Saturday, October 29, 2016

Going Beyond the Tourist Track

If you want a view that will take your breath away, this is the trail for you. And if you´re not into hiking, you can still enjoy the view...
Welcome to Picos de Europa National Park, where the mountains are high and the cows are friendly. If you´re visiting in high season, you´ll need to park in one of several huge parking lots and take a bus up to the mountain (or, you could enter the park before 7a.m., not likely in Spain!). You´ll be glad, because the road is crazy. There will be times you´re sure the bus will have to stop and you´ll have to hike the rest of the way up, the turns are so tight, but you´ll get there. Rush to the info office, and to the washrooms, and then quickly head away from the crowds, following signs for PR PNPE 2, Lagos de Covadonga. 

the trail (source and more info)
First, you´ll stop at the Prince´s Lookout. There will still be plenty of people in the area to take some amazing pictures of your group. Don´t get caught up in the view, though, it´s stunning but there´s más y mejor (more and better) up ahead. Head through a garden, and take a picture with a wandering cow. Then follow the trail through part of an abandoned mine. You can walk right along part of an old mining cart track, through a tunnel, or go around to walk fully upright. There are some informative, interesting plaques about mining in the area here, and the rocks are quite beautiful. 

Next, you´ll come to a fork in the path. To the right, there´s a staircase and, obviously, a bar (still in Spain, remember?), and you should take a quick peak from the viewing platform here. On a clear day, you can see the Covadonga Lakes, and they are gorgeous! Most day trippers get stuck in this area. If you´re not looking for a hike, you could easily spend an hour or so by the water here, relaxing and enjoying a picnic, but I say walk back down and take the other fork.

lake ercina on a clear day (source)
You´ll be walking right along the shore of one of the lakes, Ercina. The grass is green, cow bells are ringing, flowers are blooming. If you didn´t know you were in Spain, you´d think you´d materialized on the set of Heidi. Shepherd huts, old men in straw hats smoking pipes, wild herbs. It´s that picturesque. There´s a bit of a rocky climb, but then a nice, open walk to a beech forest. Even in August, from here you might see snow on the highest peaks.

Keep walking, pass the requisite shrine, and get ready for some serious encounters with cows. There´s a huge farm way up there! Follow the road, descending to lake Enol, and you´ll come to another fork. Head back to the bar and lookout, or continue on to the visitor´s center to catch the bus back down to Earth. A morning well spent in a little bit of paradise. 

This is a 6km hike that takes from two to three hours, depending on how long you stop to admire the view... to complete the day, you could visit the Sanctuary of Covadonga, part of which is built right into the cliff side. But, if you have a baby, you might call it a day and head down into town for a satisfyingly huge Asturian lunch. 

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