Spain vacation: discover Asturias, home of the strongest cheese in the world

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Asturias in northern Spain is home to the most expensive and strongest cheese in the world, so our advice is: just follow your nose!

  • Asturias, a principality that produces more than 300 types of cheese, is also known as the land of cheese
  • Cabrales – the most expensive blue cheese in the world – is ripened in the caves of the Picos de Europa
  • Visit Oviedo, the Principality’s capital, and dine on fabada and chocopos in a cider bar on Calle Gascona

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I slowly feel my way through a pitch-black tangle of limestone caves deep in the Picos de Europa, the mountains known for bears, wolves and eagles.

Then my nose draws my attention to another natural wonder: Cabrales, the strongest and most expensive blue cheese in the world.

So hot that it will make the most ardent turophile flinch. Cabrales owes its impressive taste and smell to Penicillium roqueforti, a mushroom that thrives in these cool, damp chambers.

Wild: Picos de Europa National Park. Wheels of Cabrales mature in the limestone caves of the mountain range

Take in the views of the sparkling Bay of Biscay pictured above as you hike the trails that make up the Picos.  cross

Take in the views of the sparkling Bay of Biscay pictured above as you hike the trails that make up the Picos. cross

The Cabrales cheese pictured is the strongest and most expensive blue cheese in the world

The Cabrales cheese pictured is the strongest and most expensive blue cheese in the world

Wheels of Cabrales mature here for two to ten months. Spores that stick to the walls drift through air currents and soak the cheese with the blue veins of mold that are so powerful.

The caves meander for miles through a section of the Picos that spans the upper edge of Asturias, the wedge-shaped principality known as the land of cheese, on the north coast of Spain.

Well worth climbing the paths that cross the Picos. The view over the meadows and forests to the glittering Bay of Biscay is spectacular.

For some Cabrales producers, this tough climb is part of their day-to-day business, because the highest cheese caves cannot be reached by car.

Jessica López Fernández and her husband Javier Diaz Bada run the cheese and dairy factory Quesería Main. They mature their world-class Reserve Cabrales in caves 5,000 feet above sea level.

In summer they use mules to drag the cheese up and down. In winter, when the snow is too deep, they each haul 33 pounds of Cabrales bikes in backpacks on foot and hike up and down once a week to turn and clean them.

The tour lasts three hours and the best cabrales are often made in the highest caves.

It holds the record for the world’s most expensive blue cheese: in 2019, a Spanish restaurant paid £ 18,615 at auction for a £ 4.4 piece.

A panoramic view of Oviedo, the capital of Asturias.  Stop there for dinner in a delightful sidreria (cider bar) on Calle Gascona

A panoramic view of Oviedo, the capital of Asturias. Stop there for dinner in a delightful sidreria (cider bar) on Calle Gascona

Sue recommends exploring the illustrated medieval streets of Oviedo if you want to avoid the crowded cities of Spain

Sue recommends exploring the illustrated medieval streets of Oviedo if you want to avoid the more crowded cities of Spain

Asturias thrives on authenticity. Wander the medieval streets and squares of Oviedo, the elegant capital of the principality, and avoid the treasures of the Costas and big cities.

Stop for dinner at a delightful sidrería (cider bar) on Calle Gascona, which is packed with locals eating fabada (white bean and meat stew) and chocopos (fillets of meat, breaded, and fried).

The landscape offers endless opportunities for hiking, climbing, canoeing, and wildlife viewing. But for me everything revolves around the cheese: In this small region more than 300 types are produced and luckily also exported to Great Britain.


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