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Spain – Day 5: Cangas de Onis and surrounding area

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.

11 Comments on Spain – Day 5: Cangas de Onis and surrounding area

  1. Paul Maxim // 15 Aug ’14 at 10:04 am // Reply

    Man, these are really great images, Earl. (I can’t believe that no one has commented yet!). The clouds forming along the tops of the mountains, the Roman bridge, the red-coated waiting woman, the “pedestrian” bull, the shrine, and the red umbrella photograph – all are very, very good. I think the mildly “bad” weather actually made for a better day photographically.

    • Paul, I whole heartedly agree with you about the weather making for a better photographic day! Thanks for your comments on the images…I wouldn’t want to pick one favorite from this day’s lot.

  2. Wow, these images are awesome and when reading your writing I almost feel like I’m there I with you. There is no way I can select a favorite, just know that they’re all good.
    One aspect of travel writing is being able to remember what you experienced when you get back home unless you are diligent in taking notes. You seem to have a knack for doing that well. Again I have enjoyed reading about the trip and observing your images. We’ll done, my friend.
    Monte Stevens recently posted… Pick Me

    • Monte, photographing the trip as I did helped to anchor in my mind the daily experiences and sequence of events. Bonnie has made the comment of not remembering precisely when something occurred until reading about it here. But then I have the photos, their exact location and my own memories of making them and my thoughts/feelings at the time.

      Still I want to get this all down as soon as possible before even those memories begin to fade.

      Thanks for your kind comments on the images and the trip posts.

  3. Paul Maxim // 16 Aug ’14 at 8:08 am // Reply

    OK, I’m confused Earl. I left a fairly long comment yesterday and now it’s not there (i’m pretty sure it was “received” normally – the little 5 minute editing clock was running). I know you didn’t delete it. So what happened??

  4. Paul Maxim // 16 Aug ’14 at 8:10 am // Reply

    Now it’s getting weirder – as soon as I posted the above comment, my original comment appeared, along with a comment from Monte. What my wife says must be true – I’m losing my mind……..

    • You’re not losing it Paul. There may have been some conflict with a DB backup which delayed your comment from showing up. This backup process has been running amuck lately…I’m working on the issue. :-)

  5. Very nice photos, Earl. All those clouds and fog make it look like another country…oh yeah. ;) You’ve done a fine job capturing the essence of your journey. I’m really enjoying the journey!
    Tom Dills recently posted… Holmes County Court House

    • Thanks, Tom. One could say I’m getting to do the journey twice…the second time by going through all the photos and revisiting each day here in this trip journal. It’s not as good as the first time but still pretty sweet! :-)

  6. Like everyone else has said these are some really cool photos. The Lakes of Covadonga area looks beautiful. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of this area but I would certainly like to visit it. Cangas de Onis looks interesting too. Thanks for posting Earl.
    Cedric Canard recently posted… Three walls in Venice Beach

    • Cedric, we were told this is an area where many northern Spain locals go for a retreat but it’s not high profile for international visitors…perfect for what we wanted this trip to be about. Thanks.

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