picos bridge near sotres
Rural Berger community near Sotres, Picos de Europa

For someone who has done a fair bit of travelling, this remains one of my favorite scenes- partly because I’ve been lucky to pass the spot twice in the past 2 years, and it looks exactly as I remember it. I just love the wee bridge and all it suggests about the past and its unspoiled-ness.

Nestled in the heart of the Picos De Europa near the mountain village of Sotres, I first passed it with a group of Far and Wild guides in May 2015. This year (2016) we took our first client trip in May and caught the magic of the place in the late afternoon after an introductory day’s valley walking to warm up our legs for the 5 day tour.

Looking forward to coming back in 2017, I can’t wait to share this sense of relaxed and sensory landscape that the Picos encapsulates as a less frequented but inspiring european walking destination.

Medium Terrain Circuit

For some the Picos suggest the larger mountains that European walking can offer and require a certain level of fitness and umph! With 2,500m peaks a-plenty, it is true that the mountaineer can spent a fortnight there in the upper reaches of its limestone escarpments and stay above the clouds.

However our tours excel in introducing walkers with a moderate level of fitness and ambition to the valleys and quiet berger villages around 1,000m- high enough to get away from traffic and ‘civilisation’ but still accessible by cable car and fenicular rail if you wish to have an easy ascent or descent.

picos de europa contemplation
Relaxing moment in the Picos near the village of Cain (Day 5)

What strikes me about the region besides the natural friendliness of the Spanish is the wealth of its bio-diversity. We pride ourselves in Ireland with being a green island, however the hills and valleys of Alpine meadows in the Picos far surpass many of our habitats for sheer floral diversity and scale- not unlike the Burren but writ large!

After taking a group out in May this year, when we explored the circuit in more detail that we want to do in 2017, it became clear that the potential for hiking and a truly positive week in the outdoors filled with moderate walks and interactions with local guides, hostel owners and culture is huge. I found the Irish tend to knock along well with Spanish people and it helps when exchanging anecdotes and socialising after a day’s trekking. The food in particular was surprisingly hearty, home-made and flavor-some.

I was back again in July with a group of young people doing their Duke of Edinburgh Award. We went to a neighboring mountain region, the Cordillera Cantabria, and spent 4 days walking above the clouds in the invigorating sunshine.

picos de europa group
Duke of Edinburgh Group in the Cordillera Cantabria with Picos de Europa in the background

The group were sufficiently taken with the region to want to return again with their families and spend more time exploring what is a size-able network or mountain communities and hidden places with lots of things to do for the activity-minded.

We met many people on the plane to Santander going to do their ‘camino’ towards Santiago de Compostella. Our Camino was a bit different but nonetheless important. The opportunity to refresh and re-vitalise ourselves in a welcoming place quite apart from what we are used to. There is a personal element to what each of us gets out of a Tour- time in nature, opportunities to meet like-minded people and make new friends, immersion in a new culture or place, improving our own sense of fitness and well-being.

Our attempt in 2017 is to accommodate all these aspirations and to help you savor and enjoy this wonderful region of Spain I have become passionate about. There are varied route options for those looking for more exertion and longer days- something for everyone in fact.

So inquire early and become one of our bespoke Picos Tours in summer 2017- we would love to share this great place with you…

2017.farandwild.org/activities/picos-de-europa-camino-tour