Walking in the Picos de Europa – Spain
Walking in the Picos de Europa: Northern Spain
The Picos De Europa National Park sits in the North of Spain close to the coastal port town of Sandanter. They extend for approx 20Km and are part of the Cantabrian Mountains and situated in the regions of Asturias, Cantabria and Castile and León.
They are known for their dramatic landscapes with rocky outcrops of Limestone and wonderful walks through some incredible valleys, meadows and Gorges.
On this tour we will stay in the small town of Cangas de Onis, which is situated in the north west of the Picos and greatly situated for visiting some of the great walks in the national park.
The town itself although quite small has plenty of restaurants, cafes and bars. The area is also known for its great variety of local cheeses and its own unique way of drinking its local cider.
We have chosen some of the Picos most dramatic and famous walks in this area to highlight some of its incredible beauty and wondrrful scenery.
Highlights: Picos De Europa National Park, Ruta De Cares, Cangas de Onis, Covadonga lakes and monastery, Visit to local Cheese Caves.
Day 1) Fly to Bilbao, Transfer to the Cangas de Onis and evening meal.
The tour starts when we all meet at the airport in Dublin for our flight. On arriving into Bilbao we then get a coach to bring us to Cangas de Onis where we will be staying.
When we arrive we arrive into our hotel “the Santa Cruz hotel” and after we have a meal together at the hotel and discuss the next few days’ adventures.
Then we can go explore this small town and get a feel for its night life.
Day 2) Walk the “Ruta Del Cares” and visit the Cheese caves.
Walking Details: Linear Route: from Poncebos to Cain 24Km, Incline: 370m 6.5hrs
This is a linear walk and we need to walk back the same way we came so you can shorten this walk to suit your abilities.
In the morning we need to take a bus to the small town of Poncebos where we will start our first walk. The Ruta del Cares is probably one of the most dramatic walks that I have ever done in all of Europe. Walking along the side of a gorge above the Cares River where it get its name. The trail rises slowly for the first 3Km and then follows the most incredible trail cut into the limestone on the edge of the mountain. The full trail through the valley is 12Km in length although there is no need to go the whole way as we need to return the same way. You will be high above the river and meandering through a gorge entering into small tunnels along the way. The trail was made in the early 1900s to facilitate workers on the canal here for the hydro damn to supply local electricity.
It is difficult to put into words the scenery and trail along this narrow gorge but definitely not a walk to be missed.
After our walk we then visit one of the local cheese caves. As I said earlier this entire region is famous for its cheese and produces the greatest amount of variety in all of Spain. The caves which are naturally created in the soft limestone of this area have been used for hundreds of years to keep the cheese cool while also allowing it to solidify and mature.
The tour is very interesting and gives you a real insight into the farming of this area and its local people.
There is also a chance to taste some cheese at the end of the tour with the local cider.
Afterwards we return to our Hotel to freshen up before we explore the town for a bite to eat.
Day3) Walk the Ruta de Los Lagos, Visit the monastery of Covadonga.
Walk Details: Loop Trail – Approx 8Km; Incline approx 180m
Today after our breakfast at the hotel we take a short walk to the local bus station to catch a bus to the Picos de Europa national park and its famous raised lakes. The bus journey itself is a fantastic trip as it makes its way on small twisty roads which climbs towards the visitor centre at the lakes.
Once we reach the lakes we can enjoy an 8Km walk around both lakes Enol and Ercina approx 8Km. The trail is very varied and brings you from Alpine meadows to small boulder fields and along the side of the upper lake. Along the way you are kept company by the local cows, goats and horses as well as the views. There are quite a few places along the way to stop, take a break and take in the scenery. When we make back from our walk you can relax in one of the Rifugios and enjoy a bite to eat.
On our way back from the walk there is a chance to get of the bus to visit Covadonga (the cave of our lady) with its impressive monastery. This area also commemorates the battle of Covadonga 718-22 which was the first victory won by Christian forces in Iberia. This eventually led to the creation of the Kingdom of Asturius with Don Pelayo as its first king.
On return to our Hotel we can then go and enjoy a meal together in a very nice local restaurant not to far from us and close to a great little bar for a drink afterwards.
Day 4) Depart from Congas de Onis at 11:45
In the morning there is some time to take a final walk about the town and grab some souvenirs or local cheese before we depart.
Transfer from Congas to Bilbao for departure (Aer lingus 16:55)
Here is a short list of extras you will need to bring along for this walking holiday.
- Hill walking Boots.
- Walking Trousers ( Not Jeans)
- Walking Shorts
- Sun Glasses
- Waterproofs (Just in Case)
- Socks Leggings
- Thermal top / T-shirt (Not Cotton)
- Sun Cream
- Insect Repellent
I recommend everyone to have travel Insurance to cover for walking in the Picos de Europa. You can get this here, select Trek option, location Europe, should be approx €30 for the 4 days cover https://www.thebmc.co.uk/insurance To avail of this Policy you may also need to sign up with Mountaineering Ireland https://www.mountaineering.ie
The walks on this tour are generally of a moderate level, with a choice of walk.
A good reasonable level of fitness is required.
We will be staying in a comfortable hotel in Cangas de Onis.
The accommodation providers are well used to us bringing them guests after a days walk and know that they somewhere comfortable to relax and freshen up.
Breakfasts are included and can range from size depending on accommodation.
Evening Meals : One evening meal is part of the package and we go to restaurants for the meals usually