Self Guided Walking Holidays & Cycling Holidays


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Self-guided walking holiday in the Picos de Europa
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Highlights

  • 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

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, Oviedo (124kms/1hr36) and Bilbao (230kms/2hr21) are other options. All three airports serve flights from London Stanstead.

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: 9.5km, 5 hrs, 650m ascent, 650m 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, 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: 13km, 5 hrs, 630m ascent, 895m 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: 17kms, 6.5 hrs, 1005m ascent, 1120 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: 18 km, 6.5 hrs, 755m ascent, 635m 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: 12.5 km, 6 hrs, 335m ascent, 950m descent


Overnight: Hotel La Rivera


DAY 8: Departure Day

Transfers are available from the hotel to your chosen airports. These must be booked in advance, please contact us for details.

Accommodation

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.


Meals

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 1005m. 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.


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.


Meals

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.


Equipment

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 bus or taxi (Approx 25€)to the centre of Bilbao. From Bilbao bus station take a bus to Unquera (2.5 to 3hrs). From Unquera you take a taxi to Arenas de Cabrales (45mins).


From Oviedo Airport - Take a bus or taxi to the centre of Oviedo (45mins). From Oviedo bus station take the bus to Unquera (2 hrs). From Unquera you take a taxi to Arenas de Cabrales (45mins).


From Santander Airport - Take a bus or taxi to the centre of Santander (15mins). From Santander bus station take the bus to Unquera (1hr 20mins). From Unquera take a taxi to Arenas de Cabrales (45 mins).


To Airports - There are ample bus services to the airports. A very useful website is www.alsa.es. Please bear in mind that services at the weekend are less frequent. If you have a very early flight it’s advisable to stay in the city prior to your flight the night before.


For further information please refer to our travel blog.

Included

  • 7 Nights accommodation in hotels and guesthouses
  • 7 Breakfasts
  • 4 Dinners
  • Luggage transfer (on days 3 & 7)
  • Transfers as mentioned in itinerary
  • Detailed maps and route descriptions in English
  • 24/7 emergency telephone support

Excluded

  • Lunches (pack lunches can be ordered at the accommodations)
  • Transport to first and from last accommodation
  • Travel Insurance.
  • Personal expenses such as drinks, phone calls, tips & Fenicular Railway tickets

Extras

  • 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.

REVIEW SNAPSHOT®

by PowerReviews
macs adventureWalking in the Picos de Europa
 
4.8

(based on 12 reviews)

Ratings Distribution

  • 5 Stars

     

    (10)

  • 4 Stars

     

    (2)

  • 3 Stars

     

    (0)

  • 2 Stars

     

    (0)

  • 1 Stars

     

    (0)

100%

of respondents would recommend this to a friend.

Pros

  • Well organised (11)
  • Fun (7)
  • Great accommodations (6)
  • Once in a lifetime experience (3)

Cons

No Cons

Best Uses

  • Holiday (9)
  • Trying something new (6)
    • Reviewer Profile:
    • Occasional traveller (5), Avid adventurer (4), World traveller (4)

Reviewed by 12 customers

Displaying reviews 1-10

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(2 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

 
5.0

Spectacular.

By Bernard

from Quebec, Canada

About Me Active and retired, Avid Adventurer, World Traveller

Verified Buyer

Pros

  • Breathtaking scenery
  • Fun
  • Great Accommodations
  • Once in a Lifetime Experience
  • Transfers well organized
  • Well Organised

Cons

  • Maps at times confusing

Best Uses

  • Holiday
  • Trying Something New

Comments about macs adventure Walking in the Picos de Europa:

Our first experience with Macs Adventure was a complete success. The only minimal problem we encountered was with the plans and descriptions of the walks but it was really minor compared to the pleasure we had. The Picos de Europa are absolutely stunning. The small hotels that housed us in Sotres and Arenas treated us as if we were family. The daily walks were at times difficult but so rewarding that at the end of the day, we forgot everything. We will certainly renew our experience.

(4 of 4 customers found this review helpful)

 
4.0

'Undiscovered', Peaceful and Holding Onto Tradition

By Iain

from Ayrshire, Scotland

Pros

  • Many opportunities for additional walks
  • Quiet and peaceful
  • Weather forecasts accurate
  • Well organised transfers to trail head
  • Wildlife on the hills adds to interest

Cons

    Best Uses

      Comments about macs adventure Walking in the Picos de Europa:

      We chose this walk to be slightly more akin to Scottish 'hill and glen' days and it certainly met this criteria. The Macs Notes are correct in stating you'll be walking in the high mountains where weather changes, requiring good gear selection and the 'occasional' reassurance of compass work. In September on the summit of San Carlos it had dusted with snow the previous evening! In my opinion there is no real 'edge' exposure anywhere on this holiday. Typically, all our walks would start around 9.30 am and mainly we were finished by 5 pm but we are plodders and like to fill our day on the hills. You will need a LOT of water on your hill days as there are only a very few drinkable water spouts. In early September, there were some days when we saw only Gryffon and Chamois ... no people! The route notes are the best we've ever had on a walking holiday, so good that it was only rarely necessary to refer to the accompanying maps. Expect the very occasional short section of muddy cattle trail but otherwise paths were excellent, sometimes on hard, eroded limestone, but more often on old miners trails. Breakfast and packed lunches are basic but adequate ... remember that Sotres is 3000 feet up a hillside and a good road distance from the better provisioned Arenas De Cabrales. Dinners are bounteous although some Spanish would help you ... expect the unexpected on your plate! A memorable holiday among the mountains!

       
      5.0

      A great holiday

      By Paul Kibbler

      from Exeter

      About Me Occasional Traveller

      Verified Buyer

      Pros

      • Fun
      • Well Organised

      Cons

        Best Uses

        • Holiday

        Comments about macs adventure Walking in the Picos de Europa:

        A great holiday and graded perfectly

        (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

         
        5.0

        An exhilarating challenge

        By RLBT

        from Adelaide Australia

        Verified Reviewer

        Pros

        • Once in a Lifetime Experience
        • Well Organised

        Cons

        • Exhausting

        Best Uses

        • Trying Something New

        Comments about macs adventure Walking in the Picos de Europa:

        We have had many walking tours in Europe, most through Macs Adventures. This was by far the most challenging, exacerbated by our getting off track on two occasions and adding some time and distance, and angst to the experience. Aside from that, the scenery was exceptional and the accomodation reasonable.

         
        5.0

        October in the Picos de Europa

        By Jen T-K

        from Dundee, Scotland

        About Me Occasional Traveller, Someone who enjoys walking/hiking in new areas

        Pros

        • Fun
        • Great Accommodations
        • Great range of walking/hiking routes
        • Well Organised

        Cons

          Best Uses

          • Holiday
          • Relaxation
          • Trying out new walking/hiking routes

          Comments about macs adventure Walking in the Picos de Europa:

          We chose Macs Adventures because they offered good value for money in an area of Northern Spain that we hadn't visited before. We liked the balance of having some of the organisation done for us (accommodation; transfers; choice of routes) but being self-guided once there. The holiday lived up to those expectations and the informal and accessibilty availability of S-Cape (local agents for Mac Adventures) during the week was great. The mountain locations - villages and walks - were really well situated. The hotels had comfortable beds and staff were very friendly and helpful. We added 2 nights in Oviedo at the end of our trip which was worthwhile. Early October meant that it was warm enough during the day (quite sunny) and also very quiet as it was close to the end of the season. We will return to this area for another holiday.

          (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

           
          5.0

          Stunning Picos walking

          By Hils

          from Buckinghamshire

          About Me Occasional Traveller

          Pros

          • Great Accommodations
          • Superb scenery
          • Well Organised

          Cons

            Best Uses

            • Holiday

            Comments about macs adventure Walking in the Picos de Europa:

            Loved the routes and the fact that on some of the days we could choose longer or easier routes from descriptions that helped us make decisions .

            (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

             
            5.0

            Stupendous trek

            By Robyn

            from Australia

            Verified Reviewer

            Pros

            • Well Organised

            Cons

              Best Uses

              • Trying Something New

              Comments about macs adventure Walking in the Picos de Europa:

              The self-guided hike through the Picos de Europa took full advantage of the varying terrain and vistas. The scenery was breath-taking and the walks were well-paced. I particularly liked how well the local tour contacts were supporting small local rural providers and hoteliers along the way. Although I have done multi-day treks before, this was the first time going solo and the first time in mountains. I was a bit nervous on my first day but the maps and route notes were very clear. I would recommend this tour for new and experienced hikers.

              (3 of 3 customers found this review helpful)

               
              5.0

              Picos Fun

              By DD

              from Montana

              About Me World Traveller

              Pros

              • Fun
              • Well Organised

              Cons

                Best Uses

                • Holiday

                Comments about macs adventure Walking in the Picos de Europa:

                Vacations are fun ... or great! and then you go home and you rush forward into life too busy to look back. This Picos walking trip deserves a pause for reflection and appreciation. 40 years ago I briefly visited the Picos. I spent eighteen months traveling in Europe after college, and when I drove through this mountain range in 1975 I thought I had never seen anything more beautiful. Happy to report, it hasn't changed--how rare is it to say that? We had seven sunny days of hiking at the end of September 2015. Hikes ranging from 6 miles to 18 miles (our choice) and each one a joy. The laid-back towns of Arenas and Sotres were delightful. Our group of five positively loved our quirky host at Hotel Sotres. We had great service and wonderful, hardy local fare (and the best gin & tonics, seriously). The hikes were diverse and sometimes challenging, but always doable. Macs partnership with local services was perfect. We hiked the best of best. From bracken fern covered ravines, to the rocky landscapes of Vega de Urriellu, to a spectacular epic walk from Sotres via Bulnes to Poncebos and then along the Cares Gorge. Some days SCape Travel picked us up for our transfer to the day's trailhead. They were helpful and friendly, going out of their way to help us understand the area and answer our questions. The maps and notes Macs supplied were sufficient, no real need for a GPS. We had great fun route finding. I can whole heartedly give this trip a 5-star rating.

                (2 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

                 
                5.0

                A great adventure.

                By Fussynomad

                from Wiltshire

                About Me Avid Adventurer, World Traveller

                Verified Reviewer

                Pros

                • Fun
                • Great Accommodations
                • Great Hotels
                • Well Organised

                Cons

                • Exhausting But Haappy
                • Exhausting But Happy
                • No Consider

                Best Uses

                • Holiday
                • Thrill Seeking
                • Trying Something New

                Comments about macs adventure Walking in the Picos de Europa:

                I found the experience from making the first contact with MacsAdventures to returning home a very pleasant one. Sarah Docherty handle our booking in a friendly and professional manner answering numerous phone queries with great patience.
                The hotels were of a higher standard than we expected and in great locations. The self guided walks took us through fantastic scenery with something new at every turn. I would certainly recommend MacsAdventures to family and friends.
                PS I would have liked to have submited pictures but couldn't get them to load on your site.

                 
                5.0

                Great trip

                By Jill

                from Sydney

                About Me Avid Adventurer, Mature, World Traveller

                Pros

                • Great Accommodations
                • Great Directions Provided
                • Hard Work But Rewarding
                • Walks A Good Length
                • Well Organised

                Cons

                • NONE

                Best Uses

                • Challenging Treks
                • Holiday

                Comments about macs adventure Walking in the Picos de Europa:

                The trip is very flexible. We could start the trip any time, choose what time we left in the morning and if we didn't feel like walking one day, that was up to us! (Though we did all the walks). We loved the fact that any queries were answered very promptly (before the trip); everything was terrifically efficient.

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