Outdoor activities in the Picos de Europa in Spain
The Picos de Europa National Park is a Spanish national park of 67,455 hectares, located in the Cantabrian Mountains in the provinces of Asturias, Castile and Leon and Cantabria. It displays the ecosystems associated with the Atlantic forest and contains the most extensive limestone formation in Atlantic Europe.
The western massif was declared a national park on July 22, 1918, by Alfonso XIII under the name “Mountain National Park of Covadonga”, the first protected area in the country. In 2003 it was destroyed by UNESCO as a Biosphere Reserve.
Today, the Picos de Europa National Park is the second most visited in Spain. It is the perfect place for adventurers who are looking for their next adventure.
The mountainous national park has three main peaks: Andara (Eastern Massif), Urrielles (Central Massif) and Cornion (Western Massif). Together they form the highest peaks of the Cantabrian mountains.
Throughout the year, you will see mountain sports enthusiasts trying to conquer the highest peaks of the massifs. Climbers, hikers, climbers and even mountain bikers try to go to the 2,648-meter high Torrecerrado peak in Urrielles year after year.
The Dobra, Sella and Cares rivers cross the mountainous region to the sea. Their water has carved and dissolved the limestone from the top, and formed wonderfully embedded canyons and caves.
You can enjoy rafting and kayaking adventures in the rapids and streams that run through it. Or head out in a canyoning or caving route in the countless canyons that hide between the peaks.
Here are the most excellent outdoor activities in the Picos de Europa.
Hiking in the Picos de Europa
There are simple valley walks, and gorge walks, low and high peaks, physically challenging climbs (and descents!), High mountain circuits, multi-day tours and dangerous winter expeditions!
For an excellent introduction to the mountain flora, a short circular walk around the Ercina and Enol lakes in the western massif is recommended. This walk has easy access by car, the availability of bars, beautiful landscapes everywhere, and can be extended to the viewpoint overlooking a protected beech forest.
A pleasant long walk to get to an alpine habitat and to see the alpine flora and maybe some chamois is to rise and fall all day from the lakes to Hou Santu and back. This walk takes you along traditional majadas through limestone karst landscape, to the foot of the highest peaks in the western massif.
Probably the most famous route in the Picos de Europa is the walk to the Cares Gorge, in the grave, narrow gorge that separates the western and central massifs. The path is carved from the rock walls of the valley sides, with a series of bridges and tunnels. The route can be extended by continuing through the majadas to Posada de Valdeón (logistics and time permits).
Canyoning is the ideal outdoor activity for those who love some climbing and water fun. With the many canyons that the area is rich in, there are plenty of opportunities in terms of canyoning. The Rio Navedo canyon is a famous gorge to explore. Here you walk and climb through the gorge before you jump or abseil in the freshwater of the river.
The mountainous area of the Picos de Europa is rich in numerous rivers. Depending on the number of rapids that they count, they are often paddled by kayakers of every level. The Sella River is one of the most popular options because it is one of the most accessible for every level of the kayaker, whether you are experienced or just taking the first steps in the sport.
May it be a little more intensive, then the wild rapids of the rivers may be more your thing. Rafting is a real team event and therefore the ideal activity if you are on holiday with a group of friends in the Picos de Europa. With the Sella river, the Cares river and the Deva river near Potes, there is plenty of choices when it comes to rafting. Taming the “white water” will undoubtedly be one of the most exciting experiences of your vacation.
In addition to high mountain peaks, the Picos de Europa also houses numerous underground cave systems, including Sima del Trave, the 5th deepest in the world. Under the guidance of experienced local guides, you can explore the underground corridors. Speleology of the Valporquero cave is one of Tobaventura’s favourite activities. This cave is located in the north of the province of León, near the village of Valporquero de Torío. The cave is 1300 meters long and has six halls with a great diversity of geological formations, from the small entrances to the large wonder room.
The Valporquero cave is something you should not miss. With its underground rivers and stunning halls, it is perhaps one of the most impressive caves in Spain and Europe. It is one of the natural gems that the people of Leon have as pride.
Another way to explore the Picos de Europa is by mountain biking. With its many winding single tracks, high passes and alpine meadows, this piece of nature in Spain is one of the best locations in Europe for off-road cycling. One of the highlights of Picos de Europa when it comes to mountain biking is the Urdon Gorge, an incredible off-road circuit in the Pelonos Forest. The beautiful views and the exciting descent from the Andara massif are also worthwhile!
The mountain peaks of the Picos de Europa are impressive, but can you imagine seeing them from the sky? There are different providers of tandem paragliding jumps so that you too can view these tops from a bird’s eye view. By taking a tandem jump, you are under the guidance of an experienced instructor who ensures that your safety is guaranteed. This way, you can quietly enjoy the unique view while you float through the air.