fbpx
Skip to content
Picos de Europa Circuit

Picos de Europa Circuit

Overview

One of the most impressive mountain ranges in Spain, the Picos de Europa is a region of dramatic limestone peaks and lush valleys, a real walker’s paradise. This epic self guided trek traverses all three massifs of the Picos, taking you on an unforgettable journey through jagged limestone mountains providing magnificent scenery and a rich variety of flora, fauna and wildlife.

  • Diverse walks in Spain’s oldest national park
  • Traverse all three massifs of the Picos de Europa
  • Traditional mountain villages in the valleys of Green Spain
  • The Cares Gorge
  • Incredible wildlife including Chamois, Golden eagles and Griffon vultures
  • Stay in simple but charming accommodations, hand-picked for their food and character
  • Tasty regional dishes made from local produce
  • Delicious Cabrales blue cheese and sparkling Asturian apple cider

Click to view map

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Arenas de Cabrales

The nearest airports to the Picos de Europa are Oviedo-Ranón (OVD), also known as Asturias airport, Santander (SDR) and Bilbao (BIO), and there are excellent bus connections to the tour starting point. Settle into your comfortable hotel located in the village centre. Time to try the local cider on one of the terraces or visit Santa Maria de Llas Church of Romanesque origin.

  • Overnight in Arenas de Cabrales (La Rivera or similar)

Day 2:  Circular walk from Arenas | 10-11.5 km

Ascent to the summer meadows of Nava, situated 500 m above the Cares River with excellent views of the Picos. A strenuous but very rewarding walk, especially in early summer when the meadows display a multitude of brightly coloured flowers. Option of doing an alternative shorter walk through the shady countryside at a lower elevation.

  • Walking for the day: 11.5 km, 5 hours, ↑650 m ↓650 m or 10 km, 3.5 hours, ↑410 m ↓410 m (shorter option)
  • Overnight in Arenas de Cabrales (La Rivera or similar)

Day 3: The Cares Gorge | 12-22 km

An absolute classic, this stunning route is among the most famous in the area for a reason. Your day starts off with a 5-min transfer to the start of the walk. You will walk on a good footpath, used to maintain a 12-km channel which feeds the hydroelectric station in Poncebos. After a short but steep ascent of 150m on a zig-zagging trail, the path then levels off and you continue the rest of the way to Caín. From there, you have the choice of continuing another 8 km up the valley or taking a taxi (not included) to your hotel in Posada de Valdeón.

  • Walking for the day: 22 km, 7 hours, ↑800 m ↓125 m (shorter option with taxi transfer: 12 km, 3.5 hours, ↑300 m ↓50 m)
  • Overnight in Posada de Valdeón (Hotel Picos de Europa or similar)

Day 4: Valdeón Circular Walk | 14-18 km

Today is a bit more relaxed, as you do a circular nature walk in the wooded surroundings near Valdeón. At mid-day, you reach a shepherd’s refuge on the north side of the Picos’ western massif: Vega de Llos (1545 m), an excellent place to stop for a rest. If you’re aching for an even better panorama, there is an option for continuing on up to El Frade pass (1785 m), for sweeping views all the way to the sea.

  • Walking for the day: 14 km, 5 hours, ↑650 m ↓650 m; to reach El Frade Pass add 4 km, 1.5 hours, ↑200 m ↓200 m
  • Overnight in Posada de Valdeón (Hotel Picos de Europa or similar)

Day 5: Valdeón to Espinama via Liordes | 17-18 km

Today’s route starts off with an ascent on the historic traders’ path, el Camín del Mercadillo, which leads from Posada de Valdeón to Liébana. After 7 km of walking with 800 m ascents, you reach the meadowlands at Caben Remoña, situated on the border between the provinces of León and Cantabria. Here you have the choice of walking straight on down to Espinama (9 km with 900m descent) or taking the spectacular high route via Vega de Liordes down to Fuente Dé (then by bus or taxi 3.5 km to your hotel). If you have booked luggage transport, there’s the option of riding for the first 5 km with your bags (thus saving 500 m in ascent).

  • Walking for the day: 18 km, 8-9 hours, ↑1270 m ↓1120 m or 17 km, 6-7 hours, ↑850 m ↓900 m (shorter option)
  • Overnight in Espinama (Hostal Nevandi or similar)

Day 6: Horcados Rojos or Visit Potes | 17-18 km

Option of taking a rest day today, to relax in the hotel garden by the pool or doing a day-trip to nearby Potes, a lovely village with a historic Medieval centre. If you prefer to walk, you first take the bus to Fuente Dé (1100 m) and ride the cable car up to 1835 m. There you begin a spectacular route up to Horcados Rojos, an impressive vista point with splendid views of the Picos and far beyond. You also have the option of a shorter walk, on rural tracks and footpaths through woodlands in Espinama Valley.

  • Walking for the day (optional): 18 km, 6 hours, ↑550 m ↓725 m or 17 km, 6-7 hours, ↑850 m ↓900 m (shorter option)
  • Overnight in Espinama (Hostal Nevandi or similar)

Day 7: Espinama to Sotres | 17 km

A long but technically easy walk, first along footpaths through woodlands near Pembes, then on farming tracks to Áliva Pass (1645 m). You then follow a glacier moraine down the Duje River valley to reach Sotres. At 1050 m, this is the highest village in the Picos, making an ideal base for some excellent walking routes. After a long day, the end of your route is a stimulating 150 m ascent to reach Sotres.

  • Walking for the day: 17 km, 7-8 hours, ↑925 m ↓775 m
  • Overnight in Sotres (Hotel Sotres or similar)

Day 8: Circular Walk in Ándara – Pico San Carlos | 12-18 km

After a short transfer, you start a beautiful and varied route in the Eastern Massif known as Andara. The first section follows a historic mining track into the heart of the massif. You then continue on to reach an elevation of 2215 m. Descent via cattle trails, back down to your hotel in Sotres.

  • Walking for the day: 12 km, 5-6 hours, ↑550 m ↓840 m; to reach Pico San Carlos add 6 km, 3 hours, ↑500 m ↓500 m
  • Overnight in Sotres (Hotel Sotres or similar)

Day 9: Circular Walk via Tresviso | 14 km

Today’s route is shorter. After a short car transfer, you will walk through fields of heather and ancient oakwoods to reach the nearby village of Tresviso. Along the way, enjoy stunning views down into the Urdón Gorge, and you may have a chance of hearing the characteristic laughing call of the rare capercaillie.

  • Walking for the day: 14 km, 5-6 hours, ↑500 m ↓700 m or 6 km, 2-3 hours, ↑300 m ↓300 m (shorter option)
  • Overnight in Sotres (Hotel Sotres or similar)

Day 10: Sotres to Vega de Urriellu | 12 km

Today you will take in another highlight; the route takes you up to the legendary Picu Urriellu – also called Naranjo de Bulnes – a stunning peak and a mecca for world-class rock climbers. You first take farming tracks from Sotres up to Pandébano Col. Then you follow a footpath up into the lunar landscapes at the heart of the central massif, home to chamois and alpine choughs.

If you have booked luggage transfer, please note that for your overnight stay here at the refuge you’ll carry just the things you need for the day, while your luggage is transported directly to the next hotel as the refuge is not accessible by car.

Important: Early in the season, snow can be an issue. If the event that the hut cannot be reached, the alternative programme includes a circular walk to nearby Tielve and one more overnight stay in Sotres. 

Day 11: Urriellu to Poncebos via Bulnes | 10 km

Your last day of walking explores yet another facet of the Picos as you traverse a steep footpath down Camburero Gorge to reach the remote village of Bulnes (no road access). You then continue to descend through the Teju Gorge to reach Poncebos, coming full circle back to the start of your trek. Early in the season, today’s descent may be impracticable due to water level from snow run-off. The alternate route goes by way of Pandébano. Short transfer to your hotel in Arenas de Cabrales.

  • Walking for the day: 10 km, 5-6 hours, ↑50 m ↓1900 m
  • Overnight in Arenas de Cabrales (La Rivera or similar)

Day 12: Departure

Your trip comes to an end today after breakfast.

What to Expect

Accommodation

Accommodation is in simple but charming hotels, country inns and mountain huts as described in the itinerary. Most of them have private en-suite rooms (the only exception being Refugio Vega de Urriellu on Day 10 where accommodation is in dormitories with shared facilities) and they all offer a warm welcome to walkers, traditional hospitality and delicious local food. We have carefully hand-picked all places and regularly monitor their quality. We have tried to choose accommodations that offer friendly service, clean and comfortable rooms and local flavour.

Click to view default hotels

Hotels are subject to availability. In case a particular hotel is fully booked for your desired dates, we will replace it with a hotel of equal or higher value and quality level. We will provide exact accommodation details to you upon booking confirmation.

Meals

All breakfasts and six dinners are included in the programme. Lunch packs can be pre-ordered at the hotels, or you can buy food in the villages along the way.

Difficulty & terrain

The walking sections require excellent fitness level; there are some steep descents and ascents. The hike includes varied terrain, following jeep tracks, wide paths, narrow footpaths and animal trails. You will walk on gravel, loose rock, grass and dirt. When wet, paths may be muddy and slippery. On some days, there are a couple of exposed sections that would not be suitable for those who suffer from vertigo (read more about difficulty grades). The routes on this trip are generally well marked, but marking can be poor in places, and you will need to follow the route notes and maps provided by us. 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. We strongly advise you to follow the trails and never shorten the path through the unknown and unmarked terrain. We will provide you with detailed road notes and maps, and you can call our 24/7 local assistance phone number anytime. More detailed info on route navigation will be included in your holiday information pack.

When to go

You can start on any day of the week, subject to availability, between mid-May and the end of October. The flexibility of self guided holidays means that there are no fixed dates, and you can start your trip on any date during the season. Whilst sudden mists are common, they usually burn off by mid-day. As with all mountainous areas and particularly because of the mountains’ proximity 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.

Getting there

FCO up-to-date travel advice

Click to view travel options

By plane

Our recommended airports for this tour are Oviedo-Ranón (OVD), also known as Asturias airport, Santander (SDR) and Bilbao (BIO).

By train or bus
  • Arrival in Arenas de Cabrales from Oviedo Airport: Take a bus or taxi to the centre of Oviedo (45 min). From Oviedo bus station take the bus to Unquera (2 hrs). From Unquera you take a taxi to Arenas de Cabrales (45 min).
  • 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 3 hrs). From Unquera you take a taxi to Arenas de Cabrales (45 min).
  • 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).
  • Departure from Arenas de Cabrales to Oviedo Airport: On your final day, take a taxi from Arenas de Cabrales back to Unquera. From Unquera, take a bus back to Oviedo (2 hrs). Take a bus or taxi from the centre of Oviedo (45 mins) to the airport.
  • To Bilbao Airport: On your final day, take a taxi from Arenas de Cabrales back to Unquera. From Unquera, take a bus back to Bilbao (2.5 to 3 hrs). Take a bus or taxi (approx. 25€) from the centre of Bilbao to the airport.
  • To Santander Airport: On your final day, take a taxi from Arenas de Cabrales back to Unquera. From Unquera, take a bus back to Santander (1hr 20min). Take a bus or taxi from the centre of Santander (15 mins) to the airport.
  • For further information, timetables and tickets, visit Alsa or use the Omio planner above.

Inclusions

Included

  • 10 nights in simple but charming hotels in private en-suite rooms
  • 1 night in a mountain refuge (dorm rooms, shared facilities)
  • 11 breakfasts
  • 6 dinners
  • Detailed digital holiday information pack including GPS-checked and regularly updated route descriptions, road notes and maps. Please note that the info pack is emailed to you prior to departure, and no printed documents are mailed or provided on-site.
  • Transfers on Days 3, 8, 9 and 11 according to the programme
  • 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative

Excluded

  • Airfare and connecting land transfers
  • Lunches, 5 dinners, drinks and snacks
  • Luggage transfers
  • Bus ticket on Day 5
  • Cable car ticket on Day 6
  • Travel insurance (required – get a quote online)
  • Personal expenses
  • Local tourist taxes and entry fees (payable on-site)
  • Any items not explicitly listed as included

Options, extras & supplements

  • A supplement applies to members of a group who require a single room
  • This holiday is available for solo travellers; a supplement will be charged as accommodation and luggage transfer costs are not shared (we never mix and match – solo travellers will be accommodated in single rooms). You must be very experienced and fit if you want to do this tour solo!
  • Optional luggage transfers on all walking days (Hotel to hotel luggage transfers on walking days are NOT included by default, but you can book them at an additional cost (maximum one piece of 20 kg per person). In this case, please note that for your overnight stay on Day 10 at the refuge, you’ll carry just the things you need for the day, while your luggage will be transported directly to the next hotel as the refuge is not accessible by car.)
  • Extra nights along the trail are bookable upon request
  • Airport transfers are bookable upon request

Gallery

Reviews