Somiedo Natural Park: a haven of bountiful flora and fauna
Venture 100 km southwest from Oviedo to the Cantabrian Mountain Range to discover the pure wilderness the 29,122-hectare Somiedo Natural Park has to offer. Declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2000, the park spans five valleys, multiple rivers and includes an abundance of flora and fauna.
Humans and nature have long coexisted in harmony in this enclave, with tiny villages nestled in the rugged terrain. In fact, these collections of traditional thatched cottages are where the nomadic people known as the Vaqueiros de Alzada (nomadic cowherds) have lived traditional lives for centuries. Home to the Cantabrian bear, visitors will be spoilt by the picturesque landscapes the park has to offer and hiking enthusiasts will be thrilled to explore the abundance of hiking trails – and even spot a bear!
Somiedo and its lakes: a unique treasure
The area’s geological wealth, and contrasting peaks and valleys, with gradients ranging from 400 to 2,200 m above sea level are just some of the features of Somiedo National Park. The gorgeous landscape is made up of five river valleys: Somiedo, Pigüeña, Valle Del Lago, Saliencia and Las Morteras. One of the most stunning attractions is without a doubt the area’s lakes. Located in the southernmost part of the region, high up in the mountains that separate Somiedo from León, visitors will be blown away by their awe-inspiring beauty. Lago del Valle is the largest lake in Asturias – it even has a tiny island. Though smaller, the three Saliencia Lakes are just as striking, as are the stunning El Páramo lagoons, between the Somiedo and Pigüeña Rivers. The vertiginous mountains are bounded by lush meadows and you’ll even see cattle grazing when the weather is nice. Don’t be shocked if you see a dusting of snow – it’s not uncommon during the summer months.
Valle del Lago: a hiker’s paradise
You can choose from an array of trails to reach the lakes. The most popular is the one that leads to the main lake. Depart from the village of Pola de Somiedo and head towards Valle de Lago, a charming little village, surrounded by mountains, meadows and streams. Located 1,200 m above sea level, the village is nestled in a glacial valley. From there, hike the remaining 6 km uphill until you reach the lake.
During the hike, the view is a feast for the eyes. Rugged peaks pierce through thick, verdant forests located around the meadows. Grab a shot of the Corba meadow and the iconic Cobrana cottage, the most famous Teito thatched cottage of the area, and continue the hike through the riverside meadow to your destination – the picturesque U-shaped valley at the foot of towering mountains.
Once there, you’ll enjoy a well-deserved rest as you soak in the impressive views and the velvety silence while contemplating the different birds of prey flying overhead.
Coto de Buenamadre trail
Somiedo Natural Park offers such an abundance of hiking trails – it’ll just be a question of which to pick. Of course, you can go with the obvious choice, which is the trail up to the lakes, but what about something off the beaten track? The trail through braña de Mumián and the village of Coto de Buenamadre is exactly that. You’ll be greeted with smooth uphill and downhill climbs as you hike through the peña Furada hillside and grassy meadows, surrounded by the lavish beech forest of bosque de la Enraimada, where the Cantabrian bears have their lairs. Head to the westernmost part of Asturias Pigüeña Valley and explore the charming village of Villar de Vildas, a designated Exemplary Village of Asturias. From there, you’ll reach the most extensive highlands of Asturias, El Pornacal.
Braña de Sousas trail
Braña de Sousas is nothing short of spellbinding beauty. From the lush foliage of La Enraimada, to the soaring crag of Muñón and the even higher crag of peña Chana, you’ll run out of superlatives to describe the splendour that lies before you. Once you reach the pastoral highlands, bounded by towering mountains, you may be greeted by the placid scene of herds of livestock grazing lazily along the river banks under the watchful eye of herders during the spring and summer months. A few small, circular stone huts still stand, even more ancient than the thatched stone cottages. Stop a moment and take in the blissful serenity – a priceless moment in a world of urban frenzy.
Vaqueiros de alzada: Asturian nomadic cowherds
Throughout the Somiedo Natural Park, you’ll find the traditional thatched, stone cottages of the cowherds that date back to the Middle Ages. You can’t help but wonder about the traditions and customs of the Vaqueiros de alzada. These people followed the seasons, moving from place to place with their families, belongings and livestock. During the warmer months, they would settle in the highland pastures. The vaqueiros and their animals lived under the same roof in the early days, but eventually separate living quarters were created for each. For centuries, they roamed the Somiedo Mountains and made up the social fabric of this region alongside the sedentary settlers.
Come discover the Somiedo Ecomuseum in the tiny village of Veigas, located on the banks of the Saliencia River. It has three perfectly preserved huts that give visitors a chance to venture into what were the dwellings of the vaqueiros until the 1880s. If you decided to pay this lovely little hamlet a visit, you’ll be treated to a picturesque trail up to the village, through forests of beech and hazelnut trees. Limestone walls give birth to natural springs, offering hikers the purest spring water to help them stay refreshed along the route.
Information of interest
Centro de Interpretación del Parque Natural de Somiedo:
- Located in Pola de Somiedo, the capital of the region, this interpretation and information centre has an abundance of information on the surrounding area. The interactive, audio-visual exhibition provides detailed information on the geography, flora and fauna, and ethnographic features of the region. You’ll also find all the information you need on the trails the park offers.