The mornings are spent in fun classes learning Spanish, in the afternoons we get out and use it! Here is some information about the National Park and the walks.
The Picos de Europa area was the first National Park to be created in Spain at the start of the 20thcentury. Consisting of a limestone massif rising from the northern coast the mountains reaching a height of 2648m. The mountains were primarily formed through glacial erosion; however they now form a barrier to the clouds coming off the Atlantic and are heavily eroded by rivers. The area is not like the Spain most of us picture, the mountains are green with forests at the base containing a massive variety of flora and fauna.
There is a great variety of walks to choose: from leisurely strolls in the foothills, to more challenging routes reaching the peaks of the Picos. Park rangers have marked numerous routes. However, as the impact of tourism is minimal, you may find that in some areas you don’t meet anybody all day. Most routes have a history attached, there are old villages and byways tucked away in the valleys that have changed little through the years. Many of the classic routes that are now popular with walkers were once the only access to these remote villages 30 years ago. These destinations give a fascinating insight into times gone by, as well as picturesque spots for rest and refreshments. In short, the Picos are a captivating mixture of canyons, crystal blue rivers, caves, history and wildlife.
Walking in the Picos de Europa is wonderful, from the awesome views to the abundant wildlife. All the normal precautions should be taken for mountain environments, however in addition:-
- Always take plenty of water, as you get higher up there are few or no places to fill up.
- The weather can change rapidly, the Picos rise straight from the Atlantic coast and any weather systems hit the mountains quickly and hard. Visibility can drop in minutes.
- River can swell very quickly, there is limited vegetation high up and the mountains are full of caves. Any rainwater is transported straight into the rivers.
- Navigation can be difficult high up, with many limestone peaks looking the same and the local maps not being the best.
- You are supposed to keep to the marked routes, these are indicated with two parallel lines painted horizontally along the way. You will see two crossed lines which signal lesser path off the main route.
- Paths are often very steep, with big drops!
- You will normally see vultures, goats, occasional wild boar and many other species. You are unlikely to see wolves and bears, although they may be there.
- There are several remote mountain villages, I always frequent the bars as its a great source of income for these brilliant places.
The routes described below are popular “classics”. There are many others that are visited by fewer people, and are just as amazing. The routes chosen will depend primarily on the wishes of the students, the topics being studied and the time of year. No route will be chosen that is going to be too much for any member of the group.
A few classic routes
La Ruta del Cares
This is the most famous route in the area, which splits the Picos de Europa in two. The route follows the 1.5km deep Cares gorge for 12km through the centre of the mountain range. Most of the path has been hand carved into the cliff. The path is wide enough to feel safe and, apart from an initial small climb, the route is level. Famous for its spectacular scenery, it is also known for following the fascinating 12km aqueduct built in the early 1900’s. Have a look at this link for some pictures and details. To Arrive at the start of the walk, you need to get to the village of Arenas de Cabrales, which is on the AS-11, a superb road with amazing views running across the Northern side of the Picos. In the middle of the village there is a turn off to Pandebano, take this and keep straight on for 5km and you will go under a bridge where to the left is situated the funicular de Bulnes. Don’t go left, keep heading straight to the end and an obvious place to park the car. The route heads off to the left, up the hill by a sign giving details of the walk.
Bulnes is a beautiful little village tucked into a high mountain valley. Several things make Bulnes unique. The village is so remote that an access road was never constructed and the inhabitants had to rely on foot and animal paths. Only recently has the it been given greater access with the construction of a 2.2km tunnel, at about an 18% slope, that operates a funicular to the town. Bulnes is also famous for its strong blue cheese and its amazing walks. The original route to the town through a canyon is a must, and afterwards there is the possibility of all the stunning routes that lead from Bulnes to the peaks and beyond. A walk to Bulnes puts you right in the heart of the Picos de Europa. The start of the walk is the same as for La Ruta de Cares above (see link). However instead of heading up the hill, head down the path, oppersite the start to La Ruta del Cares, across a bridge over a stunning river. From here follow the main path to the village of Bulnes. (Approx 1Hr).
The route to the town of Tresviso is famous for a different reason. The walk has all of the stunning views and wildlife. However it is steep, very steep! The path tracks the river for the first leisurely 1km, and for the following 5 km rises 825m to the village. The path is well trod, the photographic views are awesome and there are plenty of places to rest. Arriving after a few hours at Tresviso there is a bar for a well earned caña (small beer). Anybody with a medium level of fitness can complete the walk. You can just see the path on the other side of the valley in this photo. The village of Tresviso is in a valley on the far left. We promise it’s not as bad as it looks!
The area offers a wide choice of outdoor activities. Canoeing, quad biking, mountain biking and horse riding are popular and easily arranged. We put together themed courses throughout the year that are designed to help you enjoy your interest more fully by gaining a better command of the relevant vocabulary and expressions. If you would prefer to do one of our general courses and combine it with your preferred activity at any time of the year, we will be delighted to organise it for you. Please consult us for other activities not listed here.