Picos de Europa is a cozy little mountain range at the north end of the Spain on the border of three Spanish provinces – Cantabria at East, Asturia at West and Castilia and Leone – at South. The mountain range stands at a distance of 20 or so km from Atlantic ocean. To be more accurate – from Bay of Biscay, or as it is called in Spain – Cantabrian sea.
A region between the Picos de Europa and the sea is called the Green Spain, because of the mild climate. While we were there (in October) the temperature were somewhere between 10 and 25 Celsius degrees. In the South of Spain (Valensia) the temperature was about 10-15 degrees higher.
According to one of the legends the name to the mountain range was given by whalers – the mountain peaks of Picos de Europa were the first they could see when returning home. Picos de Europa consists of three major massifs
– Central, Eastern and Western.
The Central and Western massifs are separated by the 1.5 km
deep Cares Gorge (Garganta del Cares).
We selected Picos de Europa as the destination of our travel, in particular, because this is described as one of the few places in Spain where the wild nature has been well conserved. We decided as well that it should be cold in Pyrenees during October and we should rather go somewhere closer to the equator 🙂 As concerns the wild nature – we were not disappointed! We were surprised to find out though that Picos de Europa are closer to North than Canigou mountain and Eastern Pyrenees – the place we visited during summer. You can consult the map to make sure…
We took a Ryanair flights Riga – London (Stansted) – Santander, and return flights Santander – Frankfurt (Hahn) – Riga. We used Ryanair web page to book a car and picked it up at Santander airport. We searched one accommodation for all the time of staying (this shoud be less expensive). We booked a small house in village of Frama at 3km distance from tourist favorite town of Potes and about 30km distance from the Central Massif of the Picos de EuropaPhotos
Day 1. Frama
We arrive at Santander airoport on 7th October 2009 at 6pm. As soon as we are out of the jet we feel the warm southern air. We take 6-gear Toyota Yaris and drive most of the way a public higway. The last section of the route is by the local road, in particular – a narrow serpentine through the 20km long gorge de Hermida. It is dark when we arrive at Frama and we did not manage to find the house we should stay in. Driving through the narrow streets of Frama we arrive at the Church and call the hosts. The person at the other end does not understand a word in English and we did not get any closer to the place we search. Fortunately a man passes by and I show him a paper with the description of the property we are searching for. The man gets to his car and leads us to the hosts. In no time we are there – the property has a hall on ground floor, the small bedroom and bathroom on the first floor. Not much room there but we have everything we need for a 10 days stay – TV set, electric range, washing machine and freezer.
Day 2. San Pedro de Bedoya
The first route starts in the nearby village of San Pedro de Bedoya. The track according to itinerary should follow the road to the nearby Salarzon village. Ilze notices the path though that should take us in the same direction. We decide to follow the path – it goes to Salarzon indeed, over the hill though. Takes 2 hours to get in Salarzon (should be 30 minutes if we had selected the road instead). Still we are not sorry about that –
we have splendid views, and delicious blackberries to feast upon.
Our route proceeds to the next village – Pumare?a. We follow the road though vineyards and orchards of apricots. We try both (our apologies to the owners). Our route further goes back from Pumare?a to San Pedro de Bedoya.
Prior to go home we drive to explore the village of Hermida.
It is a beautiful small village near the mountain stream in the Hermida gorge. At the other end of the village we discover a grotto up on the hill with a statue and a cross inside. We decide to go back by the other side of the stream. The path goes close to the stream by the wooden plank-way. A couple of sections of the plank-way are fixed to the cliff so the stream runs below us. Near the North end of the village we find a parking place and stop there to enjoy the views on the gorge. Two wild goats pasture peacefully on the opposite bank of the stream.
Day 3. Fuente De
We drive early in the morning to Potes and then 23km to Fuente De. Fuente De has a pair of hotels and a funicular that takes people up to top of 800m high vertical wall of cliffs. The carriage (allows about 20 passengers) takes everybody up in 3 minutes.
While in carriage I communicate with Spanish guy who speaks English. He suggests to climb Tesorero summit – except if in fog (he says a fog here is as thick as nowhere else in the world). There are some clouds around when we get out of the carriage on the upper station. Generally it is sunny though so we decide to go for the summit. The path is wide in the beginning (it is one of favorite routes apparently). It gets narrower only after a hour of walk.
We follow the route of the Spanish guy and see how he climbs Tesorero summit. We almost manage to do the same. Unfortunately not far from the summit Ilze gets struck with the sharp pain in her leg. We must turn back and go down to the pass. While we have a rest a black bird with pink legs and beautiful yellow beak comes close to us. I treat him with bits of apple and he comes almost as close as at arm’s lentgh.
Just before the funicular station we see a flock of goats and sheeps. Some of the goats are of interesting color (e.g. – dark brown rearward part and light brown forward part with a sharp boundary between). We get in a funicular carriage, drive down to our car and then to our home.
We have a funny incident with our washing machine in the evening – does not manage to get out the wash from it. I call a hostess – she sends her farther to help. The farther does not understand a word in English. He has no more success with the washing machine as we did. I take a vocabulary and asks him about a manual. He goes for the manual and returns with a woman. With a help of the “manual” we manage at last to get our clothes.
Day 4. Mirador del Tombo, Monto
Today we decide to look at the Picos de Europa from the South. The route goes first to Puerto de San Glorio pass then to village of Portilla de la Reina where we take the road to the right. The cliffs around are green (mossy), trees are colored in red and yellow, rich red mountain ashes look just wonderful.
Futher on the way we notice cliffs full of stones. Seems like somebody has filled the soft matter of cliffs with stones and then allowed it to harden. After a short stop to explore the cliffs in detail we follow to village of Posada de Valdeon (we must give a way to a flock of sheeps that fills all the road for a couple of minutes), then about 3km to the viewpoint of Mirador del Tombo. It is there were the tourist favored gorge of Cares river (Garganta del Cares) begins. The tourist route starts a bit down the stream – near village of Cain. From the place we stand there is a gorgeous view on the summits and on the gorge.
We follow the path down the stream for a couple of kilometers until we make sure that the only option to proceed is to walk by the road. This makes us decide to turn back and to explore another path we have noticed on the way to Posada de Valdeon – near the village of Prada.
The path leads us up some 600m to the foothills of Monto summit. We have a light rain all the time. Still the sights around are full of color and the walk by the mountain road is pleasant.
Day 5. Coriscao
In the route book we purchased a day before in Posada de Valdeon we have found the route to Coriscao summit. The route starts on
Colo de Llezba pass. We arrive there by the road to Puerto de San Glorio. The couple of cars are already parked on the pass (when we later come back the side of the road is full of parked cars at the length of some 100 metres). It is cloudy but little by little the sun whisks the clouds. It is sunny on the pass and the great weather is during all the day (when we are back in Potes in the afternoon it is 24 celsius in the shadow).
Near the pass on the hillock there is a large stone sculpture of the bear. We go to look at it closer. When we come back to the car we see the large tourist couch arriving. Hence off we go in haste to our route.
We can see the Coriscao summit already from the pass – to reach it we have to climb over the ridges of the four hill. On the first one the herd of cows is being pastured by a pair of large dogs. We decide to detour slightly to make a safe distance. The path is flat and easy – through meadows, heath and low bushes. Only the last ascent is a little steeper.
Gradually more and more hikers accumulate on the summit and we start the way back. On the way we climb two lower summits and meet other hikers. The clouds lift little by little and the summits of Picos de Europa come to the surface in their full.
On one of the hills we watch 3 paraplanes to start their flight.
Day 6. Garganta del Cares
The destination today is the famous Garganta del Cares the narrow and deep gorge the Cares river has carved her way through the Central and Western Massif of the Picos de Europa. The 10km long tourist path goes up from Poncebos to village of Cain. The major part of the path is carved in a vertical wall of cliffs. It has a number of tunnels and wire-bridges.
It is cloudy and the gorge is covered by clouds. The first section of the path goes steep up – 40 minutes of walk takes us up to the highest point of the path – Los Coleos. Further on the path follows up and down the aqueduct carved in the rocks.
Starting the Los Coleos the path mainly is carved in the rocks. Below is an abyss and above – about 200m of a vertical wall of cliffs. The summits rising about 2km above the deep gorge are nearby. The last section of the path prior to Cain is the most interesting. There is a long tunnel, with window openings one after another.
The route book advised to avoid high season and weekends round the year because of popularity of the route. Today is Monday 12th October and still the path is full of people. We wonder what it looks like there at weekends in July or August.
Cain is a little mountain village. The road from Posada de Valdeon ends there. Cain is located in province of Kastilia-Leon (Poncebos – in Asturia). We stroll through streets of Cain and climb the hill behind the village. Up on the hill we have a short rest and then start our way down. It is sunny. We see goats – some of them dangerously close to the abyss.
Day 7. Tresviso
We drive through gorge and village Hermida to Urdon. Urdon is a power plant near the junction of Urdon and Hermida river. Urdon river has carved the narrow gap in the wall of cliffs of gorge de Hermida. The power plant fills this gap leaving a room for a narrow mule path to the village of Tresviso 850m higher. Until only a few years ago Tresviso, was only accessible by this path. Villagers ued donkeys to deliver cheeses to
Potes. Today only the postman continues the
daily journey to Tresviso.
We start to ascend by Urdon stream ar 9.10am. The temperature is about 13 celsius. The gorge of Urdon is in shadow and we have to go an hour to get in the sun. While we have a short rest a tiny birdie lands near us, perhaps to get acquainted. It comes very close so Ilze could make some photos. Not easy task yet because birdie is moving non-stop.
We go on by the steep wall of clifs untill we reach Balkon de Pilatos.The views are exactly as from the balcony – to the hills at the opposite side of Urdon gorge. After a short walk from there we already catch the sight of Tresviso. Another hour of walk and we are there. The last section of the path is paved with reddish slabs. The cemetery neighbored by a basketball field greets us as we enter the village.
We stroll the narrow streets untill we find a path to the hill above Tresviso and further to the neighboring village. After an hour walk the path gets extremely narrow. As we start to go by the wire rail suddenly the flock of sheep catches us running furiously followed by the shepherd dog. That happens so fast we even have no time to get frightened – the sheep notice us, turn aside and hide in a tiny place near the path. The dogie dissapears as well.
After a short further walk we make a rest and then turn back to Tresviso and down to Urdon that we reach at 4pm.
On a way back we stop near village of Tama to explore the house of Picos de Europa. It is a contemporary building featuring cinema and exposition halls. We watch a short movie about Picos de Europa. The screen consists of two parts – below the vertical part is a sloping one. There is no text therefore we can understand everything. When done with the movie we stroll through the exposition halls. The exhibits are located everywhere – on walls, ceilings and floors. Some of them know to tell about themselves – on Spanish and English.
Day 8. Colado de Verde
Our destination is the 2400m high Tore Beremejo – one of the highest summits of the Western Massif. The track starts in Posada de Valdeon. We leave Frama early in the morning in a complete darkness and sky full of stars.
We start the route at 9.10am. This time we did not manage to find the path at once. We return to Posada de Valdeon to purchase another map. Even with the new map we deviate from the path again and struggle up through the diversity of bushes (including prickly ones). We loose about an hour there. Fortunately we find the path again and proceed uphill to the gap in the wall of cliffs high above the Posada de Valdeon. The gap is not visible from the village – the cliffs at the left side from the gap is some 100m closer to village than the right side. Behind the left side cliffs we follow the rocky path to the Colado de Pambucho. After taking a short break we proceed up to the 2000m high Colado de Verde (green pass). After the hours long climbing through rocks and stones the green pass is a surprise indeed – it is a grassy elevation in between the cliffs. The view from the path to the West is stunning.
It is 4pm already. The sun cooks, we have run out of time and of vigor. The Torre Beremejo is behind the high summits in front of us. So we decide to surrender and start a way back. A major part of the time we go in shadow of the hills – this protects us from the hot sunbeams.
At the foothill we find the path we started to ascend in the first place in the morning. Means – we were on the right track!. We descend through the slope full of gorgeous plants, pick the rose fruits and nibble them.
On a way back to Potes we disturb a pair of roes – they make not much fuss and run a couple of meters deep into forest and stay there. When we are behind San Glorio pass it starts to darken quickly and we return in Frama in full darkness and sky full of stars.
Day 9. Cantabrian sea
We decide in favor of sea for today and drive shortest way through gorge Hermida to Uniquera. We cross the highway Santander-Oviedo near Uniquera and soon are at the sea. We walk the winding path though an empty camping place down to the sea. I take off the boots and paddle the cool seaside water. Meanwhile Ilze finds a grotto.
Next we drive to San Vicente de la Barquera. The town center is located on a peninsula formed by junction of two rivers near the sea. The center is linked to other parts of town by two magnificent bridges. It is low tide when we arive – the ships and boats lie in sand near the water.
We start to explore the town from the junction. On the front end of the peninsula is located the former royal palace (now museum), on the back end we see the cathedral. The town center is surrounded by walls.
We enter the royal palace and explore the expositions. There is a splendid view from the top of the palace to the summits of Picos de Europa and to the sea. While we stroll the high high tide have started.
Next we drive over the East-most bridge and stop near the beach. We take a lunch near the sea and enjoy the sights across the river to the town center. Having done with the lunch we drive to another – much larger beach. We walk to the farther end of the beach and see there a couple of surfers and s lonely swimmer.
Further on we drive to Comillas. We did not manage to come closer to impressive university building standing on top of the hill near the sea – the renovation in progress there. Still we examine the building designed by Gaudi – El Capricho de Gaudi. After that we stroll the streets of the town center and find, in particular, Puerte de Moro (Moro gate). The gate has 3 gateways – for cars, for people and for birds. The legend tells that the gate is designed by Gaudi. He have walked by the sea one day and observed the birds. Hit by inspiration he have designed the gate in the sand by his stick.
We make another stop close to the sea near the University building. We walk to the shore and climb down to the water that slashes against rocks. Marvelous.
Day 10. Cuernon
Today our destination is 2048m high Cuernon summit. The path begins some 8km from our home – in village of Somaniezo. We start to walk at 8.50am to Santa Lucia de Luz sanctuary. We follow the country road by the Aniezo stream. The temperature is just above zero and everywhere are the marks of the frost. We walk in shadow of the hill – it is cold. We are out of the shadow only after a two hours walk. Still it does not get much warmer. Instead we have a sun in front of us just above the path – it is hard to even lift the eyes. No chance to see the way ahead – except maybe the couple of meters.
When we climb to the open space we get the cold wind as well. We reach the sanctuary, but are not lucky enough to see the statue (they say it is 32cm long and called santucha due to it’s size).
After having a short break we proceed up to meadows and then start to search for our summit. First we conquer a 1940m high summit. We see from there that the Cuernon is a sharp pile of rocks. We struggle up from one side then from other. Everywhere we get stucked in between large rocky stones. The last meters I proceed alone. I climb to the ridge but there are still about 50 meters up through the rocks. So I surrender.
The route takes 10 hours in total.
We get up early and drive to Santander. There we take a flight to Hahn where we spend a night in a hotel 10m from the main entrance of the airport. The acoustic insulation was perfect – no jets roaring or things like that. Next morning we fly home to Riga.