During our glorious summer in Oviedo, Spain, we were presented with the opportunity to visit a ton of new and exciting places in the region of Asturias. We also had several friends and family members come over for a visit, which gave us even more excuses to get out and see some goodness.
While visiting the mountainous region of the Picos de Europa, we visited the towns and monuments of Cangas de Onís and Covadonga. (You can read that post right here.) After spending quite a nice time in those places, we picked up our feet and pushed the gas pedal and headed to two more places in the region.
On one occasion, with our family, we drove up the winding roads from Covadonga and toward Los Lagos. That means “The Lakes” in Spanish, and that’s just what they are. They’re also called the Lakes of Covadonga, but their names are actually Lake Enol and Lake Ercina.
Both are glorious glacial lakes that draw visitors to their natural beauty and central location from which many outdoor adventures can be had.
While we’re whatever the antonym of ‘hiker’ is, we did park the car and walk around a bit, marveling at the limestone karst that juts out in every direction from the ground below.
The best way to describe the Picos – part of the Cantabrian Mountains, which probably .00000000001% of Americans have ever even heard of – is that they are very reminiscent of the Alps.
My dad actually said, “If you dropped me here and told me I was in the Alps, I’d believe you.” Or something to that effect. And he’s been to the Alps. As have I, and I agree.
Sure, it’s not exactly the same, and these mountains don’t reach the heavenly heights of the Alps, but that’s not really the point. The point is that, no one outside of Europe would probably imagine that something like this exists in Spain.
And that’s one of the many reasons that makes it so great. This country is full of all sorts of climates and geographies that most people don’t even realize exist. A shame and a blessing at once, I suppose.
So, we parked our car at the first lake and walked around a bit, pondering what might happen if we took one of the random gravel roads into some little hamlet, all tucked away between these peaks. We didn’t do that on this occasion, but I’d love to go deep into the mountains someday, to see what’s all hidden up in all these little crevasses and valleys.
Maybe I should have asked a cow. Lots of cows all over the place here, and their bells give that Alpine air to the area, which certainly contributed to what my dad said before.
After spending a short time at the first lake, we made our way to the second, which is literally the end of the road for this area. There’s actually a restaurant and cafe here, serving up hikers and curious tourists alike.
It provides one of the most stunning views you’re going to get around here, no doubt about it.
You can also walk around the fields next to the lake, sharing space with all the cows who are just hanging out, grazing and asking each other why people keep weaving around them for no apparent reason at all.
I’m not sure if you can swim here – I didn’t see any signs other than “No Fishing” – but I imagine it’d be much too cold to do so. Never mind the cow patties on the lake shore. Hey, it’s their land.
Despite the lack of swimming, which I assume is a no-no given this is a national park – plenty of people were laid out on the grass, taking in the sun while amongst these breathtaking landscapes.
We did the same, standing in awe of what was around us and taking advantage of the opportunity to simply sit outside and stare at all this natural wonder.
After picking our jaws and minds up from the ground, we started to make our way down the mountains, and ran into one of the cutest traffic jams of all time.
A herd of goats, doing their evening stroll and presumably heading out to dinner.
This was cause for video, no doubt about it. Check these guys out!
After that wonderful finish to a great day in the Picos, we forged ahead and made our way back to Oviedo. That was in June.
We tried to return here in August with our pal who was visiting, and we were notified that the road up from Covadonga is a no-go from 7am to 7pm, or something like that. There are traffic folks guarding the entrance, and no one can enter except for authorized public and private tour buses.
We certainly understand the ecological and traffic reasons for doing that, but it’s kind of a sour move if you don’t want to drop who-knows-how-much and cram into a bus with other people for who-knows-how-long. We like to explore on our own, and that’s a bit tricky on someone else’s schedule.
Given that we weren’t into doing such a thing, we decided to head in another direction. Our pal, Jed from Bucking the Trend, had noted to us when we met for a drink in July that he and his family had spent a couple of days in the town of Arenas de Cabrales.
I remembered that, looked it up on the map, and it wasn’t terribly far away. We pointed our rental car in that direction and figured we’d make a new experience out of a dashed prior idea.
Driving up to Arenas, you’re more or less in the middle of the mountains, which provides ample opportunity to pull over and fill up your memory card.
Arriving in Arenas, it actually had a lot more people milling about than I thought we’d see. This was before I realized that the famous funicular up to Bulnes is only a hop, skip, and a jump away from town.
By this time in the afternoon, the clouds and major fog had arrived, and we realized that we probably wouldn’t make it up to Bulnes and back before the funicular closed for the day. Also, clouds and major fog. We didn’t see much point in paying €22 round-trip, or whatever it costs, to go up there and stare at the whiteness of a cloud enveloping us.
So be it.
Into Arenas we went, where most of the tourists outside of town seemed not to venture. We just took a walk and sat for coffee. As we do.
We had a pleasant time here, as most new things are new adventures, and it was great to spend a little bit of our lives in this wonderful and scenic environment.
After our hard work of relaxing walks and powerful coffees, we jumped in the car and made our way back to Oviedo once again.
I cannot tell you how rewarding it was and is to be able to spend a bit of our lives exploring places like this. Especially since I’d never even heard of the Picos de Europa prior to our move to Spain. And I’m a slight geography nerd, so that has to count for something, yeah?
It’s just…really cool. Even if you’re not into hiking or whatever adventurous mountain activities fill this place up during the year, there’s still plenty to do and see if you want to relax and be surrounded by jaw-dropping natural beauty. Even if you don’t get to, or have time to, make it to the most popular sections of the park.
If you think you want something new – and something certainly less well-trodden – give it a shot. You’re sure to be…in awe.