Even on a vacation it’s a luxury waking up knowing you don’t have to be anywhere or do anything specific with the day ahead — such a luxury was ours on the fifth day, after the first nights’ stay, in Cangas de Onis, Spain — no set plans, no place to be. For those brief morning moments it was joyous to simply look from our open hotel room window down upon the town as clouds and fog rolled through surrounding hills and valleys and morning light painted it’s features.
Cangas de Onís, capital of the area of the same name, sits in the valley formed by the rivers Sella and Güeña. The most representative feature of the town is its Roman Bridge, declared to be a Historic-Artistic Site in 1931. It has five arches, three of them pointed, and from the centre hangs a reproduction of the Victoria Cross. The main economical activities of this region are agriculture and cattle rearing, as well as farm tourism. Visits to the Covadonga Sanctuary and its surrounding lakes are one of the main Asturias destinations, receiving a big portion of the region’s total tourists.
Cangas de Onis is located in the northwestern corner of the Picos de Europa National Park which is shared by autonomous communities of Asturias, Cantabria and Castile and León.
The Pico de Europa National Park was the first of the National Parks of Spain along with Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park in the Pyrenees. When it was created 22 July 1918 it covered the western part of today’s national park, centered on the Lakes of Covadonga. The Parque Nacional de la Montaña de Covadonga, as it then was called, had an area of 169.25 km². On May 30, 1995 the park was extended to include its current total area of 646.60 km².
For the morning’s adventure, we “free-styled” to the northern coast stopping at the happened upon Mirador del Fito observation point which provided spectacular views of the Asturias coast and the Pico’s de Europa. Horses and cattle roamed freely along the roads and mountainous land of this area, so caution driving as well as where you stepped were required. Our driving friend got much closer to this bull then I ever would have but then my father owned a cattle ranch so I know how unpredictable they can be. Luckily this bull seemed totally indifferent to it all so no harm no foul.
As you can tell from the photos it was an overcast day with a few short lived rain showers. Since much of the day we were driving at altitude this weather added some dramatic effects for photographs.
We finished our enjoyable morning back at Cangas de Onis, where we had lunch. Up to this point, we’d eaten local Spanish cuisine and enjoyed it for the most part, however, the pub we stopped at for lunch offered their version of hamburgers and pizza. Giving in to the temptation I can only say they did a very respectable imitation of an American hamburger and I understand the pizza wasn’t bad either.
That afternoon we made our way to the Lakes of Covadonga area — southeast of Cangas de Onis, deeper into the Pico de Europa National Park.
Our first stop was the historic “Our Lady of Covadonga” shrine and monastery. The monastery dates back to 17th century but the prominence of the shrine dates to the Moorish invasion of Spain.
Our Lady of Covadonga is a title of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and a Marian shrine devoted to her at Covadonga in the province of Asturias in north west Spain. The Spanish shrine rose to prominence following the Battle of Covadon in 722, at which the Moorish invasion of Spain was first resisted. A statue of the Virgin Mary, secretly hidden in one of the caves, was believed to have miraculously aided the Christian victory. Our Lady of Covadonga is the patron of Asturias, and a basilica was built to house the current statue. Pope John Paul II visited the shrine at Covadonga to honour the Virgin Mary.
From the monastery we took the popular 12.6 km road that leads to the Lakes of Covadonga, Lake Enol and Lake Ercina. We understood this drive and destination is so popular in the Spanish vacation season (late July-September) one has to take a bus and it can take hours.
The Lakes of Covadonga (el. 1134 m.) are of two glacial lakes located on the region of Asturias, Spain. These lakes, often also called Lakes of Enol or simply Los Lagos, are Lake Enol and Lake Ercina located in the Picos de Europa range…
The road ascending from Covadonga to the lakes is a popular climb in professional road bicycle racing, having been used by Vuelta a España many times in the last 25 years.
Lagos de Covadonga is the most important climb in the modern history of the Vuelta. The road that leads to the lakes starts at Covadonga and is 12.6 kilometres long at an average gradient of 7.3% (height gain: 1056 m).
A small number of people live in the park and you find cattle, sheep, goats and the ever watchful herd dogs either along the road or in it. When found in the road, they are slow to move to one side after having been exposed to traffic and people so frequently.
Such was our fifth day ending with a return and dinner in Cangas de Onis.