From the wood of the trees that stand the forest of Muniellos is where the Spanish Armada took their ships. Small goblins baptized under the name of trasgus hide among the trunks of the oaks waiting for a visitor to bother them for a while. Or so the legends say. Among the real creatures: bears, wolves and grouse wander through this impressive forest that displays all its colors in the autumn months. Muniellos, a forest so special that its visit is limited to 20 people per day. Muniellos, the largest oak forest in Spain. Muniellos, another place in Asturias, not just any place, in which to get lost for at least a few hours.
Located inside the Natural Park of Narcea, Degaña and Ibias, the largest oak forest in Spain is also considered one of the best preserved in Europe. Muniellos was subjected to forestry exploitation for centuries, from 1768 until the end of the 20th century. Fortunately, in 1982 it was declared a National Biological Reserve and, in 2000, UNESCO made it a Biosphere Reserve, which gave the forest great protection. Because of its importance and natural value, to visit Muniellos you have to book in advance, as the entrance is restricted to 20 people per day.
But what is so special about this forest? Easy. A flora that is reborn in every season. A different landscape for each season. A rich and free fauna. Huge oaks of different species intermingle with beech and birch trees. The Muniellos river crosses the landscape like an open wound from which flows a torrent of water, fed, in turn, by many other streams. Yew and holly trees are also hidden among the natural framework.
Travelers are only temporary visitors to the vegetation. As permanent inhabitants of Muniellos, the animals that live in its innermost recesses. Packs of wolves settle in the mountains of the natural park and feed, in turn, on the wild boars and roe deer that also roam the area. Hunting grouse, squirrels and jays is the fox that camouflages its orange fur with the ocher tones of autumn. From the sky, many birds watch over the environment. Among them imposing birds of prey such as the sparrowhawk, the common buzzard or the golden eagle. And, as king of the animal family, the Cantabrian brown bear resides in Muniellos. As you can see, a very complete family.
The forest of Muniellos sits on a Paleozoic substrate of no less than 500 million years. The traces of the glacial cirques can still be seen on it. As proof, there are the famous lagoons of the Candanosa peak. Placed at different altitudes, the water extensions of the Peña, Grande, Fonda and La Isla form a perfect route for hiking enthusiasts.
There are a couple of options to enjoy the forest and the lagoons. In any case, the first thing to keep in mind is that the route starts from Tablizas, the reception center of the Muniellos reserve, or Casa del Guarda, as it is also known. There you can leave your car and, after confirming your attendance at the Reception Center, the visit begins.
The first option is the so-called river route, a trail of about 16 kilometers that ends at the Isla Lagoon, from where you return to the starting point. This trail crosses the river valley, as well as goes into the forest. When you reach the intersection called Tres Cruces you can either return or continue to the rest of the lagoons. It is an easy, but long way. The second option, however, is even longer and more difficult. It is known as the circular route, of 20 kilometers and more than 950 meters of elevation gain. In this route the altitude will allow the visitor to contemplate the landscape from the summit.
The Muniellos forest is located next to the town of Cangas del Narcea. The Narcea and Naviego rivers cross this small town with several bridges that span them. The most emblematic is the so-called suspension bridge, designed by the architect Gómez del Collado. The bridges, together with the rivers and the small houses make up a magnificent postcard of mandatory visit for hikers returning from the forest of Muniellos. The Acebo sanctuary, the beech forest of Hermo monastery or the council of Ibias are other nearby places to visit.
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You can read part II of this list here.