Wednesday 1 October 2014

Bulnes, one of the remotest villages in Europe

Here's another suggestion for your next Spanish vacation: the province of Asturias.  After you've had enough seafood and beaches along the Mediterranean Sea or the Bay of Biscay, the breathtaking Asturian mountains will surely give you a whole new perspective of Spain. 

Almost parallel to the coastline of northern Spain is the mountain ranges of Naranjo de Bulnes (the Orange of Bulnes).  No idea why it alludes to orange as neither the colour nor the fruit is seen in the mountains, but Bulnes must be one of the most extraordinary destinations for tourists.

Several superlatives must be mentioned: Bulnes is one of the most remote villages in Europe, and it can now be reached by
one of the most improbably constructed trams.  Not until 14 years ago was this tram line built; prior to that there are only donkey trails that could reach the village.  With this newly built tram, Bulnes is now a popular destination for tourists visiting the Asturian mountains.

I last visited the region a few years ago, and I am once again retracing the same windy mountain roads with the same fascination.  The sheer limestone reaches up to the sky, barely allowing a footpath - much less a funicular - to scale up to the top.  Getting off the funicular at the village of Bulnes, you will be standing at over 2400ft above sea level!\

Several short hiking trails start from the village, which take you to various panoramic vantage points.  The village has no traffic; a stream cuts through it with a small church and some restaurants cafes on both sides.  There are reportedly 34 residents in the village, so I think forming a Bulnes Philharmonic is out of the question.

Start your journey in Asturias from Cangas de Onis, on the western side of the mountain range Picos de Europa.  Cangas de Onis is the tourist central of the region, crowded with hotels, restaurants, shops and activity centres (horse-riding, kayaking, etc.)  I'll review the Parador of Cangas de Onis on a separate post.

From there, set your GPS to Poncebos, where the funicular station is.  The tram runs every 30 minutes, lasting about 8 minutes.  Note the time of the last train coming down from Bulnes, at either 6pm or 8pm depending on the season.  Asturian cuisine is a subject worth the length of two bibles, but don't leave without trying the cabrales cheese, which is the famous Spanish blue cheese.

Funicular schedule (in English):

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