I started my walk and headed into the narrow streets of the town’s centre and within a few minutes I had arrived at the Parish Church of St. Mary Magdalene, built in 1936. The downtown area is very pretty, with narrow, cobble-stoned streets that are free of car traffic. City hall is located in a house made of heavy stone blocks, and numerous restaurants, bars and shops are dot the downtown area.
The Parish Church of St. Mary Magdalene
To get a better view of the town, I started walking up the hill on the promontory that stretches out into the ocean on the east side of town. As I strolled further along this promenade above the town, the views got better and better. The entire town with its red roofs, its big winding river and its long sandy beach on the other side of the Sella was stretching out in front of me. In the distance the jagged silhouette of the Picos de Europa mountains formed a hazy blue backdrop to this stunning panorama. I simply had to stop every 20 or 30 metres to admire the amazing views.
The bend of the Sella River before it flows into the Atlantic
The elevated scenic walkway above Ribadesella ended up taking me to a promontory called “Mirador del Guía” which overlooks the eastern side of the Sella’s estuary with a little chapel called “La Guía”. This was the perfect lookout point back to the town with the high mountains behind, down to the estuary of the Sella River and out to the sheer infinite expanses of the Atlantic Ocean. With these breathtaking views, Ribadesella had officially become one of my favourite destinations in Asturias.
The cannons at the Mirador del GuíaM
I walked down from the chapel on a meandering footpath to head back into town on the riverfront boulevard. Great views of the river were to be had from here, and I admired a series of canoeists and kayakers who were working out on the river. The promenade was flanked by a series of clay murals that illustrate the history of Ribadesella, from its prehistoric settlements to its important role as a port town, to today’s incarnation as one of northern Spain’s most popular tourist towns. Even the Prince and the Princess of Asturias vacation here…
View of the mouth of the Sella River and the Atlantic Ocean
I strolled past several bars and cafés in the port area to get back to my car and make it over the bridge to the western bank of Ribadesella. This side of town is home to a long and wide sandy beach called Playa de Santa Marina. I sat down in an outdoor café and enjoyed an ice cream cone while I looked back across the river to the elevated lookout point where I had just come from.
Playa Santa Marina, the beach of Ribadesella
One really interesting unique feature of Ribadesella is its pretty riverfront promenade that is dotted with historic mansions that flank the sandy beach. These mansions, the so-called “casas indianas”, were built around the turn of the last century by rich emigrants who had returned home to built opulent villas. From the 1850s onwards, many Asturians emigrated to places such as Cuba, Mexico and Argentina to escape poverty and seek their fortune in the New World.
One of the many gorgeous “casas indianas” in Ribadesella – the Hotel Restaurante Villa Rosario
Many of those emigrants that had became wealthy and successful abroad returned to their home towns to retire and constructed impressive mansions. Plaques in front of the mansions explain the history of some of these gorgeous villas. Several of the owners had become wealthy in the Cuban tobacco trade or in the Mexican textile industry, and these villas were a testament to their success. Today, many of these villas are hotels or restaurants. The four-star Hotel Restaurante Villa Rosario, for example, is one of the most stunning villas and offers beautiful water views to its lucky clients.
The beautiful sandy beach of Ribadesella
Ribadesella had truly impressed me with its fantastic location at the mouth of the river Sella. But now it was mid-afternoon and I had to make way further east towards my destination for the night: the “Posada de Babel”, a family-owned hotel near the waterfront town of Llanes.
Another “casa indiana” in Ribadesella