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Picos de Europa Highlights

Picos de Europa Highlights

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 moderate-grade self guided holiday will take you through jagged limestone mountains providing magnificent scenery and a rich variety of flora, fauna and wildlife. You will stay in two charming hotels and enjoy a flexible programme with many walking choices.

  • Diverse walks in Spain’s oldest national park
  • Traditional mountain villages in the valleys of Green Spain
  • Incredible wildlife including Chamois, Golden eagles and Griffon vultures
  • The famous peak Picu Urriellu
  • Stay in charming hotels, hand-picked for their food and character
  • Tasty regional dishes made from local produce
  • Delicious Cabrales blue cheese and sparkling Asturian apple cider
  • A flexible programme with many walking choices

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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.

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 (Hotel Picos de Europa or similar)

Day 3: Tielve to Sotres | 9 km

Short transfer to Tielve, one of the most authentic villages in this part of the Picos. Walk to Valfríu, where residents still produce the famous local blue cheese, Queso de Cabrales. A gradual ascent through a fairy-tale landscape of heather, old beech woods and streams to a pass at 1240 m, then down to Sotres (1050 m), one of the highest villages in the Picos de Europa.

  • Walking for the day: 9 km, 3-4 hours, ↑570 m ↓250 m
  • Overnight in Sotres (Hotel Sotres or similar)

Day 4: The Eastern Massif | 12-18.5 km

A circular walk through the Eastern Massif of Picos. Enjoy the limestone landscapes of sharp ridges, deep depressions with brightly coloured alpine flora among the rocks. There is a good chance of seeing chamois, vultures and different types of eagles. You have several options to shorten or extend your walk.

  • Walking for the day: 18.5 km, 8-9 hours, ↑1045 m ↓1335 m or 12 km, 5-6 hours, ↑550 m ↓840 m (shorter option)
  • Overnight in Sotres (Hotel Sotres or similar)

Day 5: Sotres to Vega de Urriellu | 14.5-19 km

This spectacular route takes you up to the mountain hut at Vega de Urriellu, situated at the foot of the impressive Picu Urriellu called ‘el Naranjo de Bulnes’. You start off with a transfer to Pandébano Col (elevation 1240 m). From there, you begin a steep ascent along a stone footpath into a lunar landscape of outstanding beauty. This is the very heart of the Picos de Europa, home to chamois, vultures and alpine choughs. Once at the hut, after a well-deserved rest and time to properly admire the peak, you retrace your steps – down to Pandébano Col – and continue walking back to Sotres.

*In spring and autumn, snow may prevent you from doing the walk up to the refuge. In that case, today and tomorrow you will choose from the walking routes offered for Day 6.

  • Walking for the day: 19 km, 7 hours, ↑1000 m ↓1000 m or 14.5 km, 5-6 hours, ↑840 m ↓840 m (shorter option)
  • Overnight in Sotres (Hotel Sotres or similar)

Day 6: Choice of Walks from Sotres | 6-18 km

Today you choose from three different walks:

  • Option 1: The first option is The Capercaillie Route, a demanding but rewarding and varied circular walk through meadows and beech woods near Tresviso, with views deep down into the Urdón Gorge and quiet woodlands where you might hear the call of this rare bird – the ‘urogallo’.
  • Walking for the day: 18 km, 6-7 hours, ↑635 m ↓635 m
  • Option 2: Valle de Áliva is a technically easier walk to the summer meadows of Áliva and back, exploring an interesting glacier valley at elevations of up to 1650m, beneath impressive limestone walls of the Central and Eastern Massifs. Half-way you can stop for a rest on the terrace at the Hotel Refugio de Áliva, enjoying the extraordinary views.
  • Walking for the day: 14 km, 5-6 hours, ↑500 m ↓700 m
  • Option 3: The last option is a circular walk from Sotres, a relaxing shorter walk, which starts directly from your hotel and takes you through woodlands and fields in the peaceful area around Sotres.
  • Walking for the day: 6 km, 2 hours, ↑300 m ↓300 m
  • Overnight in Sotres (Hotel Sotres or similar)

Day 7: Sotres to Poncebos or Cares Gorge | 13-23 km

Your last day will be spent doing a short ascent up to Pandébano Col, followed by a long descent on all kinds of footpaths. This beautiful route takes you from Sotres up to the pass, then down to Bulnes. This authentic village, nestled among peaks, can only be reached on foot or (since 2001) by a funicular railway. Once in Bulnes, you can either take the funicular down to Poncebos or continue another 1.5 to 2 hours on foot – through the spectacular Texu Gorge. From Poncebos, you take the local bus (payment in cash to the driver) to Arenas de Cabrales, where you will overnight. NB! If the bus is not running, we will arrange a private transfer for you.

Alternatively, you can spend the day walking the Cares Gorge – a mostly flat, out-and-back walk.

  • Walking for the day: 23 km, 7-8 hours, ↑600 m ↓600 m or 13 km, 5 hours, ↑425 m ↓1100 m (shorter option)
  • Overnight in Arenas de Cabrales (Hotel Picos de Europa or similar)

Day 8: Departure

Your trip comes to an end today after breakfast.

What to Expect

Accommodation

Accommodation is in two charming hotels. They both have private en-suite rooms and 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 4 dinners at hotel Sotres 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. Dinners in Arenas are available at nearby restaurants or at your hotel.

Difficulty & terrain

The walking sections require a good 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 days 5 and 7, there are also a couple of exposed sections that would not suit those who suffer from vertigo. Still, we have provided alternative routes to avoid these sections (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 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 mountain’s 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

  • 7 nights in country hotels in private en-suite rooms
  • 7 breakfasts
  • 4 dinners in Sotres
  • 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.
  • Luggage transfers on days 3 & 7 (1 piece up to 20 kg per person)
  • Transfers on Day 3 with a shared car; private transfers on days 4, 5 & 6. Private transfer Poncebos-Arenas on day 7 is included only if the bus is not running
  • 24/7 phone assistance by our local office/representative

Excluded

  • Airfare and connecting land transfers
  • Lunches, dinners in Arenas, drinks and snacks
  • Local transport
  • 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).
  • Extra nights along the trail are bookable upon request
  • Airport transfers are bookable upon request

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