Lago Ercina

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Expedition log, March & April 2023

Cueva del Cuélebre, Los Lagos, Cueva Bolado UV-C, Tito Bustillo, Museo de la Emigración

Click on (or tap) any image thumbnail for a full-size version.
03.26 (Sunday) Mike to Bilbao from Gatwick; Bill from Milan.  Tedious and rainy travel, but no masks required.  Met in Bilbao as planned, then to Llanes with a stop in Sarón.  Dinner (lomo) at 22:00 in Rte. Uría.
Cueva Cuélebre

Cueva Cuélebre

East to Santillán (just west of San Vicente) for a coastal walk, starting a little east of Posada Balcón, to locate Cueva del Cuélebre 📌.  A pleasant 1.5km walk (gpx) from the road and an impressive entrance.  Mike somewhat chagrined because eight years before he had walked along the same track within a few metres of the cave and didn’t see it because it is hidden behind a mound and not immediately visible.  Also, it is not marked on our maps despite its archaeological significance.

Next to Buelles (halfway between Unquera and Panes) to locate La Sauceda, a restaurant on our to-do list; promising but too early for lunch so we checked out the local Cantina before progressing to Casa Poli for lunch. Welcomed as usual, we enjoyed gambas al ajillo, Serrano (ham), and La Planta.  Back to Llanes for a walk around town and later a very light supper.

03.28 Breakfast with croissants in the hotel restaurant. The weather forecast promised a warm day so we decided to try going up into the mountains and the Covadonga lakes.  Beautiful! 
Lago Ercina (from above Bar Mª Rosa)

Lago Ercina (from above Bar Mª Rosa)

Los Lagos flower

Los Lagos flower

Strangely the temperature was warmer at high altitude; 25°C at 1100m.  We had expected to see more snow in March; instead there were hundreds of yellow flowers (probably the native Narcissus bulbocodium, the petticoat daffodil).  Dozens of tourists (like us) had taken advantage of unlimited access to the high Picos.  From Easter (two weeks later) only bus transport will be allowed.

On return we stopped off at La Casa Nueva, a bar/restaurant on the outskirts of Corao.  It seemed quite good and friendly, and offered a tempting Menú del Dia at €14.  But we were not feeling hungry enough for that and proceeded to Casa Morán shop/bar in Puente Nueva for a plate of mature Gamoneu cheese; very good.

03.29 A warm day ahead (24°), Plan A was to visit Tito Bustillo, a famous show/archaeological cave in Ribadesella.  On arriving in Ribadesella (which was very smoky) we learned that tickets were sold out for the day and only two slots were available for the 30th, so we bought tickets for the 14:00 slot (€2.12 each).

Strange place to build a tower ... 

Strange place to build a tower ... 

We then headed south via Margolles, noting numerous smoky and extensive wildfires on the mountain slopes – thankfully on the other side of the river Sella.  We eventually arrived at Rte. la Roca in Sevares (9km from Arriondas on the N624) where we had a light lunch of rather good fish soup.

Back to Llanes for a walk along the Paseo San Pedro and around the town for some pictures, etc., including the tower ‘blocking’ the pavement.  A rather chewy criollo for dinner in La Amistad.

03.30 First objective was to test Mike’s UV-C torch (4W 255nm ultra violet) in a cave, and Cueva Bolado seemed to satisfy all the criteria, including close and easy access from Llanes.
Cueva Bolado entrance

Cueva Bolado entrance

Our initial reaction was some disappointment as the hoped for fluorescence was dimmer than expected in white stal.  However we did find some stronger yellow/green (and later blue) fluorescence on the cave walls. No phosphorescence noted.

Cave passage at Cuevas del Mar

Cave passage at Cuevas del Mar

Then west on the autopista to Parilla La Chopera restaurant in Cardoso where we were too early for lunch.  But they gave us some good tapas which satisfied our hunger and filled in most of the time before going to Ribadesella, via Cuevas del Mar, to visit Cueva Tito Bustillo. The guided tour took us 900m in meandering muddy passage to a gallery with cave paintings (of horses) dated to 15,000 years ago.  Some artifacts elsewhere were claimed to be 32,000 years old.  The visit took just over an hour and the tickets were discounted to €2.12 each for we seniors.

Back to Llanes to exchange data and bits of electronics, and to write the log.  A third warm day in the low twenties.

03.31 First to Unquera for petrol (€1.64/l) then to La Hermida for refreshments.
Caves in Bejes valley wall

Caves in Bejes valley wall

The plan was for some wide panoramas of the La Hermida Gorge using the drone, but it was extraordinarily hazy so instead we drove part way up the road to Bejes and flew the drone in the smaller context for several panoramas and stills of caves in the valley wall.

Timing worked out well for lunch in a new (to us) restaurant, scouted on the 27th: La Sauceda in Buelles; a good tomato salad for Bill and above-average escalopines de ternera for Mike (unusually light and crispy breading).  A walk around the Llanes fishing harbour in the afternoon was followed by the second new restaurant of the day: Sidrería As de Guía in Llanes; a rich fish soup for both.

04.01 Headed east to Pendueles where we were recognized in the El Chispero bar.  It was a much cooler day and we had hoped to find the stove alight – but no such luck, although they did light it just as we were leaving.

Then back towards Llanes and we took the shorter but very curvy route via La Pereda to Alto de la Tornería just in time for lunch at El Roxin in El Mazuco.  Here the grill was alight for the weekend and as the first customers we were given the most panoramic table with a spectacular view of the mountains.  Mike ate ribs (costillas) and Bill liver soup (sopa de higado).

Heavy rain was forecast for the afternoon so some playing with computers took place, even though the rain didn’t materialise.  Dinner at Salero.

Museo de la Emigración

Museo de la Emigración

Morning walk to Llanes lighthouse and environs, then as it was lightly raining we decided against a drone flight and instead drove to Colombres for a bit of culture – in this case the Museo de la Emigración (maintained by the Fundación Archivo de Indianos).  This museum is housed in a powder-blue palace and commemorates the many Asturians who emigrated to Latin America and often returned later and, with their wealth, built mansions all over Asturias.

Archivo de Indianos sign from an Asturian Club

Archivo de Indianos sign from an Asturian Club

The many display rooms showed the people and their belongings (mostly in the decades around 1900).  There was also signage and the old and current Asturian Club buildings and their extensive estates in Mexico, Habana, Buenos Aires, etc.

Pendueles El Chispero PalmSunday

Pendueles El Chispero PalmSunday

It was still cold and damp so we then moved to Pendueles where the wood-chip stove was very welcome.  It being Palm Sunday (and shortly after the church service had ended) the village and bar were unusually busy.  It also might explain why the free tapas were so substantial: two pork meatballs, chips, and a tasty sauce.  Thus fortified we decided against the planned Casa Poli lunch and returned to Llanes via Buelna.  Spent some time computing, etc., then into a crowded Llanes centre for some lacón con patatas at Sidrería Carbonería.
04.03 Hotel getting quite crowded – presumably with tourists coming to Llanes for Semana Santa and Pascua (Easter).  More traffic and full parking, too.

The morning walk turned into a tinned-fabada-hunt; an old favourite and a new brand were successfully procured.

It was dry and sunny but with the strong winds (20mph + gusts) we decided again not to go to Ballota or Cobijeru for drone panoramas and instead drove west to Posada for a second breakfast of tortilla filled with tomato, ham, etc.

Naranjo de Bunes peak (far distance)

Naranjo de Bunes peak (far distance)

Then south via Casa Morán in Puento Nueva and thence to Arenas de Cabrales for lunch.  Patatas con Cabrales was deemed appropriate and was very good.

Great views of the Naranjo de Bulnes tower-like peak in the sunshine from a Mirador SW of Carreña.  Then back to Llanes for a walk and to save photos and write up the log.

Then, for the ‘expedition dinner’ out to Casa Poli; magret de pato (duck) for Bill and una media de solomillo (half portion of steak) con cabrales for Mike, washed down with La Planta, a favourite Ribera.  We learned that for ‘pink but not red’ steak, one should ask for medio y un poco más.

04.04 Despite stronger winds than forecast, sunshine and a relatively warm 13°C; tempted us to the cliffs near Playa Ballota to fly the drone mostly over the sea for four spherical panoramas of the cliffs and sea cave.  Then some sitting in the sun at the inland end of the sea cave listening to cow bells and the sea.

On to Buelna for a simple lunch of tortilla then back to Llanes for packing, short walk, etc.  We were very lucky to get a parking space immediately outside the hotel, or indeed to get any parking space at all! Skipped supper.

04.05 Left hotel 09:35; uneventful but slow travel (11.5 hours for Mike, 12.5 for Bill).


  1. Exchange rate: 1.13 EUR/GBP (compared to 1.43 in 2015, 1.10 in 2020); 88p = 1 Euro = 166 pesetas (≈188 pts/GBP).
  2. Petrol was €1.64/litre in Unquera (03.31).
  3. Weather: overall very good; unseasonably warm at first, then a day of light rain followed by cool but fine weather.
  4. The drone flown was a DJI Mavic 2 Pro »; 38 min in total.
    GPX tracks of the drone flights may be available if you contact us.
  5. The pictures in this log were taken using a Sony RX100M6 camera, various phones, and the drone.
  6. 360° panoramas are very large and so are not displayed in this log; instead, click on the any [360°] marker to open and then save the panorama, or right click to save directly.
  7. Specific GPS positions are shown by a pushpin symbol (📌) in the log above – click on the symbol for a Google maps view of the position.  These positions are also listed on the Speleogroup site list page with coordinates in °,′,″ degrees using WGS84 datum and also in UTM coordinates; see Coordinate systems.
  8. Fixes and tracks were recorded using a Samsung S10e Android ’phone using the MyTrails app (or by the drone, for drone flights).
  9. This log was almost entirely edited in the field on a Lenovo Yoga notebook, using the MemoWiki » extended Wiki notation which is then processed by a Rexx » script to generate the HTML for this web page.

Expeditions to the Picos de Europa and elsewhere since 1973.
Please e-mail Mike Cowlishaw ( or Bill Collis (
if you have any corrections, suggestions, etc.   See also the SpeleoTrove speleology section ».
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This page was last edited on 2023-05-11 by mfc.