Covadonga, inspiring and pioneering in the protection of the landscape

Covadonga is a true natural treasure. It unites the excellencies of Atlantic nature in a landscape of great beauty that still surprises today with its purity. Therefore, it is not surprising that it was the inspiration for a pioneering figure in the protection of nature. It has now been one hundred years that Covadonga and its mountains have been the best example for protecting the values and attractions of a unique natural environment from human excesses.

The spirit that inspired this pioneering landmark in the world, which was the declaration of the Moñtana de Covadonga National Park, is summed up as perfect by its main mentor Pedro Pidal: "The title of National Park is the expression of its beauty, its splendor, the natural charm of the nation...". Pidal thought, wisely, that the best way to unite the three Covadongas - historic, spiritual and natural - was with the title of National Park.

Picos de Europa from Llueves

Covadonga, a natural treasure

Many spots in the Royal Site are a natural spectacle

It is obvious that Covadonga and its surroundings are a real natural spectacle, where each nook and cranny has its unique charm and a lot of history and stories behind it.

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Repelao Obelisk

El Repelao

The entrance to the Royal Site of Covadonga and the Picos de Europa National Park, the field of El Repelao, with its monumental access columns, its royal obelisk, its old train station, its bridge and its environment, indicate to us that this is a significant historical place which also opens to a nature overflowing with beauty.

Only a kilometre and a half from the basilica of Covadonga, El Repelao owes its name to Pelayo, due to it being the place where the chronicles say he was proclaimed King. As a symbol of this event, there is an obelisk there with the Cross of Victory (the Victory Cross which, according to tradition, was raised by Pelayo in the Battle of Covadonga, that forms the body of the Cruz de la Victoria, beautifully covered in jewels, preserved today in the Holy Chamber of the Oviedo Cathedral).

Parque del Príncipe in Covadonga

A park and a waterfall

The Parque del Príncipe is an authentic haven of peace at the feet of the Santa Cueva and the Basilica. This garden of Eden has the luxuriance that is typical of an Atlantic forest. Additionally, as if it were the setting of a fairy tale, it is traversed by the river Covadonga and on a peaceful walk you will come across pretty bridges, fountains, waterfalls of spectacular beauty - like the one just underneath the cliff of the Basilica -, and buildings of high architectural value like the old Pilgrims Inn.

The Parque del Príncipe is an exquisite ‘lung' in the heart of Covadonga for walking, relaxing or taking photographs.

Los Canónigos Lookout

A lookout with views

On the road that goes up to the Lakes, barely a few metres from the beginning of this famous mountain climb, on the left-hand side, the so-called Los Canónigos Lookout is located. The Los Canónigos Lookout gets its name from it being, in the past, one of the vantage points favoured by the cannons of Covadonga to contemplate the Sanctuary peacefully and to rest and converse in the middle of such green, beautiful surroundings.

Currently, the lookout is also one of the places favoured by tourists and pilgrims in order to get a different view of the Royal Site, appreciating the virtues of nature, and in passing, taking a breather on the climb up to the Covadonga Lakes.

The Cruz de Priena

The Cruz de Priena

The Cruz de Priena, also called the Cruz de Pelayo, is another symbol closely linked to Covadonga. Situated high up on the Picu Priena, a mountain in the foothills of the Picos de Europa, it is very visible from Covadonga.

In addition, the climb up to the cross is a marvellous excursion that offers splendid and rare views of the whole of Covadonga, as well as Picos de Europa and other emblematic mountains such as the Sueve and even the Cantabrian Sea. Without doubt, it is one of the most complete and beautiful vantage points for enjoying the natural temple that is Covadonga and the Picos de Europa.

The "Montaña de Covadonga", a unique place to be preserved

On 8 September 1918 this protected space was inaugurated

1918 was a witness to the success of a political project started decades previously and that had its legal embodiment two years previously. It was in the afternoon of 8 September of this year when the King Alfonso XIII -who in the morning had attended the Canonic Coronation of the Virgen de Covadonga- inaugurated the first space to be protected due to its status as a national treasure.

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Ordiales Lookout

Pedro Pidal was born into the heart of an Asturian aristocratic family and he enjoyed the highest comforts and the best education that his privileged social position could provide him with. From a young age, his long summers in Asturias turned him into a great sports player -olympic medallist-, truly passionate about nature, who knew every inch of the Asturian mountains - especially the Picos de Europa- to the point of being considered today by many as the first Spanish mountaineer and one of the best disseminators of alpinism in the country.

He was someone who was capable of transferring his concerns to political activity, where he held posts of great responsibility on a national level. A member of parliament from the age of twenty-six and then a lifelong senate, his rhetorical ability and his heterodoxy on the parliamentary stage earned him the nickname "Arniches" in Congress.

He was enormously in love with Asturias to such an extent that the deep appreciation that he felt for Asturian nature led him to request, upon his death which occurred in 1941, that his mortal remains rested in the Ordiales Lookout, in the middle of Picos de Europa.

Picos de Europa from Angón in Amieva

As life-long senate, Pedro Pidal developed his most passionate proposal: the protection of nature and the implementation of legal measures that led to the creation of the National Parks in Spain, following the North American model. This explains why his first intervention in the Senate in 1915 already marked the general outlines of what would become his law proposal.

He presented this proposal for the creation of the legal concept of the National Parks in December of that year, and defended it in the following months: "A castle, a tower, a temple is declared a National Monument to save it from destruction. Why should there not be sanctuaries for Nature?" These efforts came to fruition when, at the end of 1916, the National Parks Law was enacted, which many then wanted to rename the Pidal Law.

And, as its first place of application, Pidal -a dyed-in-the-wool Asturian, Asturianist and Covadongist - found that the first example of the new natural protected status was the Picos de Europa. Thus, on 22 July 1918, the Moñtana de Covadonga National Park was created (the first in Spain and one of the first in Europe) and was inaugurated by Alfonso XIII, making the most of his visit to Covadonga in September that year.

Vegarredonda in Picos de Europa

The Montaña de Covadonga National Park which was created in 1918 survived with barely any changes for almost eighty years. However, in 1995, it disappeared to make way for a new boundary, now extended, but with an identical status, that covers the three massifs of Picos de Europa, as well as important wooded areas on the southern slope. This is the Picos de Europa National Park, the current name of this Biosphere Reserve, substituting the one devised by Pidal and that incorporates the Cantabrian and Leonese places that were previously not included into the traditional protected status.

Picu Urriellu from the Pozo de la Oración Lookout

Natural landmarks in the Picos de Europa National Park

The current Picos de Europa National Park integrates the three main massifs of this natural marvel, bordered by deep valleys and gorges that appeared after the erosion of glaciers and rivers, which bestow upon them their beautiful outlines.

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La Reina Lookout
José Ramón Lueje and other mountaineers in Picos de Europa.

Sporting achievements and scientific research surrounded by nature

The Picos are an ideal space for sport and science

The Picos de Europa National Park is a great landmark destined to pamper and protect nature, where history has left its mark, where the mind unwinds and where human beings find an ecosystem apt for submerging themselves in the environment and establishing improvement goals, whether in sport or in improving their knowledge of the environment, just as Pedro Pidal dreamed and many others who, like him, were fascinated by this space and its infinite possibilities.

There is no doubt that Picos de Europa is a place where mountain sports and outdoor leisure have one of the best settings possible. For this reason, many know this Park through sporting activities such as hiking, climbing, mountain running, cycling or caving. The Picos are also a great outdoor laboratory for numerous scientific expeditions that frequently set their sights on this natural space.

The Picu Urriellu
Climb to Covadonga Lakes
The Trave System

Picos de Europa, a landscape with figures

The National Park is a deeply humanised space

Since its earliest formation, the National Park was incorporated into a populated and humanised ecosystem. Among its main ambitions was the appreciation of the silent, endured, wise and daily task of some villagers in ancient communion with nature, preserving this space from indiscriminate use, speculation and deterioration, which was already starting to be glimpsed as something negative for the natural spot.

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The high mountain meadow of Belbín in Onís

Until a few decades ago, the life of the region of Picos de Europa was marked mainly by the agricultural and farming activities and by a short-radius migration in a constant seasonal flow between the valley and the pass. The families lived, according to the time of year and production needs, between the port in summer looking after the livestock, and the sheltered villages in the valley in winter.

It was a life which unfolded between bucolic and necessary survival, between imagination and duty, between peace and the hustle and bustle of daily work. Kilometres covered over valleys and mountains in search livestock, hours spent preparing the cheeses in the cabins and folds. Devotion and obligation combined for centuries and centuries, and still, in the beautiful reserves of the Picos where you can get a taste of the more and more scarce pastoral life, time seems to have stopped, as if in an eternal dream.

The sound of the "lloqueros" (shearings) of the livestock resounds like a concert in the open valleys and brings music to the summits of Picos de Europa. The taste of centuries is caught in each cheese and each cabin and each gesture of gratitude towards nature.

High mountain meadows in the Picos de Europa

In the year 1994, the then Prince of Asturias Foundation -now Princess of Asturias - recognised the importance of the human community settled in this natural space, conceding the Exemplary People of Asturias Prize to the candidacy of the "Shepherds of the Picos de Europa". The jury evaluated them as a human group who are inheritors and transmitters of the ancient tradition of seasonal shepherding, in the high folds and pastures, with important values and their own identity, government bodies and ways of life that stand out due to their strong sense of solidarity and the voluntary conservation of traditional ways of life that have enabled a respectful symbiosis with the natural environment in which they live.

The shepherds of Picos de Europa continue to be today - although they are a numerically small group than in 1994 - a human group that stands out due to their values of co-existence and unconditional love for the environment which has survived in a sometimes hostile natural environment for generations and generations of human beings, transmitters of a culture and a lifestyle that is unique on this planet.

Gamonéu del puerto cheese

The traditional ways of life of this region meant that the shepherds had to live for long periods of time in the mountain passes. This is why the use of livestock milk was one of their main productive and survival activities. Thus, the space in the Picos de Europa is home to the highest production of handmade cheese from Asturias such as Gamonedo from Cangas or Onís, Cabrales, or Beyos, characterised by the excellency of their production as well as the possibilities of their use in the oven with dozens of traditional recipes.

The traditional cheeses from Picos de Europa have a deserved and recognised fame across the world and form part of the great cultural, material and immaterial legend transmitted since time immemorial through this unique human group. Creations such as Gamonedo form part of the culinary heritage of humanity.

Other delicious and healthy examples of making use of the possibilities that this natural environment offers are the collection of honey or raw material for teas, like chiliadenus glutinosus, chamomile or wild lime blossom. Pomace and cider, great characteristic products of Asturian culture should not be overlooked.

Routes and active tourism

Routes, active tourism and maps

The Western Region of Asturias and especially the Picos de Europa National Park offer you the possibility to enjoy different active tourism activities as well as routes on foot and by car. Here you will find all this information, with maps, brochures and all the necessary guidelines for an enjoyable stay in the Picos de Europa National Park.

Hiking routes

Hiking routes

Routes by car

Routes by car

Active tourism

Active tourism

Prepare you visit to the Picos de Europa N.P.

Prepare you visit to the Picos de Europa N.P.

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  • Cangas de Onís City CouncilCangas de Onís City Council
  • Regional Government of the Principality of AsturiasRegional Government of the Principality of Asturias
  • Asturias Natural ParadiseAsturias Natural Paradise
  • Marian Jubilee YearMarian Jubilee Year
  • Picos de Europa National ParkPicos de Europa National Park
  • LiberbankLiberbank
  • Fundación EDPFundación EDP