Trip Start Oct 05, 2009
322Trip End Oct 31, 2013
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Where I stayed
Hotel la Ercina, Intriago
What I did
Picos de Europa Mountains Asturias
Read my review - 5/5 stars
Read my review - 5/5 stars
JOURNEY: Gijon, Arriondas, Cangas de Onis, Covadonga Lakes, Covadonga, Intriago-322kms
WEATHER: Heavy fog early, changing to warm & sunny by afternoon
It was a misty, foggy morning when we left Gijon at 9am on our way to the Picos de Europa, the jagged, craggy mountain peaks just south of the coast. Our first stop was at Arriondas for coffee to warm up and wake up; this town offers lots of action packed river activities like rafting and canoeing for tourists in the summer but it was spring and apart from a poster announcing a river trip for school boys over Easter nothing much seemed to be happening.
We made a quick stop at Cangas de Onis which is the tourist centre town for the Picos walkers, trekkers and visitors, found the information centre and decided to drive to the Covadonga Lakes today, as it was early afternoon, clear and sunny, and pre-weekend, when the crowds are expected, according to the information centre receptionist.
This week is Semana Santa, holy week or Easter in our language and it is big holiday time for Spaniards with huge celebrations in some cities and just time off in others!
The Roman Bridge at the entrance to the town arches over the river Sella, and has earned the nickname of cat bridge is a very scenic setting to this town that dates back to the 7th century.
The 10km mountain road up to the lakes is considered "scary" but today there wasn't much traffic so it was ok but you still had to gasp at the audacity of Spanish drivers who pass on narrow bends at speed. Sheila pulled over regularly to avoid these drivers and we did agree that it requires skill and concentration to weave your way up and up.
Covadonga Lakes are the most visited location in the national park and the drive up through craggy peaks that remind us of the Rocky Mountains is spectacular with snow-capped tips still evident in the distance. At each bend you gasp and stare with delight. As Sheila concentrated on the narrow winding bends Kath was clicking away on the camera. We walked the trails for 2 hours and then enjoyed a lunch of Spanish goodies that we had packed.
The two lakes were not really the focus for us, because the high peaks and contrasts as you walk grip your attention- this is a special place and you feel like you are on top of the world! There were very few people around today which was great!
How lucky we were to have such a perfect day because often it is misty and grey up here which does not give the best impression, plus as the weather gets warmer there are so many visitors that the road up is closed to private cars and you have to travel the 10+kms by shuttle bus. Apparently the road is closed for Holy Week which starts this weekend, and from July to September.
Time to tackle the drive down the peaks and we made a visit to the town of Covadonga, the gateway to the Covadonga Lakes and Picos; it’s not really a town just the spot where King Pelayo defeated the Moors in 722 which is thought to be the beginning of the removal of the Muslims from Spain.
There is a majestic cathedral, a cave with a chapel where pilgrims come to worship the Virgin Mary, who supposedly appeared here to King Pelayo’s warriors before their winning battle. The waterfall pool below the cave has mystical powers and women who drink from it will surely be married within a year!
Enough of all this history and religious myth, we drove the 10kms to the little village of Intriago, where we located the Hotel La Ercina our home for three nights, while we explore the Picos de Europa. Forty euros a night with breakfast was a good deal and its location and facilities turned out to be pleasing. One problem only, the sheep with a bell around her neck fed outside our room one night and kept Sheila awake most of the night.
Sheila decided the day was still young enough for another drive and this time we tackled another narrow winding road via Las Arenas to the village of Bulnes. Spectacular scenery again in the central section of the national park.
The Picos de Europa definitely deserve the reputation as the most spectacular mountain country in Spain. We are almost over awed by what we have encountered here!