Incredible Hiking, Incredible Views: Drone Video Over Bilbao

Bilbao Spain incredible hiking drone video
Basque Country and Spain’s northern coast are among the greenest areas in the entire country. They offer some incredible hiking opportunities for anyone who loves the outdoors.

Even if you’re not following the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, a traditional pilgrimage whose trails criss-cross the northern landscape, you can follow parts of those trails for some one-of-a-kind views. But they’re not the only great hiking trails you’ll find.

I visited Spain in November and, only having a few days in Bilbao, I wanted to see as much as I could of the city but also explore the surrounding natural beauty. I looked around online for local spots, came across a perfect viewpoint, and began to plan the route for my hike.

I woke early from my stay in the Hotel Gran Bilbao and started making my way to Mamalmasin Mendiaren Gailurra park. I was greeted on the way by morning hikers and bike riders. It took me about 30 minutes following the main road before I could turn into the park and garden area and start my assent to the top.

In total it took me a little over an hour to get from the hotel to the peak.

The ascent was not too taxing for the most part — just a few larger rocks to clamber over — but since rain from the day before combined with morning dew left the ground a little slippery, especially on the way down, so care must be taken on the descent.  

However, the breathtaking views over Bilbao and the surrounding mountains made it more than worthwhile. On the day of my hike, it wasn’t windy, and the were clear views of the city with blue skies and rolling clouds over Basque Country. It’s a very tranquil place, and I highly recommend spending some time to relax and take in the views. For my part, I took this opportunity to set up my drone so I could get some shots of the scenery. Check out my drone video overlooking Bilbao and Basque Country at the top of this post.

I would recommend this hike to anybody visiting the area. Unfortunately, I only had the morning free for this little adventure, but you could easily spend the whole day there exploring Mamalmasin Mendiaren Gailurra park.

Bilbao Spain incredible hiking drone video
A view over Bilbao, located in Basque Country, Spain. | Photo by Erin L. McCoy
Happy exploring!
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Covadonga: A Natural Sanctuary

Lago la Ercina
The village and parish of Covadonga in Asturias, a region on the north coast of Spain, offers up one of the most gorgeous hikes in the country. What's more, it's an essential destination for anyone interested in the history of the Reconquista and for those faithful Christians who have heard the legends about King Pelayo, the first warrior of the Reconquista (more on him later).

Stop in the sanctuary first for a 20-minute visit before ascending by bus to a lake hike that will knock your socks off without wearing you out. The hike is an easy loop with mild slopes and several big payoffs. It is absolutely not to be missed.

Here's everything you can see in and around Covadonga, which is an easy day trip from coastal towns such as Llanes.

The Sanctuary of Covadonga

The Basílica de Santa María la Real de Covadonga
The Basílica de Santa María la Real de Covadonga.
One of the most beautiful hikes in Asturias begins, first, with a visit to one of the region's most sacred sites. Covadonga is nestled in the mountain range known as the Picos de Europa, and some believe that, on the site of these lakes, a miracle occurred 1,300 years ago.

King Pelayo (or Pelagius, as he's known by English-speakers) founded the Kingdom of Asturias in 718 CE and ruled it until he died. In 722, the Battle of Covadonga marked the first victory by Christian forces fighting back against the Islamic conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. This battle carries important symbolism in that it is considered the first victory of the Reconquista, or the "reconquering" of Spain from Islamic forces. It would take nearly 800 more years to expel the last of the Islamic caliphates from the peninsula.

Take a bus or drive to the Santa Cueva in Covadonga to start your journey. Here, you'll find the grave of King Pelayo and the patron saint of Asturias, the Virgin of Covadonga, who rose out of one of the lakes to guide Pelayo in his journey. You'll also get stunning views of the Basílica de Santa María la Real de Covadonga.
The Santa Cueva (sacred cave) in Cavadonga.
The Santa Cueva (sacred cave) in Cavadonga.

No one lives in this town but monks, so there's little else to see after a brief, gorgeous visit to the Santa Cueva. When you're ready to ascend to the lakes, grab a coffee and make your way to the bus stop.


Getting to the Lake Hike

You can only ascend to the lakes by buying a ticket on an Alsa bus for 9€ per seat. It's easy to see why they don't let just any car ascend: the fog can be thick, and cows and goats scatter intermittently across the road. If you're lucky, you'll also see local bison (a smaller version than those in North American) or quebrantahuesos, a type of vulture which translates literally as "bone-breakers" because of their affinity for dropping bones from high up to split them open and eat the marrow.

Abandoned Iron Mines

Start your hike by exploring the remains of a once-thriving iron mine, surrounded by the empty houses that once lodged a few thousand miners, their families, a local doctor, and even a school. The last mines here shut down in 1972.

Asturias is a region defined by mining. During miners' strikes shortly after the end of the Spanish Civil War, the regional economy shut down completely, since essentially 100 percent of the Asturian population worked in mines.

You'll get to walk through an actual mine shaft and come out the other side.

Llanes Asturias Spain Mine
Walk through a mine shaft on your hike toward the three alpine lakes at Covadonga. | Photo by Erin L. McCoy

Lago la Ercina

If the fog is still heavy, you might not notice at first that, across a broad, green expanse, you're approaching the first lake, Lago la Ercina. It's an idyllic scene, with belled cows wandered around a broad expanse of green. If the fog is too heavy to see the peaks, often still snow-covered in summer, grab a coffee and bocadillo (sandwich) at the bar a little way up the slope and wait. When the sun comes out, there may be no more beautiful place on Earth.

Next, ascend a hill to get an even better view of la Ercina from the Mirador Entrelagos. You'll see fog shifting across the peaks.

There is a third lake in this area but it's usually empty unless it's time for the spring snow melt. In any case, you'll be more than happy with la Ercina, and the next big payoff.
Lago la Ercina
Lago la Ercina is at 1,100 meters of altitude. Eat at the affordable, hearty bar overlooking the lake while you wait for the fog to clear.
Mist moves quickly through these mountains, which are speckled with cows.

Lago el Enol

It's only a short walk from la Ercina to Lago el Enol, where fast-moving mists shift across the bright blue water. Listen for cowbells ringing in the distance and the bleat of goats. This is a gorgeous spot for a picnic.

From here, it's also just a short walk back to where the Alsa bus will pick you back up again. If you're staying on the coast, head back through the Sunday market in Cangas de Onís before 2 p.m. to buy some delicious local fare.
Lago (Lake) el Enol Covadonga
Lago (Lake) el Enol
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