Rising like a fortress from the Atlantic coast of northern Spain, the Picos de Europa offers something special in Western Europe. Local guide Ana Rodríguez Garcia describes the appeal of hiking through these majestic mountains.
This relatively unknown mountain range encompasses some 700 sq. km of jagged peaks and deep canyons. Some of the isolated villages in the remotest valleys do not have road access. The flora and fauna also surprises here, with wolves and bears still roaming wild. The area was the first National Park to be designated in Spain - and it’s easy to see why.
Browse trips run by our local travel partners
Ana Rodríguez Garcia runs the Peak Me language school in the Picos de Europa, offering a unique combination of Spanish courses and walking trips into the Picos de Europa National Park. The most popular course is the “Walk & Talk”, a mix of fun Spanish lessons for all abilities with some of the best walking and hiking you’ll find. With the school being situated right in the...
The most famous route. The majority of the 12km path has been carved into the side of the of the 1.5km-deep canyon through the middle of the range. The walk is relatively flat, yet dramatic, with amazing views and a crystal-blue river at its base. Most people start in Poncebos and walk to the mountain village of Cain for a refreshing beer before heading back. Navigation is very easy. This walk can get busy in peak periods.
The best known peak of the range and a Mecca for Spanish climbers. There are several routes, however the best option is to start from Pandebano and head up the obvious path. Once at the base of the peak there is a path down to the remote village of Bulnes. To complete the triangle there is a third path back to Pandebano. The walk will last about 8 hours and involves 1,200 metres of assent/decent. You'll need a good map and some climbing experience.
Located near the town of Potes, Fuente Dé has a cable car taking the less intrepid walker straight from their car to just under 2,000 metres on the side of a mountain cliff. The views from the top are amazing and the 700-metre ride up itself is an experience!
From the top there are many walking routes: one favourite leads to the Naranjo de Bulnes from the southern side. This walk is fairly easy going with a well-marked path, however you will need to be able to read a map.
For those looking for something more sporting there are two fantastic via ferratas. These routes climb straight up the vertiginous canyon cliffs, giving amazing views. The via ferrata in La Hermida is special, with a 40-metre three-cable bridge crossing, and a 120-metre-wide suspension bridge (think Indiana Jones without the crocodiles). Guides and equipment can be provided by appointment, or if you have the relevant experience and equipment you can go alone for free.
We are letting you in on a little secret of our area. There are a few fell races, such as the Travesera de Picos, but this one is probably the most charismatic and charming. The 7km race departs just above Arenas de Cabrales. After the event, a fiesta is set up by the organisers, with goat kid cooked on an open fire (cabrito a la estaca), an infinite supply of local cider and live folk music. When you’re done eating and drinking in a field, you can pay what you think is fair. So nice…
Best times to go:
When to go? I was guiding a group from Australia when I was asked why the Picos wasn't spoilt like other areas of Spain: the answer is simple...it can rain! When it does, it is not on the plains, it's on the Picos.
Recent summers have been fantastic, but sunny weather is not guranteed at any time of year. My personal favourite months are March, April, May, September and October. The colours of spring and autum are amazing and the wildlife tends to be at its most active at these times. The summer months are great, too: however it can get pretty hot at lower levels. Remember to take water when hiking as there is very little high in the mountains.
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