Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The Lakes of Covadonga

Lake Ercina

As you wind up the road from the Basilica at Covadonga the views are stunning but when you eventually reach the lakes at the end of this road the scenery is truly breathtaking. Here situated high in the Picos de Europa are two lakes the first you pass is Lake Enol and then a little further on you come to Lake Ercina. 

Lake Enol

The views as you arrive at the car park are amazing; in the fore front there are lush green pastures where cows graze peacefully as if they had no worries in their lives. Then there is the lake often with a few Malrads or Coots bobbing over the gentle ripples in the water. At the far end of the lake there are dramatic rock faces mottled with beech trees and behind that dramatic snow covered peaks rising high in the sky. In the spring and early summer the lakes are ablaze with wild flowers which stun the passer by as well as delight the botanists.

Lush green pastures touch the waters edge at Lake Ercina

It’s hardly surprising that the lakes of Covadonga are so popular with tourists and “the golden egg” for much of the tourist industry in the area. Although they have been visited by tourists for many years there was a time when “the lakes” were more important for farmers than tourists. When farmers talk about the lakes they often refer not just to the lakes themselves but to the whole of the western massif which surrounds the lakes with its many pastures in the lower flanks and its rocky landscape higher up.

Farmer huts at The Vega de Enol

Just beyond Lake Enol is the “Vega de Enol one of the major pastures in these mountains. Here there is “El Refugio de Los Pastores” or shepherds refuge as well as various stone huts where the farmers used to live during the summer months whilst their cattle grazed the mountain pastures. There would be whole families living in these different stone huts tending to their different animals and making cheese. When the snow started to come down then the families would descend to the villages in the lower valleys. There are now only four families which make cheese up around the lakes and only one who lives there permanently during the summer months.

A "Casin" or Asturian mountain cow, a common sight around the Lake

There was a time when mining was the most important industry around the lakes, more important than farming. The characteristics of the limestone rock means there are lots of different mineral deposits and mining probably started in the area even before Roman times. Iron and Manganese was mined at Buferra by the lakes from 1877 till 1933 by different foreign companies despite the area being declared Spain’s first national park in 1918. The very popular tourist bar at the edge of Lake Ercina was originally a shop and an eating house for the miners. It’s still possible to see parts of the old mines close to the National Park Interpretation Centre at Buferra.

Lake Ercina on a frosty morning

Today most tourists come to the Lakes of Covadonga just to take a few pictures not venturing far from the bar and car park. For others it’s a starting point for many different walks in the Picos ranging form a simple short circular walk around the two lakes to challenging ascents to some of the highest peaks in the western massif. What ever your reason for visiting the lakes your surely find them a unique and inspiring landscape.

Descriptions, maps and gps tracks for three walks; Circularwalk around the lakesVega Ario and Ascent of Jultayo, Ascent toMirador de Ordiales and Cotalba all starting from the lakes can be found on our walking blog walkingasturias At the hotel we can always give information on the suitability of the walks according to weather conditions and personal ability.

Breathtaking scenery at the Lakes of Covadonga waiting to be enjoyed

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Hotel Posada del Valle is a small hotel in Asturias Northern Spain surrounded by its own organic farm and where we are passionate about organic farming, food, and sustainable livelihoods. In this Blog those of us who live and work at Hotel Posada del Valle open a door to share with all of you who are interested in what we are doing.