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The Picos de Europa National Park

Listed under Mountains in Asturias, Spain.

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This is my favourite mountain area in Europe and sits comfortably high in my top ten around the world.

The practical bit:

The mountains are located just below the north coast of Spain about 2.5 hours west of Bilbao, pretty much due north of Madrid. The mountains themselves are limestone rising to around 2,600m, the highest peaks being around 10km from the beaches of the north coast.

The interesting bit - what makes them special?

1) Well, there are large parts of the mountains which are still functioning in much the same way as they would have been 60 years ago. You will still see people scything hay in meadows, cows wander down the road with cowbells, people make cheeses in hidden caves and cider is brewed with apples picked from the orchard that morning.

2) The food is delicious, seafood from the coast, salmon and trout from the clear strams and fine, hearty meats and stews from the mountains.

3) I can think of few places where you can sit on a golden sandy beach (though the water's cool to say the least) and look up at high mountain peaks.

4) The Picos mountains themselves are stunning. Once a single massif, two rivers have now carved them into three lumps with deep gorges running north/south through the massif. The most famous of these is the Cares gorge. The high peaks are exposed, craggy limestone. Below this you have thickly forested slopes and lush green river valleys dotted with red roofed villages. On a sunny day, the blue sky, grey peaks, green valleys and red villages make for an absolutely stunning place. Don't even get me started on autumn and spring when the leaves and flowers are at their best.

5) The walking is incredibly varied. In a week you can walk to a 2,500m peak; wander across meadows between little villages; walk along rugged coastline; walk through a deep gorge; walk across the mountain tops on a Roman road; walk around lakes; walk through chestnut forests alongside streams; you get the point. The variety is outstanding.

And all of this is within a few hours' travel from London. The most common reaction from people first visiting the Picos is "How come I didn't know about this?". The most common reaction from people leaving is "Don't tell anyone, I don't want it to get spoilt." So that's why they are still precious.

Written by  Thomas Power.

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

The landscape in the Picos de Europa is amazing

The landscape in the Picos de Europa is amazing. Immense ridges and dramatic gorges, lush green valleys and beautiful forests, crystal clear streams and rivers and jagged peaks, soaring dramatically to 2600m dominate the horizon. Furthermore, there is a wonderful variety of flora and fauna. Vultures soar in the skies and mountain pastures are filled with a wealth of wild flowers and butterflies. The region is also rich in culture, a traditional style of farming and small settlements of attractive old stone buildings.

Where: The Picos de Europa mountais are located in Cantabria and Asturias provinces in the north of Spain.

When: Best season are July and September.

Picos de Europa is actually in three areas: Austurias, Cantabria and Leon. I agree it is a wonderful place to visit in summer (I don't know it in winter). Walking/hiking and mountain ascents are fabulous. Getting about is a bit difficult without your own car- it can take hours to get from one valley to the next on little windy roads.

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