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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. 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. Stay in a comfortable hotel with a well regarded restaurant tonight.
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.
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 Posada de Valdeon, in one of the most remote valleys of the Picos, 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, or perhaps extend your trip with a few days up on the Asturian coast.
The walks are reasonably strenuous, with six days of walking between 12-20km. Though your efforts are well rewarded of course. You can expect to be walking for an average of between five and six hours a day. On day four you can choose a more, or less, challenging walking route and the following day you also have a choice of circular walks or you can take a break from walking. So to some extent you can set the pace. Altitude gains and losses are fairly substantial, with height gains of 700m on four of the days. 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 your surroundings.
The itinerary on an Inn to Inn trip is carefully planned to unlock the peaceful beauty of the region through which you pass. We cannot alter the structure of the trip too much, without compromising it. In terms of tailoring options, we can certainly discuss adding in an extra day should you want to slow the pace down or adding time on the coast or in Bilbao post-walk.
We offer this holiday in late spring and early summer as well as autumn. During these times, daytime temperatures will range between 15°- 20°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. The driest month is usually September. October gradually gets more changeable but benefits from the beautiful colours 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 price is per person based on two sharing and includes:
First-class accommodation with breakfast, some lunches and some dinners
Luggage transfers between hotels
Detailed walking notes, OS maps and GPS device
Welcome briefing with Pura Aventura guide and phone support throughout
Private airport transfers to and from Santander
Picos de Europa Holiday Guide with personal recommendations
Pura’s expertise, local contacts, support and advice throughout
International flights are quoted separately for this holiday. Best routings are through Santander (SDR), Asturias (OVD) or Bilbao (BIO).
Accommodation is in a range of comfortable and very friendly inns along the way, all with private ensuite bathrooms. 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. 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 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.
For more details, please get in touch to request a full itinerary.
Pura co-founder Diego Martín is a Picos native and still lives there to this day, heading up our Spanish office. His first-hand experience, personal connections and unique understanding of the ways of life here absolutely ensure this trip maximises its positive impact on the region. The hotels and restaurants that we use are almost exclusively small, family-run businesses.
One advantage of the slow pace of an Inn to Inn walk is that it allows you to enjoy not only nature, but also 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. Thoughtful tourism is essential in providing an alternative source of income to agriculture and dairy production.
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