“An eight day walking holiday in Spain’s Picos de Europa Mountains, with five full days of guided walks travelling in a small group.”
Arenas de Cabrale | Picos de Europa National Park | Collado Las Arnias | Caraves village | Collado de los Buitres | Cares Gorge walk | Peña Main | Pandebano Col | Mancondiu twin summits
Description of Picos mountains walking holiday in Spain
This eight day Picos Mountains walking holiday is still a relative newbie on the walkers’ worldwide wishlist, but the word is out. And it is good. The Picos de Europa, which translates as Europe’s peaks, are just 20km inland from the north coast of Spain’s Bay of Biscay and, as such, have always been the first mountains seen by people arriving in across the Atlantic. Which explains the name. The highest peak, Torre de Cerredo, towering over the region at 2,650m, is often snow covered as are many of the high elevations in his stunning limestone massif. A hiking heaven, much of it has been protected by national park status, proffering an eclectic array of waymarked ways and ancient paths, but also celebrated for its prolific wildlife including bearded vultures, Iberian wolves, brown bears and chamois.
With five full days of guided hikes, categorised at moderate level in terms of activity and fitness required, our hotel for the week is a beautifully located, locally owned small establishment in the mountain town of Arenas the Cabrales, where the morning views just make you want to start walking. With ancient Roman paths on the doorstep that take you through flower filled meadows, and then up to more rugged limestone uplands, you will gain superb views over surrounding valleys all in a morning’s hike.
It’s not all rolling hills and valleys on this walking holiday, however, with a few challenges thrown into the mix, albeit worth it for the view - and the journey. Such as a short climb up to the Collado de los Buitres, followed by another hike up to Pandescura peak, with well earned views over the massif which give great perspective of the region. Other pretty spectacular summit walks include one to Peña Main at 2000m and then, two for the price of one, at 2000m, the twin summits of Mancondiu.
For many people, however, the hiking highlight of the week is through Cares Gorge which cuts through the Picos and where an elevated 12km trail has been built into the rock face, originally designed to access a hydro-electric project from the 1940’s. Every day offers dramatic and devastatingly beautiful scenery in the Picos, however, making it one of those holidays that walkers come away from thinking ‘how can I never have been here before?’ but always plan to come back.
Hello. If you'd like to chat about this holiday or need help finding one we're very happy to help. Rosy & team.
Small group travel is not large group travel scaled down. It is modelled on independent travel – but with the advantage of a group leader to take care of the itinerary, accommodation and tickets, and dealing with the language. It’s easy to tick off the big sights independently – but finding those one-off experiences, local festivals, travelling markets and secret viewpoints is almost impossible for someone without the insider knowledge gained from years in the field. If you’re heading off on a gap year your, perhaps – but for those with a two-week holiday, a small group tour will save valuable planning time.
The leaders are not guides – they’re not there to shepherd you around. Instead, they’ll let you know which local restaurant serves great value food – without running the risk of travellers’ tummy. They’ll allow you to avoid hour-long queues at train stations and attractions.
We like to think of small group travel as the Goldilocks option. It is independent travel without the fuss, worry and bunk beds – and organised travel without the coaches. And it’s cheaper than a tailor made tour. It’s sits somewhere in the middle – and we think it’s just about right.
What are the main benefits?
Have big, life-enriching experiences that would be impossible to organise without lots of time and insider knowledge.
Make the most of your holiday time by letting someone else do the hard work and boring logistics!
Peace of mind
Small group tours take care of the security aspects – and provide a safety net should anything unexpected happen.
Who is it ideal for?
Travellers who are short of time
If you don’t have three months to spend exploring, small groups trips let you cover more ground in less time. Your days are not spent queuing for tickets or finding hotels – so you can squeeze more into your holiday.
Solo travellers who’d like company
Likeminded travel companions plus peace of mind for those travelling alone. Single supplements are usually available – providing privacy if you want it.
Less confident travellers
Stray from the tourist trail without worrying about getting lost, and meet local people without dealing with the language barrier.
“I won’t get any privacy!”
Couples and friends have private rooms, and you can choose to eat alone or not. Single supplements give solo travellers their own room.
“There won’t be any free time”
Free mornings or afternoons let you explore on your own, or just relax.
“The accommodation will be basic” Trips are as high or low end as you like. Though off the beaten track destinations won’t have luxury hotels, this is all part of the adventure.
“I won’t like the other travellers!”
Tour operators try to create groups with a similar demographic – age, families, activity levels... Chances are, you’ll even make new friends.
“Will we be following an umbrella?”
Meet a group Leader
Name: Valerie Parkinson
Story: The first British woman to climb Manaslu, Valerie climbed Everest for her 50th birthday. She’s spent fourteen Christmas Days trekking to Everest Base Camp, and is involved insetting up Responsible Tourism initiatives in the Himalayas.
Meet a local guide
Name: Roshan Fernando
Story: Roshan has led over 130 trips – he adores showing travellers around Sri Lanka. He won the company Leader Award in 2010, but his career highlight was working on their Tsunami Project – which earned him a responsible tourism award.
Responsible tourism: Picos mountains walking holiday in Spain
Activity: Few holidays have as little detrimental impact on the environment and local residents as a walking trip. Erosion on and adjacent to popular paths is a growing problem in certain places and therefore our trip leaders encourage clients to stick to advised routes in order to minimise this. Your local guide knows the Picos so well that you will be able to take unmarked routes and avoid other groups entirely.We do believe in leaving no more than footprints, although this tour actively encourages guests to talk to local people, visit local cafes and restaurants and to use shops to buy handicrafts.
UK Office: It all starts at home so we have first worked at reducing our carbon footprint in our UK Offices. Through energy conservation measures and recycling policies, we are proud to be actively reducing the waste produced and our impact on the environment. We support various projects all over the world to try and give something back to the places we visit.
Accommodation and Meals: We spend the week at the small, family-run Hotel Torrecerrando, which is just three minutes from the centre of the rural village of Arenas De Cabrales. It is ideally situated for anyone wishing to visit the Picos de Europa National Park or the beautiful beaches and fishing ports of the ‘Costa Verde’. As well as being predominantly locally staffed, the ingredients used for meals come from the village and surrounding areas. Meals provided are plentiful and a great chance to get in touch with cuisine in the Picos. The area is famous for its gold-medal-winning blue cheese, Queso Cabrales, which is matured in some of the thousands of deep limestone caves that dot the hills. Lesser known, but equally appealing is the local lamb Cordero al la Menta and a wholesome bean stew, Fabada Asturiana. Fresh fish comes from the coast at Llanes and Ribadesella, half an hour's drive away.
Community: We support the community by using businesses in the village. Due to its location, our using local restaurants (at least one a week is scheduled), buying from local shops and using local transfers, is a very important source of income for many people here. Even profit made from buying locally produced souvenirs is significant for artisans in the village; handmade clogs, pottery and walking sticks are all on sale. Day 5 is free and often clients use this time to try an optional excursion, like caving, canoeing and canyoning. Again, this brings business and income to many companies in the region.
Group Size: This small group tour has a maximum of 16 participants, meaning that we have a low impact on the environments and communities we visit and are able to ensure that we do not disrupt or lead to the displacement of local people. The small number also allows us to stay in unique, family-run hotels that cannot benefit from coach tours and other mass tourism due to their limited sizes.
Reviews of Picos mountains walking holiday in Spain
You can trust Responsible Travel reviews because, unlike many other schemes, reviews can ONLY be written by people who we have verified have been on the holidays.
I am reborn! Simply the best holiday I have ever been on
Some great stories to tell the grandchildren. Would recommend to a friend
It was OK
A bit disappointing really
Reviewed on 08 Jun 2014 by Alison Grant
1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?
The views from the high Picos; the varied, lush, green landscape; the amazing wildflowers…the walks were very diverse and a great introduction to a beautiful area led by an excellent and informative guide.
2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?
The terrain and weather is variable - be prepared for a variety of conditions underfoot.
3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?
Yes, the hotel made an effort to source local food and it is small and family run. A group holiday is also pretty travel efficient.
4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?
This holiday was great - the combination of a very friendly welcoming hotel with excellent food, the knowledgeable, engaging and good humoured guide and the variety of walks combined to make this one of the best holidays I have had in ages.