One of the things we love about being mobile on holiday is that it enables us to explore more. As a family of three adventurers we love discovering new places especially those off the beaten track. We do get lost occasionally, as we did on a mountain top in Asturias, but that’s all part of the fun isn’t it?
We came across San Juan de Beleño while exploring the Ponga mountains. The Parque Natural Ponga (Ponga Natural Park) is nestled between the Picos de Europa National Park and Redes National Park. Although a fairly remote area consisting of forest and mountains, there are several unspoilt villages along the way. Providing the facilities are there, many of these making ideal pitstops. We had headed towards San Juan de Beleño from Cangas de Onis, on the N625 road towards Vega de Pervis. There are two routes you can take from there – either continue on the N625 and then take the PO2 near San Ignacio or take the AS261. There’s only about 5 kilometres difference between each route however the drive time is almost double if you take the PO2 as the road has so many twists and turns. We ended up doing both and six year old POD wasn’t a fan of the latter, beautiful as it was. If you’re travelling from the south, San Juan de Beleño is less than 5 kilometres from Sobrefoz.
We hadn’t planned to stop in Juan de Beleño, we just liked the look of it as we drove through and fancied a coffee. Driving in the forest meant we’d not been able to take in the mountain views but we were quickly rewarded in this pretty little town. A small car park gave us our first taste – the mist beneath the mountain peaks reminiscent of our time in Cantabria. Watching the mist rise from the Picos de Europa while we ate breakfast at our cottage was a daily occurrence.
The Fonda de Ponga restaurant felt like the hub of San Juan de Beleño which is inhabited by just 150 people. While the temperatures in Northern Spain are much lower than their southern counterpart, we were blessed with glorious sunshine that day. The warmth providing the perfect opportunity to sit outside and take in breathtaking views. We had the garden to ourselves for much of our time at Fonda de Ponga having arrived before lunch. We discovered it’s used as a meeting point for cyclists on occasions – those brave enough to take on the exceptionally steep mountain roads.
Of course we couldn’t leave this wonderful spot without exploring it further. Surrounded by magnificent scenery and exceptional views, we found the local church with its pretty weather vane. We would have loved a peek inside but the church was closed unfortunately – we found this to be the case in Cantabria also. There was plenty more to see in San Juan de Beleño though like some steps leading down to a river and a fresh water spring. Aside from the views which became all the more spectacular as we headed upward, we discovered beautiful old buildings and there was hardly a soul around. We made our way back down after walking up a dirt track with a tractor – probably en route to his farm. Having spent much more time in San Juan de Beleño than we intended to, we headed back to Fonda de Ponga for a traditional Spanish lunch. We had no idea what we were getting but our feast was warmly welcomed and of course quickly devoured.