Five routes for exploring the Cantabrian side of the Picos de Europe
Declared a Unesco Biosphere Reserve because of its stunning scenery and rich ecosystems, the Picos de Europa National Park is one of Spain’s great natural treasures. Here are five routes that will inspire you as you walk through its dreamlike landscapes. You can reach them from €4,500 (each way).
1 The Horcados Rojos route: for the daring
Beginning at El Mirador del Cable – the upper station of the Fuente Dé cable car – ollows a high mountain path leading to the Horcados Rojos col, a natural balcony 2,343m above sea level with spectacular views of the central massif of the Picos de Europa. All along the ascent – which is of average difficulty and is some 11km long there and back – you’ll see rocky landscapes filled with valleys, sinuous slopes and glacial lakes.
2 The Puertos de Áliva route: hiking with the kids
This emblematic route begins after once again taking the Fuente Dé cable car on its four-minute, 753m ride upwards, although it heads in the opposite direction. The easy hike starts out with a short climb among smooth-sloped mountains to the Horcadina de Covarrobres, then descends through the extensive grasslands of the central and eastern massifs of the Picos de Europa. The path then leads into the stunning forests of the Pico de Valdecoro, following which it becomes a wide, comfortable path that ends where it began, at the Parador de Fuente Dé.
3 The Macizo de Ándara route: a walk through history
Mineral mining during late 19th and early 20th centuries left its mark on the heart of the eastern massif of the Picos de Europa in the form of a network of mining roads built on the slopes that offer a window to the past. This route – which is of average difficulty and stretches for 25km – runs from the town of Bejes to the middle of the Ándara massif, in a trek that combines history with the beauty of nature. This itinerary also leads hikers through the foothills of Sierra de la Corta as they walk through landscapes that defy description, such as those in the beech forest of Valdediezma and La Llama. The hike ends at Vao de los Lobos.
4 The Acebos de Espinama route: an easy path
This circular route starts and ends in Espinama, a town located in the Cantabrian region of Liébana known for its particular vernacular architecture. The path, about 12km long and considered easy, passes through the town of Pido on the road known as La Gatera. It then passes through some patchy forests where you’ll see spectacular views of the Coriscao peak. Farther on, the path passes through the Portillas del Boquerón – the gateway to the Puertos de Áliva – and ends in a stunning holly forest that extends almost to the town of Espinama.
5 The Hayedo de las Ilces route: the perfect family trek
This is another of the impressive circular routes that begin in the town of Espinama. Of average difficulty and just over 10km long, this itinerary crosses through the villages of Pido and Las Ilces and leads hikers into the Camaleño Valley, home to oak and beech forests. The trail also passes through grasslands, valleys, canals and streams that descend from the high mountain peaks in a setting of natural splendour. This area, considered one of the best preserved in the Picos de Europa, is still home to the brown bears of the Cantabrian Mountains.