There is no doubt that hiking the Picos de Europa is a must for adventure junkies who visit Spain, and indeed one of the best places for hiking in Spain. This mountain range is part of the Cantabrian mountains, spreading across the Asturias, Cantabria, Castille and León. This northern part of Spain is known as “green Spain,”for it actually is very green thanks to the persistent rain, which favours the growth of forests and thick vegetation.
Check out my post about the best places for hiking in Spain.
The mountain range, where a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve has been recognized, is located about 20 km inland from the coast, yet the mountains are so high that they are visible from the sea. “Picos de Europa” (Peaks of Europe) was how the sailors coming back from the Americas would refer to them when they saw them from afar. Just imagine the range of hikes in the Picos de Europa, so beautiful they are!
Torre de Cerredo, with its 2650 meters, is the highest peak of the Picos de Europa. There’s several other peaks reaching 2600 meters on this mountain range mostly made of limestone. Another peculiarity is that there’s several caves (some get as deep as 1500 meters) as well as gorges. It’s easy to see why walking in the Picos de Europa is such a fun experience for nature lovers.
Hiking the Picos de Europa is a great experience, and there are many good hiking trails, some inside and some outside the national park. The difficulty level varies, but most trails can be walked in a day and it is not necessary to stay overnight at a refugio.
This post focuses on the best hikes in the Picos de Europa, and shares some good tips that will help make the most of the experience.
Hikinng in the Picos de Europa guarantees stunning views
Hiking The Picos De Europa: The Best Trails
Ruta del Cares
As far as hiking in the Picos de Europa goes, it is hard to beat Rutas del Cares. Actually, I think this is one of the most beautiful hikes in Europe. The trail goes along the Cares River and is nicknamed “the Divine Gorge.” The hike is 12 km long, and they are mostly along the gorge. Hiking starts in Poncebos, in Asturias, and terminates in Caín, in León. The views along the way are beautiful: cliffs, the river below, and narrow pathways make it simply splendid.
The walk is actually mostly flat and there’s lots of places to stop for breaks and take in the views. Thus, as far as hikes in the Picos de Europa, this is one of the most suitable for children too.
Hiking Picos de Europa, one is bound to walk the Covadonga Lakes circular route. This is located in Asturias, in the northern part of Picos de Europa National Park. The starting point is at the Sanctuary of Covadonga. The first lake, Enol, is at 12 km from the Sanctuary. On the way to Enol the Mirador de la Reina is a stunning viewpoint. Lake Ercina, the second lake along the trail, is at 1108 meters above sea level.
Of the hikes in the Picos de Europa, this is a longish one but fairly easy as it is mostly flat – so it is suitable for kids. The views along the way are splendid: the water in the lakes reflects the snowcapped mountain; there’s wild horses, cows and sheep grazing in the fields.
Brez Circular Route
This is one of the shortes hikes in the Picos de Europa (just around 5 km), so it is a good one for families with children. The starting and ending points are in Brez, a really pretty village in northern Cantabria, which is framed by the gorgeous mountains. The trail goes through the Valley of Camaleño and part of the massif of the Andara.
Puerto de San Glorio to Portilla de la Reina
One of the loveliest hiking in the Picos the Europa, this trail goes through the mountain pass of Puerto de San Glorio, which is set at the south eastern corner of the Picos de Europa, bordering with Castilla y León. The pass goes along the Arroyo de Naranco River, and by the scenic village of Portilla de la Reina. The overall hike is about 9.5 km long, taking between 2.5 to 3 hours to complete.
What makes this one of the best hikes in the Picos de Europa is the views: picture the mossy green cliffs, the forests and the Monumento del Oso (“monument of the bear”) at Puerto de San Glorio, and now imagine how much children are going to enjoy it!
Taking in the views when hiking in the Picos de Europa
Ordiales Scenic Balcony Trail
Another one of the hikes in the Picos de Europa that is located in the same area as the Covadonga Lakes Trail, in Asturias. The trails starts at Lake Enol and goes to Pradera de Ordiales, for little over 11 km (one way). Walking in the Picos de Europa in this particular area means crossing green mountain pastures and eventually emerging at La Gamonal Pass and the pinnacles of Santa María and La Cebollera. The trails goes down to the tomb of the Marquis de Villabiciosa and the Ordiales Scenic Balcony. The view of the Cornión Massif from there is stunning.
Fuente Dé to Espinama
I did mention in my post on the best hikes in Spain that hiking in the Picos de Europa means going to Fuente Dé. A cable car takes all the way to Fuente Dé, at 1823 meters above sea level and it then is about one hour to go all the way back downhill, all the while admiring the gorgeous views. The village of Espinama, where the trail ends, is lovely.
Ruta de Fuente Dé a Puertos de Aliva
One more hiking in the Picos de Europa that starts with a ride on the Fuente Dé cable car. This trail goes all the way to Puertos de Aliva, in Cantabria. The overall hike (there and back) is 13.4 km long, at a medium level difficulty, despite being mostly downhill. The starting point is at around 730 meters above sea level. The panoramic views along the way are beautiful, and expands all the way to the peaks of Tesorero, Horcados Rojos and Peña Vieja.
Ruta de Torres de Orcado Rojos
One of the highest peaks of the Picos de Europa is Torre de Horcados Rojos, which reaches 2343 meters. It’s a nice place to go hiking in the Picos de Europa, as the hike to the top isn’t difficult. It takes around 4 hours to walk the 10 km trail which (guess what) starts at Fuente Dé cable car. What makes the hike worth it is the view of the Cantabrian Sea and the Sierra de Cuera to the north, and those of Cabaña Verónica and its peaks to the south.
Bajo Los Picos Trail
Bajo Los Picos Trail is one of the easiest hikes in the Picos de Europa region, so it is suitable for families with children. It is a circular route of around 9 km. The trails starts and ends in Mogrovejo, in the northwestern part of Cantabria. Though there is an initial ascent that may seem quite hard, after that the rest of the hike is easy, going through beautiful pastures and villages.
Vega de Ario Plane
The Vega de Ario Plane trails is 15 km long, and it takes around 5 hours to walk it. The trail starts close to Lake Ercina (one of the Covadonga Lakes) and goes to Vega de Ario plain, Vega de Ario refuge and eventually back to the lake. Hiking the Picos de Europa here means having gorgeous views of the lake, of the pastures and of the peaks in the distance: they are just breathtaking.
The best time for hiking the Picos de Europa
I have mentioned already that the Picos de Europa is located in the region of Spain known as “green Spain” (of which the Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia are also part.) The reason this part of the country is so green is that it rains pretty much all year. The good news is that, no matter when one decides to go hiking in the Picos de Europa, everything will be green and the vegetation will be lush.
Even when planning to go hiking in the Picos de Europa in the summer months (the driest months are July and August) keep in mind that the weather does change rapidly and it is a good idea to always take a rain jacket and any other rain gear. I think that the best months to go hiking in the Picos de Europa are June and September, when the weather is milder and the days nice and long (especially in June), and there’s no crowds.
Those who are into birdwatching and wild flowers may consider hiking the Picos de Europa in April, May and October. In any case, keep in mind that this area of Spain doesn’t get nearly as much tourism as other regions, so chances are that no matter the season, there won’t be many people on the trails.
The nearest city go to hiking in the Picos de Europa National Park
The best access point for anybody who is interested in hiking the Picos de Europa is Potes, a village that however, in the peak season when more people visit the national park, gets more crowded. The village is lovely: it was founded in the 8th century, and its main revenue nowadays is tourism, thanks to its vicinity the Picos de Europa National Park.
Actually, regardless of the intention of going hiking in the Picos de Europa, the village is nice to visit. Imagine a maze of narrow alleys, and a charming atmosphere. The Torre del Infantado, which houses the City Council, was built in the 15th century. The church of San Vincente, which is the saint patron of Potes, was built in the 15th century, and subsequently rebuilt from the 15th to the 17th century. It was eventually replaced in the 19th century by the new parish church.
There’s other interesting places to visit in Potes, too. The Bridge of San Cayetano was built in the 13th century above the Rio Quiviesa. The Ermita de San Cayetano is located at one end of the bridge: nowadays it is the venue for cultural events and exhibitions. Other places worth visiting are the Ermita de la Virgen del Camino, a chapel built in the 18th century; the Ermita de la Virgen de Valmayor, built in the 16th century a bit outside the village; and the Benedectine Convent of San Raimundo; dating to the early 17th century.
Hiking Picos de Europa is an incredible experience!
Where to stay when hiking in the Picos de Europa
There’s a good choice of accommodation options for those hiking in the Picos de Europa National Park. Potes has the best places. Anyways, here’s a selection of hotels, hostels and campsites in the area:
Those who want to go hiking in the Picos de Europa can access it from various airports, all served by budget ailines too. The nearest one is that of Santander, in Cantabria, from where it takes less than 2 hours to drive to Potes (it’s around 115 km). This is the main access. Other airports would be Oviedo, in Asturias, which is 165 km far from the national park (around 2 hours drive) and Bilbao, in the Basque Country, which around 200 km far ( about 2 and a half hours drive).
Other useful information
Those hiking the Picos de Europa usually find that the best views are from Fuente Dé, which can be reached by cable car. There’s a restaurant serving local food at the top.
Various companies and tour operators organize one-day and even multi-day hikes in the Picos de Europa, catering to adventure travelers as well as families traveling with children.
The website of Spain Tourism Board provides information on how to organize hikes in the Picos de Europa.
Have you ever been hiking in the Picos de Europa?
Pin It For later!
There are some incredible hikes in Spain. This is a fantastic destination for any kind of traveler, and I keep going there. I may as well say that it is my favorite country in Europe, the only one I’d consider living outside my beloved Sardinia – save of course for Israel, but that isn’t in Europe, right?
What I like about Spain is that there are many beautiful cities – some very big ones and a bunch of medium and smaller cities. There’s an incredible amount of lovely village. Not to mention the fabulous art and museums – my favorite is the Guggenheim in Bilbao, in the Basque Country. The food is so good, even for a picky eater like me: Spain it is among my top 5 favorite foodie destinations. And last, but not least, nature is absolutely gorgeous, which makes hiking in Spain a real treat.
I truly enjoy nature and I am a bit of a hiking junkie, and any time I visit the country I find a great variety of hiking trails in Spain.
A few things to know about hiking in Spain is that different regions are best walked at different times of year; there’s hiking trails in Spain for all levels of difficulty, all of them offering the most varied views (whether it is breathtaking mountains or gorgeous coastal panoramas).
Some of the best hikes in Spain require a modest effort of just a few hours walking, and are perfect for one day out in the nature; other hiking trails in Spain are much longer, more challenging, and needless to say they offer some truly rewarding views.
But what are the nicest places for hiking in Spain? It is not easy to select them. I have my preferences, though, and thought I’d put them on a list which, however, is hardly exhaustive. In this post I explain where to find the most amazing hikes in Spain.
These are the views along some of the most amazing hikes in Spain
Where To Find The Most Amazing Hikes In Spain
Spain is famous for the Camino de Santiago, a series of walks that may well be considered one of the top hikes in Spain. The trails depart from many places around the country (in fact, around Europe! Some leave from Portugal and France too) and all end up in Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia. This isn’t the average multi-day hike, though: many see it as a pilgrimage. I am not religious, but I have walked bits of the Camino and visited many places along the Camino del Norte, and found it an incredible experience.
But for the purpose of this post, I have decided to talk about other hikes in Spain that are not just those along the Camino de Santiago.
Read more about Galicia here. And here’s a post on the places to visit along the Camino del Norte.
Some of the nicest hikes in Spain are on the Picos de Europa
Picos de Europa
The Picos de Europa are located in the North of the country and have some of the best hiking trails in Spain. They are a mountain range set at about 20 km inland from the north coast, and part of the Cantabrian mountains. The Picos de Europa spread across four different regions: Asturias, Cantabria, Castille and León. I visited them during one of my trips to Spain, when I went to Cantabria, and loved it (though it was mighty cold on that day, though it was meant to be summer).
Read more about Asturias here, and about Cantabria here.
The name Picos de Europa (Peaks of Europe) is a reference to the first sight of Europe that sailors coming back from the Americas would get. Often referred to as “the Dolomites of Spain,” they are home to some of the nicest hikes in Spain.
The Picos de Europa are mostly made of limestone, so the area is packed with caves (some of which are as deep as 1500 meters) and gorges. The highest peak of the range is the Torre de Cerredo, with its 2650 meters. Several others in the Picos de Europa reach 2600 meters. With such peaks, it’s easy to see why some of the most beautiful hiking in Spain is here!
The North of Spain, where the Picos de Europa are located, is known as “green Spain.” Indeed, it gets a lot of rain throughout the year. The best time for hikes in Spain in the Picos de Europa is the summer time: August is supposed to be the driest month.
Either way, it’s important to remember that the weather can change quickly and abruptly, and wearing or carrying rain gear is recommended regardless of the season. I hiked there at the end of June and sure enough I got caught in the rain (and fog), but loved it all the same – these are some of the pretties hikes in Spain.
Independent of the season, the Picos de Europa are beautifully quiet: they are unknown to mass tourism, and still quite off the beaten path. The few people who visit find some of the nicest hikes in Spain. Only Potes, the main resort town in the area, gets a bit more visitors. But it is never overwhelming.
In order to get the most amazing views of the Picos de Europa, go to Fuente Dé. This can be reached via a cable car, which climbs over 800 meters. It is also nice to hike all the way to the top (it’s one of the nicest hiking trails in Spain). Try to go on a sunny day, though, because during a rainy or cloudy day there’ll be no view at all!
One of the most scenic hikes in Spain that’s in the Picos de Europa is the Ruta del Cares, a 12 km trail that goes from Poncebos in Asturias to Caín in León.
Picos de Europa National Park has several places for those who plan to stay overnight. However, most of the hikes in this part of Spain can be done in a day. There’s several good, well marked hiking trails (some of them in the National Park, others outside) and a bunch of lovely villages which make for an interesting visit. The region is still used for farming, so it is quite common to come across herds of cows and sheep, as well as farmhouses. Easy to see why the Picos de Europa have some of the top hikes in Spain.
Stay tuned for a more detailed post about the nicest hikes in the Picos de Europa!
Some of the most beautiful hikes in Spain are in the Sierra Nevada
The Sierra Nevada mountain range has some of the nicest hikes in Spain. It is located in one of the most famous, touristic and (obviously) beautiful regions of Spain: Andalucia. It spreads across the provinces of Granada and Almería. The mountains are within easy reach of Granada, a city I fell in love with when I visited with my cousin in what seems like forever ago.
This range is home to the highest peak in Europe outside those of the Alps – the Mulhacén, which reaches 3478 meters. Easy to see why some of the best hiking trails in Spain are here. Needless to say, the high mountain peaks make the Sierra Nevada a fantastic skiing destination in the winter – all the while, the rest of Andalusia is warm and sunny, (after all, it is quite far south in Europe).
What this means is that hiking here is good in any season, even during the winter months: when snow and ice make the highest peaks of Sierra Nevada inaccessible to most, the foothills still have pleasant temperatures and beautiful views, and offer some of the top hiking in Spain.
The good news for hiking junkies is that when the terrible heat strikes in the summer months and makes hiking impossible at the foothills, the highest peaks provide a good escape and some fresh air – though be advised that the weather can change dramatically within a short time, and it may rain in the summer too. Either way, it’s one of the best regions for hiking in Spain.
There are several hiking trails in the Sierra Nevada. Some go all the way to the Mulhacén. All these trails can be walked in a day, though some of them are way more difficult than others – reminding me of the incredible variety of hikes in Spain. The northern side of the mountain is where the hardest trails are, suitable only for real mountaineers. As a consequence, the southern part, which is much easier, is more popular and crowded.
A good walk (one of the nicest and sweetest hikes in Spain) is the one that goes from the Mirador de Trevélez to the peak of Mulhacén, and it takes around two hours walk.
Sierra Nevada National Park occupies most of the Sierra Nevada range. It’s also been recognized as a UNESCO biosphere reserve. The National Park is really vast and there’s many trails. Add to this that few people outside of Spain are aware that the region has some of the most scenic hikes in Spain, and this means having a nice and peaceful hiking region throughout the year.
Stay tuned for a more detailed post about the nicest hikes in the Sierra Nevada!
Odessa Valley is one of the best places for hiking in Spain
The Pyrenees mark the border between Spain and France, and within them there’s the small State of Andorra. The mountain range, where some of the greatest hikes in Spain are located, goes from the Western Cap Higuer in the Bay of Biscay to the Eastern Cap de Creus in the Mediterranean Sea. The highest peak is Aneto, reaching a height of 3404 meters.
The mountain range goes all the way through Catalonia, Aragon and Navarre. One interesting fact about the Pyreness is that, unlike the Alps, there are no lakes at all here, and not many usable high mountain passes. However, there’s plenty of mountain torrents and some beautiful waterfalls – the most famous one is Gavarnie, with its 462 meters jump. And most importantly so, for the purpose of this post, is that there’s some of the top hiking in Spain.
Another interesting thing about the Pyrenees is that the can vary a lot. The West, closer to the Bay of Biscay, is more rainy and colder than the East. It is also where the only glaciers in the Pyrenees are located. Both areas are home to some fabulous hikes in Spain, where some of the most famous and challenging trails in Europe are located: the GR10 in the northern area, in France; the GR11 in the southern parts; and the HRP, which is even more challenging as it goes at a higher altitude.
Other than having some of the top hikes in Spain, the Pyrenees are a good skiing destination in the winter.
Here is a more insightful post about the best hikes in the Pyrenees.
Costa Brava has some of the most breathtaking hikes in Spain
Costa Brava literally means “rugged coast.” This lovely coastal region is located in Catalonia, and starts at around 40 km north of Barcelona, in Blanes, going all the way to the border with France. Though most people who visit this popular part of the country go for the beautiful beaches and lovely small cities, the nature is incredible too, and there’s some of the nicest hikes in Spain.
Costa Brava boasts three natural parks, several areas of natural interest, and an fine range of trails – some of the nicest hiking in Spain. What I love about hiking here is that it is completely different from the rest of the country, and in a way it reminds me of hiking in Sardinia: most trails go along the coast, all the time having breathtaking views of small coastal towns, small coves with clear turquoise waters, and the typical Mediterranean vegetation.
The most famous trail (actually one of the most famous hikes in Spain) is the Camino de Ronda, or GR92. The trail runs for around 220 km. Most of it goes the coast and through beautiful fishing villages, coves and beaches, not nearly as croweded as the ones in other parts of the country.
I know that hiking junkies will want to walk the entire trail, which takes ten days. The good news for those who don’t have that much time or that just want to add a day hike to their trip is that the Camino de Ronda can be accessed from many places, to walk just portions of it – something that makes it one of my favorite hikes in Spain.
I will be writing a more detailed post about the hikes in Costa Brava, too.
Caminito del Rey: one of the best hikes in Spain
I have some great memories of Malaga and of a feria I went to in the summer, years and years ago. Located in Andalusia, Malaga is mostly known for the lively, pretty and colorful city home of some fantastic art museums. What many seem to ignore is that this region is an adventure lover’s paradise: the mountainous inland terrain has some of the most amazing, scenic hikes in Spain.
The Montes de Malaga natural park, located north of the city, is a series of beautiful hills, mountains and forest with hiking trails of various lenght and difficulty. Antequera, which is even more inland, is where El Torcal natural park, famous for its karst landscape, is located. The region is scattered with pretty villages, so that going on what are some of the top hikes in Spain can be paied with a cultural experience too.
One of the most famous hiking trails in Spain in the Malaga region is the Caminito del Rey, which used to be considered one of the most dangerous hikes in the world because of some missing sections of pathway and its cliffside drops. The entire area was closed for years for safety reasons, but thanks to renovation and maintenance works the trail opened again in 2015. The trail, one of the nicest hikes in Spain, is around 8 km long and it takes about 4 hours to complete.
Here is a post on the best hikes in Malaga.
Have you ever done any hiking in Spain? What’s your favorite place to do it?
Pin it For Later!