Covadonga, Asturias, Spain
Covadonga is situated just to the west and north of the Picos de Europa mountain range in the heart of Asturias' walking and hiking country. It is also very close to the tourist town of Cangas de Onis and is an absolute “must” visit location for all tourists to the area.
Put simply, if you vacation in Asturias and you do not visit Covadonga, many would say that you will have had a wasted journey.
Because of the beauty and importance of this area and also its role as a gateway into the Picos de Europa, we have dedicated 4 pages to it. We hope that this will go some way towards giving you a feel and idea of what Covadonga is really like.
That said the only real way to experience this magical place is to visit it yourself. Descriptions and photos simply cannot convey the aura and atmosphere of the basilica or the scale and natural beauty of the surrounding mountains and the National Park.
What to see at Covadonga
As its location suggests, Covadonga pretty much targets every button on the scenic tourist’s hit list and offers breathtaking scenery and close access to the famous Picos de Europa and some stunning mountain lakes. But possibly even more importantly, Covadonga also possesses a religious sanctuary with a splendid and historic basilica, a mythical grotto, a museum and both a statue to, and the tomb of, Asturian and Spanish hero, Pelayo. You can find out more about Pelayo by using the Covadonga sub-menu.
Also at the “basilica complex” you will find the San Fernando Collegiate Church. This building predates all but the grotto and holds the tombs of two eleventh century abbots in its cloisters. Other somewhat lesser attractions are the “Great Bell” which is actually a folly,
the “fountain of seven spouts” and a small park. More important though is the statue of King Pelayo. This monuments sits in the forecourt of the basilica on a large engraved stone plinth and depicts Pelayo, sword in hand, with a Christian cross rising up behind him.
The importance of Covanonga
Historically Covadonga is notable as the location of a major Spanish victory over the islamic "Moors" and that battle (in the early eighth century) is often considered to be the start of the "reconquista" (lit. reconquest) of Spain, i.e. a 750 year battle to evict the muslims from the whole of the Iberian peninsula. The leader of this resistance was called Pelayo and the battle and his legend have had a lasting effect on the locality and, to a degree, its present day tourism.
Much of what can be seen at Covadonga is in some way a monument to Pelayo, what he stood for, what he achieved and the freeing of the Asturian people to pursue their own religion and culture. That said you need no knowledge of Covadonga’s history or theology to marvel at the basilica, to look up to the grotto, almost hidden in a mountain cave, or to head up to the lakes in the Picos de Europa. Furthermore, if you really like the area there are countless hotels in which you can stay at comparably cheap rates,particularly if you choose to travel out of season.
To the right is the famous holy grotto that sits in a small cave in a mountain face at Covadonga. It holds the remains of King Pelayo and a likeness of "our lady". You can enter this tiny open chapel and pause for thought.