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[8 days] Trails & Traditions of the Picos Northern Spain

  • Trip Type: Small-Group (Guided)
  • Group Size: Min 4, Max 12
  • Departure Date: Multiple Fixed Dates
  • Trip Start: 20 May, 2023
  • Trip End: 28 May, 2023
  • Duration: Weeklong (7-9 days)
  • Physical Rating: Mildly Strenuous

The Picos de Europe (“Peaks of Europe”) are a little-known gem of a mountain range in Northern Spain and a mecca for hikers and climbers. Explore this wild and exciting landscape on foot and enjoy the nature, culture, and gastronomy of the region.

The limestone peaks form a jagged skyline whilst the deep valleys and green pastures support abundant wildlife including bears, wolves, chamois, golden eagle, lammergeier vultures, the alpine newt, and yellow-flashing salamanders. You also will enjoy the stunning coastline, staying in the beautiful medieval coastal town of Llanes, with its superb range of restaurants and delightful beaches.

The area is also steeped in history; ancient man lived here as did the Romans, Celts, and others, and it is here at the Royal site of Covadonga deep in the mountains in 722 when the Christian Spanish began to fight back against the Moorish invaders to establish the Kingdom of Asturias, the first Christian realm founded after the Muslim conquest.


  • Explore charming Picos towns: Potes, Riano & Cangas de Onis
  • Stay a night in the heart of the mountains in comfortable refuge accommodation
  • Unspoiled national park with bears, wolves, chamois, deer, and more
  • Varied and stunning day trails: Cares Gorge, Majadas, Horcados Rojos Summit & Fuente Dé

Seasonal Notes: This ‘intermediate’-level hiking adventure can take place from spring to autumn. Please note we have multiple departures available – see all dates listed under “COVID Precautions”.

Spain is known for its high temperatures and dry climate, but the lush green valleys and abundant wildlife of the Picos are thanks to a higher rainfall than other areas of the country. Rainfall is higher from late Autumn to early spring, resulting in warm, drier days, and depending on your altitude, the possibility of cooler mornings and evenings.

For access to the higher trails, the best time to visit the Picos is from June to September so we have taken this into account in deciding when to run departures. Autumn is particularly breathtaking in the woodlands, hills, and mountains due to the changing colors so we recommend considering the September dates available.

As we all know, weather can be unpredictable regardless of the season and is very changeable in mountain areas, so we recommend dressing in layers, and bringing waterproof sunscreen and a sun hat (we provide you with a packing list).

📋 Itinerary

This is a set itinerary but if would like to change the dates, privatize the trip, or customize in some way, contact Yugen Earthside for more information.

Day 1: Bilbao or Santander [Spain] (arrival day)
Day 2: Route of the Majadas (12km | 7.5 miles | +400 meter elevation gain | -400 meter elevation descent)
Visit the Basilica de Santa Maria la Real de Covadonga in Cangas de Onis.
Day 3: Hike to Naranjo de Bulnes (12km | 7.5 miles | +800m | -800m)
Day 4: Cares Gorge Hike (12km | 7.5 miles |+250m | -250m)
Boat trip on the Riano Reservoir.
Day 5: Valcabao to Collado Jermoso Refuge (8km | 5 miles | +700m | -700m)
Stay overnight in the Collado Jermoso Refuge.
Day 6: Fuente Dé & Vega de Liordes (11km | ~7 miles | +200m | -970m)
Visit the medieval mountain town of Potes.
Day 7: Horcados Rojos Summit & Cabana Veronica Hut (12km | 7.5 miles | +800m | -800m)
Visit the coastal town of Llanes, a cider factory, and have a traditional Asturias dinner.
Day 8: Travel home from Bilbao or Santander (departure day)

🌱 Sustainability

Our View on Sustainability
Each adventure is linked to a charity important to the region we take travelers to.

Community Projects

  • We donate to the Fund for the Protection of Wild Animals in northern Spain.
  • We will carry out a Community Impact Assessment to assess how a visit from our group, may affect local communities to which it travels.

Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency
We have joined the Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency coalition.

Carbon Offset
We donate 35 GBP/client ($48 USD, 40 EUR) using international air travel to the charity WeForest, to plant & maintain 15 trees in the fight against global deforestation.

Green Transportation
If coming from the UK, we encourage you to consider arriving by ferry. This slow travel option has a lower carbon footprint and is its own little adventure! You can travel to Santander from Plymouth (18hrs 30mins) and Portsmouth (23hrs 30mins) and to Bilbao from Portsmouth (23hrs 45mins), all with Brittany Ferries. An added bonus to this form of travel is the opportunity to spot whales and dolphins in the Bay of Biscay!

Low Carbon Impact
Hiking is a low carbon impact activity.

Leave No Trace
One of our mantras is ‘Take only Photos, Leave only Footprints’. Please ensure that you throw any litter away responsibly or take it back to your accommodation, so we can keep Spain beautiful.

Reusable Water Filtration Bottle
Clients booking this tour will be eligible to purchase a reusable water filtration bottle (Pure Hydratation's "Aquapure Traveller") for about 50% off.

The Picos National Park covers 3 areas; Cantabria, Asturias, and Castilla y Leon, each of which have their own gastronomic specialties that we'll try. As is the case in many mountainous areas, the food in the Picos is most often made using locally sourced ingredients, and historically the dishes were hearty enough to give sufficient energy to those living in harsher mountain conditions. Meat, beans, chickpeas, and cheese form the basis of many of the most traditional dishes, and portion sizes are on the generous side. We can accommodate both vegetarians and vegans.

We fully believe in, and practice, Responsible Tourism and using hotels run by locals. The accommodation on this adventure is primarily comfortable and welcoming hotel accommodation offering rooms with ensuite facilities. For one exciting night, you head high into the mountains to the stunningly situated refuge of Collado Jermoso where you experience escapism and total immersion into the ambiance of the Picos.

  • Clear sustainable travel policy
  • Social / Environmental Impact
  • Tourism Dispersal
  • Behavioral Awareness Education
  • Small Group Travel
  • Listen to Community Feedback
  • Adhere to Strict Environmental Standards
  • Conserve Ecosystems/Preserve Biodiversity
  • No Animal-Harming Tourism
  • Vegetarian/Vegan Restaurants
  • Donate to Reputable Climate or Energy Group
  • Responsible Waste Management
  • Local/Organic Food Served
  • Provide Local Employment
  • Fair Wages / Fair Trade
  • Ensures Good Working Conditions
  • Supports Local Businesses
  • Tours Benefit Local Community
  • Connect Travelers to Local Products
  • Stay with Local Communities

📌 Location

Use the Google map to orient yourself about where in the world this trip is. The location indicates the starting point for this trip.

A specific route map is included in the downloadable detailed itinerary.

🏷️ Pricing

  • Prices vary based on a single room or double room occupancy.
  • Prices exclude flights to/from the destination.
  • See the full list of price inclusions and exclusions in the downloadable detailed itinerary.

ℹ️ Other Info

If you're ready to book this trip, or if you still have some questions, contact us to let us know!

What happens if we cancel your trip?
If we are forced to cancel your trip because it is not viable (due to COVID-related travel restrictions), or if we cannot manage your health and safety on a particular itinerary, or because we do not have the numbers to reach our minimum (4 travelers), then we will ask you to select one of the following options:

  • Move your booking monies to a new adventure in 2022. Your monies are fully protected by the Travel Trust Association.
  • Accept a credit refund note: this is a 100% financially protected note that can be used at any time for a future adventure with us. Your monies are fully protected by the Travel Trust Association.
  • Request a refund: if you are in a situation where you need to request a refund, then we will be able to arrange that for you. We will process this within 14 days of receiving your bank details, but often the refund will be with you much sooner than that.

What happens if you cancel your trip?
To provide you with as much flexibility as possible in these changing times, if you cancel your trip up to 30 days before your adventure, you can:

  • Move your booking to a new date or new adventure without any cancellation charges.
  • Accept a credit note, with no expiry date, for the value of your booking, to be used against a future adventure.

This trip takes place on the following dates.

  • May 20th – 28th, 2023
  • June 17th – 25th, 2023
  • August 19th – 27th, 2023
  • September 30th – October 8th, 2023

Be sure you have traveler's insurance.

You must be fully vaccinated and boosted. You may need a negative test result prior to arriving. You should have both a mask and hand sanitizer with you at all times.

Special precautions:

Our trips are only for small groups (privatization possible) and are focused on outdoor activities in off-the-beaten-track areas.

You will need to complete a confidential health screening questionnaire, and take your temperature each morning to check for fever in the 10 days before your trip.

We'll encourage outdoor eating where possible, minimize food sharing, and only visit restaurants complying with COVID protocols.

We'll only stay at hotels complying with COVID protocols.

Q: What does the Physical Rating of "Mildly Strenuous" mean?
A: This is an intermediate-level hike involving altitudes up to 2500 meters, going up over passes, and traversing mountain slopes. You will encounter rough terrain, steep gradients, and some scree at varying times. The paths are generally defined but will be narrow and rocky at times. You will be walking for extended periods of time and on consecutive days. To get the most out of this adventure, you need to be a regular walker with experience of walking in the mountains and be in good physical condition.

Q: What do I need to bring?
A: Please bring the following:

  • Worn in walking boots/hiking shoes
  • A reusable, filtration water bottle
  • Your own hand sanitizer & mask
  • Layers, sunscreen, sun hat (we'll provide a complete packing list)

Q: What about my luggage?
A: You will only carry a day pack with your camera, extra layers, and water. All other equipment will be carried by horses.

Q: What are the accommodations like?
A: We fully believe in, and practice, Responsible Tourism and using hotels run by locals. The accommodation on this adventure is primarily comfortable and welcoming hotel accommodation offering rooms with ensuite facilities. For one exciting night, you head high into the mountains to the stunningly situated refuge of Collado Jermoso where you experience escapism and total immersion into the ambiance of the Picos. More information provided upon booking.

Duration: This hiking tour lasts for 8 days (7 nights).
Total Distance: 67 km (~42 miles).
7 Breakfasts, 7 Dinners.