Asturias, a mystery lover’s paradise

Is Asturias a mystery lover’s paradise? If we take a look at the films and series shot there in recent years, it seems that the answer is emphatically yes. 

The mountains, the isolated villages, the solitary manor houses, the grey skies, and the constant rain are all ingredients that combined create an almost perfect setting to recreate suspense stories. Asturias is also the perfect setting for horror tales as well, such as The Orphanage (J.A. Bayona, 2007), one of the films in which this natural paradise has been transformed into a terrifying hell. 

If you want to get a closer look at the mansion where this thriller was filmed, you have to head to Partarríu Palace or Villa Parres in Llanes. The house’s appearance is reminiscent of the typical homes built by the Asturian emigrants who made their fortune in America between the 19th and 20th centuries. These homes are at once enchanting and shocking. 

Simply observing its façade, you can already feel the Belén Rueda’s panic she surely felt while walking through those rooms where the old wood creaks at every step. She certainly wasn’t the only one. 

Maribel Verdú and Jorge Sanz, main characters in the series Los jinetes del alba (Vicente Aranda, 1991), were also filmed in the house. It was also chosen to shoot other films such as Mi nombre es sombra (1996) by the Oviedo-born director Gonzalo Suárez, in which the villa plays host to a strange doctor inspired by the evil Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde, starring Amparo Larrañaga.

The Partarríu Palace during the filming of The Orphanage / Turismo de Llanes

It seems that monsters feel at home in this area near Cantabria. Suárez also chose the region to shoot Rowing with the Wind (1988), a film inspired by the literary creation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and starring a very young Hugh Grant – who some locals still remember walking along Borizú beach in Celorio dressed as Lord Byron. Celorio is known for the islet in front of it, which can be reached on foot at low tide.

Speaking of beaches and taking advantage of the tour through Llanes, you may be interested to know that The Orphanage was also filmed on the nearby Andrín beach. This small cove surrounded by cliffs always appears on lists of the most beautiful beaches in the east of Asturias due to its wild surroundings. It is hard to believe that one could be afraid in this idyllic setting, but it’s the truth. Bodies can be warmed by the sun on the beach while their blood runs cold.

We can also find the mysterious and supernatural atmosphere that surrounds the frightening story told in The Orphanage in Alma, the first series by the same scriptwriter: the Oviedo-born Sergio G. Sánchez. El secreto de Marrowbone, in which the screenwriter debuted as a director, was also shot there.

Alma: coast and nature

Alma is another thriller shot in Asturias with numerous iconic locations, such as Brañagallones, a magical valley located in the Redes Natural Park. The park bears this name which because it is the nesting ground of many capercaillies (gallones in Asturian). The plot starts here, in which a group of students are involved in a terrifying story that constantly changes scenery. 

A visit to Brañagallones is a great excuse to visit this little-known area in the interior of Asturias, which is perfect for cinematographers. Here’s a tip: wear hiking shoes as Brañagallones is only accessible on foot (the trek sets off from the Bezanes refuge) or by 4×4 vehicles with authorisation. If you have time, and you’re not afraid, stay overnight at the refuge. It’s a great place to disconnect from the world.

The Brañagallones refuge, in the Redes Natural Park / Asturias tourism

Alma was also filmed in Luarca, which I recommend visiting if you like seaside destinations. Nearly every spot in the town appears in the series. and the same goes for Ribadesella, specifically in the Ardines cave, next to the famous Tito Bustillo cave. This incredibly beautiful enclave with its long gallery is open to the public. I recommend taking it slowly as you need to be in good shape to climb the 300-step staircase that leads to the main gallery. It is an experience that will surely stick in your memory. Even if you have amnesia, a condition that plays a vital role in Alma, this is a place you’ll never forget.  

The route through the scenes in the series also takes us to Porcía beach in Tapia de Casariego, close to the border with Lugo, Galicia. This setting is also featured in the series where you may find yourself irresistibly drawn to photographing the intensely beautiful scenery, with marshes and dunes formed by the mouth of the river bearing the same name. It is worth the detour to hike through the typically less travelled west of Asturias.

Infiesto, a series where mines provide the ideal backdrop for disturbing thrillers

We continue our journey through the most terrifying and cinematographic parts of Asturias, reaching Mieres and Langreo. These spots are located in the heart of the Cuenca Minera where Infiesto was filmed, the name of the Asturian town where some scenes were shot. The scenes in Infiesto are hardly bucolic, featuring the typical grey skies and constant drizzle. Empty streets and gloomy characters recreate what the pandemic was like, which serves as the time frame for the series. Strange characters constantly use expressions in the Asturianu dialect, which will surely be familiar to those who dare to discover the most industrial area of Asturias, which is much more pleasant to look at in real life.

The beautiful town of Luarca, the setting of Alma / Nani Arenas

At various points during filming artificial rain was required to create the dark atmosphere that appears in the series but doesn’t quite reflect reality. 

The big screen often appears victorious, though other times it can be confusing. It is better to get closer to see it all in first person without editing, always with the invaluable help of the Asturias Paraíso Natural Film Commission, the entity in charge of enabling filming horror films and more in this natural yet mysterious paradise.

By Nani Arenas (Travel Inspirer)

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