Where is my favourite place to visit? It’s the north of Spain. Best food in the world? North of Spain. Friendliest people I have met? North of Spain. Best mountain range for walking?….. ah, the north of Spain doesn’t have any good mountain ranges. Or so I thought. Time to add a new item to the list of being in love with northern Spain.
Spend some time walking in the beautiful, lush mountain range, the Picos de Europa. Explore the wildlife, natural beauty and culture of a hidden part of Europe.
Distance: The full trip is 79km long with daily distances of 9 – 18km.
Grade: This trip is graded moderate. While some of the days are shorter, there is a fair bit of ascent and descent involved in each days walking. Some previous walking experience is recommended, or at least a decent level of fitness.
This hidden gem was not always that hidden. In fact, the reason for its name ‘The Peaks of Europe’ was that it was the first sight that many sailors coming from the Americas saw to herald their arrival on this continent. The impressive massif is spread over the northern Spanish regions of Asturias, Cantabria and Castile and León. It is easy to get to and a pure joy to walk in.
The simplest answer to this is that it is one of the most beautiful, unspoiled areas to walk in Europe. The actual Picos area is relatively small, 40km x 20km, but it is an area of concentrated perfection, with majestic limestone faces and peaks and dramatic areas of alpine karst. Wide glacial valleys, a bright vibrant green, punctuate the jagged, snow-capped peaks. Rivers spring up, fed by massive underground caves, to give the whole area a feeling of wonder.
The trails through the Picos are incredibly well marked, taking their cue from the Alps and the Dolomites, but where the Picos differs is the volume of traffic. While the Dolomites can occasionally lead to some congestion on paths and always a booked out Rifugio at night, it is only those in the know that travel to discover the Picos, so you can walk for hours without seeing another soul.
The wildlife is yet another great reason to visit. Such is the concentrated nature of this compact mountain range, that the wildlife is packed into it too. The elusive Cantabrian Brown Bear makes the Picos its home and even scarcer are wolves. Nothing to worry about in particular and indeed you would be lucky to see them rather than unlucky. While you walk, eagles and vultures regularly soar above you and the always welcome chough is prevalent in the area too. The Cantabrian chamois is another unique resident of the Picos and one that you are more than likely to come across on your walk.
Getting to Arenas de Cabrales is pretty easy. Santander is the closest airport, though you can also fly into Bilbao or Oviedo, all of which are wonderful for at least one extra night stay.
There are regular buses from all of these locations to Unquera, where you will take a 45-minute taxi journey up to Arena de Cabrales.
Walking in the Picos is definitely a hidden gem and one for people who love their mountains. The tranquillity matches perfectly with the stunning surroundings to make for a part of the world you will definitely fall in love with.
Get in touch with us at [email protected] and one of our Destination & Adventure specialists will be more than happy to help you.