Cows grazing by Lake Ercina in Covadonga

The Lakes of Covadonga: a natural wonder surrounded by mountains in Asturias

Principality of Asturias

In the heart of the Picos de Europa National Park, just over 20 kilometres from the village of Cangas de Onís, you will find the Lakes of Covadonga. These lakes are located very close to the stunning Shrine of Covadonga and their mirage-like appearance in the beautiful high mountain landscapes makes them a paradise for nature lovers. They can easily be accessed by road and there are various trails in the area to explore. Whether you're a fan of mountaineering or simply a traveller searching for unforgettable views, you have to visit this Green Spain location at least once in your lifetime.

Glacial lakes

Enol and Ercina are the largest of the Lakes of Covadonga. These glacial lakes are located over 1000 metres above sea level. To see them in all their glory, we recommend following the Lakes of Covadonga route, a very easy circular route about 5 kilometres long, which begins in the Buferrera car park and is fully signposted. The first thing you will come across on this trail is the Pedro Pidal Visitor Centre, a very interesting place where you can learn about the area. Then, after looking out from the Príncipe viewpoint, you will double back to discover the Buferrera mines, a remnant of the area's mining past.  The footpath then continues towards Lake Ercina. This is the highest lake and from here you can view the summit of Peña Santa de Enol stretching towards the sky. If you visit in spring or summer, you'll be transported by the sound of the cowbells worn by free range cows.

Above: view of Lake Ercina / Below: Lake Enol in the Picos de Europa National Park, Asturias

A diversion will take you to the Entrelagos viewpoint, where you can see one of the best picture postcard views in the area (highly recommended). The route continues through the plains around Bricial (the "secret" third lake of Covadonga which can only be seen during especially rainy seasons), the Palomberu beech forest and the plains around Enol.  Lake Enol reaches a depth of over 20 metres, and the surrounding area is definitely the ideal spot for enjoying a picnic in the peace and quiet. Incidentally, there is a replica of Our Lady of Covadonga under the water, which emerges every 8 September on her feast day.  

View of Lake Bricial in the Picos de Europa National Park, Asturias

Places of worship, hiking and adventure sports

12 kilometres from the lakes are the Santa Cueva and the Basilica of Covadonga. Known as the 'Cova Dominica' or the 'Cave of Our Lady', this cave is a place of worship and pilgrimage dedicated to Our Lady of Covadonga in an area of stunning natural beauty, featuring a pond with crystalline waters and a mystical fountain which is said to have magical powers. All this can be admired from the Basilica, which has been known as the 'Cathedral of Covadonga' for many years. The village of Cangas de Onís is also located nearby, a lovely place to stay and visit its famous Roman bridge.

Top: Basilica of Covadonga, Asturias / Below: Santa Cueva, Asturias

In addition to the routes around the lakes, lovers of hiking and viewpoints will find a range of routes in the area for enjoying the Picos de Europa National Park. For example, only 8 kilometres from the Basilica of Covadonga is the unmissable Reina viewpoint (especially at sunset), where you can see as far as the coast. You could also try out the Cares Trail, which is only one hour away by car and is by far the most famous mountain route in the whole of Asturias. Canyoning, rock climbing or horse riding are other activities you can enjoy in the area. However, if you're looking for a real adventure, take the chance to take a kayak or canoe down the famous descent of the river Sella, which can be found about 15 kilometres between the cities of Arriondas and Ribadesella. Fun in the midst of Asturian nature is guaranteed! Although there are companies who will organise bespoke trips along this route for you at any time of the year, the famous Canoe Fiesta of Asturias is celebrated on the first Saturday in August.

Above: bridge over the River Sella, Asturias / Below: stretch of the Cares Trail, Asturias

Practical information

How do I get there? The Lakes of Covadonga can be found just over 90 kilometres from Oviedo, the capital of Asturias. However, the best place to reach them from is Cangas de Onís (some 35 minutes away by car via the AS-262 and CO-4 roads).During high season, access to the lakes in private vehicles is restricted, with the use of public bus or private taxi services being prioritised from 9:00 am. We recommend visiting the Access to the Lakes of Covadonga section of Turismo Asturias to organise your trip.Where to stay? This is a perfect location for rural tourism. Here are some options for accommodation in the area.Routes. The 5 kilometre circular route through the lakes also has a shorter version which takes just over an hour to complete; perfect for walking with children. If you're looking for a longer route, you could do the emblematic Frassinelli Route (30 kilometres there and back).The National Park organises guided tours lasting some 3 hours. You can book these tours here (they are free of charge and carried out in Spanish).Recommendations. Plan your trip in advance, book accommodation and wear suitable footwear and clothing if you are going to go hiking. Check the weather and, if travelling in winter, the state of the roads. Be aware of the fog in the area and the animals which may be on the paths. In summer, the lakes may be busier, and so spring (the best time to see Lake Bricial) or autumn (when the Palomberu beech forest will be at its best) can be perfect times to visit.

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