Current as of: July 23, 2024 - 19:16

Walking the Picos de Europa

Walking the Picos de Europa Trip Notes

  • Ways to Travel: Guided Group, Private Group Adventures
  • Destination: Spain
  • Programmes: Walking & Trekking
  • Activity Level:

    3 out of 7 - Moderate

  • 8 Days: Flight Inclusive
  • 8 Days: Land Only
  • Ages: 16+
  • Trip Code: TSQ
  • Carbon Footprint: 13kg CO2e

Trip Overview

Discover a hiker’s paradise in northern Spain, where golden eagles soar among towering mountains 

Explore a mountainous landscape ruled by golden eagles and griffon vultures on a walking adventure through the Picos de Europa in northern Spain. Guided by an expert tour leader, we trek through limestone peaks and lush valleys, summiting mountains to gaze over the oldest national park in the country. In the evenings, we return to our welcoming base: the family-run Hotel Torrecerredo, where we can marvel at the highest peaks from the bar and restaurant.  

If you want to test yourself, join one of our Activity Level 5 (Challenging) departures. See the Itinerary and Dates & Prices tab for more details. 

At a Glance

  • Seven nights at the Hotel Torrecerredo
  • Five days centre-based walking; one free day
  • Group normally 4 to 15, plus local leader. Minimum age: 16
  • Altitude maximum 7,264ft (2,214m); average: 3,281ft (1,000m)
  • Challenging departures available on selected dates
  • Reasonable fitness required
  • Option to travel by train to your adventure

Highlights

  • Diverse walks in and around the oldest national park in Spain
  • Incredible wildlife including chamois, golden eagles and griffon vultures
  • Traditional mountain villages in the valleys of Green Spain
  • Family-run hotel with stunning panoramic views

Is This Trip for You?

This trip is Activity Level 3 (Moderate) with five walking days. For more information on our trip gradings please visit the Activity Level Guidelines page. If you have any queries about the difficulty of the trip please do not hesitate to contact us.

The walking is varied and spectacular, with superb scenery at the higher levels.

Over the course of the week, we tackle two classic gorges and one peak in each of the three massifs in the Picos de Europe. Most of the walking is on shepherds’ paths, disused mining paths and some sections of Roman roads, although final ascents can be quite rough underfoot.

We will be walking mountain paths throughout, and this trip is not advised for severe vertigo sufferers or those uncomfortable with steep drops.

The majority of the trip departures are Level 3 (Moderate). However, we also offer a selection of departures as Level 5 (Challenging), if you wish to ascend the higher peaks. It is important to be assured of your fitness on these departures.

As in all mountain ranges, the weather is unpredictable and this may affect several walks. With changeable weather, it should be expected that on rare occasions higher-level walks may not be available. Your leader will always try to find a suitable alternative.

Adult min age: 16

Min group size: 4

Max group size: 15

Itinerary

Map TSQ

Land Only

  • Start City: Arenas de Cabrales
  • End City: Arenas de Cabrales

Land Only Itinerary

Day 1
Start Arenas de Cabrales
Walking the Picos de Europa

The small but endearing town of Arenas de Cabrales acts as a major gateway to the Picos de Europa. It’s here we gather at the hotel. When everyone’s arrived, we’ll have a welcome briefing – an excellent chance to meet the group and leader.

Meals included: Dinner

Day 2
Visit the Arenas de Cabrales valley; pastures of Vanu and spectacular views – Level 3 (Moderate) departure

The walk begins directly from our hotel. After leaving the village, a path leads us up to the pastures of Vanu with the most famous peaks of Picos de Europa visible on sunny days.

We continue onwards where the scenery changes and we can view across the main valley of Cabrales. In spring, it’s possible to see a large variety of flowers. Looking skywards it is also possible to spot some vultures soaring above.

For lunch, we will approach the village of Inguanzo before completing the final part of the walk. This section is more undulating and provides us with fresh views; a comfortable last mile takes us back to Arenas de Cabrales.

Most of this first day’s walk follows wide easy tracks for warming up with some steep ascents. There is only a short section of downhill walking.

Distance: 10mi (16km); ascent: 2,395ft (730m); descent: 2,395ft (730m); duration: seven hours; highest point: Los Fresnos col at 2,362ft (720m) above sea level

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Classic Cares Gorge Walk, one of the most popular walks in Spain – Level 5 (Challenging) departure
Walking the Picos de Europa

See day 4 of Level 3 (Moderate) itinerary description for further details.

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 3
Ascent to Pandescura peak with superb views of the western massif – Level 3 (Moderate) departure
Walking the Picos de Europa

A short transfer takes us to the village of Canales. The first part of the day follows farm tracks before a short climb up to the Collado de los Buitres. If you are lucky, you may see griffon vultures soaring above. We then follow open terrain, slowly ascending to the base of the Pandescura peak. A simple ascent to the top will lead us to an ideal lunch spot with superb views of the western massif peaks. We then descend through green hills to the village of Demues.

Distance: 9mi (14km); ascent: 1,804ft (550m); descent: 1,903ft (580m); duration: six hours; highest point: Pandescura peak at 3,281ft (1,000m) above sea level

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Up to the high pastures of Nava; on to the summit of Juan Robre; descend back to Arenas de Cabrales – Level 5 (Challenging) departure

The walk begins directly from our hotel. After leaving the village, an ancient Roman path leads us up to the high pastures of Nava, which in May and June are alive with a sea of flowers. We continue up where the scenery changes, with limestone outcrops jutting out of the landscape. Looking skywards, we may spot eagles and vultures riding the thermals.

The path leads us to the summit of Juan Robre, which rewards us with commanding views of Arenas de Cabrales far below and the jagged peaks of the central massif in the distance. We descend via the Juan Robre ridge, which brings us back to Arenas de Cabrales and an opportunity to sample a refreshing glass of cider.

This walk may be done in the opposite direction according to the weather conditions.

Distance: 9mi (14km); ascent: 2,461ft (750m); descent: 2,461ft (750m); duration: seven hours; highest point: Cabeza Juan Robre at 2,858ft (871m) above sea level

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4
Classic Cares Gorge walk, one of the most popular trails in Spain – Level 3 (Moderate) departure

The Cares Gorge trail has been described as the jewel in the crown of Spanish hiking. For 7.5mi (12km), the engineered path has been blasted into the rock face. Originally built in the 1940s as part of a hydroelectric scheme, it is now one of the most popular walks in the country. In places, the surrounding peaks rise more than 6,562ft (2,000m) above the path and, if we’re lucky, we glimpse the rare and beautiful wall creeper bird.

The path eventually emerges in the village of Cain, where we lunch before returning along the same path to Puente Poncebos. Transport will be waiting here to take us back to our hotel in Arenas. The walk is relatively flat with a gradual ascent of just 1,148ft (350m) from Puente Poncebos to Cain.

Distance: 15mi (24km); ascent: 1,804ft (550m); descent: 1,804ft (550m); duration: seven hours; highest point: Los Collaos at 1,673ft (510m)

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Summit Main range; descend to the area of the Collado de Pandebano then to Bulnes – Level 5 (Challenging) departure
Walking the Picos de Europa

We start the walk by Tielve village (2,133ft/650m above sea level). An ascent of 3,281ft (1,000m) through hazel and beech woods surrounded by limestone takes us to one of the classic viewpoints of the Picos; the summit of Main range. From the summit, we descend to the area of the Collado de Pandebano with fantastic views of the central massif and the northern valleys.

From here, we start the second part of the descent into the hamlet of Bulnes, which is in the shadow of vast cliffs and its only communications to the exterior used to be old donkey tracks until 2001, when a funicular railway was constructed. Those wishing to end the walk here can take the train to the bottom (approximately €17 per person), while those wishing to continue will follow a small and narrow valley down to the old bridge.

Distance: 9mi (14km); ascent: 3,773ft (1,150m); descent: 4,921ft (1,500m); duration 10 hours; highest point: Cabeza la Mesa at 5,288ft (1,612m)

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5
Free day. Optional activities include self-guided canoeing, canyoning, or a trip to the coast – Level 3 (Moderate) and Level 5 (Challenging) departures

Today is free for you to visit the coast, self-guided canoeing, or canyoning. Our local staff can help organise any of these activities.

Meals included: Breakfast

Day 6
Summit of Peña Main, one of the classic viewpoints of the Picos; continue on to Collado de Pandebano – Level 3 (Moderate) departure

Starting close to the village of Tieve, we walk up into the Main range and summit Peña Main, one of the classic viewpoints in the Picos. We walk to Collado de Pandebano and then begin our descent.

Distance: 7mi (11km); ascent: 3,445ft (1,050m); descent: 2,428ft (740m); duration: seven hours; highest point: Cabeza la Mesa at 5,288ft (1,612m)

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Ascent to the high pastures of Tordin and descend on the Camino de Caoru – Level 5 (Challenging) departure

A very short transfer takes us to the start of the walk. We initially start walking on a steep farm track for 1.5km which then becomes a winding footpath passing through woodland until we reach the open pastures known as Bierru. This is where the local blue cheese (Queso Cabrales) is produced. The route then continues steeply up through more woodland until reaching the highest point of the day, the beautiful pastures of Tordin and the imposing entrance to the “Cueva la Grayera” (Magpie cave). Afterwards the route starts to gently descend across open terrain to the pastures of Tambrin. From here we follow the partly cobbled Roman footpath “Camino se Caoru” down into the village of Arenas.

Distance: 9mi (14km); ascent: 3,608ft (1100m); descent: 3,600ft (1,095m); duration: eight hours; highest point: Collado de fuentes viña at 4,012ft (1,223m)

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 7
Walk up to the twin summits of Mancondiu for fantastic views of the central and eastern massifs – Level 3 (Moderate) departure
Walking the Picos de Europa

At 6,562ft (2,000m), the twin summits of Mancondiu are the highest point we reach during the week. Most of the walking, apart from the last 656ft (200m), is on disused mining tracks. The top offers fantastic views of the central and eastern massifs and is a fantastic end to a diverse week of walking.

Distance: 7mi (11km); ascent: 2,411ft (735m); descent: 2,411ft (735m); duration: five hours; highest point: Macondiu peak at 6,562ft (2,000m)

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Twin summits of Mancondiu; on to San Carlos Peak – Level 5 (Challenging) departure

At 6,562ft (2,000m), the twin summits of Mancondiu are the highest point we reach during the week. Most of the walking, apart from the last 656ft (200m), is on disused mining tracks. The top offers fantastic views of the central and eastern massifs and is a fantastic end to a diverse week of walking. There is the option to traverse between the two peaks across an exposed ridge, but this is not recommended for those who are uncomfortable with steep drops.

From Mancondiu, we can see San Carlos, the next peak we will climb. This ascent is easier but longer than Mancondiu and we will enjoy views over the valleys and ranges to the south of the Picos. We will then backtrack for approximately one hour before we reach an alternative footpath that will take us back to the beginning of the walk.

Distance: 9mi (15km); ascent: 3,871ft (1,180m); descent: 3,871ft (1,180m); duration: nine hours; highest point: San Carlos or Sagrado Corazon at 7,257ft (2,212m)

Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8
End Arenas de Cabrales

After one final breakfast, you’ll begin your return journey home. Of course, if you’d like to continue the adventure, you can always speak to your sales consultant and extend your hotel stay.

Meals included: Breakfast

Ascents, descents and distances: All ascents, descents and distances listed in the daily itinerary have been measured by our local partners or tour leaders, in many cases with satellite-based mapping software. However, different GPS measuring devices can give differing results, particularly on winding paths or in mountainous terrain. Measurements stated throughout these Trips Notes are given to help you understand the types of terrain and distances you will encounter. Timings stated will vary depending on the pace of your group.

Accommodation

Hotel Torrecerredo, a family-run hotel in Arenas de Cabrales, Asturias

Walking the Picos de Europa

Hotel Torrecerredo is a 19-room, family-run hotel in the rural village of Arenas de Cabrales. It is ideally situated for our adventure: a 30 minute drive to the Picos de Europa mountains and a five-minute walk from the village centre.

It has a garden terrace attached to the cafe-bar and the restaurant has views of the Picos mountains. The hotel also has a residents lounge with lots of comfortable seating, where you can enjoy more mountain views. Every evening, owners Pilar and Jim serve home-cooked traditional dishes made with locally sourced ingredients, which you can enjoy with a glass or two of local wine.

Amenities

  • Restaurant serving traditional Asturian dishes
  • Bar/cafeteria for light snacks and drinks (open every day)
  • Residents lounge to relax in the evenings

Worth knowing

  • Single accommodation is available on request. Paying for a single supplement only guarantees a room for single use and does not under normal circumstances mean a twin or a double for sole occupancy will be provided.

Single supplement from £ 240

Food & Drink

All breakfasts, five picnic lunches and six dinners are included.

The region has several delicious specialities to try. The area is known for producing gold medal-winning blue cheese, queso Cabrales, which is matured in some of the thousands of deep limestone caves that dot the hills. Lesser known, but equally appealing, is the local lamb cordero al la menta and a wholesome bean stew, fabada Asturiana. Fresh fish comes from the coast at Llanes and Ribadesella, a 30-minute drive away. The local wine is very drinkable, though a glass of local cider can be more refreshing.

  • Breakfast: fruit juice, tea, freshly ground coffee, cereals, bread, cold meats, cheeses and a selection of local fruit (depending on season) offered buffet-style. There are also eggs cooked to order, sponge and anise cake.
  • Lunch: generally includes a large bread roll, with a choice of fillings daily, chocolates and fresh fruit.
  • Dinner: a homemade four-course meal usually consists of soup or salad to start, a choice of three main courses (meat, fish or vegetarian) and a homemade dessert.
  • Wine: to accompany the evening meal, the hotel has a reasonably comprehensive wine list.

Over the years, the hotel has developed tasty vegetarian alternatives. Please let us know in advance if you are vegetarian or have any other special dietary requirements.

Transport

Transport, including airport transfers, is usually by private air-conditioned minibus.

Weather & Seasonality

There can be snowfall in the Picos as late as May, and the area is subject to rain at all times of the year (although this typically falls in the evening and rarely affects the walking). From early June to early October, the weather should be very pleasant for walking, though it is rather unpredictable and mists can come in from the coast. Those wishing to join the Picos departures at the beginning and end of the trek season should go prepared for cooler weather. In early June and late September, there may be snow on the upper reaches of the trek.

Joining Instructions

Key information

Start hotel: Hotel Torrecerredo, Vega de Barrio, s/n, 33554 Las Arenas, Asturias
Phone: +34 985 84 66 40
Recommended arrival time: You can arrive at any time today. There will be a welcome briefing around 5pm, but if you miss it the leader will update you separately
Airport: Bilbao (BIO)

Getting to the start hotel

The start hotel is approximately a 2hr 20min drive from Bilbao Airport. Your options for this journey are:

Take an Exodus transfer

Exodus provides one group arrival transfer from the airport, which is timed to coincide with the arrival of a chosen flight from London, UK. You may join this transfer at no extra cost, provided you can be at the airport before the transfer leaves. Speak to your sales representative for the group arrival transfer times or to arrange a private transfer.

Make your own way

You can reach the start hotel by public transport. From Bilbao, take the bus to Llanes, the nearest main bus stop to Arenas de Cabrales. The journey is about three hours from Bilbao (€13). Then take a taxi from Llanes to the hotel, which will cost approximately €50.

If you would like further information on joining this trip, please speak to your sales representative.

Catching your return flight

There’s a group departure transfer to the airport for customers who Exodus booked onto a chosen flight to London, UK. Please speak to your sales consultant if you wish to join.

If the group departure transfer does not suit your flight time, speak to your sales consultant to arrange an alternative transfer.

Full joining instructions including local emergency numbers will be sent to you as part of our Final Joining Instructions. If you do not receive these at least a week before departure, or require them earlier please contact our office or your travel agent.

Location start: Arenas de Cabrales
Location end: Arenas de Cabrales

What To Take

Essential Equipment

In addition to your ‘normal’ daily clothes, you will need the following:

  • Daypack (25 litre to 30 litre capacity)
  • A large refillable water bottle
  • Traditional or lightweight walking boots with good ankle support and a strong sole
  • Waterproof/windproof jacket (preferably Gore-Tex) and waterproof trousers
  • Sunglasses
  • A warm two-season jacket or sweater/fleece
  • Sun hat, sunscreen and lip salve
  • Sandals or slippers for indoors

Please note, tap water is safe to drink in the area, which means all you need to do is bring a bottle to refill at the hotel. Please add this to your packing list as this will save on wasteful plastic bottles.

Optional Equipment

  • Warm hat and gloves for departures in spring and autumn
  • Walking poles

Practical Information

Passport

Remember to check the expiration date of your passport if travelling internationally. Many countries require your passport to be valid for at least six months after the date of your scheduled return.

Visa

Spain

Travellers from the UK, US and EU normally do not need a visa to enter Spain. Please note, visa requirements often change and it is your responsibility to obtain any required visas for this trip. Therefore, we recommend that you check with the nearest embassy or consulate of your chosen destination(s), including any countries you may be transiting or transferring through.

Some local governments provide guidance on what visas their citizens need. To help, we’ve gathered a selection of useful links below.

• Australia: www.smartraveller.gov.au/destinations/europe/spain
• Canada: www.travel.gc.ca/destinations/spain
• United Kingdom: www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/spain/entry-requirements
• USA:  www.travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/International-Travel-Country-Information-Pages/Spain.html

Vaccinations and Health

Spain

There are no required vaccinations. However, you may want to consider vaccinations for tetanus and rabies. Please confirm with your doctor or travel clinic.

If you’re a UK citizen, please note that your UK-issued European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) are still valid and offer the same cover as the Global Health Insurance Cards (GHIC) in the EU. This gives you medical care at a reduced cost, and in some cases for free, in many European countries, but should not be considered a substitute for adequate insurance. Once your EHIC has expired, replace it with a GHIC.

Local Time

Spain's time zone: Europe/Madrid (UTC +02:00)

Electricity

Spain's electricity: Plug type F (two round pins) – 230V, 50Hz

Walking the Picos de Europa

Money

Spain's currency: Euros (EUR)

ATM Availability

There is an ATM available in Arenas de Cabrales and most places take major credit cards, though cash is generally easier.

Extra Expenses & Spending Money

For lunch and dinner on the free day you should allow about €25‐€50 for both; however, this varies depending on which restaurant you choose.

You will also need local currency for extra snacks, drinks and souvenirs bought during the week (about €100 should be sufficient).

Optional excursions
During the free day (numbers/transport permitting) you should have the opportunity to go:

  • Canoeing (€45)
  • Canyoning (€45)
  • To the beach (approximately €16)

Tipping

Although optional, a tip for the leader at the end of the trip is greatly appreciated. As a guideline we recommend a contribution of between €15-€20 per client. It is also customary to leave a tip for the driver and the local staff at the hotel. This can be handed in to your leader at the end of the trip. For the local staff we recommend €10-€15 per person.

People, Places & Planet

We work hard to create trips that have a positive impact on the people and places we visit and look after the planet we explore. Learn more about our sustainable travel ethos and practice here and find out about the work of the Exodus Travels Foundation here.

Some sustainable travel highlights of this trip include:

People

How this trip helps improve life for local communities.

  • Local guides keep you well informed about local traditions and cultural-social sensitivities.
  • This trip brings income and opportunity to the destination community through the inclusion of locally owned hotels, restaurants, and other enterprises, and by championing locally produced food wherever possible.
  • We spend the week at the small, family-run Hotel Torrecerredo, which is predominantly locally staffed and situated just five minutes from the centre of the rural village of Arenas De Cabrales.
  • Read more about our other initiatives here

Places

How this trip helps protect and conserve local landscapes and nature.

  • By travelling in a small group we ‘tread lightly’ to minimise our impact on local resources and the environment.
  • We work with our partners on the ground to proactively reduce waste; this includes eliminating all single-use plastic water bottles by providing refills for reusable bottles.
  • Our local partners have been collaborating with WWF for over 15 years in the protection of the Iberian Lynx. They have also implemented a number of the goals for the Agenda for Sustainable development.
  • Erosion on and adjacent to popular paths is a growing problem in certain places and therefore our trip leaders encourage clients to stick to advised routes in order to minimise this.
  • With our partners, Rewilding Apennines, we rewild 100 square meters (1,075 sqft) of land per passenger who travels with us.
  • Read about our commitment to nature protection and restoration here, including our rewilding commitment for every customer who travels with us.

Planet

How we seek to keep the carbon footprint of this trip low.

  • Accommodation and restaurants in the itinerary use locally sourced food which has not been transported long distances.
  • The Hotel Torrecerredo Arenas de Cabrales where we stay uses renewable energy.
  • Walking trips like this have very little detrimental impact on the environment and the locals, as it is a quiet, low impact activity requiring comparatively few resources to support.
  • Read about our climate action here, including our carbon reduction and compensation commitments.

Tips for sustainable travel on this trip

  • Leave no trace: we do all we can to ensure we leave no rubbish in the wild and beautiful places we visit; we ask that you do the same. If there are no recycling facilities in-country, consider bringing recyclable materials home with you.
  • Plastic waste reduction: please bring a reusable water bottle on this trip, also consider avoiding single-use hotel toiletries, which generate a large amount of plastic waste.

 

 

Important Information

Water safety

This trip includes time by a lake, river or sea, where there may be opportunities to swim. You should always seek local advice before deciding whether to swim. Open-water or wild swim spots should be treated with extreme caution. Information on how to keep yourself safe while swimming is shown here.

Important Information

Your safe participation 

When booking this trip, you should be confident in your ability to participate in all activities described in these Trip Notes. If you have any doubt about your suitability, please call the Exodus office and ask to speak to one of the experts on this itinerary. 

Although our leaders are well trained to deal with different capabilities, if they have any concerns about someone’s ability to safely take part in an activity, or their impact on other people’s enjoyment, we authorise them to take necessary action which, in some circumstances, may involve asking someone to miss that activity. 

By booking this trip you agree to our Booking Conditions which clearly state that our leaders have the authority to do this. In these rare instances we will ensure anyone sitting out is safely provided for and offered alternative options where possible. Refunds will not be provided for activities missed and customers may be liable for additional costs incurred. 

How to Book

  1. Check availability: Go online to check availability, or contact us by phone or email.
  2. Secure your place: You can provisionally hold a place on this trip, usually for between three and seven days.
  3. Complete your booking and payment

When you’re ready to book, go to our website for online bookings, book over the phone or you can complete a booking form (available online or on request by calling us). We accept all major credit and debit cards, or you can pay be cheque.

After booking

You will receive your booking confirmation letter and invoice, which includes extra information and guidance about your travel arrangements.

Full joining instructions, including local emergency numbers and details of how to reach the start point, will be sent to you approximately two to three weeks prior to departure. If you do not receive these at least a week before departure, or require them earlier, please contact our office or your travel agent.

Trip Note validity

These Trip Notes are valid from the “Current as” date on page one. They will occasionally be updated after booking and before departure; if there are any updates that significantly impact the inclusions or itinerary, customers will be written to separately. They will also receive a link to the most up-to-date Trip Notes with their Final Joining Instructions before travelling.

The information in these Trip Notes is given in good faith. Where differences exist between the Trip Notes and our current brochure or website, the Trip Notes supersede the brochure and website. All holidays can be subject to unexpected changes; to enjoy them you should be prepared to be flexible where necessary. Occasionally, it may not be possible to follow the itinerary as planned. This may be for a variety of reasons – climatic, political, physical or other. In these circumstances we will make the best-possible alternative arrangements that maintain the integrity of the original itinerary.

Licensing

Exodus is fully licensed and bonded as a tour operator. We hold Air Traffic Organisers Licence (ATOL) number 2582, issued and bonded with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). We are also bonded to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and we are members of the Federation of Tour Operators (FTO) and ABTA – The Travel Association. This means you can book your Exodus holiday with confidence, as all money paid to us for your trip is fully protected.