Visit the Covadonga Lakes and the Sanctuary

A trip to Asturias cannot be complete without a visit the Covadonga lakes and the Sanctuary, located in the Picos de Europa National Park. Surrounded by mountains and lots of greenery, it is worth a whole day.

Visit Covadonga in Asturias

If you are going on a route around Asturias, a visit to the Covadonga lakes and sanctuary is a must on your itinerary.

Covadonga can be said to be divided into two parts: the village itself, which is very important from a historical point of view and where you can find the Sanctuary and the Basilica, and the Covadonga lakes, located about 13 kilometres from the village on a paved and winding road that offers a spectacular view of the surroundings.

Let’s discover the best things to do in Covadonga!

Map – visit Covadonga lakes and the Sanctuary

Covadonga and its surroundings are perfectly visitable in one day, and you can even do the circuit of the lakes. If you want to do the entire nearby Cares Route, you will have to add at least one more day.

📷 Check here for a jeep tour in the Picos de Europa National Park and make a reservation. You will enjoy dreamlike landscapes between mountains and lakes.

🔝 We have visited Covadonga and its lakes in different trips we have made in a long weekend in Asturias. Check out all the things to do in Asturias.

1. A bit of history before visit the Covadonga lakes

If we talk about Covadonga then we must refer to Don Pelayo, the first monarch of the kingdom of Asturias and the protagonist of many books and literary accounts, some of which are said to be not really true.

During the 8th century, the battle of Covadonga took place here, which allowed the army commanded by King Pelayo to reconquer the territory that was in the hands of the Arabs.

According to the story, the army led by King Pelayo was far outnumbered by the Arabs, but thanks to the divine help of the Virgin they managed to defeat them on Mount Auseva. Such was the importance of the victory that the battle is considered the beginning of the Christian reconquest of the peninsula.

According to tradition, the remains of Don Pelayo are currently buried in the Holy Cave of Covadonga next to the image of the Virgin, the place where they were sent by King Alfonso the Wise. Moreover, the village of Covadonga has a monument in his honour.

Holy Cave of Covadonga

2. The Holy Cave, the main place to visit in Covadonga

If there is one thing that makes Covadonga famous as a tourist and religious site, it is the Holy Cave. Embedded in the mountain and accessible by climbing a few steps, in this cave is the image of the Virgin of Covadonga, known by the Asturians by the name of the Santina.

The current image of the Virgin is not the original one, as it suffered the consequences of a fire, but the one built in the 16th century. The small chapel has a neo-Romanesque interior and preserves some really beautiful details. There are benches to sit and pray or to stand in silence contemplating the splendour of the place.

Mass at the Sanctuary of Covadonga

3. Basilica of Santa María la Real de Covadonga

Built at the end of the 19th century, this imposing religious building was intended to restore the town’s lustre. In the same style as the chapel of the Holy Cave, the Basilica stands out for its pink exterior, a product of the pink limestone quarried nearby.

Its two large towers seem to touch the clouds, which are always low, and the reflection of the pink outside against the green and grey of the mountain makes a perfect complement.

Its interior is truly a work of art in itself and includes, unsurprisingly, paintings of Don Pelayo, the Virgin and a replica of the Victoria Cross.

Basilica of Santa María la Real of Covadonga
Basilica of Santa María la Real of Covadonga

4. Collegiate Church of San Fernando

After the Basilica and the Holy Cave, the building containing the Collegiate Church of San Fernando is the most important and, above all, the oldest of the Sanctuary. Built at the end of the 16th century, it is rectangular in shape around a large courtyard. You can distinguish it by its yellow shade at the foot of the Holy Cave.

Inside the building there is a church and the outside is adorned with coats of arms and a central fountain.

5. Museum of the Royal Site of Covadonga

The museum is housed in the Escolania building and in its beginnings it housed the offerings made to the Virgin by pilgrims.

Today, through paintings, objects, jewellery and photographs, it tells the story of the Sanctuary over the years. One of the most precious treasures of the place is the Crown of the Virgin of Covadonga and the Crown of the Child Jesus.

🔝 If you are going to travel to Covadonga by car, we recommend you to read our article on the road trip in Asturias.

6. Other places to visit in the Sanctuary of Covadonga

One of the first things you will encounter as soon as you set foot in the Sanctuary will be the Carrara marble figures of two lions.

On the way to the Santa Cueva, you will come across La Campanona, a large bell built in the 19th century. Its dimensions are imposing at three metres high.

In the pond formed by the waterfall that falls from the Santa Cueva is the Fountain of the 7 Spouts, named after the seven jets of water that represent the seven sacraments.

Fountain of the 7 Spouts

The Prince’s Park, located a few metres from the entrance to the Sanctuary, offers a haven of tranquillity along a path. Here you can be surprised by beautiful historical buildings such as the Mesón de Peregrinos.

Naturally, when visiting Covadonga you will come across many references to King Pelayo, including a monument in his honour together with the Victoria Cross, a source of pride for the Asturians.

If you would like more information, you can consult the official website of the Sanctuary of Covadonga.

Statue of King Pelayo

7. Visit the Covadonga lakes

A visit to Covadonga cannot be complete without visiting the three small lakes in the Picos de Europa National Park: Enol, Ercina and Bricial, the latter only visible during the thawing season.

Surrounded by a natural environment tinged by the grey colours of the stones and the intense green of the Asturian grass, it is one of the most beautiful postcards in Spain.

As well as taking an easy hiking route to see the Ercina and Enol lakes, you will find surprises such as an old mine.

📷 Book your trip to the Covadonga lakes from Canga de Onis here. Guide and transport included. You can also book the excursion to the lakes of Covadonga, the sanctuary and the basilica from Gijón.

Visit Covadonga lakes and the Sanctuary

– Circular route to visit the lakes of Covadonga

This is the most popular hiking route to visit the lakes of Covadonga, of low physical difficulty that can even be done with children without any problem. It is five kilometres in total, perfectly signposted, and takes approximately two hours.

Hiking route around the lakes of Covadonga

Following the PR.PNPE-2 path, you start at the Buferrera car park, which is next to the Visitor Centre. If you want to obtain information of interest, it is advisable to enter the centre.

Picos de Europa

Once you have started the ascent, you will reach the viewpoint of El Príncipe, which already gives you a foretaste of the marvellous landscape that you will see later on.

Afterwards, you will reach the old Buferrera mine, where you can still see the old wagons and railway tracks. You can enter through the mine tunnel.

Buferrera Mine

The path continues until it reaches the first lake, called Ercina. Situated at an altitude of 1,100 metres, its backdrop is the high mountains of the Picos de Europa.

Then, climb up to enjoy the Entrelagos viewpoint, which, as its name suggests, allows you to see Lake Ercina on the left and Lake Enol on the right. To reach the shore of Lake Enol you have to descend surrounded by cows and other grazing animals.

Covadonga Lakes

Lake Enol has the particularity of housing in its depths an image of the Virgin of Covadonga, which is taken out once a year and submerged again.

Finally, there is the short walk from Lake Enol to the car park where the trail began.

📷 Do you like adventure? You can book the descent of the river Sella by canoe. Includes an introductory talk and equipment.

Where to stay in Covadonga

In the village of Covadonga there are hotels and rural houses where you can stay overnight, although there is more accommodation in Cangas de Onís, just 10 kms from Covadonga.

🔝 Take a look at these recommendations to stay in rural houses in Asturias and Cantabria with children.

Our recommendations for where to stay in Covadonga are as follows:

  • Hotel El Repelao: less than a kilometre from the Santa Cueva, is a rural accommodation with excellent breakfast and Asturian food. Spacious rooms and good service.
  • Hotel Rural – El Rincón de Don Pelayo: free parking, modern and nicely decorated rooms and excellent breakfast. A few metres from the Sanctuary of Covadonga.
  • Puente Romano: located in Cangas de Onís, it is housed in a 19th century French-style mansion a few metres from the Roman bridge. Comfort and very good service.

🏨 Do you want to look for other options? Find here the best accommodation in Covadonga.

Mirador de la Reina

How to get to the Sanctuary and the Covadonga lakes

The largest town near Covadonga is Cangas de Onís. From here take the AS-262 road towards Covadonga. You can reach the Sanctuary of Covadonga by car without any problems.

To get from the Sanctuary of Covadonga to the lakes you must take the winding CO-4 road, which is narrow and runs through the mountains. But beware! This road is often restricted to traffic on busy days at the lakes to protect the national park.

If you go on days when the restriction does not apply, you can drive to the car park next to the Visitor Centre, although beware of animals that may come your way. You can also do this on restricted days if you arrive at the lakes car park before 7.30am. You can consult the days of restriction on the official website of the Covadonga lakes.

Route to Covadonga lakes

If, on the other hand, you are going to visit the Covadonga lakes when traffic restriction applies (normally the months from mid-June to mid-October, Easter and long weekends) you must leave your car in one of the authorised car parks away from the lakes and from here take the shuttle bus which drops you off at the Visitor Centre.

The price to leave your car in one of the four car parks is two euros per day. The price of the shuttle bus is 9 euros for adults, 3,5 euros for children up to 12 years old and free for children under 3 years old.

Pint it!

Visit Covadonga lakes and the Sanctuary

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