Self Guided Walking Holidays & Cycling Holidays

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Self-guided walking holiday in the Picos de Europa


  • Breathing in the crisp, clean air in the Picos de Europa National Park
  • Authentic Spanish cultures and customs
  • Tasting the famous ‘Queso de Cabrales’ with the locals
  • Journeying through ‘environments past’ in the vast glaciated valleys
  • Stay in charming hotels and guesthouses, hand picked for their food and character

The Picos de Europa is one of the most impressive mountain ranges in Spain and a superb environment for walking. This self guided holiday will take you through jagged limestone mountains providing magnificent scenery and harbouring a rich variety of flora, fauna and wildlife.

Initially based in the quiet village of Arenas de Cabrales, your first day's walk is a colourful, rewarding ascent to Nava above the Cares River. Further on the village of Tielve awaits with neighbouring Valfríu tempting you with their famous ‘Queso de Cabrales’ - local blue cheese. Through landscapes of heather, beech woods and flowing streams you arrive in Sotres, the highest of all the villages.

This will be your base for 4 nights. Day walks through Ándara, to Vega de Urriellu and Tresviso take you into the Eastern and Central Massif. Catch a glimpse of the rare Capercaille and following an ancient footpath find yourself in Bulnes, accessible only by foot or by funicular railway. Extend your walk a little further through a deep gorge where vultures nest before arriving back in Arenas de Cabrales

DAY 1: Arrive Spain / Arenas de Cabrales

Santander is the nearest airport (100kms/1hr20) to Arenas de Cabrales. However, Bilbao is another option. (230kms/2hr21).

Bus tickets are included from the centre of Santander (1h20m) or Bilbao (2.5h) to Unqueras from where an included transfer (45min) will take you to Arenas de Cabrales.

Arenas de Cabrales is a picturesque village in the East of Asturias. Visit the Romanesque Santa Maria de Llas Church or try the regional dish, Fabada Asturina, a hearty stew made with regional ingredients. 

Overnight: Hotel La Rivera

Your hotel for the first two nights is the Hotel La Rivera. This cosy, welcoming hotel is the ideal starting point for  your trek into the Picos de Europa National Park.

DAY 2: Circular Walk from Arenas

Start your trip with an ascent through seasonal meadows. You follow mostly stone paths and be rewarded with outstanding views of the Picos de Europas and down to the Cares River. A challenging first day but well worth the effort.

Walk: 11km, 5 hrs, approx 800m ascent, 800m descent

Overnight: Hotel La Rivera

DAY 3: Walk from Tielve to Sotres

After a short 20 min transfer, you walk from Tielve, one of the most authentic villages of Cabrales onto Valfríu where you can sample the local blue cheese, Queso de Cabrales. Walking through old beech woods and streams you reach an elevation of 1240m , then down to Sotres one of the highest villages in the Picos de Europas. Sotres is an agricultural village where they famously mature Queso de Cabrales in the limestone caves which are abundant in the local area. 

Walk: 9km, 4 hrs, approx 575m ascent, 250m descent

Overnight: Sotres Hotel

Tranquil surroundings with great traditional cuisine. It has spacious and comfortable bedrooms. In the evening head down to the restaurant and enjoy some wholesome stew, freshly prepared from local ingredients or wander to the local inn and have a chat with the villagers.

DAY 4: Circular Walk to Ándara, Eastern Massif

A day of contrasts awaits you. Firstly, a steep ascent via a disused mining track and rocky paths. You will be rewarded with impressive views of a limestone peak before following cattle trails through woods, heather and pastures back to Sotres. Take time to explore the moon-like landscape and observe vultures and eagles soaring high above. Views of The Bay of Biscay can be seen on clear days.

Walk: 12km, 5 hrs, approx 700m ascent, 950m descent

Overnight: Sotres Hotel

DAY 5: Ascent to Vega de Urriellu

A spectacular  walk takes you right into the heart of the Picos de Europas. At the foot of Picu Urriellu (2,519m) you will be at the Vega de Urriellu a small refuge hut. The refuge is well stocked with drinks and snacks which are brought up by horseback each day from Pandébano. The walk takes you through meadows up to the Collado Pandebano (1240m) before a steep ascent to the refuge. Lunar landscapes will compliment your walk as you ascend. Truly beautiful!

Walk: 18kms, 6.5 hrs, approx 1100m ascent, 1200 descent

Overnight: Sotres Hotel

DAY 6: Circular walk to Áliva

Inspiring limestone walls of the Central and Eastern Massifs and a magnificent glacial valley keep you company as you wind on up to Áliva. Take a rest at the Refugio de Aliva and sit back and absorb the surrounding scenery before returning to Sotres. 

Walk: 19km, 6.5 hrs, approx 900m ascent, 800m descent

Overnight: Sotres Hotel

DAY 7: Walk to Poncebos

You start your day descending along an ancient footpath arriving at Bulnes, an isolated village only accessible by foot or more recently, funicular railway. From Bulnes you can take the funicular to Poncebos or continue on foot to the spectacular Texu Gorge. You will be picked up in Poncebos and transferred to Arena de Cabrales. Alternatively, walk the famous mile-deep Cares Gorge with the village of Caín at its head.

Walk: 13km, 6 hrs, approx 450m ascent, 1100m descent

Overnight: Hotel La Rivera

DAY 8: Departure Day

Check out after breakfast and an included transfer will take you from Arenas de Cabrales back to Unqueras and you can again take a bus back to either Santander or Bilbao Airport.


We specifically select your accommodation to ensure that you enjoy every minute of your stay. They all offer a warm welcome to walkers, traditional hospitality and delicious local food.  We aim to give you an authentic experience and use local family run accommodations.

Alternate accommodation

During high season, you might be booked into a different accommodation which is not listed in the description, and the start or end of some of your walking routes may be slightly altered. Any alternative accommodation will be of the same or better standard as those described.

Solo Walkers

This holiday is available for solo walkers but we would recommend that you are experienced in walking and navigating alone. If you are travelling solo the holiday is slightly more expensive as some costs are not shared.

Single Rooms

If you require single rooms within your party we would be happy to accommodate you although there is a single room supplement payable.


A delicious breakfast is included at the Arenas de Cabrales and the Sotres Hotel each morning and 4 dinners whilst at the Sotres Hotel.  The accommodations are happy to provide a packed lunch - this should be requested on arrival. Or you can pick up lunch in the village or stop along the trail. Your route notes have details for each day.

Baggage Transfer

Your bags will be transferred between your accommodation as per your itinerary. We ask you to limit your luggage to one bag of up to 20kg per person.

Availability and Time of Year

This holiday is available to start any day of the week between the end of April and end of October. Extension prices will be displayed as part of the booking process.

The weather in this part of Spain is most comfortable for mountain walking at this time of year, and whilst sudden mists are common they usually burn off by mid-day. As with all mountainous areas and particularly because of the proximity of the mountains to the coast in this area, the weather can also change suddenly and there can be sudden rain-showers, or even snow at any time of year so you should be prepared for all weather conditions with waterproof gear and plenty of sunscreen!  We also recommend checking daily weather forecasts whilst you are out there and taking care when crossing streams which may fill up during the spring and autumn.

Grade & Fitness

This walking tour is graded Moderate. Walks of 4-6 hours and there is an ascent/descent of between 550m to 1200m. The hike covers varied terrain following jeep tracks, wide paths, narrow footpaths and animal trails with some steep ascents or descents. You will walk on gravel, loose rock, grass and dirt. When wet, paths may be muddy and slippery. There are also a couple of exposed sections which would not be suitable for anybody who suffers from vertigo although we can provide options to avoid these sections. These sections are on the walks on Days 5 and 7.  We recommend using walking poles for balance on this tour.

Navigation, Route Notes & Maps

The routes on this trip are generally marked but this can be poor in places and you will need to follow the route notes and maps supplied. You will be walking in the high mountains and the ability to navigate with a map and compass in the event of bad weather is recommended. You will also have access to the Macs Adventure Smartphone App enabling you to follow the route using your phone’s GPS so using this combined with the provided route notes and maps means you should have no problems finding your way.

Solo Walkers

This holiday is not available for solo walkers due to the fact that some of the walks are passing through very remote terrain.

Single Rooms

If you require single rooms within your party we would be happy to accommodate you although there is a single room supplement payable.


A delicious breakfast is included at the Arenas de Cabrales and the Sotres Hotel each morning and 4 dinners whilst at the Sotres Hotel. The accommodations are happy to provide a packed lunch - this should be requested on arrival. Or you can pick up lunch in the village or stop along the trail.  Your route notes have details for each day.

Baggage Transfer

Your bags will be transferred between your accommodation as per your itinerary. We ask you to limit your luggage to one bag of up to 20kg per person.


Your information pack has a detailed equipment list which includes standard walking gear such as good walking boots or shoes, warm and waterproof clothes and a day pack.

Travel Insurance

It is a requirement of booking this tour with Macs Adventure that you have suitable travel insurance which covers you for the activity and emergency evacuation and hospital care.

General Information

The distances and ascent/descents are approximations of the recommended routes. Please be prepared by packing all necessary items, for example, proper rain gear (jacket and pants), sun hat, sunscreen. Your information pack has a detailed equipment list which includes standard walking gear such as good walking boots or shoes, warm and waterproof clothes for the cooler months and lightweight clothing for summer, and a day pack.

Getting to Arenas de Cabrales

From Bilbao Airport: Take a shuttle bus from the airport to the Bilbao Terminus bus station (runs every 20mins, costs approx €2).  From Bilbao bus station we include bus tickets to Unquera (2.5 to 3hrs). From Unquera you take an included taxi transfer to Arenas de Cabrales (45mins).

From Santander Airport:  Take a bus or taxi to the centre of Santander (15mins). From Santander bus station we include bus tickets to Unquera (1hr 20mins). Please note that there are some direct buses to Unquera from the airport and if your flight times allow it we will book that for you.  From Unquera take an included taxi transfer to Arenas de Cabrales (45 mins).

We will require passport numbers in order to book your bus tickets for you so please provide these at the time of booking.


  • 7 Nights accommodation in hotels and guesthouses
  • 7 Breakfasts
  • 4 Dinners
  • Luggage transfer (on days 3 & 7)
  • Bus tickets from Bilbao or Santander to Unquera
  • Transfers from Unquera to Arenas de Cabrales and vice versa
  • Detailed maps and route descriptions in English
  • 24/7 emergency telephone support
  • Access to GPX tracks on the Macs Adventure App


  • Lunches (pack lunches can be ordered at the accommodations)
  • Bus from Bilbao Airport to centre of Bilbao
  • Travel Insurance.
  • Personal expenses such as drinks, phone calls, tips & Fenicular Railway tickets


  • Extra night/s at the standard accommodation
  • Airport arrival and/or departure transfers

We are often asked the following questions and I hope that you will find the answers useful.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any further queries.

How far in advance do I need to book?

We suggest you book as soon as your plans are finalised as this holiday is extremely popular.  Please note you can start this holiday on any day of the week between April and October. You will find up to date availability on our website and we will always try and accommodate your plans.

How fit do I need to be?

The walking is graded moderate so you will enjoy the holiday more if you already enjoy an active lifestyle.  Most of the paths are easy to follow. The walks are between 4 & 6 hours each day with varying ascents and descents.

How do the baggage transfers work?

Your bags will be transferred from your accommodation as per your itinerary and moved onto your next overnight accommodation. We ask you to limit your luggage to one bag of up to 20kg per person.

What equipment do I need?

You will need good walking shoes/boots, comfortable walking clothes, waterproof jacket and trousers, a daypack, warm clothing in the early/late part of the year and hats etc during the summer. We supply a detailed packing list with your information pack. 

When is the best time of year?

The best months for walking are in the summer months between June and September when the wild flowers are in bloom and the weather is fair.  However we do offer this holiday between the months of April and October, so any time during this period will be good for walking.

Which is the best airport to fly to?

You have a choice of 3 different airports in Spain. Santander is the closest followed by Oviedo then Bilbao. All three airports are linked to Arenas de Cabrales by bus and train. For further information see our travel blog.

What happens if I can’t walk a stage?

You can use public transport or local taxis to continue to your next overnight stop.

I would like to stay more places


The app were nice to have. Used it as gps.

Leif Svendsen



An amazing experience and thoroughly enjoyed by our group.


This trip was well thought out and offered a variety of hikes to suit the weather and conditions. All descriptions of the hikes were accurate so we could plan and all arrangements worked like clockwork. The scenery was stunning!! Thank you MACS.

M the Hiker



Gorgeous Mountains and Great Accommodations


Our hiking experience was moderately challenging - particularly due to heat and a couple of days of wet weather that made for slippery footing. The trails brought us to many breathtaking settings. The trail maps and directions were very helpful. Taxi service to/from trailheads on target. Accommodations were terrific - small family hotels. S-cape Travel and Macs were great. We would highly recommend this trip. We are relatively fit hikers in our late 60's/early 70's and were able to do most of the hikes in the time frame that was suggested.

Green Mountain Sue

Vermont, US


Fabulous area and well organised tour


This is a fabulous area, with dramatic scenery and a great range of walks! Arenas and Sotres are both lovely, traditional villages, and Arenas had a good range of restaurants and bars. The route notes and maps were clear, and the inclusion of a 1:25000 map in the pack was very helpful. The hotel staff were lovely, and the rooms were clean. The Macadventure staff responded quickly to emails before we travelled, and the transfers were very smooth - the taxis to the start of some of the walks saved some tedious road walking. Although the walks to Urriellu and the Cares Gorge were very popular, we met very few people on the other days, and loved the 'undiscovered' feel of the area.

Wee Sue



A wonderful week walking in the Picos de Europa


This self guided walking holiday was very well organised by Macadventure and their partner s in Spain. We loved the mountains , amazing plant life in the high summer meadows and the always present, tinkle of cow bells and watching goats leaping on precipitous cliffs.

Susie the botanist



Loved it!


A very well organised trip, which gave us the opportunity to walk in beautiful scenery without worrying about bag transfers, getting lost or any other hassles. The Picos was a revelation, stunning and tranquil in equal measure. Days were tough enough to be challenging but we did all the walks and enjoyed them. Only downside is that northern Spain is not exactly a gourmet destination, I am not a food snob but would have liked the occasional meal which wasn't deep fried! We didn't go for the food though and overall it was an excellent trip.






It felt a million miles away from home - a fantastic respite. Beautiful weather in which to go for some very enjoyable walks. Lots of variety in the walks available - some long and a little strenuous and others which were easier if you wanted a gentler day. Our only slight disappointment would be the food - which was adequate but nothing special.




Hiking the Picos


This trip exceeded my expectations; the mountain vistas were the most beautiful I've ever seen. The hikes were challenging but what I expected in terms of moderately difficult as the description implies. I highly recommend it!




Great walking trip in beautiful unspoiled part of Spain


Great walking holiday in a beautiful and unspoiled part of Spain. Accomodation and local food was great, good mixture of walks through different scenery each day. Highly recommend this MAC's trip to anyone wanting to explore somewhere different in Europe.


Perth WA


Spain's Hidden Paradise


This area of Spain took me by surprise. I had heard it was beautiful but I was not prepared for how stunning it was especially in June. All the wild flowers were in full bloom in the high meadows and along the rocky trails to the mountains. My companion and I took much longer than the estimated walk times because we kept stopping to look at our amazing surroundings. We found the walk notes very easy to follow but in some places the paths were a bit vague and we had to use our OS map and compass. The transportation was very prompt and our goal at the end of each exhausting but happy day was a cold beer in one of the many bars in the villages. As a photographer, I could easily spend a day photographing one section of a walk. The wildlife was abundant from mighty white headed eagles soaring overhead to the humble lizard darting in and out of the rocks. We saw hardly any other people on most walks except for local goat herders. I was dreading the popular Cares Gorge walk but we got our driver to pick us up early and we were on our own most of the way. I love this area of Spain and will certainly go back one day. My experience with Macs Adventure was very positive.

Cathy Cooper



Walking in the Picos de Europa

4.8 27


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