Emerald-green pastures, dense forests, soaring peaks, delicious cheeses and hearty stews!
Spain’s oldest National Park (1918), and the second largest in size, the Picos de Europa extends over three provinces: Asturias, Cantabria and León.
This remarkable limestone range is Atlantic Europe’s most extensive and is famous for its vertiginous slopes that go from 225’ above sea level to the highest peak, Torre Cerredo, 8100’.
These different altitudes and its proximity to the sea give rise to an impressive variety of flora and fauna.
Walking in the Picos won’t entail a series of interminable ascents and descents, rather the Picos offers a wide range of walking opportunities (forest, valley, summer pasture and high mountain). We´ll enjoy both the meadow and alpine wildflowers blazing with color. Using as a base three charming towns that ring the park, we’ve made a special effort to introduce you to the most classic and beautiful routes. Dining in the Picos will also be a highlight: a wide variety of cow, sheep and goat´s milk cheeses handmade by shepherds using ancient practices and aged in humid caves, thick vegetable and bean soups, succulent roasted meats, fresh vegetable platters.
7 days & 7 nights
Walking Days: 6
Total Distance: 52.5 miles / 85 km
TBA - Interested Groups Contact Us
Price: TBA *(Click here for Discount Information)*
Groups: If you have a group of four (4) or more and the dates are not available when you would like to travel, contact us and we can try and schedule a tour adapted to your dates.
Weather: Average daily temperatures in July, August and September range between 18-27ºC / 65-80ºF. Typical of the mountain climate, be prepared for intense sun and the possibility of rain and/or fog.
What is and isn’t included:
Trip price includes accommodations (double occupancy), all meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) each day, all entry fees, pre-departure information, experienced guides, support vehicle, all transportation during the trip. Airfare to Spain is not included nor is insurance or transportation to and from the starting and ending point (Oviedo). The single supplement fee is $220 for this tour.
Day 1 - Oviedo
We’ll meet in the center of Oviedo’s historical district at our hotel. After an orientation to the exciting days ahead we’ll have a walking tour of the lively old quarter paying special attention to the 14th century gothic cathedral at its heart. We´ll dine in a sidrería, a typical Asturian restaurant. Sidreria comes from the word sidra (cider), a low alcohol wine made from crushed, fermented apples. Used as an accompaniment to all Asturian social events and forming part of every day life, sidra is uniquely poured and perhaps you’ll even master the special technique over the course of the journey.
Day 2 - Cangas de Onís
After breakfast we head east to the Picos and begin our first hike from the glacial lake Lago Enol (3486´/1063m) - and make a gentle, though continuous, gently ascend to the Vegarredonda mountain refuge (4624´/1410m) through beech forest, past curious limestone formations and across green fields dotted with shepherd’s stone cabins. Once above, it’ll be time for a delicious picnic of the best local cheeses, cold cuts, roasted red peppers, green olives, fresh tomatoes and breads. You have the option to continue to the Mirador de Ordiales (5546´/1691m) the place where Pedro Pidal, the Marquise of Villaviciosa, the park’s great promoter, wished to eternally rest. In the afternoon you’ll have the option of visiting with us the remarkable rose stone Covadonga Sanctuary. The Spanish Reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula from the Moors is said to have begun from within this heavily wooded spot where a miraculous cave, an image of the Virgin and spectacular waterfall form the basis of the remarkable legend that gave birth to Spain. Tonight we stay in the sumptuous 13th C parador monastery nestled between the mountains and the Sella River. Walking Distance: 9.3miles/15km (Optional 4.6miles/7.5km more)
Day 3 - Cangas de Onís
The day begins with a visit to the Neolithic past: the Cueva del Buxu. This spectacular cave possesses a rich variety of paintings and carvings from the Solutrean and Magdalean periods (35,000-9000 BC). Afterwards we ascend to the the Park’s interpretative center and museum and then begin our walk from the glacial Lago de la Ercina (3627´/1106m) and climb continuously through high green pastures to the Vega de Ario refuge(5346´/1630m). If you wish to go further and to have remarkable, bird’s eye views of the Picos’ Central Massif and the valleys below, you can optionally ascend the Jultayu peak (6363´/1940m). We will visit and dine in Cangas de Onís, famous for its medieval bridge and the lovely Sella River that curls around the village. Walking Distance: 9.3miles/15km (Optional 3.7miles/6km more)
Day 4 - Arenas de Cabrales
We transfer to Arenas, home of the Picos’ most famous blue cheese - Queso de Cabrales, to walk the truly unforgettable Garganta del Cares (Cares River Gorge). Along a walkway elevated some 150’ from the riverbed and excavated from the steep, solid limestone hillside reaching up 6000’, we will walk marveling at the river’s power to create this spectacular gorge in the center of the Picos. Like entering a horizontal funnel we reach our lunch spot, the village of Caín (1508´/460m), where the gorge narrows to just a few yards apart. In Caín we´ll dine in an open air restaurant and feast on delicious local specialties surrounded by 6000´peaks. Leaving behind this village of agile pastors we return the same way. In riverside Arenas you can enjoy an afternoon drink from the lovely deck which affords outstanding views of the Central Massif. Walking Distance: 13.6miles/22km of nearly flat walkway.
Day 5 - Arenas de Cabrales
From Arenas we retun to Poncebos to asecend out ot the Cares Gorge and up to the village of Bulnes, the only village in Asturias without a road. The 12 current residents must either walk, horse or mule ride in or out. Once in Bulnes we´ll picnic before looping back via the village of Bulnes Castillo and down again to the Cares. In the afternoon you´ll have the option of visiting a cave where cheeses are aged or taking a walk along the Cares River crossing the hanging bridges used by local salmon fisherman. Walking Distance: 6 miles/10km Optional 3miles/5km more
Day 6 - Potes
En route to the Cantabrian village of Potes, we’ll make a spectacular ascent to Tresviso (3034´/925m) along an aerial path that swiftly rises above the Urdón River and to the nesting ground of vultures. Until only a few years ago Tresviso, a shepherd’s hamlet located within the Park, was only accessible by this path. To reach the outside world, the villagers would have to make the up and down trek.
Their economy largely depended on the transport of their cheeses to Potes via donkey. Today, only the exceedingly fit mailman continues the journey; he makes the trip daily except Sundays and holidays. We´ll lunch in Tresviso and enjoy our first taste of Cantabrian cuisine from the privileged lookout offered by the dining hall´s large bay windows which offer unbeatable panoramic views of what you´ve just come up.
In animated and medieval-looking Potes, we’ll dine on Cantabrian classics and make an optional visit to the monastery of Santo Toribio where the beautiful illuminated manuscript - the Beato de Liébana - was illustrated in the 8th century. Walking Distance: 7.1 miles/11.5km
Day 7 - Oviedo
In nearby Fuente Dé the day starts with an exhilarating ride 2470´/753m up in the funicular cable car to our trailhead. We will ascend to the base of the Horcados Rojos (7688´/2344m) and get a view of the Jou de los Boches (a large circular depression) and unusual lunar landscapes of the Picos above the tree line. En route we pass the curious mountain refuge Cabaña Verónica (7626´/2325m) made from the cannon tower of an old American aircraft carrier. After the walk we stop en route to Oviedo to visit a local village and then we’ll say goodbye to one another in one of the city’s best restaurants, Raitán, where we’ll enjoy a marvelous sampling of Asturian cuisine. Walking Distance: 7.1miles/11.5km
Route: Meet at hotel
Overnight: Cangas de Onís
Route: Transfer Picos, Walk
Highlights: Alpine lakes, Mirador de Ordiales
Overnight: Cangas de Oní
Route: Views from Jultayo
Highlights: Prehistoric cave painting
Overnight: Arenas de Cabrales
Route: Cares Gorge walk
Highlights: Stunning vertical drops, cheese making
Overnight: Arenas de Cabrales
Highlights: Picos villages
Route: Climb to Tresviso
Highlights: Village within National Park
Route: Cabaña Veronica
Highlights: 3000’ Teleferique ascent
On Foot in Spain Walking & Hiking Educational Adventures specializes in small group (6 to 14 people) walking tours in northern Spain since 1999. We emphasize Spain's rich cultural heritage (art, history, folklore), its stunning and varied landscapes, flora and fauna as well as provide the finest in lodgings and regional cuisine.
Join owner-guides cultural anthropologist Nancy Frey (PhD, UC Berkeley) and writer, mountaineer Jose Placer (co-author Walking in Spain, Lonely Planet, 1999 & 2003 and Walking in Scotland, LP, 2001) on an unforgettable walking or hiking tour to one the following:
GALICIA - isolated coastal walks, abundant and varied seafood, ancient mountain villages, Celtic remains
PICOS DE EUROPA - emerald-green pastures, dense forests, soaring peaks, delicious cheeses and hearty stews
CAMINO DE SANTIAGO - medieval pilgrimage route, unparalleled artistic treasures, northern Spain's grand tour
COMPOSTELA - walk last section from León through green Galicia, earn the Cathedral's Compostela certificate
BASQUE COUNTRY & PYRENEES - Europe's oldest people, Guggenheim Museum, French and Spanish coastal and Pyrenees walks
PORTUGAL - Enchanting borderlands mixing coast and mountain landscapes, selected highlights of the Camino Portugués from Porto, Portugal to Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
On Foot in Spain - Rosalia de Castro, 29, 15886 Teo, A Coruña, Spain.
Walking in Spain (Lonely Planet, 1999, 2003). Miles Roddis, Nancy Frey, Jose Placer, Matt Fletcher and John Noble.
On Foot in Spain owners, Nancy Frey and Jose Placer, have chapters on Galicia, Cordillera Cantábrica (Picos de Europa), the Basque Country and the Camino de Santiago. The 2003 book covers all of Spain but not the Canary Islands.
Foster, Nelson and Linda S. Cordell, ed. 1996. Chilies to Chocolate: Food the Americas Gave the World. University pf Arizona Press. Kerper, Barrie. 2003. Northern Spain. The Collected Traveller. NY: Three Rivers Press.
A good collection of articles covering parts of Spain hard to find information about in English including Galicia, Asturias, the Basque Country and Cantabria
Measures, John. 1992. Wildlife Travelling Companion: Spain. Wiltshire: Crowood Press.
A general guide on flora and fauna of Spain good if your travelling across the country but not a specialist’s guide.
Hooper, John. The New Spaniards. Penguin. 1997.
Hooper manages to provide a well-balanced accounting of Spain as it is today and why.
Lalaguna, Juan. A Traveller’s History of Spain. 1996
Excellent, compact summary of Spain’s complex history.
Crow, John A. 1985. Spain. The Root and the Flower. Berkeley : UC Press.
Barlow, John. 2008. Everything But the Squeal: A Year of Pigging Out in Northern Spain.
Barlow, a native of England, has a great time exploring Galicia’s food traditions focusing on pork with his Galician vegetarian wife. A funny read. We won’t be eating nearly as much pork as he!
Borrow, George. 1842. The Bible in Spain.
19th century English Bible salesman George Borrow relates his experiences, in an often humorous fashion, in this excellent volume on mid-19th C Spain. There are accounts of areas we’ll pass through including Finisterre.
Casas, Penelope. 1997. Spain’s Green Corner. New York Times Travel. April 27, p. 12, 29.
Good general overview of Galicia’s coastal highlights.
Frey, Nancy. 2004. Galicia. Coastal Corner. Spanish Magazine. June (Issue 5), pp. 16-25.
Now find the article HERE!
An article describing Galicia and its highlights from Nancy’s perspective as someone who has lived in the region since 1997.
Frey, Nancy. 2003. Serra do Courel: Galicia’s Wild Frontier. Originally published on www.wild-spain.com.
Now find the article HERE!
Here I describe the beautiful range south of the O Cebreiro pass with an emphasis on the geology, flora and fauna.
Gemie, Sharif. 2006. Galicia. Histories of Europe Series.
A good general overview of the region with a strong focus on modern history.
Kerper, Barrie. 2003. Northern Spain. The Collected Traveler. An Inspired Anthology & Travel Resource.
The author presents a very comprehensive annotated bibliography of themes not just related to northern Spain but Spain in general in addition to good selected articles about each zone of the north including Galicia.
Michener, James. 1968. Iberia. Spanish Travels and Reflections.
While everything else in the book is terribly outdated, his chapter 13 – Santiago de Compostela offers a great read with solid historical information.
Jenny Chandler and Jean Cazals. 2005. The Food of Northern Spain: Recipes from the Gastronomic Heartland of Spain.
Beautiful photography and delightful prose in this lovely book on food in northern Spain.
Rivas, Manuel. 2003. Vermeer’s Milkmaid: And Other Stories
Rivas is a contemporary Galician author who writes about his region and this is just one suggestion to introduce you to his work.
Rosalía de Castro.
Considered to be Galicia’s finest 19th C poet, her work is full of nostalgia and strong sense of landscape and place. Follas Novas(New Leaves) is a good start.
Also check out the following website which has many resources about Galicia:
Ena Alvarez, Vicente. 1996. In the Picos de Europa (Translation from Spanish). Leon: Edilesa.
General book on the Picos.
Browning, Frank. 1998. The Apple of Spain’s Eye. San Francisco Examiner. Travel Section. Sept 13, pp. T-1, T-4, T-5. Travel article on Asturian sidra
Clissold, Stephen. 1974. Saint James in Spanish History. History Today 24 (10): 684-92.
Excellent general overview of the development of the pilgrimage and cult of St James.
Coelho, Paolo. 1995. The Pilgrimage. A Contemporary Quest for Ancient Wisdom.
One of the most popular and controversial contemporary Camino books. Brasilian best-selling author, Coelho takes us on his mystical journey along the Camino in search of wisdom. He provides spiritual exercises.
Egan, Kerry. 2004. Fumbling: A Pilgrimage Tale of Love, Grief and Spiritual Renewal on the Camino de Santiago. Doubleday.
Personal account written by a Harvard graduate student of theology. After her father died of diabetes she walked the Camino.
Follet, Ken. Pillars of the Earth
Masterpiece novel set in 12th C Britain during the period of transition between Romanesque and Gothic architecture. Follet develops a fascinating human and historical journey that even coincides w/ the Camino.
Frey, Nancy. 1998. Pilgrim Stories. On and Off the Road to Santiago. Berkeley: UC Press.
Nancy’s anthropological study on the contemporary pilgrimage which brings to life the multitude of experiences of the modern traveler along the Camino based on her hundreds of interviews with pilgrims from 1992 to 1997.
Gitlitz, David and Linda Kay Davidson. 2000. The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago. The Complete Cultural Handbook. St. Martin's.
The title says it all. The guide covers art, architecture, history, folklore, flora and fauna.
Hitt, Jack. 1994. Off the Road. NY: Simon and Schuster.
Humorous and irreverent personal account of Hitt's 1993 walk to Santiago.
Hoinacki, Lee. 1996. El Camino. University Park: Penn State Press.
Deeply felt personal account with a strong spiritual emphasis by an older man who walked to Santiago.
Jacobs, Michael. 2003. The Road to Santiago. Pallas Guides.
Architectural guide for travelers along the Camino.
Lack, Katherine. 2003. The Cockleshell Pilgrim: A Medieval Journey to Compostela.
In the late 1990s, while an English cemetery was being moved, a 14th C pilgrim was discovered buried with his scallop shell. Lack, a historian, attempts to reconstruct his journey and 14th life on the road.
Laffi, Domenico. 1997 (1681). A Journey to the West. The Diary of a Seventeenth Century Pilgrim from Bologna to Santiago de Compostela. Trans. James Hall. Leiden (Netherlands): Primavera Pers and Santiago: Xunta de Galicia.
Delightful account and translation of Laffis 17th C journey. His eye for detail leaves us with a memorable legacy and Hall has added excellent illustrations to accompany the text.
Maclaine, Shirley. 2001. The Camino. Journey of the Spirit. Atria Press.
People either love or hate this book. Maclaine walked to Santiago in I994 and then wrote about her spiritual, physical, other-worldly and celebrity experiences along the way.
Melczer, William. 1993. The Pilgrim's Guide to Santiago de Compostela. NY: ltalica Press.
First English translation of the 12th C pilgrimage guide Codex Calixtinus that helped popularize th pilgrimage route. His translation and first-rate historical background and extensive notes, bring to life this fascinating and invaluable document.
Michener, James. 1968. Iberia. Spanish Travels and Reflections. NY: Random House.
While everything else in the book is terribly outdated, his chapter on the Camino (Chapter 13 - Santiago de Compostela) offers a great read with solid historical information.
Moore, Tim. 2005. Spanish Steps. Travels with My Donkey. London: Vintage Press.
Funny account of this Englishman’s trials and tribulations walking with his donkey to Compostela.
Mullen, Robert. 2010. Call of the Camino. Myths, Legends and Pilgrim Stories on the Way to Santiago de Compostela. Findhorn Press.
Mullen blends issues of mind, body and spirit in this engaging account of his walk along the Camino.
Newman, Sharon. 1997. Strong as Death (Catherine Levendeur Mysteries). Forge Books.
Murder stalks Catherine and her husband Edgar on their 12th C journey to Compostela. She must use her wit to figure out who among the assorted traveling companions did it!
Nolan, Dee. 2010. A Food Lover’s Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. Penguin
A journalist and olive oil producer Dee fulfilled a dream walking the Camino with us and then wrote this exquisitely beautiful book in which she let her heart and palate be her guide.
Nootebaum, Cees. 1997. Roads to Santiago. Detours and Riddles in the Lands and History of Spain. NY: Harcourt.
This popular Dutch writer takes you with him on his long journey through Spain to Santiago covering many, many topics.
O’Marie, Sister Carol Anne. 1993. Murder Makes a Pilgrimage. NY: St. Martin’s Press.
Modern day murder mystery set on the contemporary Camino with a septuagenarian nun Sister Mary Helen as the protagonist and unlikely crime solver.
Rudolph, Conrad. 2004. Pilgrimage to the End of the World.
Very good and thoughtful, compact travel essay by an art historian who walked to Santiago.
Rupp, Joyce. 2005. Walk in a Relaxed Manner. Life Lessons from the Camino. USA: Orbis Books.
Rather than the typical diary account Joyce, a 60+ walker, focuses on the basic messages she took from the pilgrimage: Live in the Now, Listen to Your Body, Don't Give Up, Trust in a Higher Power, Humility.
Camoes, Luis Vaz de.16th C. The Lusiads. Oxford University Press.
Considered to be the greatest epic writer of his time, Camoes writes nostalgically about the age of oceanic discovery just as Portugal’s golden age was dimming.
Gomes, Tania. 2006. Flavors of Portugal. Thunder Bay Press.
Provides interesting recipes including unusual family ones in this bilingual edition.
Hermano Saraiva, Jose. 1998. A Companion History of Portugal. Carcanet Press.
Good historical overview of Portugal’s fascinating history.
Kaplan, Marion. 1998. The Portuguese: The Land and its People. Viking Press
Kaplan is a photo journalist and her writing is strongest when discussing the art and architecture.
Russell, Peter. 2001. Prince Henry ‘the Navigator’ : A Life. Yale University Press.
Deals with this key figure of Portuguese history toppling many of the legends surrounding his personage and giving excellent contextual material surrounding his life and age.
He is a Portuguese Nobel Laureate who has published many works including the non-fictional: Journey to Portugal: In Search of Portugal’s History and Culture, and the wonderful, haunting work of fiction, Blindness (Harvest Press).
Barrenechea, Teresa and Mary Goodbody. 2005. The Basque Table: Passionate Home Cooking from One of Europe’s Great Regional Cuisines. Harvard Common Press. he Lusiads.
Wonderful introduction for foodies.
Gallop, Rodney. 1970. A Book of the Basques. University of Nevada Press.
Excellent collection and analysis of Basque folklore from song to dance to witchcraft.
Kerper, Barrie. 2003. Northern Spain. The Collected Traveler. An Inspired Anthology & Travel Resource. Three Rivers Press.
Great collection of articles by well-known writers on a variety of topics covering all of northern Spain.
Kurlansky, Mark. 1999. Basque History of the World.
A very readable but incredibly biased description of the Basque people from pre-history to the present day. It can’t be taken seriously as a historical account as many of his outrageous claims are not backed up. His take on the current situation with the Basque terrorist organization ETA is misinformed and one-sided and should be taken with a grain of salt.
Laxalt, Robert and Joyce. 1999. The Land of My Fathers: A son’s return to the Basque Country. University of Nevada Press.
Memoir written by the son of a Basque immigrant who returned to visit his father’s village in Spain. Laxalt is considered to be one of Nevada’s finest writers and has written several books set in the Basque country including the award winning A Cup of Tea in Pamplona.
Sevilla, María Jose. 1990. Life and Food in the Basque Country. New Amsterdam Books.
Discover the Basque Country and its people through its food culture. Good, leisurely read.
Woodworth, Paddy. 2007. The Basque Cultural History. Signal Books.
Irishman Paddy Woodworth has been writing about the Basques for thirty years and is most well known for his take on the Basque terrorists, ETA, in his Dirty War, Clean Hands. The book provides good background information on the Basque Country in general.