An incomparable mountain trek through one of Spain’s greatest secrets!
Northern Spain’s quiet Picos de Europa range is known for its superb climbing, incomparable beauty, and Spanish resistance lore. Our exclusive itinerary offers challenging hikes (shorter options available) along rocky trails, through narrow canyons and grassy meadows, beneath dramatic limestone spires, and through sleepy villages steeped in Celtic culture. Along the way, we’ll take in the regional sites of the basilica of Covadonga, the Santa Cueva, and the Paleolithic art in the cave of Tito Bustillo. Comfortable hotels, a historic parador, and a cool glass of Asturian cidra offer welcome respite after long days on the trail. Filled with its own distinct legends and culture, the Picos de Europa is a peak experience you won’t want to miss!
6 days moderate to strenuous hiking on varied, sometimes rocky, terrain (maximum elevation 8,300')
- Hike the Picos de Europa, a hidden gem, on this MTS exclusive trek
- Enjoy dramatic views of stunning, lunar-like limestone spires, deep gorges, narrow canyons, and flowery meadows
- Explore ancient hill villages only accessible by foot and taste local delights such as Rosa’s Cabrales cheese, unique to this region
Duration: 8 days Start Location: Oviedo End Location: OviedoDownload Detailed Itinerary
Day 1 : Arrive in Oviedo, Spain
Arrive in Asturias and meet with the group and trip leader at the airport around 1:30 p.m. (If you have arrived early, you’ll be picked up at your hotel.) Transfer to Cangas de Onís (820'), where we spend the night in the Parador de Cangas de Onís, a beautiful, historic hotel that was formerly the 12th-century Monasterio de San Pedro de Villanueva. The parador is an ideal setting from which we can begin to explore the Asturian landscape. In the late afternoon we will visit the neo-Romanesque basilica of Covadonga and the Santa Cueva, where the 18th-century statue of the patron saint of Asturias (the “Santina”) is housed along with the tombs of Pelayo and Alfonso I. (1 hour hiking.)
Day 2 : Posada de Valdeón
Drive 45 minutes along the river Sella to Soto de Sajambre (2,950'), a small village at the foot of the south face of Peña Santa Maria de Enol (8,128') and in an area of beech forests. We begin hiking on a good trail to Collado El Frade, an ascent of about 2,500 feet. Descend to the Vega de Llos and along an easy trail to Valdeón (3,080'), a valley between the two large massifs of the Picos de Europa. (7 hours hiking ~ 11 miles ~ 3,200' ascent and descent.)
Day 3 : Day Hike
Today we do a roundtrip hike from the hotel and explore the Central Massif of the Picos. We follow a trail to the town of Cordiñanes, then start ascending La Rienda, a steep trail cut into the rock. After an hour and a half, we reach the Asotin beech forest, and after another hour, the Vega de Asotin, a huge meadow in the center of a cirque of mountains, including El Llambrion and El Friero. We continue to Hoyo de los Lagos for lunch. In the afternoon we climb an hour to the Horcada de la Chavida (7,400'). From there, we descend to the main valley and return to the hotel. An easier five-hour hiking option will be offered. (8 hours hiking ~ 10 miles ~ 4,000' ascent and descent.)
Day 4 : Cares Gorge – Sotres
We hike past the villages of Cordiñanes and Cain, where the gorge formed by the Cares River and the big peaks of the Picos becomes very narrow. The trail, though easy and well-marked, is often only a few yards wide, with peaks soaring 2,000 to 3,000 feet above the canyon. In places, it’s cut out of the sheer cliffs, so the walk is exciting. This trail forms a boundary between Covadonga National Park on the west and the Central Massif of the Picos, an area of rocky summits dominated by the towering peak of Naranjo de Bulnes. The Asturians are avid mountaineers, and this hike is one of their favorites. After three hours, we arrive at the village of Poncebos (715'), where we have lunch in a local restaurant.
After lunch, those who wish can proceed directly to Sotres by van. The rest of the group will ascend La Canal del Tejo, following the Río Bulnes. We start with a steep ascent (3,200 feet) up a limestone canyon, well-defined and traveled regularly by hikers and local villagers. The trail gradually opens up and we hike a few more miles through meadows and small farms into Bulnes (2,100'), a village nestled in the woods. It was in this area of isolated farms and peaks that members of the Spanish resistance to Franco hid out for decades after the civil war. As brown burros wander past the gray stone houses, Bulnes seems far removed from modern Spain. We’ll have a snack while visiting the town, then continue hiking across an open valley to the Collado Pandebano (3,960'). From there, we descend to the village of Sotres (3,600') by an easy trail. (3 – 4 hours hiking ~ 4 – 6 miles ~ optional 5 – 6 hours ~ 6 – 8 miles ~ 3,200' ascent ~ 650' descent.)
Day 5 : Hike to Aliva
A long but great hiking day takes us across the Central Massif of the Picos de Europa. These are the highest mountains in the area, and their rocky spires attract thousands of rock climbers every year. We retrace our steps to Pandebano, then ascend through narrow canyons up into the heart of the spectacular snow-capped Picos. We gradually leave the trees behind and ascend more steeply into a truly alpine landscape as we approach the towering and distinctive peak of Naranjo de Bulnes (8,262'), a favorite climbing objective and affectionately known by locals as “El Picu.” After three hours we arrive at the base of Naranjo de Bulnes, where we have lunch at the Vega de Urriello (6,500'), a mountain hut located below the west face of the impressive peak. After lunch we hike up to Horcados Rojos (7,590'), our high point for the day, with an optional scramble to Pico Tesorero (8,300'), then descend along a good trail to Fuente De and the Aliva meadows (5,085'). (8 hours hiking ~ 12 miles ~ 4,500' ascent ~ 2,000' descent.)
Day 6 : Aliva
Today we have two hiking options. One is an easy hike on gentle terrain to the south valley of the Picos, passing through the villages of Espinama and Pido, then taking the cable car teleferique back to the Hotel de Aliva (5 hours hiking ~ 8 miles ~ 650' ascent ~ 2500' descent). The other option is a longer and more challenging hike (8 – 9 hours roundtrip ~ 10 miles ~ 2,600' ascent and descent) from the hotel to the magnificent overview at the Collado Jermoso, with an optional ascent of Pico de la Padiorna (7,500'). The trail crosses part of the Central Massif and is on fairly good terrain but there is no trail in some sections. It’s a great option for those wanting one last strenuous hike with spectacular mountain views.
Day 7 : Ribadesella
An easy three-hour morning hike (6 miles ~ 1,640' descent) through the Duje River valley returns us to Sotres, where we have lunch. Vehicles will pick us up for the one-hour trip to the coastal town of Ribadesella, where we will visit the nearby cave of Tito Bustillo, with its outstanding Paleolithic art. The remainder of the afternoon is free to explore on your own. There will be a memorable seafood dinner at a local restaurant tonight. (9½ miles ~ 3,300' ascent ~ 4,600' descent).
Day 8 : Departure
Morning transfers will be provided to the Asturias airport. Some flights depart very early and we can provide an early transfer for you. It just means you will need to wake early as the drive to the airport takes 1½ hours.
DATES: Best time to go: August - September Departures: Aug 23 - 30, 2015 Can be done back to Back with Across the Pyrenees (PVP) August 15, 2015
Parador de Cangas de OnísCangas de Onís
Luxury four star hotel in a twelfth century monastery which was declared a National Monument in 1907
This former monastery on the banks of the river Sella has been extended by a recent wing blending harmoniously with the architectural and constructional qualities.
The Parador hotel, with its modern and comfortable installations, is the ideal place to admire the Asturian landscape. From here enjoy the characteristic fiestas, the ancestral folklore, and taste the best and most genuine of its rich gastronomic recipes.
From this National Monument, the San Pedro de Villanueva Monastery, you can reach many wonders such as the Picos de Europa (Peaks of Europe) range of mountains, the Covadonga Mountain and the nearby river Sella.
Hotel Cumbres de ValdeónPosada de Valdeón
Gran Hotel del SellaRibadesella, Spain
Situated right on the Santa Marina beach, the Gran Hotel del Sella is an open gallery to all the beautiful natural surroundings. The hotel is divided in two parts, reflecting Ribadesella's past and present. It has the prestige of its history as it was the former summer palace of the Marquises of Argüelles.
Properties shown are representative of the accommodations we use on this trip, may not be inclusive of all accommodations we use, and are subject to change.
Expert leadership is the key to an exciting, unforgettable experience. Our trips feature gifted leaders for whom leading trips is a true vocation. Besides showing you wonders you’d never find on your own, they make sure everything runs smoothly and safely without a hitch. They are knowledgeable about all aspects of your trip, and take great pleasure in sharing their insights with you. More than just guides, they positively elevate your experience by being teachers, companions, and the best of friends. You’ll be in good hands with them every step of the way.
Erik was born and raised in Asturias, Region of Northern Spain, with the big range of Mountains called Picos de Europa and Cordillera Cantabrica. He is an accomplished climber (climbing Mont Blanc numerous times), backcountry and downhill skier. Erik has been with MTS since 1989 and has received his certification to be a IFMGA/UIAGM guide which is the highest professional award attainable in mountaineering. He has written two guidebooks on hikes and climbs in the Picos de Europa. Erik studied Humanities at the University of Oviedo, Capital city of Asturias and received a Masters degree in History.