Our next destination was Covadonga in Asturais (North West Spain) where a beautiful Basilica and a Holy Cave were located. We stayed two nights in a hotel practically next to the Basilica and Holy Cave and spent our days visiting them and two beautiful lakes.
The route from Vega de Pas to Covadonga was about 147 km. Along the way we drove very near to the north-west coast of Spain which was “peppered” with many beautiful Playas (bays). We stopped at three of them, Playa de Vidiago, Playa de Torimbia and Playa Guadamia. We also stopped at a famous blowholes, Bufones de Pria.
Playa de Vidiago and Playa de Torimbia
One hour into our drive, starting at Posada Casa Don Guzman in Vega de Pas, we were getting bore and needed a short break. From google map, we picked Playa de Vidiago which was conveniently nearby to have our stop.
Getting to Playa de Vidiago was very easy, we exit the highway at co-ordinates: 43.394596, -4.649659 which brought us to a smaller road. On the smaller road we drove for about another 1 km which went right up to the beach of the playa (bay).
Playa de Vidiago was a very delightful, small and picturesque bay. On this lovely sunny day, this bay with its beautiful golden sand beach, turqouise sea, rolling white surf, gorgeously blue sky, cliff and greens seemed almost our own private “heaven”.
Beside us there was another couple from Netherland who arrived 30 minutes earlier in their “cross country” van. We ended up exchanging information and pictures of the places we had visited in Spain.
Our new friends told us that we surely must visit Playa Torimbia which was a more magnificient bay. Playa Torimbia was already on our list of destinations but it was an optional item not a must. In our mind, we thought one bay would not be much different from the next so we might skip Playa Torimbia. Well after the comments from our new friends we made a stop at Playa Torimbria.
Playa Vidiago to Playa Torimbia was about 20 km. After turning off the highway at co-ordinates 43.427118, -4.824851 we passed a couple of villages. In the last village, Niembru, there were a few narrow and oneway streets that need some careful driving.
We stopped at the carpark of Mirador Playa Torimbia. By the car park was a park that looked down to the lovely bay. It was a lovely cresent-shaped bay with white golden sand. At the mirador we could see a walking path that led down to the beach. We learned that this beach with its gentle waves was considered as one of the best swimming beach in Northern Spain. In summer many swimmers came here and swimsuit was optional!
Standing at the mirador looking west was Playa Torimbia. Most people were engrossed with the view of the bay that they forgot to look east. I found the east side more scenic than the west. The east side were dotted with beaches, small islets, coves, capes and peninsulas and they formed a very fascinating and beautiful coastline.
Playa Guadamia and Bufones de Pria
Playa Guadamia was just a stop on our way to Bufones de Pria. Bufones de Pria was a stretch of high sea cliffs that was constantly batted by the sea. The air/water compressed by the sea rose through the crevices in the sea cliffs and burst out in jets of water through the surface cracks. We might or might not see this natural phenomena depending on the tide and season.
We parked our car at a public carpark (co-ordinates 43.450207, -4.978081) and walked about 1.2 km to Bufones de Pria. It was already 1 pm and the weather was getting pretty hot. On hindsight we should have driven nearer to Bufones de Pria so as not to trek 1.2 km. Though there was no public carpark nearby, we saw cars parked by the side of the road.
The walking route passed through a town, Ilames de Pria, there we saw a local cafe and immediately we thought of making a stop there for coffee when we returned. There were several signboards along the way pointing to Bufones de Pria and Playa de Guadamia. At times when we were not sure which path to take a local would point to a direction without even us requesting for help. We guessed the locals here were very familiar with tourists asking for direction to Bufones de Pria.
We reached Playa de Guadamia first and thought it looked like a longish bay with a small mouth. But on further looking at it, it was actually a river that joined to the sea. This place certainly looked like a great and safe place for swimming
From Playa de Guadamia we took the left branch and walked on for about 400 m and came to a place full of sharp rocks. We saw the a signboard with a picture of Bufones de Pria during strong/violent tides season. Wow! It was stunning.
The nearer we got to the edge of the cliff, nearer to the sharp rocks that were all over the ground we could hear loud low long “roar”. The “roar” built up and then it ended with a loud low hisssss. We realised that this “roar” was coming out from some holes amount the sharp rocks. These holes were blowholes. Unfortunately the waves were not strong enough so we only heard the roaring sound coming out from these blowholes and not jets of water bursting out of them.
The sea cliffs of Bufones de Pria were very high and magnificent . It was only in winter especially during a storm when the blowholes of this place would put up a impressive “show”. Wrong season!
marketing and Coffee break at Arriondas
From Bufones de Pria to Covadonga was about 44 km but rather than to drive straight to Covadonga we stopped at Arriondas, a nice looking town to pick up some ready food for dinner. We went into a DIA and bought a cooked (roasted) chicken for €4.99, a pack of pasta (tortellinni), cherry etc. The chicken was for dinner this evening. heAlong te street next to DIA was a cute cafe 4gatos so we went in to have our coffee break.
It was nice to sit down, to smell the coffee, to enjoy the setting of the local bar, to surf the internet or to do NOTHING at all. It had become our norm to sit down for coffee break at a local cafe or a restaurant or a bar at least one time a day. It helped to slow down our pace and remind that we were on holiday!
For two nights we stayed in a hotel in Covadonga. On the google map, Covadonga looked like a small secluded place with only a couple of restaurants and hotels in the vicinity. We checked and could not find any supermarket big or small. We did not want to be restricted by the limited eating choices in the vicinity or to drive far for a meal so we came prepared, with a cooked (roast) chicken for dinner!
Basilica de Covadonga
The Bascillica de Covadonga was a grand old “redish” color building and it stood out magnificient whether it was viewed from far or near. This basilica was built on a small elevation in the centre of the valley in front of mount Auseva which offered a spectacular view of the Holy Cave and its natural surroundings.
It was in 1874 during the consecration of the Cave, the bishop from Oviedo, Benito Sanz y Forés announced to the devout Christians his intention to bestow the Sanctuary with a monumental temple. In 1877 and 1901 the temple (basilica) was built, it was the originally designed by German architect Roberto Frassinelli but was later taken over by architect Federico Aparici y Soriano. It was a Neo-Romanesque church made entirely of pink limestone.
We had seen several beautiful pictures of the basilica as taken from a great distance, so after our arrival we went in search of a highview point. On the google map we saw a highview point at “Mirador de los Canonigos” (co-ordinates: 43.305228, -5.043705). We arrived at the mirador location and parked our car at small parking space opposite the mirador. We crossed the road and stood at a small platform/view deck. Unfortunately the view was covered by many trees. What used to be a great viewpoint no longer exist!
More than 70% of the basilica was hidden behind the green foliage. What a shame. This was one of the best high view poinst of the basilica unfortunately the view was not protected! We decided to search around for another possible viewpoint. We saw a walking path off the road that led up hill. So we went trekking.
We trekked for an hour along the path, going up to twice as long as the path indicated in google map. The path was quite easy to walk on as the slope was gentle and the ground was dry at the initial phase but after a short while the path was all wet, muddly and uneven. Though it was tough to walk we persisted. Unfortunately our effort did not pay off, there was no view of the basilica anywhere on the path. Somehow the path did not led us high enough to see the basilica over the trees. There was always another ridge around the corner that blocked our view!
It was only on our second day when we were on our way back from the lakes of Covadonga that we managed to capture a shot of the basilica from afar. It was just after the curve coming down a a sloping road when we spotted the basilica on the left side (co-ordinates: 43.290500,-5.015763). We could not resist but to park our car by the side of the road at a safe place and return to the spot to photograph the basilica.
Santa Cueva de Covadonga
Santa Cueva de Covadonga or the Holy Cave of Covadonga had several versions of historical stories behind it. One version said this cave was where Pelagius of Asturias, a Visigoth nobleman and founder of the Kingdom of Asturias, found a statue of the Virgin Mary that a hermit had erected. The statue then later miraculously helped his forces defeat their enemies. According to another version of history, Pelagius and a group of Christian refugees sought refuge in the cave, where they found safety and fed on honey from the bees that lived there. The Christian troops then returned after their victory at the Battle of Covadonga to place the statue there.
The first construction in the Holy Cave dated back to the reign of Alfonso I of Asturias. He commemorated the victory of Pelagius to the Muslim by building a chapel at the cave dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The chapel was destroyed by fire in 1777, reconstruction work started but was stopped in 1796 finally in 1875 renovation started again resulting in a carved wooden alcove with lavish decoration where the Virgin was placed. The alcove was destroyed during the Spanish war. The present chapel was the design of architect Luis Menéndez Pidald who sought to make the cave into a real natural temple which blended well with the environment of the cave and its landscape.
Lakes of covadonga
Lago de Enol and Lago de Ecrina were the two famous lakes of Covadonga. They were about 13 km from Basilica de Covadonga and we took about 30 minutes to reach the first lake, Lago de Enol.
The driving route to the lakes was windy but very scenic and enjoyable. When Lake Enol came into view we were taken by surprise. The whole “composition” of blue sky, flower meadows, gentle green slopes and far away tall mountain ranges were lovely. The best was the tranquility of the place.
We left Lake Enol and drove onward, we did not have to drive far when we arrived at Lake Ercina. The road ended at a huge carpark before Lake Ercina. The carpark was practically filled with cars. It was surprising to see so many vehicles as along the only route to the lakes our car seemed to be the only car on the road.
We approached Lake Ercina and saw a walking path around the lake and other paths that stretched beyond the lake.
There was another walking path that went up a low hill not far from the carpark. This path was a gentle slope and it “zigzag” up the hill to the top. This route seemed very popular with visitors as we saw many people going up and others coming down. We went up too, at the top there was a flat path that ran along the ridge of the hill. On the ridge we could see both the lakes!
The view on the ridge was lovely. We saw Lake Ercina on one side of the ridge and Lake Enol on the other side. We had earlier though that Lake Ercina was not as beautiful as Lake Enrol when we saw it at the lake level but viewing it from the ridge we changed our minds. Both lakes looked equally magnificent!
We walked the entire length of the ridge until there was no more path to go on. At one particular section, Yat Thong could not resist asking me to take a photo of him towering over Lake Ercina. “HaHaHa..all this is mine!!!!”
Coffee break at Lake Ercina
There was only one bar/restaurant/cafe at Lake Ercina and its outdoor area was packed with people. Well apparently most peopled like to sit outdoor, as for us we were fine with sitting inside the restaurant especially when the temperature was hot at 1 pm in afternoon.
On the outside of the cafe we saw a menu which showed that these place served cakes/desserts! So we were definitely having our coffee break here! The interior of the restaurant was nice, quaint, rustic and EMPTY. Ordering cafe latte was easy but when it came to cheese cake and chocolate tarte we just could not convey our request to the non-English speaking staff. So I went out to take a photo of the menu (stuck at the door) and showed the staff what we wanted!
Our stay at Arcea Gran Hotel Pelayo
We booked Arcea Gran Hotel Pelayo for €130 for two nights at booking.com. It was pretty expensive compared to other accommodations. Our double room came with ensuite bathroom but not breakfast. We booked this place because of its location, located between Basilica de Covadonga and Santa Cueva de Covadonga.
From our hotel carpark we could see the Basilica just a less than 100 metres away. Similarly Santa Cueva de Covadonga was just 100 metres in the other direction. We liked to stay as close to our sightseeing destinations as possible to that we could view and enjoy them leisurely!
Arcea Gran Hotel PelayoOur room was nice and comfortable. Most importantly it was clean. Similarly our bathroom was clean with ample hot water.
We had paid more for a room with a big-size window that faced the Basilica. Our room was on the 3rd level and looking to the left out of the room window we could see the magnificent “pink” basilica! Looking to the right we could see part o the holy cave!
The room had no electric kettle or microwave, it did have a small fridge which was good enough to keep our cherry and tomato cold. Breakfast at the hotel was a buffet and it costed €12 per person per meal. Yat Thong and I were not big eater especially in the morning so we rather prepared our own breakfast which were usually eggs, salads, fruits, meat (ham, bacon, tuna or chicken) and tea/coffee. We were not into huge breakfast or breads, or jams, or sweet biscuits etc etc so the hotel’s breakfast would be a waste for us.
Even though our room did not have an electric kettle it was not an issue as we had brought with us a portable/collapsible cooking pot. We cooked hard boiled eggs for breakfast, cooked pasta (tortelini) for dinner and made tea as and when we liked.