Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The limestone cliffs of the Asturian Coast (Spain).

Deze post in het Nederlands: klik hier.

How the waves form the coast.

At some places the northern border of the Cantabrian Mountains almost reaches to the Bay of Biscay, from which it is only separated by a narrow coastal plain, and one of these places is the east of Spanish province of Asturias. Here the plain consists mainly of limestone, which is a rock with the property that it is slightly soluble in water. For this reason the eternal waves of the ocean have sculpted a very particular terrain with steep cliffs and numerous sea caves. Furthermore, the whole area experiences a slow geological uplift which has caused the rising of the former sea bottom above sea level, forming the actual coastal plain between the sea and the Cantabrian Mountains.  In other words, the current plain was formed by the wave action of the sea, which reached a few kilometers further inland to the foot of the mountains. After the coastal plain was elevated, caves have formed in many places. In some of these caves beautiful prehistoric rock paintings have been found, including those of the Cueva del Pindal (Colombres) and the caves of Tito Bustillo (Ribadesella).  Before showing the pictures of the coast  I will show a few "boring" maps which indicate the exact location of where we visited the coastal plain.

This location is part of the officially protected landscape of the eastern Asturian coast (Paisaje Protegido de la Costa Oriental Asturiana), which covers a total length along the coast of about 30 kilometers and a surface of nearly 67 square kilometer.


The small red rectangle indicates the location of the next map.

The visited region is indicated by the yellow oval, centered around the Playa Cuevas de Mar at Villanueva.

After leaving the car at a small parking at the Playa de Cuevas de Mar, which by the way is a very nice spot, we walk to the Ermita (chapel) of San Antonio.

Just before reaching the chapel we find this "hidden" beach, only visible at low tide. If you look closely in the background you can see the snowy peaks of the Picos de Europa.

These rocks show very well the action of the sea upon the limestone, which is simply dissolved by the seawater. These rock crests can be very sharp, so be careful.

If given a long enough time, the sea can carve caves into the solid rock.

The Picos de Europa, as seen from the Asturian coast. The peaks of these mountains rise to a height of more than 2600 meters, while right here we are at sea level. This enormous difference of height has caused the formation of some of the deepest caves in the world with depths of over 1600 meters.

Just at sea level we can see a rim which is caused by the action of the waves. At the rim the rock is eaten away by the sea until finally the whole rock collapses into the sea. This way the sea is trying to win back what was lost during the geologic uplift. Collapsing is often along vertical fractures, hence many cliffs are so perfectly straight, as if they were cut by a knife.

The lonely chapel of San Antonio, surrounded by tamarisks, trees which can tolerate the salty sea air.

In this part of the coast we can find the famous "bufones". These are small potholes and fissures which are in direct contact with underlying sea caves. During storms, the water is forced into the caves and the high pressure sprays it right out of  the bufones, just like a whale.

Although today we were the only  human visitors, we weren´t alone. This hairy goat is probably very old, because moving around visibly cost him a lot of trouble.

 In this picture I have tried to catch how close the mountains are to the coast. By the way, towards us came a very nasty and dark cloud and we could barely make it to the car before a heavy rain burst loose.


  1. Prachtig landschap is dit.
    Groetjes Irma

  2. Hallo Irma, en met blad en bloemen zelfs nog mooier.

    Groetjes, Marius

  3. Thanks, I hope it will inspire to visit.