The Lakes of Covadonga: a glacial wonder
Visitors will be spoilt by the endless options the tiny paradise of Asturias has to offer. Oviedo’s charm; Gijón’s unique vibe; the quaint villages of Cudillero and Llanes; and beaches surrounded by lush vegetation are just a few of the reasons that make Asturias a phenomenal destination. Nature enthusiasts will also find discover some of the most breathtaking landscapes Spain has to offer with the Cares Trail, Somiedo Natural Park and Tito Bustillo Cave.
The Lakes of Covadonga top Asturias’s list of natural wonders. Located in the Asturian part of the Picos de Europa National Park, the lakes afford awe-inspiring scenery.
Visiting the Lakes of Covadonga
The stunning glacial lakes of Enol and Ercina make up the Lakes of Covadonga, and when they begin to thaw a third lake forms, Bricial, disappearing once the thaw is over. The Lakes of Covadonga have gained in popularity, leading to an influx of people visiting the area, especially during high season. As a result, measures have been put in place to accommodate visitors.
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The first lake you’ll see once you reach the lakes is Lake Enol, the larger of the two. The lake houses the Virgen of Covadonga deep within its waters. The Virgin is removed every 8 September as part of the festivities celebrating the Patron Saint. Take time to contemplate the stunning reflection of the mountains in the lake’s pristine waters.
A bit further up, sits the smaller lake of Ercina, at 1,108 m above sea level. It is not uncommon to see wildlife grazing in the meadows around the lake, offering visitors the most picturesque tableau. Most visitors head to the Lakes of Covadonga to take in the spectacular views, but the area offers other possibilities. Read on to discover more.
Going up to the Lakes of Covadonga: possible itineraries and recommendations
The lakes are located in the parish of Cangas de Onís and you can reach the lakes by car, by bus or on foot. Once you reach the top, be sure to visit the Sanctuary of Covadonga and discover the surrounding area and the striking beauty of the landscape. There are several hiking trails you can choose from, ranging in level of difficulty. Most visitors do not venture past Lake Ercina and miss out on some of the most spectacular views the park has to offer.
The easiest itinerary is a 2-hour, 6 km loop that is child-friendly. Some of the sights along the way include: the Palomberu beech forest, the Buferrera Mines and the Príncipe viewpoint – which offers stunning panoramic views of the Lakes of Covadonga. You won’t want to miss the Entrelagos viewpoint. ‘Entrelagos’ means between lakes and the viewpoint is ideally located between Enol and Ercina, offering visitors sweeping views of the mountainside.
If you’re looking to take on a more challenging hike, head towards Ordiales viewpoint. The 11 km hike takes about 6 to 7 hours to complete. You begin at the Lake Enol refuge, heading towards the Pozo del Alemán (‘the German’s Well’) and passing by a stone sheep shed, the Vegarredonda refuge, to end at the Ordiales viewpoint. The natural terrace sits 1,700 m above sea level and offers unparalleled views of astounding beauty. The remains of Pedro Pidal were laid to rest here. Pedro Pidal was the first to climb Naranjo de Bulnes with the shepherd Gregorio Pérez. He was also responsible for the creation of the Picos de Europa National Park.
Since the Lakes of Covadonga form part of the Picos de Europa National Park, the number of available hiking trails is endless. Cyclists also come here to test their athletic endurance since Covadonga constitutes one of the toughest climbs of the Tour of Spain. Steeped in tradition, the Lakes of Covadonga emanate an aura of calmness against a striking natural backdrop. Be sure to explore the Sanctuary of Covadonga, located halfway up Mount Auseva, and pay tribute to the Lady of Covadonga, the patron saint of Asturias. Come experience the spirituality of Covadonga, breathe in the fresh mountain air as you see picturesque landscapes like no other.
Information of interest
How to reach The Lakes of Covadonga:
- By car: The road leading up to the Lakes is open all year round, except at Easter, during the summer and on bank-holiday weekends. To avoid excess traffic at these times, the road is closed between 8.30 a.m. and 9 p.m. If you want to drive into the park during high season, it is best to head out early. Once you are there, you can leave at any time. Take the road that connects Cangas de Onís to Cabrales. The road is clearly signposted and once you have passed the sanctuary, the lakes are a further 12 km up the road. Access is free.
- By bus: Buses to the lakes depart from Cangas de Onís, stopping at the Sanctuary of Covadonga and the car parks located near the lakes. The car parks are large and operate a park-and-ride scheme with a ticket office in each car park and buses that run every 10–15 minutes every day of the week.
Bus schedule: From January to October, buses leave Cangas de Onís every 10–15 minutes from 9 a.m. to 7.30 p.m. In November and December the last bus leaves at the town at 5.30 p.m. The last bus down from the lakes is at 8.30 p.m., except in November and December when it is at 6.30 p.m.
- By foot: There are several different itineraries available. If you are a hiking enthusiast, you won’t want to miss out. One of the top trails begins in the tiny village of Demués and leads up to the lakes. It takes approximately 2 hours to reach the lakes.