It has been five years since I went to the Picos de Europa. Five years during which I have constantly hassled my brother, a mountain leader based in the French Alps, to come and see this beauty with me.
We finally made it last autumn.
Although it was a short five-day trip but that was enough for him to at least see all the places that had blown me the first time I went there. To be honest, I was also expecting feedback from a world-weary mountaineer, hopefully confirming that the Picos are truly special.
Landing in Asturias Airport, we collected our car rental and set off for the glacial lakes of Covadonga, our first stop. The snow was already on the ground, but being confident we decided to hike all the way to the Collado Jermoso hut, celebrating our arrival with a small bottle of Cava chilled in the snow.
On the next day we walked through the spectacular Cares Gorges, all the way from Poncebos to Caín. Starting pretty early, the only other living things we came across were a couple of goats. After a fortifying meal in Caín, we set off along the same path back to Poncebos. It felt like a totally different walk, a kind of leisurely, relaxing walk with one spectacular vista after another.
Finally, to end on a high note, I took my brother to the south of the Picos and the Liebana Valley. We booked at Posada San Pelayo, a superb small family-run hotel located in a peaceful village between Potes and the iconic cliffs of Fuente Dé.
Most hotels in the Picos have character but this one really is in a class of its own. Surrounded by a breathtaking mountain scenery, this posada beautifully blends traditional Cantabrian style (rust-red tiled roof, soft yellow walls and timber terraces overflowing with geraniums) with contemporary comfort. And views…
As soon as we arrived we were warmly welcomed by Lourdes and Aquilino who showed us to our room, complete with private terrace, and views… We were in good hands. Being nearly winter, a fire was roaring, a game of chess, a fireside chat and glass of Rioja was waiting for us.
The night was so deeply silent that I forgot where I was: hidden in the crinkled mountain foothills of northern Spain’s Picos de Europa mountains. Probably my favourite memory of this visit was opening the windows of my room the following morning to see the mountains in front of me.
After breakfast, we asked Lourdes some advice about the best walks and places to visit around the Posada. Unfortunately the cable car at Fuente Dé was closed due to maintenance work, so high mountain treks were not on the menu. Instead, we went for an easy walk around the medieval village of Mogrovejo. This is the poster-girl of Cantabrian villages, recognised as one of Spain’s most beautiful, and a regular filming location. ‘Heidi: Queen of the Mountains’, which was released earlier this year. A classic of its genre.
Despite the mountains being so spectacular, we only came across a couple of other hikers each times we were out in the hills. And the access was amazing, to wake up in a beautiful posada and be out hiking in isolation within minutes is a rare and wonderful thing.
In the end, it was the Liebana valley’s scenery and architecture that won my brother’s heart. All those red-roofed villages where traditional lifestyles and the tranquility of nature blend perfectly were a real highlight to him. We both felt as if time had slowed down for the first time in a long while…