Picos de Europa hike aliva

7 Best trails of Picos de Europa hiking

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Picos de Europa is a natural park located in the north of Spain, boasting breathtakingly beautiful and varied landscapes. With over 1000+ hiking trails, it’s no wonder that Picos de Europa hiking is one of the best ways to experience this stunning region. From eagle encounters to challenging climbs, there are plenty of trails to choose from.

Hiking in Picos de Europa can be both a rewarding and challenging experience. From moderate to difficult paths, you won’t have any issue finding the best hikes in Picos de Europa that suit your needs. If you want to make the most of your visit, consider taking some of the best hikes Picos de Europa has to offer.

We hiked in Picos de Europa for four days and are happy to share our tips so you can experience the best Picos de Europa hikes for yourself!

Picos de Europa hikes
Picos de Europa hike to Bulnes

What are the best Picos de Europa hiking trails to do?

Picos de Europa hiking is one of the best ways to experience this stunning region in northern Spain. To get straight to the point, there are no best hikes Picos de Europa because this varies from person to person. With over 1000+ hiking trails, there’s something for everyone – from eagle encounters to challenging climbs, it can be hard to choose the right route.

We have walked the routes below. The routes are arranged by personal preference. In our opinion, the hike from Sotres to Puertos de Aliva is the most beautiful one to do. When drawing up the list, we took into account the intensity over the days. It is therefore advisable to keep the sequence if you are staying in Picos de Europa for 7 days. If you stay 4 days you can do the first 4 walks, just like we did. 

  1. Sotres to Puertos de Aliva
  2. Ruta del Cares
  3. Bulnes
  4. Andara

In addition to the above hikes, below three Picos de Europa trekking routes are also recommended to do. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, we were unable to do these hikes. Nevertheless, they still offer an incredible experience and should be considered if visiting the area. These trails offer spectacular views of the Picos de Europa mountain range and the surrounding valleys.

  • Naranjo de Bulnes
  • Covadonga Lakes
  • Canal de Camburero

You can use the map below to orientate yourself during the hikes. You can also see where you can park your car per hike. In addition, you can see where our recommended accommodations can be found, the best places to eat, and where to take the bus to start the Covadonga hike. Click on the top right corner to enlarge the Picos de Europa hiking trail map.

#1 Sotres to Puertos de Aliva

Hiking Picos de Europa is an incredible experience and in our opinion is the hike from Sotres to Puertos de Aliva the best one to do. This particular walk through a glacier valley at 1650m altitude is technically simple yet takes a long time. The views and the silence during this hike are breathtaking and almost meditative. You start in Sotres and follow a Land Rover track up to the summer pasture area of Aliva and back. The valley is surrounded by rock walls that are truly impressive. At the highest point, you can treat yourself with some food and drinks at refugio de Aliva while enjoying the panoramic view of the valley.

Make sure to start your day on time as it might take longer than 7 hours with resting and taking pictures. We recommend starting hiking at 8:00 am.

We can talk for hours about this amazing trip and hopefully, our photos will inspire you to experience it yourself :).

  • Distance: 18.8km / 11.7 miles
  • Duration: 7 hours
  • Ascent/descent: 735m
  • Start and end point: Sotres
Picos de Europa hike aliva
Puertos de Aliva

#2 Ruta del Cares

Ruta del Cares is the most popular route for Picos de Europa trekking and hiking. This hike was created after the construction of the canal that runs from Cain to Poncebos and features a power station located at Poncebos that uses the power of water to generate power. It is an impressive walk, as the path is partially carved, you pass several old bridges and find yourself between a huge gorge.

During this Picos de Europa hike, you will continuously walk through the gorge with the river alongside you. The views are beautiful! The tour starts at Ponchebos and you walk until Cain. At Cain, you can buy food and drinks. After lunch in Cain, you need to walk back to Ponchebos via the same road. If you are very tired you can take a bus in the village of Cain to Ponchebos, so you only have to hike the path once.

The trek is easy except the start at Ponchebos can be a challenge as you have to climb 150m steeply. Once you have reached the top, the rest of the journey is easy. The special thing about the Ruta del Cares is that the path is right along a rock wall high above the river so people with a fear of heights can suffer from this. Cynthia has a fear of heights and found the beginning difficult (the first 30 minutes) but after that, she didn’t suffer from her fear of heights at all because she always walked along the wall and therefore only had to look forward instead of down.

Overall this Picos de Europa trekking route is a great experience for anyone wanting to take on an adventure in the mountains!

  • Distance: 22km / 13.6 miles
  • Duration: 7 hours
  • Ascent/descent: 250m
  • Starting and finishing point: Poncebos
Picos de Europa Ruta del Cares
Ruta del Cares hike

Where to stay in Picos de Europa

Option 1 Arenas de Cabrales family hotel: Hotel La Rivera
In Arenas de Cabrales, we recommend staying at Hotel La Rivera or Hotel Picos de Europa. We stayed in Hotel La River and found it to be a great choice; not only did the breakfast have delicious options, but the owner was also able to provide us with lots of useful information about the various hiking trails available in the area. The only downside is that the hotel is only open for a couple of months each year.
Check actual prices and availability for Hotel La Rivera here.

Option 2 Arenas de Cabrales amenities and swimming pool: Hotel Picos de Europa
Another great option would be Hotel Picos de Europa, which comes complete with a swimming pool and all the necessary amenities to make your vacation truly unforgettable. This hotel has availability throughout the entire year, so you can easily book your stay in advance.
Check actual prices and availability for Hotel Picos de Europa here.

Option 3 Sotres great atmosphere: Hotel Rural Peña Castil
Sotres is a small village so you have few choices. We recommend Hotel Rural Peña Castil because the atmosphere here is very good, the rooms are neat and it has a restaurant so you can easily dine at your accommodation in the evening.
Check actual prices and availability for Hotel Rural Peña Castil here.

#3 Bulnes

This Picos de Europa Trail is a great opportunity to explore the beauty of the mountains and experience its contrasting landscapes. From Ponchebos, adventurers can trek up to Bulnes, a typical mountain village located in the heart of the Picos de Europa. The route is relatively short but quite challenging as you have to climb a lot on it. During the trek, you will have breathtaking views of the Asturian mountains and arrive at Bulnes, where it seems as if time has stood still.

Here, you can take a break to admire the church and surrounding houses. In addition, don’t forget to check out nearby Bulnes Castillo with its Mirador from which you can get a great view of Naranjo de Bulnes. Those with reduced mobility can use the funicular from Poncebos and from the top is only a 7-minute walk to the village. This Picos de Europa trek will be sure to provide an unforgettable experience and is recommended for those who want to do an easy walk.

  • Distance: 8km / 5 miles
  • Duration: 3 hours
  • Ascent/descent: 433m
  • Departure and end point: Poncebos
Bulnes hike
Mountains of Picos de Europa

#4 Andara

This is a beautiful trip through the high mountains where you can enjoy magnificent views. On this trip you walk on an old mining road, you are in the middle of the mountains of the eastern part of the park and you will probably see many eagles. This is an area where they are common.

The best part of this hike is the views because, with good weather conditions, you can even see the sea. As indicated on the map, you can walk the tour in two ways. Walk from Sotres to refugio de Andara, when you have arrived there you can make a circle around the mountain. If you are at the refugio de Andara and there is fog or low clouds, it makes no sense to make the round because you will not see anything. However, if you expect to rise above the clouds, you will have a wonderful experience.

During this trip, you will not encounter any water sources, so it is important to take enough water with you.

  • Distance: option I: A-B-A: 13.4km / 8.3 miles | option II: ABCA: 22.5km / 14 miles
  • Duration: option I: 4 hours | option II: 9 hours
  • Ascent/descent: option I: 640m | option II: 1150m
  • Departure and end point: Sotres
Andara hike

#5 Naranjo de Bulnes

For many adventurers and hiker lovers, a hike to Naranjo de Bulnes in the Picos de Europa is an unmissable experience. This ultimate walking journey will reward you with stunning landscapes that vary from rugged mountain to moonscape-like terrain.

Starting your hike at the parking lot Pandebano, you can ascend and descend 1000m to eventually reach the refugio Vega de Urriellu. It is possible, but not recommended, to begin the hike from Sotres as this will make it a much longer journey. In order to make the most of your Picos de Europa walking experience, starting early in the morning is essential so you can take advantage of the shade. If you start too late, it can quickly become very hot because the position of the sun changes and you walk continuously in the sun.

During your journey, you can find some water sources but beware that authorities do not guarantee its purity. The hike to Naranjo de Bulnes is a must-do for any hiker looking to explore the beauty of Picos de Europa hikes.

  • Distance: 17km / 10.6 miles
  • Duration: 7 hours
  • Ascent/descent: 1000m
  • Departure and end point: Pandebano parking lot, Bulnes exit and Urriellu
Panoramic view Picos de Europa

#6 Covadonga Lakes

Hiking at the Covadonga Lakes is for many the iconic image of Picos de Europa. This walk is not difficult and is easy to do for all ages. The nice thing about this walk is that you see many sheep and cows grazing on the green heights. At the end of the hike, you will be treated with two beautiful lakes called Lago Enol and Lago de La Ercina.

To start this hike you have to use a bus. Travel to Cangas de Onis, here you can park your car at parking grande P1. Then take the bus to Covadonga (indicated on the bus). From Covadonga, you can start the hike to the Covadonga lakes.

  • Distance: 24km / 14.9 miles
  • Duration: 7 hours
  • Ascent/Descent: 920m
  • Start and end point: Covadonga
Covadonga hike

#7 Canal de Camburero

For those looking for an unforgettable experience in Picos de Europa, the Canal de Camburero hike is the perfect choice. This 18km route begins in Poncebos and takes you to Bulnes, where you can continue on foot up towards the mountain base of Naranjo de Bulnes and back. Along the way, you will be greeted with stunning views and plenty of photo opportunities, as well as a chance to take in the unique flora and fauna of this area – something that makes this hike stand out from other routes in Picos de Europa. The hike typically takes around 9 hours, so make sure to start early and enjoy all the views you have along the way.

  • Distance: 16km / 9.9 miles
  • Duration: 9 hours
  • Ascent/Descent: 2250m
  • Start and end point: Poncebos
Refugio de Aliva

How many days do you need for Picos de Europa?

We recommend staying at least 3 days in Picos de Europa for the best possible experience of its unique hiking trails. Depending on how many trails you want to do you need to extend the days with the hikes. If you are an avid hiker, we suggest extending your stay to 7 days so that you can explore a lot of amazing Picos de Europa hiking routes.

Picos de Europa itinerary

Our four-day itinerary will ensure you get to experience the incredible beauty of this majestic region. On your arrival day, take a light hike from Bulnes to get an early start on exploring the area. The next day, tackle the 7-hour route from Sotres to Puertos de Aliva for some unforgettable and breathtaking views. Day three is all about taking in the Ruta del Cares, where you’ll get up close to stunning nature. Finally, wrap up your trip with a hike through Andara.

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Picos de Europa walks independently or with a guide?

All the hikes in Picos de Europa can be done independently. Everything is marked and if you use a hiking map, our map, or the Maps.Me application you can easily navigate yourself. You can do all the walks in this article independently. If you do have not that much experience with hiking, we recommend that you read our article about hiking for beginners.

You only need a guide if you want to climb Naranjo de Bulnes. The hike that is listed on #5 goes to the base of Naranjo de Bulnes, but if you also want to climb the rock you have to do this with a guide. A good organization to climb Naranjo de Bulnes is Potes Adventura.

How fit do you need to be for hiking at Picos de Europa?

Of course, you have to be fit if you go hiking in a mountain area, but it is not necessary to be trained. If you are in good shape, go for a walk at home now and then and select routes that match your fitness level, you will be fine. The seven hikes in this article are all fine for anyone who has a normal condition.

It is recommended to do some long walks at home before your trip so you can get used to it. It is also advisable to build up the intensity of the tours. The order of the hikes in this article is recommended to follow because it is based on our personal experience in terms of intensity. For example, during the third day of the walk to Bulnes, you don’t have a long trip, so you can rest a bit.

Do you suffer from a fear of heights at Picos de Europa?

You can suffer from vertigo during one of the hikes at Picos de Europa. It does depend on the hike and the person how they experience height. Cynthia is afraid of heights and she can assure you that you can do all the hikes without any problems.

Looking at the seven hikes in this article, you may suffer from a fear of heights during the hikes: #2 Ruta del Cares, #3 Bulnes, and #5 Naranjo de Bulnes. Ruta del Cares is difficult at the beginning for people with a fear of heights because you have steep parts here. It is important to walk close to the wall and not at the edge so that you do not look into the depth. For the hike to Bulnes, you can consider using the funicular (cable car). However, if you buy walking sticks, you can also cover the stretch independently. Naranjo de Bulnes is not recommended for people with a fear of heights, ask at the accommodation whether it is wise to start this hike if are afraid of heights.

Ruta del Cares

Where to stay in Picos de Europa?

There are several villages around the Picos de Europa Natural Park where you can stay. We recommend staying in Arenas de Cabrales or Sotres. Both villages are centrally located so all hikes are close by. The hikes in the central part of Picos de Europa are also rougher and more impressive in comparison with other parts. You can stay in the east or west part only the disadvantage is that you need to drive 1 hour per hike.

Arenas de Cabrales is the largest village in Picos de Europa, so you can find a couple of shops, restaurants, and accommodations here. Sotres, on the other hand, is the village in Picos de Europa that is the highest and deepest located in the park. Sotres is a small village where there is not much to do in the evening.

Both villages are fine to use as a base. Depending on how long you stay in Picos de Europa, one is better than the other. If like us, you are staying in Picos dee Europe for around 4 days, it is strongly recommended to stay in Arenas de Cabrales for the entirety of your stay. If you are going to stay longer in Picos de Europa, it is advisable to make a combination between both villages. For example, if you want to go hiking for 7 days, you can stay 3 days in Sotres and 4 days in Arenas de Cabrales.

Arenas de Cabrales
Hotel La Rivera or Hotel Picos de Europa

Hotel La Rivera

In Arenas de Cabrales, we recommend staying at Hotel La Rivera or Hotel Picos de Europa. We stayed in Hotel La River and found it to be a great choice; not only did the breakfast have delicious options, but the owner was also able to provide us with lots of useful information about the various hiking trails available in the area. The only downside is that the hotel is only open for a couple of months each year.

More information

Another great option would be Hotel Picos de Europa, which comes complete with a swimming pool and all the necessary amenities to make your vacation truly unforgettable. This hotel has availability throughout the entire year, so you can easily book your stay in advance.

More information

Sotres
Hotel Rural Peña Castil

Hotel Rural Peña Castil

Sotres is a small village so you have few choices. We recommend Hotel Rural Peña Castil because the atmosphere here is very good, rooms are neat and it has a restaurant so you can easily dine at your accommodation in the evening.

More information

Where to eat in Picos de Europa?

In Arenas de Cabrales you can find some great places to eat. Our favorite is Sidreria Calluenga. This is a small family restaurant that serves fantastic food. During our stay, we also had lunch and dinner at other places, but we do not recommend this. The best advice we can give is to eat at Sidreria Calluenga every time. You need to try their fabada, the beans and the sauce are delicious. The cider here is also tasty because it comes straight from the land. Also try sidreria vermouth, a delicious Spanish drink for after dinner with some of their awesome chocolate desserts.

If you want to have breakfast in the morning or if you want to order lunch for the hikes, you can go to Panadería Confitería El Desquite. Here you can order sandwiches for €5, the Manchego cheese sandwich is highly recommended!

When staying in Sotres you need to go to Hotel Rural Peña Castil. There is no need to eat at any other place as it is simply the best in Sotres. Try their dishes where cheese of Cabrales is used, this is typical cheese they region. If you want something different, Casa Mi Güelu is nice for a change because you can order a plate of fries with marinated chicken here.

What do you take with you?

Assuming you do the hikes that we recommended you need the following items:

  • Backpack, hiking boots. walking sticks, water (2 liters pp), cash, mobile, toilet paper, snacks, lunch (order at Panadería Confitería El Desquite), hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, poncho, and specific clothing for hot, cold, or wet weather.

Tip: before you leave, ask what the weather forecast is at your accommodation. It is advisable to bring water-repellent clothing, such as a poncho. The weather can suddenly change in the mountains and completely surprise you.

Travel insurance

World Nomads travel insurance policies offer coverage for more than 150 activities. Get a quote, make a claim, or buy or extend your policy while on the road.

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How to get to Picos de Europa?

Picos de Europa can be reached by plane, car or public transport. If you want to use the plane you have to fly to Oviedo, there you can then take a bus to Arenas de Cabrales.

It is also possible to drive from other countries to Picos de Europa by car, judge for yourself whether you find this an acceptable travel distance. If the travel time from your location to Picos de Europa is too long you can first visit San Sebastian and Bilbao. San Sebastian is located on the French border which minimalizes long travel distances.

If you are in a city in Spain you can easily travel to Picos de Europa by train, you need to travel to San Roque del Acabal and take a bus there to Arenas de Cabrales. You can buy train tickets here (you can also buy other public transport tickets via the link). From outside Spain, it is not recommended to travel by train to Picos de Europa because of the long travel time.

If you travel to Spain by plane and you are looking for a car to rent, you can rent it through Rentalcars. We use Rentalcars when we want to travel by car to discover new destinations. They’re easy to use and book with.

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When is the best time to visit Picos de Europa?

The best time to visit Picos de Europa is during the spring and summer period from April to September. Although this is the high season, these months are recommended because of the pleasant temperatures. Due to the maritime climate, it can be very cold in the autumn and winter. Also, it is not recommended by the locals to go hiking in Picos de Europa during autumn and winter. This is because the weather can suddenly change during this period and it can become dangerous.

Want to see more of Spain?

Following our itinerary through Northern Spain? If you follow our itinerary, Oviedo is your next destination. Read all the fun things to do in Oviedo here.

If you aren’t following our itinerary through Northern Spain you can travel from Picos de Europa to Santander, Bilbao, San Sebastian, or the wine region of La Rioja. Read our articles about these destinations by clicking on the link!

Tip: if you love to hike, visiting Ordesa National Park is highly recommended. At this national park, you can also do some awesome hikes. The difference is compared to Picos de Europa that Ordesa is greener and more popular. This is because Ordesa is considered by many hikers as one of the best places to hike in Spain. We did a couple of hikes in Ordesa, open the link to read everything about Ordesa National Park hikes.

What do you think of Picos de Europa? Share your thought in the comments below!

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About us

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Hello, we are Cynthia & Alexander, the team behind Travel Your Memories! Traveling is our passion. When it comes to exploration, we love sharing our tips and adventures to inspire you. Welcome to Travel Your Memories, where we share our love for travel with you! Read our story.

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2 Responses

  1. Thank you very much this super compact yet most efficient article – has proven to be very useful in our plannings.

    1. Hi Mehmet,

      We are glad that our article helped you plan your trip to Picos de Europa. Hope you can enjoy some great hikes in Picos de Europa!

      Greetings,
      Cynthia

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