Spread across the provinces of Asturias, Cantabria and León, Picos de Europa National Park might very well be Spain’s best kept secret. It is the least known national park of Spain and perhaps the most underrated area of the country. This National Park got its name because it is said that the mountainous peaks were the first thing sailors would see on their return from America. I traveled through this national park for over a month and fell in love with its awe-inspiring rockmassifs, rugged peaks and deep ravines. It is a pure and unbridled area that will leave you breathless at every turn. I did some of my best hiking in this national park and thoroughly enjoyed every mindblowing trail. The national park is home to some pretty amazing wildlife too; it is host to the brown bear, wolves, brown eagles and Egyptian voltures. So if you are a nature lover or just looking to get off the beaten path you should definitely add this national park to your bucket list! Take a look at some pictures of the area and read about how to access the many trails of the park!
I traveled the entire N-621 and N-625 around the national park. As you travel through the small alpine towns you’ll find some startingpoints for routes. However, because the park is spread out over 3 provinces it can be hard to find information on the trails or where to park your car. So all you have to know is that the national park is generally accessed by two main gateways; Fuente Dé and Covadonga. However, I want to add a third one to that; Las Arenas.
If you take the main road to Fuente Dé from Potes you’ll find yourself being transported into the heart of the national park. As the road meanders though the forests you’ll see the massif peaks of Urrieles getting closer. At the end of the road you’ll find the little town Fuente Dé; mostly known for its cable car and starting point of many beautiful trails. This cable car is a touristic highlight in Cantabria; it will take you up to 1823m, deep into the heart of the national park. If you don’t want to take the teleferico you’ll find yourself plenty of hiking trails starting from the ‘bottom’ though. Unfortunately the cable car didn’t allow dogs so we enjoyed several beautiful routes that took us up the mountains.
The second gateway that will take you deep into the national park is found in Covadonga. Located in the province Asturias. Covadonga is home to a religious sanctuary which consists of a basilica, a holy cave, a museum and a Collegiate church. The grand basilica can be seen for miles around and is surrounded by a beautiful mountain scenery. This beautiful little town is ais a place of worship and pilgrimage for the people of Asturias. Initiatly I only visited this place as it was a way for me to getting into the national park but I thoroughly enjoyed this scenic little town. You’ll find that there are several routes that start in Covadonga itself. However, if you follow the main road for another 20 minutes or so you’ll find that there’s a whole new world to discover. The road will take you into the rugged heart of the park and show you all the breathtaking sights it has to offer. At the end of the road there is plenty opportunity to park and start stunning dayhikes and thruhikes.
When I was researching the national park beforehand I read a lot about the two other gateways; Fuente Dé and Covadonga. But I didn’t read anything about Las Arenas for some reason. However, I found this little town to be the very best place to explore the park from so it deserves to be mentioned here. Las Arenas is mostly known for it’s famous ‘Ruta del Cares’. This hike was repeatedly named among the most beautiful hikes in Spain so that is what attracted me to this town in the first place. Las Arenas turned out to have a whole lot more to offer than just one stunning hike though. I spent a good amount of time in this area and, to me, it is without a doubt the best gateway into the national park. If you follow the road to Hostal Poncebos you’ll find yourself transported deep into the park. This area of the park is rugged and you’ll find the magnificent peaks of Naranjo de Bulnes and Torre de Ceredo towering over you. Las arenas offers many hiking trails, more than I found in Covadonga and Fuente Dé actually. So if you are a hiking lover, this is the place to be!