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Cowbells, flower carpeted meadows and the curtain of high mountains accompany you from village to village and rural inn to rural inn as you walk a route exclusive to Pura Aventura through the Liebana Valley, up to the high peaks, and along the stunning Cares Gorge of the Picos de Europa mountains.
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You are collected at Santander airport, port, or train station for the two hour drive to Liebana Valley in the Picos de Europa National Park. Smallholdings dot the landscape – families still farm tiny plots of land largely by hand. The pace of life feels particularly gentle in this part of the mountains. The red roofs of the houses contrast with the deep green of the meadows. Stay in a tiny village high in the hills.
Leaving your bags to catch their taxi, set off walking today with just things you need for the day. Descend the valley sides towards the medieval town of Potes, views of the hermitage at San Tirso and the Picos de Europa all the way. The centre of Potes has narrow cobbled streets and lots of little bridges over the river. After lunch there is still 8km to walk up into another very pretty side valley. Tonight’s inn really feels like a family home.
Today’s walk takes you through some of the most remote parts of the Liebana Valley. As you move from village to village, crossing meadows and woodland, you also climb up over a ridge between valleys. The last section of the day’s walk takes you across a meadow right to the back door of your XVI century inn.
By now you are walking along the main Liebana Valley as it narrows towards the huge amphitheatre at Fuente Dé. The path crosses back and forth over the pretty Deva River as it flows down to Potes and out to the sea. Walk through oak forest and meadows under the vertical walls of the Picos or along shady beech forests to get to the dramatic natural amphitheatre at Fuente Dé.
Today you can spend just relaxing and wandering in the area around your hotel though most choose to take the cable car 1,000m up to the high mountains. From the top station you have a variety of options, either a short wander or you can walk up and onto the peak of one of the highest mountains in the whole range. Enjoy stunning views back down the forested Liebana Valley and ahead to the high limestone cliffs ahead of you.
Today's walk takes you up over a mountain pass into the adjacent province of Leon, and the most isolated valley in the Picos, Valdeon. Follow the old market path to the pass, where you have great views of both valleys, the Picos, and the intersecting Cantabrian mountain range. Tonight you sleep in the village of Posada de Valdeon, known for its lovely traditional grain stores on stilts, called “horreos,” and surrounded on all sides by high mountain peaks.
Your final day's walking sees you traverse the renowned Cares Gorge into your third province, Asturias. From your inn you pass through meadows and woods to the village of Cain, where the walls of the gorge are only a few metres apart. Follow the path carved out of the rock through totally different landscape to previous days, with the river below you and the peaks above. End the day at your inn in Arenas de Cabrales, where you can celebrate your walk with some of the superb local blue cheese.
After breakfast, return to the airport or train station in Santander.
Cowbells, flower carpeted meadows and the curtain of high mountains accompany you from village to village and rural inn to rural inn as you walk a route exclusive to Pura Aventura through the Liebana Valley of the Picos de Europa mountains.
The walks are reasonably strenuous with six days of walking between 12-20km. On day four you can choose a more or less challenging walking route, the following day you also have
a choice of circular walks or indeed, can take a break from walking. Altitude gains and losses are fairly substantial with height gains of 700 m on four of the days. Altitudes range from just above sea level to over 2,000m. You can expect to be walking for an average of between five and six hours a day.
For the walks themselves, we provide detailed walking notes as well as good maps. You should be comfortable with the idea of using a map to navigate just in case. At the start of your trip,
a Pura Aventura guide sits down with you to talk you through each day and show you where everything is. They are then at the end of a phone if you have questions during your trip.
Your luggage is always taken on ahead for you so you actually only walk with your day pack, which helps you to concentrate on enjoying the walking and your surroundings.
The weather in the Picos de Europa is very fickle. These are high mountains set just off the northern coast of Spain, off shore is essentially the width of the Atlantic Ocean. Saying this, our inn to inn walk follows a route around the more protected southern parts of the mountains where you are likely to find more sunny days. We offer this holiday in late spring and early summer as well as autumn. During these times, daytime temperatures will range between 15°- 25°c. May and June tend to be showery but is also one of the most beautiful times to visit with flowers in the meadows and snow on the high mountains, to the point that in early spring the high walk on day 4 might be still covered in snow. The driest month is usually September. October gradually gets more changeable but benefits from the beautiful colors of the autumnal forests. The latter part of July and all of August are frankly too warm and/or busy for this trip to work well.
The Picos is a place which takes you out of the day to day, relaxes you. It might be the echoing cowbells or the constant flow of water. It might be the prospect of whiling away an hour watching Griffon vultures circle overhead or anticipation of a picnic lunch of wood-baked bread, local cheeses and chorizo eaten in a mountain meadow. Whatever the magic, we find it hard to be stressed in the Picos de Europa and very easy to sleep well.
Accommodation is in a range of comfortable and very friendly inns along the way, all of them are in tiny villages and have different characters and styles, so star ratings are not overly helpful. If you think in terms of 2-3 inns then that will probably set your expectations in the right place. All have en suite bathrooms. The Parador in Fuente Dé is the one exception, this is a larger hotel. When people think of a Spanish Parador, they usually imagine a restored castle or monastery, however, many are in modern buildings – such is the case with Fuente Dé. However, the service, the rooms and the food are very good and the views absolutely magnificent. The last accommodation in Arenas is also slightly larger, being a recently renovated family run hotel where you can enjoy a small swimming pool in the warmer months.
One advantage of the slow pace of an inn to inn walk is that it allows you to enjoy not only nature but the rich rural culture of the area. Although the way of life has been changing quickly in the last 50 years, a lot of people still live from the land and traditions are alive and well. You will still see people scything the hay and leading their sheep out to graze in the high pastures. You will hear the bells of the cows, sheep and goats out in the hills, being looked after by the shepherds. While traditional cheese making from sheep and goats’ milk is still alive, cattle being raised for meat is the most common income source. Most young people have left the villages up here attracted by the tourism industry or the cities, leaving just the elderly relatives to stay.
Rural architecture is still well preserved in the beautiful stone houses with their wood balconies and red tile roofs. In the town of Potes you can wander through the interesting medieval area with an impressive defensive tower. In the Valdeón valley you will see the famous “horreos”, traditional grain barns built on stills typical of northern Spain. In Arenas de Cabrales you will see one of the most beautiful Romanesque churches in the area.
There is a detailed itinerary for this trip, please get in touch and we can email that to you. As an inn to inn walk, this route is set and really can’t be altered. However, the start and end of the trip can very much be tailored to suit you.
In order to confirm your holiday, we need to discuss dates with you as well as any additional arrangements you might like before checking in with all of the inns to make sure they have space.
The holiday price includes accommodation, most meals, luggage transfers, walking notes, maps and local information. It also includes private transfers to and from Santander. Naturally, on each and every one of our holidays, we include Pura’s expertise, local contacts, support and advice throughout, along with the reassurance of our financial protection and safety auditing.
The trip starts in Santander (airport code: SDR) which has good air connections. It is less than two hours from here to the start point of the walk. Asturias and Bilbao (airport codes: OVD and BIO respectively) are also possible collection points, though the drive to the Picos slightly longer at two and a half hours or more, so costs will be higher.