Day 1 – Arrive Santander – travel to Espinama (677m)
Pick up from Santander airport by mini-bus for 2.5hr journey into Picos de Europa.
Overnight Nevandi Guest house. Nevandi Guesthouse is a choice and chilled family run guest house with food you want to smuggle home in your rucksack, if only you could keep it as fresh as it tastes on the table each day.
Day 2 – Espinama (677m)
Espinama is a sleepy village nestled at the south side of the central Picos Massif. Our first day is a relaxing 4km three hour hike on the slopes above Tama, a village on the other side of regional centre Potes, a short drive down the valley from Espinama. The hike is to the amazing Banda de Tejos, an ancient grove of Yew trees at 1000m, which sheltered a community fleeing Roman invasion. A great half day to warm the legs and meet the rest of your walking group, following by a convivial meal together in Nevandi Guest house.
Day 3 – Espinama to Sotres (10km) (1050m)
An moderate 4-5hr introductory walk in the valley connecting Espinama to Sotres, an idyllic village nestled in the heart of the Picos approx 10km to the north. The ascent is gifted by an early ride on the cable car at Fuente De to 1000m, and our first views of the Picos ‘peaks’ proper from the top.
Then we head north in the flat valley with mountains on both sides of the trail, stopping for a packed lunch in a meadow in Vegas de Piedra Lle, a Berger village en route. A short uphill in the final half km takes us to Sotres and refreshments!
Day 4 – Sotres to Bulnes (7km) (550m)
A short descent from the village of Sotres is following by an ascending trail to Terenosa (1200m), a 3km walk from the village.
[From here a challenging alternative route is the 5km ascent to the magnificent Naranjo de Bulnes (1960m), a Tor rock dominating the entire central massif of the Picos. Following lunch at the Refugio de Uriellu in the shadow of Naranjo de Bulnes, a 4km descent brings you to Bulnes village.]
For easy to moderate legs, the route from Terenosa goes downhill, through alpine meadows with magnificent views of the Naranjo de Bulnes to the south. Grazing goats and cattle nibble the alpine flora and a 3km descent sees you into Bulnes village nestled at the head of a quiet valley, serviced not by road, but a funicular rail link. We lodge in the convivial Albergue de Cabrales (no goats indoors!)
Day 5 – Bulnes to Cain (12km) via ‘Ruta de Cares’ or Cares Gorge (480m)
For those suffering any excesses from the challenging route of the day prior, the 2km funicular rail descent to Poncebos for the start of the day can be a welcome option.
Otherwise the 1 hour descent by foot is one of the flavours of the central massif. At Poncebos the funicular and trail meet at the eastern end of the ‘Ruta de Cares’ or Cares Gorge.
Sometimes described as the most stunning walk in Europe, the ‘Ruta de Cares’ is a 10km gorge walk extraordinaire. Using a path established for an innovative hydro-electric canal in the early 1900’s, the trail ascent to the south of the river and reaches 200-400 meters above the river bed. Dramatic views and a trail cut through solid rock in places are not for the vertiginous, but as one of the most popular routes in the entire Picos, are well trod and convivial.
We overnight in the family run Alberque el Diablo de la Pena.
Day 6 – Cain and surrounds (4-8km)
Having walked from the principality of Cantabria right into Castille y Leon the previous day, Cain is a tiny mountain village supporting a few guest houses and corner shops in a spectacular cauldron of mountains at the head of Cares gorge and valley.
As the final walking day, the routes around the village allow for a pleasant warm-down and offer all grades of terrain and length depending on your energy levels.
Traditional copicing and small-hold agriculture and husbandry (including bee-keeping) are much in evidence and a pleasure to explore on a relaxing day walk.
In early evening we are picked up from Cain and transport to Tama near Potes to stay in Casa Gustavo, a local guesthouse run by English couple Mike and Lisa Stuart, proprietors of Picos Rock and Snow.
Day 7 – Potes & St Vicente De la Barquera
Our final day is a relaxed day shopping and sight-seeing in Potes followed by a 1 hour bus ride to St Vicente de la Barquera, a picturesque village on the northern coastline. Here we have a farewell evening meal and celebration with your group. Overnight in a city centre guesthouse.
Day 8 – Home
Depart Santander by direct bus link to the airport.