to visit here. Is camping here allowed?

    The cultural immersion package you availed is quite interesting as well.

    • Hi, I know there is camping in this area but we didn’t camp so I can’t give specifics. I’d research the Picos de Europa and I’m sure you can find some camping areas around there 🙂

  • When I saw this at first I thought I read “Austria.” Great post Brooke, places like this are my kind of jam especially the local farm-to-table aspect that so many of these southern European villages treasure. I appreciate that people are starting to come back to their roots considering they probably have many options in bigger cities. I’ll have to note this on a future Spain grip. Nice that there is an option like Peak me for travelers looking to improve their Spanish plus get a nice healthy getaway!

    • you and I have a lot in common when it comes to travel style! 🙂

      I also love it when I find people who have figured out a way to come back to their home region and build a business there. It’s these people that will help bolster the local economy and share the riches of these types of places with others. Over time, this may lead to more people being able to come home and start other businesses….

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