Gorgeous hiking in Picos de Europa

I always feel excitement in my toes when the bus journey begins to get interesting.

I flit from one side of the bus to the other if there are free seats, as the bus criss-crosses the river bed and the river with its backdrop of near vertical grey cliffs, becomes visible. Sparkling light blue-turquoise water coursing downhill.

Once you leave the Spanish coastline the terrain turns to limestone. Big limestone mountains suggested by a few foothills on the main road begin to rise like giants as the route gets interesting.

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There are so many mountains I begin to lose count. A few villages flash past and the road winds and steepens, clutching the side of the rock tightly. As we are on the bottom of the river valley there isn’t a steep drop, so my toes aren’t going crazy.

Arriving into the Picos on our guided hiking tour in Cantabria, Spain is always like this, and I love the idea of new hikers on the tour feeling the same feeling for the first time. It’s the geological equivalent of getting on a horse or a motorbike. You just feel, wow!

In 2017 our tours are getting into little arts and parts we have glimpsed before and not got to explore fully. Like the hidden remains of a remote hiding place from the Roman conquest on a hilly ridge underneath age-old ewe trees- Banda de Tejos.

The trails interlace meadows, native beech woodland, wild horses- some of which have been domesticated and belled, but roam the mountain-side like feral goats. Each day is a wild forage into one of the most unspoiled regions of Spain, the cherished heart of Cantabria and neighbouring Asturias and Castille y Leon- the fabulous Picos de Europa.

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Nestling little villages like Sotres, Bulnes, Cain, surrounded by jagged peaks but having the advantage of being linked by hikers trails, off-limits to traffic.

Every day is a discovery, the ecology and heritage on offer, rare. Most villages will have a wee outlet traditional store, selling chorizo, cave-matured cheese- Cabrales- which has to be tasted to be believed- wild honey and dried lavender.

Our tours are small, a group of 6 or 7 people who can get to know each other as they walk and relax in a traditional guesthouse after the day’s trail for a meal and beer.

Whetting your appetite? A small number of places left for both 28 June-5th July and the second Tour 5-12th July. Both tours are £600 on the ground (you book your own flight) from Santander airport if paid before 31 December. Book here: 2017.farandwild.org/activities/picos-de-europa-camino-tour/

picos de europa contemplation