Part of the Cantabrian Mountains, Picos de Europa is an extensive
mountain range that stretches for about 20km in northern Spain. These
peaks, located in Asturias, extend from Cantabria and go all the way to
the region of Castilla y León. The area is famous for its natural beauty
and hiking trails.
It features three major massifs: Central (also known as
Urrieles), Eastern (known as Ándara) and Western (called Picos de
Cornión). Inside the park, you’ll also find some of the world’s deepest
caves and charming hilltop villages.
Our guide below includes the
best things to do in Picos de Europa, so you don’t miss a thing. It
features an itinerary through the region’s villages and highlights the
best hiking trails, including family-friendly options.
Villages in Picos de Europa
Our tour begins at Mogrovejo, a village in the Cantabria region.
Despite its small size, with only forty residents, this is one of the
most picturesque villages in Picos de Europa. Most of the houses go back
to the 16th-century and still stand to this day. One century later, the
village’s church was erected, and it has been illuminated ever since.
This village is 10km west of Potes, the next town on our itinerary.
Potes is one of the most popular villages in Picos de Europa—if not the
most popular. This old town is considered the capital of Liébana, the
valley area that lies between the Picos and the Cordillera Cantábrica.
Since this village is an important staging post,
it’s better equipped and prepared for tourists than others. Proof of
this is the interactive exhibitions inside some of the houses, telling
you a bit about Potes’ history—particularly the story of Beato de
Liébana, a well-known theologian and monk.
Sotres sits in the Asturian municipality of Cabrales, and it’s the
highest village in Picos de Europa. It’s part of the area’s Biosphere
Reserve, surrounded by the peaks of the Central and the Ándara Massif.
Around a hundred people live here, but during the summer the town is
much more crowded with tourists occupying the available hostels. The
population of Sotres has decreased since the early 1970s, but the recent
opening of the park’s first ski resort has helped attract more
Bulnes may be the most challenging village to get to. Sitting very high
in the mountains with rocky peaks surrounding it, it’s not accessible by
road, which means you have to arrive on foot. You can follow the very
much inclined 5km trail, starting in Poncebos—which takes about two
hours. Another option is to hop on the Funicular de Bulnes, a tunnel
railway that rises for about 2km, leaving you at the village. Bulnes is
divided into two areas: Barrio del Castillo, at the highest point, and
La Villa, at the lowest, where you’ll find all the amenities.
Arenas de Cabrales is popularly known as Las Arenas. It’s one of
the most populated villages in the region, with its main road packed
with restaurants, hotels and bars. The village is a famous base for
walking the Garganta del Cares, a spectacular trail that crosses the
To the west of Las Arenas is Covadonga. This small village was an
important site during the Reconquista—when the Muslims were defeated for
the first time in Spain, around 722 AD. Covadonga offers incredible
mountain views and it's surrounded by forests, creating a magical
setting whenever it snows. Rising amid the mountains is the imposing
If you’re a fan of kayak or canoe trips, then Arriondas has to be on
your list. This tiny village is home to the Río Sella, a lake that has
several endpoints between Toraño and Llovio. Despite its size, Arriondas
is filled with hundreds of people on the first Saturday after August
2nd. This is the day of the Descenso Internacional del Sella, an
international kayaking and canoeing event.
Cangas de Onís is the most famous village in Picos de Europa
since it’s there that most hiking trails begin. Because of this the
place is filled with plenty of facilities and is way more populated than
other villages. The town sits 30km west of Arenas de Cabrales and for a
while it was the capital of the medieval Kingdom of Asturias. It fills
up with tourists in August, but it’s still pleasant to visit.
Soto de Sajambre belongs to the Sajambre Valley. It’s one of the
most remote villages in Picos de Europa and you can access it on foot,
passing through several viewpoints along the way. Soto de Sajambre is
what it is today thanks to Félix de Martino, who, after emigrating to
Mexico (where he got rich), decided to invest in its birth
town—improving the living conditions.
Mirador de la Reina: You’ll find this viewpoint on the way to the lakes of Covadonga. From here, you can spot the village of Cangas de Onís, the Cuera mountains and even a bit of the coast on a clear day. The road is usually closed during the summer, but you can reach the viewpoint if you arrive before 8:30 am or after 9 pm.
Mirador del Rey: Known as the “King’s viewpoint”, this vantage point is more than 1,000 metres above sea level. The road to the viewpoint is unpaved with a few narrow sections along the Enol plain. Once you reach the end of the path, you’ll enjoy a panoramic view of the Pome beech forest.
Mirador de Entrelagos: As the name suggests, the Mirador de Entrelagos sits right between the Enol and Ercina lakes. From the top of the hill, you can enjoy views of both lakes and the Santa Enol peak in the background. There’s also a route that connects this viewpoint with the Pedro Pidal visitor centre.
Mirador de Ordiales: This viewpoint sits right on the border between the regions of Asturias and Castilla y León. If you’re walking from the lakes, it will take you about 3 hours and a half to get here. Once you arrive, you’ll be rewarded with views of the Cantabrian mountains and the Angón valley. Keep an eye out for the cross on the rocks, which represents the tomb of Pedro Pidal, a Spanish politician who helped establish Picos de Europa as a national park.
Mirador del Pozo de la Oración: Pozo de la Oración is located on the northern edge of the national park near the village of Poo de Cabrales. It offers incredible views over the Naranjo de Bulnes peak, one of the highest in Picos de Europa.
Mirador de Piedrashitas: You’ll find the Mirador de Piedrashitas about 15 metres from the Port of Panderrueda. It’s the perfect spot to capture the Valdeón Valley and the western and central peaks of Picos de Europa. There are no handrails, so be careful when walking along the edge of the viewpoint.
Mirador del Tombo: If you’re driving from Cordiñanes to Caín, take a detour to this viewpoint. The views are impressive, as you can observe the Picos central massif and the Cares valley. There’s an information board to help you identify the sites in front of you. Visitors are also drawn to the goat sculpture designed by the Spanish artist José Luis Alonso Coomonte.
Mirador del Cable: Hop on the Fuente Dé cable car, and you’ll soon reach this viewpoint. Standing up here, you can spot several peaks, including the Peña Remoña, the Pico de la Padiorna and the Pico de San Carlos. If you come in the winter, you might catch some snow above the mountains.
Mirador de Llesba: From the San Glorio mountain pass, you can follow a trail that leads to this viewpoint overlooking the eastern massif of Picos de Europa. You’ll also find a sculpture of a bear here made by the Cantabrian sculptor Jesús Otero Oreña.
Naranjo de Bulnes: This is the most coveted mountain for (adventurous)
hikers. Mountaineers who love this sport dream of reaching Naranjo de
Bulnes’ top. But the route isn’t for everyone. There are about 70 routes
with different difficulty levels, but even the easiest path requires a
lot of technique and the right gear. It’s quite a challenge to climb
Naranjo de Bulnes.
Fuente Dé Cable Car: This cable car takes you
from the foot of the Picos’ southern wall to about 600m-high. The
journey is film-worthy and genuinely magical. You reach the top in less
than four minutes, and you can either get familiar with the area or sit
down at one of the cafés. If the weather allows, the cable car travels
all day. During high season (especially August), it’s more challenging
to find a seat, as you’ll have to wait for about one hour to hop on the
Cabrales Cheese Caves: This is where the well-known
Asturian cheese is produced. This blue cheese was created in a cave in
the Picos, which is open to visitors. When inside, you can view a video
presentation of the cheese’s history and enjoy a guided tour through the
caves—which lasts for about 45 minutes. And yes, you can try the cheese
at the end of the tour.
Camino Vadiniense: This Camino is one
of the oldest leading to Santiago de Compostela. It was once very
famous, as it was the only Jacobean route at the time. Camino Vadiniense
is located between Cantabria and Castila y León and is part of both
Camino del Norte and Camino Francés. It’s a challenging route, but it’s
worth the walk as you can connect with nature and admire the views of
Picos de Europa as you go.
Monasterio de Santo Toribio de
Liébana: This monastery, located 3km west of Potes, is an important
landmark for two reasons. It houses the Lígnum Crucis, said to be the
most significant chunk of Christ’s cross and is also the home of Beato
de Liébana, the theologian and monk known for his thoughts on the
Iglesia de Santa María de Lebeña: Dating back to
the 9th century, this small church stands out with its Mozarabic style,
a rare sight in the north of Spain. It’s worth the visit for its
Baroque altarpiece and floral motifs.
Casa de las Doñas: You can
join a guided tour of this traditional Picos home near Potes. The house
mirrors the residents’ lifestyle taking you through family bedrooms and
a kitchen, dating back to the 19th-century.
Hiking is one of the top things to do at Picos
de Europa. There are trails for all levels, so you can choose between
the easiest or more difficult ones. The most popular routes extend for
12km at Cares Gorge and spread across the high peaks. But be careful not
to go on these trails alone, as you can face severe challenges in the
Picos. Unpredictable weather and bad path conditions are common so it’s
best to bring a hiking partner. Below are some of the best hiking trails
in Picos de Europa:
The Cares Route: This is one of the
most famous routes in Europe renowned for its beauty. It runs along the
Cares River and is also known as the “Divine Gorge”. The path extends
for 12km, starting in Poncebos (Asturias) and ending in Caín (León).
Covadonga Lakes: As the name suggests, you can expect to see some
incredible lakes on this trail. The Covadonga Lakes route is about 12km
and starts at the Covadonga Sanctuary. The first lake you’ll reach is
Lago de Enol, followed by Lago de Ercina. Don’t forget to stop at
Mirador de la Reina in between, for striking views over the valleys and
Ordiales Scenic Balcony Trail: Walking the
Ordiales Scenic Balcony Trail, you’ll have the chance to see some of
Picos’ hidden gems. The route goes through green mountain pastures and
passes by La Gamonal Pass, where you can capture the rocky pinnacles of
Santa María and La Cebolera. You’ll then go down to meet the Marquis of
Villaviciosa’s tomb and the Ordiales Scenic Balcony. This trail is
Vega de Ario Plain: This route extends for 15km,
making it one of the longest. Depending on your fitness levels and
experience, this trail can take you about 4 to 5 hours to complete. It
starts close to Lago de Ercina, goes to Vega de Ario (and its refuge)
before returning to the lake.
Ruta de Fuente Dé: In terms of
difficulty, this is a medium level trail. The route extends for 13.4km
and starts at the Fuente Dé cable car (Puertos de Aliva). You start
walking at 730 metres high, and then the route is entirely downhill.
Along the way, you’ll have the chance to see the peaks of Horcados
Rojos, Peña Vieja and Tesorero.
Ruta de Torre de Horcados Rojos:
Even though this trail is always uphill, it’s rewarding to walk and not
that challenging. If you start at the Fuente Dé cable car, you only
have to climb 10km until you reach the top. The views are stunning,
overlooking the Cantabrian Sea, Cabaña Verónica and Sierra de Cuera.
There are several things to do with kids in Picos de Europa. You can
explore the tiny villages across the mountains and get lost in its
narrow streets or follow one of the many family-friendly hiking trails.
Kids will love the Fuente Dé route, where they can hop on the cable car
up to the mountains. The hike itself takes under an hour and is
downhill, so it's perfect for the youngsters.
Instead of the traditional tapas restaurants, Picos de Europa is mostly
famous for its hearty meals. You can count on huge quantities of cheese,
meat and beans. Make sure to try the traditional fabada (bean stew) or
have a bite of the Cabrales cheese. Below are some of the best places to
eat in Picos de Europa:
Casa Marcial (Arriondas): Located
4.5km north of Arriondas, this double-Michelin-starred restaurant
belongs to chef Nacho Manzano and is housed in his childhood home. The
menu gives a modern twist to traditional dishes. Try the chef’s
renditions of fabada and pitu (farmyard chicken). Make sure to book a
table in advance.
El Corral del Indianu (Arriondas): This
restaurant in Arriondas has one Michelin star and is known for
reinventing Asturian cuisine. If you don’t want to try the more
extensive tasting menus (that vary between €75 and €95, drinks aside),
you can choose the more traditional dishes such as fabada, beef and red
El Molín de la Pedrera (Cangas de Onís): It’s worth
visiting this traditional Asturian restaurant in Cangas de Onís. Located
in a typical stone house, it serves delicious local delicacies, like
fabada, grilled meats and tortos de maíz (maize pancakes). You can also
count on traditional homemade desserts to end your meal.
Llorente (Potes & the Liébana Valley): Meat and wine lovers will
enjoy a visit to this cosy tavern in Potes. Ask for the cocido lebaniego
(stew of chorizo, chickpeas, potato, bacon, beef, black pudding and
greens) or the chuletón (this piece of meat weighs half a kilo so unless
you’re starving, it’s best to share).
Vicente Campo (Fuente Dé
& Southeastern Picos): Running since 1959, this traditional
restaurant serves delicious homemade dishes. Highlights include the
grilled steaks with Tresviso cheese sauce and the scrambled eggs with
asparagus and prawns. Most ingredients come from the family’s farm.
Parador de Cangas de Onís (4 stars): This hotel, located in a
medieval monastery, faces the Sella river. It has a rustic interior with
four-poster beds in most of the rooms. Amenities include a restaurant, a
cheese bar, a cafe and a terrace garden.
Posada San Pelayo
(3 stars): Mountains and valleys surround this three-star hotel. Some of
the rooms have balconies, so you can enjoy breathtaking views as you
wake up. The hotel is 4km away from the Santo Toribio de Liébana
Hotel del Oso (3 stars): This hotel occupies an old
stone building, 12km away from the Santo Toribio de Liébana monastery.
It has a cosy atmosphere and in the winter you can enjoy the lounge with
a fireplace. There’s also an outdoor pool, a tennis court, a restaurant
and a bar.
Camping Picos de Europa: You can bring a tent or
book a bungalow in this well-located camping site. Camping Picos de
Europa is located amid several villages, like Arenas de Cabrales (13km)
and Cangas de Onís (15km), close to many of the hiking trails. It has an
outdoor pool, a bar and a restaurant.
If you are to gather all the perfect conditions to visit Picos de
Europa, then the best time to do so would be in June and September. You
can visit the Picos in August, but be aware that it will be a bit
crowded. It’s the time of the year when it’s mostly sunny, so many
tourists come around this time. If you choose June or September, you’ll
find fewer people, which leaves the main attractions empty (like the
hiking trails). If you’re a fan of wildflowers and birdwatching, then
you should consider visiting during April, May or October, which are
great months to observe the endemic fauna and flora.
You can reach Picos de Europa from a dozen roads. You can come from the south through León, from Santander on the north coast or from Oviedo and Cangas de Onís on the west. There is public transport to the park, but the services can be pretty infrequent, even in the summer season. The best way to explore the region is by renting a car. If you do decide to take a bus, there are long-distance services that connect Arriondas to several cities like Santander, Oviedo, Gijón, La Coruña and Santiago de Compostela. From Santander, there are also buses to Potes, some of which continue on to Fuente Dé. Around the mountains, the Alsa buses offer services from Arriondas and Cangas de Onís to Covadonga.