I should say straight away that luxury in the Picos is not related to thread count, and that there isn’t a spa in sight: what’s luxurious about a holiday here is the opportunity to disconnect from your everyday and to reconnect with yourself or with each other; to switch off the media and switch on the simple pleasures of walking through gorgeous scenery, staying in village inns, and listening to the sound of cowbells echo around the valley. I’m talking about the luxury of not having a mobile signal, of having the time to stop and enjoy wild flowers, strike up a conversation, or sit awhile to take in the views.
The first national park ever to be created in Spain was in the northern mountains of the Picos de Europa in 1918. To this rural area the new concept – directly imported from the USA – of ‘National Parks’ was overlaid onto an ancient culture of semi-nomadic sheep and goat shepherding.
2018 is therefore the centenary of the Picos being granted protected status. That’s not the reason to go, however, for this simple rural area isn’t about to put on a centenary-related song and dance. The list of reasons to go is long, and includes flower-carpeted meadows, wooded valleys, spectacular mountains, and a gentle, natural pace of life.
On Pura Aventura’s exclusive walking route along the Liebana Valley, your luggage is taken ahead of you each day to that night’s village inn, while you and your hiking boots take in the medieval town of Potes, the natural amphitheatre at Fuente Dé and the renowned Cares Gorge. Detailed walking notes are provided and you can expect to be walking for around five hours a day.
Picnic lunches are packed for you – think wood-baked bread, local cheeses and chorizo eaten in a mountain meadow. Each night’s accommodation is comfortable and charming, all located in tiny villages with their own distinct character, and providing the warmest of welcomes. After a good day’s exercise in the crisply fresh mountain air, tuck into a hearty home-cooked meal, after which we defy anyone not to sleep like a log.
The weather in the Picos is fickle, but our route follows the more protected southern part of the mountains where sunny days and meadow flowers can be expected in May and June. Go in April and you’ll see snow on the peaks and may even walk through some during your week’s route. We love the autumnal forest colours in September (the driest month) and October.
For more traditional luxury, top and tail your time in the Picos with a boutique hotel stay in either Santander (2 hours’ drive) or Bilbao (2 ½ hours) and enjoy the sophistication of Spanish city life too.