Picos de Europa

Apr 4th, 2009, 09:54 AM
  #1  
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Picos de Europa

Hi we are going to Asturias in August (I know it will be busy!) and want to spend 3-4 nights in the Picos de Europa. We have two children 10,8 who are great walkers, but we would rather do day hikes, returning to the same place each night. Where is the best area to be in for good day hikes. I want to see some of the spectacular mountain views! Is it Potes side or Cangas de Arenas side? Any recommendations?
ahm888 is offline  
Apr 4th, 2009, 10:22 AM
  #2  
 
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We've been in Picos de Europa for the past three summers (but in late June/early July) and 4 nights sounds perfect. We've stayed on the Asturian side at the Parador at Cangas de Onís and on the Cantabrian side in the spectacular Liébana valley at the lovely Hotel del Oso in Cosgaya (fantastic food, lovely family, pretty pool, darling St. Bernards) and the Parador at Fuente Dé. We also like the Casa de Cosgaya across the road from the Hotel del Oso with indoor pool & spa.

And there are serviced apartments with pool in Potes, plus an abundance of inexpensive family run inns like the Casa Cayo.

With your kids in August, I think you might welcome, though, an inn with pool.

Great hikes abound everywhere, but I would certainly urge you to put the easy Cares gorge hike (12 km. from Caín to Poncebos) at the top of your list. But do the Cares during the week, as it will be *extremely* crowded on the weekend (even during the week, you'll have plenty of company on this walk!). There are outfitters on both sides, the Cantabrian and the Asturian, who provide the logistics for the walk-the drop offs and pick ups or they will wait for you at Caín if you just want to do the first stretch, the most dramatic one through the tunnels. It's easier to do this if based in Arenas de Cabrales, since it's closer to Poncebos.

Arenas would be a good "mid point" for you, handy to Cangas and also not such a long drive down to Fuente Dé for the cable car (the wait gets impossibly long after 10 am¡¡)
Arenas would also be handy for you to take the (quite expensive) funicular from Poncebos up to the isolated mountain village of Bulnes and walk around there, from the lower to the higher village. On a sunny day this is fantastic. Inexpensive lodging is plentiful in the area, but I like the look of the Hotel Picos de Europa in Arenas, with pool, and it's on the main road from Cangas (Asturian side) to Panes (Cantabrian side and gateway to the gorgeous Liébana Valley). But don't !! base in Panes, as it's a singularly unattractive spot!

Another "must" for you would be the cable car ride from Fuente Dé up to the Mirador del Cable. From there you can either walk or take a jeep ride up to the Refugio de Alvia. And it's possible to walk down to Espinama from the Mirador but the walk takes about 4 (?) hours and once down there you'd need transport back to your base.

As far as the views, I find spectacular scenery on both sides. I can't decide which I like better.
Maribel is online now  
Apr 5th, 2009, 11:24 AM
  #3  
 
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Hi ahm888,
Yes, another walk (or walks) that should be on the top of your list are those trails up at the little glacier lakes of Enol and Ercina above Covadonga.

The 12 km. drive up to the lakes from the Basilica will be bumper to bumper in summer, and the car parks there fill up quickly. In fact, in Aug. you may need to take the minibus (bus lanzadera) that Alsa offers. These minibuses run from 9 to 6:30 at 10-15 min. intervals (last bus down departs at 7:30) and depart from Cangas and other various parking lots going up to Covadonga (you buy your ticket (€6 for adults; €2 for kids under 12) at the parking lots, not on the bus). Much better in Aug. to let the bus driver negotiate this narrow and often foggy road for you.

It's just so beautiful and tranquil up there (despite the Aug. crowds), and it's a great place to have a picnic. There's also a restaurant, El Casín, where you can buy chorizo braised in cider, local cheese or have a full meal. Lake Ercina is the smaller one of the two and is gradually recessing-just 2 kms separate the two and you can walk from one to another on a footpath. There are maps of the hiking trails you can pick up from a self-service kiosk at the parking lots and also a Centro de Visitantes that has brochures and books.

Incidentally, on and a few days before the last Sun. of August. the Cheese Festival (Certamen del Queso) is held in Arenas de Cabrales, with special exhibits, Asturian folk art market, a Cabrales cheese tapas making contest, a cider pouring contest (it's really an art form), the making of 10,000 sandwiches!, bagpipe music, a trio for dancing and the big cheese contest on Sun.

On the eastern (Cantabrian) side, above the little village of Brez, (near Camaleño), there's an easy walk (Brez-Canal de Arredondas) that affords really extraordinary views. It takes about 90 min. See the route at the really terrific site that walksntalks has given you-
www.topwalks.net/en/picos_europa/brez.htm

Potes has plenty of shops for gear that you may have forgotten, supermarkets, a good tourist office next to the bus station, restaurants, pharmacies, a pretty church, adventure travel companies and a Monday morning outdoor market. And the drive down the sinuous, slow going and dark gorge, the Desfiladero de la Hermida, is a real treat (for the passengers more than the driver!).

If you do venture down to Potes and on to Fuente Dé from a base on the western, Asturian side, again please get a very, very early start in Aug..
In July we arrived before the bus hordes arrived at 10 and a relatively short wait for the cable car. In Aug. it starts operation at 9 am (now costs €14 r.t. for adults).

Two sightseeing opportunities on the Cantabrian side-
The first, 8 km. south of La Hermida
the pretty little 9th century Iglesia de Santa María de Lebeña, built in the Mozarabic style
You're allowed in when a group forms, and a docent will give a short explanation in Spanish but will provide you with a brochure in English. Note the yew tree and the olive tree outside, said to have been planted 1,000 yrs. ago. Open 10-1:30, 4:30-7:30. Closed Mon.

The second, 3 km. west of Potes, the Monastery of Santo Toribio, housing a holy relic-the largest fragment (635 mm x 393 mm) of Christ's cross, the Lignum Crucis, brought there from Jerusalem by the bishop in the 4th century. It's kept inside a gold & silver crucifix and housed in a Baroque chapel of the otherwise austere church. Explanations are given of it on the hr. and 1/2 hr. but not during scheduled masses. Open 10-1, 4-7.
Maribel is online now  
Apr 6th, 2009, 12:32 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 123
Maribel seems to know the National Park of Picos de Europa very well. I will add my thoughts abouts the best routes in August.
I will take back my advice to go to Covadonga lakes. Covadonga is crowded in July and August and you must use the shuttle bus service to reach the Covadonga lakes (in July, August and during the public holidays).
Here is the list of the most popular routes, which I would avoid in August: (Also, I must add that the most popular routes are not the most interesting routes. Some of them are fantastic, all of them are nice, but, you can choose better in August.)
The most popular routes are the routes close to the Covadonga lakes, the routes starting from the El Cable in Fuente Dé, Río Cares route between Poncebos and Cain, the climb from Urdon to Tresviso, the route from Cain to Posada de Valdón and the routes close to Bulnes.
And perhaps one should think twice before going to Rio Cares or refugio de Urriellu (close to Bulnes) with children. The path is wide, but the drop beside the path is deep indeed.

Especially In Valley of Liebana there are a lot of fantastic routes, that close to nobody seems to know of. This is my list of family routes, which are never crowded and always interesting, and not too demanding for children:
Valley of Liebana:
The walks starting from Brez, Cabañes, Caloca, Cucayo, Fuente De - Majade del Bustantivo, Llaves - Peña Oviedo (this may be too long for children though), Los Llanos, and finally the route from Puerto San Glorio to the top of Coriscau.
This Coriscau route offers one of the most beautiful views of the peaks of Picos de Europa. It goes to 2200 metres, but it is perfectly safe without danger of vertigo and it is not too demanding despite the climb.
The area close to Sotres, Bulnes and Tresviso:
The route starting from Hoyo del Tejo. This route to Vao de los Lobos is long (16 km) but it keeps following the dirt track all the time, so it is very easy to walk. Also, the climb (the first four kilometres) is gentle. But I cannot say if 16 kilometres is still too much for children.
You will find all these routes from the Topwalks website, that Maribel offered to you on his/her second message. The routes are graded by length, climb, walkability etc. so it is easy to find perfect walks for the family
About accomodation and where to eat:
I would add only two places to the list of Maribel. Hotel Infantado in Ojedo (Potes) is very reasonably priced and still very, very nice. Highly recommended.
And I would say the same about the restarutant La Venta de Vieda, which is less than 10 kilometres from Potes to the direction of Pesaguero (CA184). It is a nice place to taste the local specialities like Queso Picon, Orujo de Liebana, Lechazo, Jabalí and even the Asturian cider (Sidra Asturiana). Fish and marisco is also good especially on Fridays.
One more thing: the police in Spain has tarted to control the drunken driving very carefully during the last few months and the speeding aswell.
walksntalks is offline  
Apr 6th, 2009, 10:47 AM
  #5  
 
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walksntalks,
The topwalks web site is really a superb source for those planning walking/hiking vacations in the Picos de Europa.
Thanks for the recommendation of the Venta de Vieda in the other valley. We'll put it on our list to try when exploring in that area. It looks really inviting.

ahm888,
For the most upscale loding on the Cantabrian side, I would have recommended the newish Hotel Casona Malvasía in Cabariezo, just southeast of Potes. But we find the owner to be a bit standoffish, not especially welcoming in the least, although the complex does have a pretty setting and 4 star amenities (a/c, flat screens, king size beds, internet and outdoor pool, even their own winery-the only hotel/bodega in Cantabria).
But the welcome is just ten times warmer and totally sincere at the very reasonably priced Hotel del Oso in Cosgaya, which is also just a fantastic place to dine, especially on steaks (chuletón) and their gargantuan cocido lebaniego, the local, hearty chickpea and meats stew.

More of our favorites for dining:

"El Cenador del Capitán", in the attic of a stone building, La Casa de las Cosas, next to the Torre del Infantado, in Potes on the Catanbrian side (really cute, cozy and inviting)
www.lacasadelascosas.com/restaurante-potes/

Right off the AS 114 in the municipality of Llonín (but not in the upper village),
"La Xana" run by a husband and wife team, good prices, welcoming (they're former managers of La Tahona)

In Arenas de Cabrales, "La Panera", a rec from a Fodorite who really knows her food

And for a fine selection of cheeses and great local specialities, we go to Hotel Restaurant "Casa Julián" also right on the AS 114 closer to Panes in tiny Niserias (where many famous politicians and authors used stay while salmon fishing on the Cares)
Maribel is online now  
Apr 6th, 2009, 10:32 PM
  #6  
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thanks for all the great information - just what I was looking for. The topwalks website is great and gives me a good feel for what we will be seeing. I think I have decided to base ourselves around the Potes area as it seems there are lots of walks from different villages around there, and maybe we will drive around one of the days to Arena de Cabrales. I didn't like the fact that we would have to use a shuttle service near Covadonga. Why do the kids have to have school holidays in August

I am very excited for this trip as I have put it off for a few years for various reasons but has always been on my list of places to go. I better start booking before everything fills up!!
ahm888 is offline  
Apr 6th, 2009, 11:16 PM
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Here is another good walking route resource.
http://www.everytrail.com/browse.php...y=Spain&page=1
I also found this website, although it is basically for a hotel it gives a lot of information on Fauna and Flora etc.
http://www.asturiaspicosdeeuropa.com...ca.asp?te=2045
ribeirasacra is offline  
Apr 7th, 2009, 09:10 AM
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ahm888,
I think Potes makes for a good base, especially with your kids, as you'll have all the shops that you'll need within a handy walk.

But I really wouldn't miss going up to the lakes one day (provided it's a clear day), as the area up there is really so beautiful with the handsome Asturian cows grazing literally at your feet. It would be a shame to be so close and to miss it,

Actually the obligatory shuttle bus during Aug., I think, is a good idea. It's a way they have come up with to keep that very narrow and sinuous road not impossibly clogged with vehicular traffic. And I really don't enjoy trying to drive those 12 difficult kilometers meeting cars and buses coming down on one of those curves as I try to make my way up! I've done it both ways, in a lanzadera and in my own car, and I prefer the former.
Maribel is online now  
Apr 7th, 2009, 11:50 PM
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ahm888,
Besides great walking routes, there are other attractions, if you stay in Potes. You could visit the pre-historic caves between the hikes.
You will find the most famous caves in Puente Viesgo, San Felices de Buelna, Escobedo de Camargo, Rionansa and Ramales de la Victoria. You can make a day-trip to one of those.
walksntalks is offline  
Apr 8th, 2009, 02:00 PM
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ahm888,
We've done the caves in Puente Viesgo (El Castillo/La Moneda), San Felices de Buelna (Hornos de la Peña) and Ramales de la Victoria (Covalanas), for which visits you absolutely must reserve in advance, especially during August. The Covalanas caves accepts only very small groups of 7 visitors at one time, and it's quite hard to book because when groups fill up they simply don't answer the phone! Some of these can be booked online at
http://cuevas.culturadecantabria.com/covalanas.asp

However... I really wouldn't make these a day trip with your children from Potes, since you would need to negotiate your way back up through the crowded, narrow and sinuous Desfiladero de la Hermida (gorge) on a very busy Aug. day and up to Unquera to then travel over on the A8 and down to the Buelnes-Puente Viesgo area for El Castillo/Las Monedas/Hornos de la Peña. And I don't know how much your children would enjoy the visit.

The caves that the kids would enjoy, along with the short mining train ride, are the caves of El Soplao with its amazing stalagtites, and called the "Cathedral of Geology". This is a very family-friendly outing, easy walking, handy cafeteria, extended visiting hours, from 10 am-9 pm (1 hr. guided visit) and not quite so long a drive from Potes, using the shortcut east from Panes to Rábago. It's also tailor made for school visits.
www.elsoplao.es

The caves near Ramales de la Victoria (Covalanas and Cullavera) are simply way too far a drive from Potes for a day trip in the busy month of August.
Maribel is online now  
Apr 10th, 2009, 04:20 PM
  #11  
 
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I would like to add one more restaurant to my list of recommendations in Potes and Ojedo. La Venta de Vieda is a place, where you can eat traditional Cantabrian and Spanish food. In Ojedo there is also one Mexican restaurant called La Barquera Mexicana.
It looks like a cheap bar at first, but be brave and go inside and you will realize it looks much better inside. They have a very reasonably prized Menu Mexicana, which keeps changing every day, and I have found it a nice alternative to Spanish food, though I am a big fan of Spanish kitchen. Also, the owner Florencio comes from Mexico and speaks fluent English.
La Barquera Mexicana is located very close to the Hotel Infantado in Ojedo, which is like one part of Potes.
walksntalks is offline  
Apr 14th, 2009, 11:24 AM
  #12  
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Thanks everyone for all the great ideas. It is starting to come together and now I just hope we have some nice clear weather for our days in the mountains.
ahm888 is offline  
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