Do yourself a favour and add it it your list of places you must visit. And make sure you put it near the top! You can thank me later.
THINGS TO DO:
- Hiking. There are plenty of different hiking trails to suit all types of abilities. Best to look online for more information on specific hiking trails and their difficulty level and distances. We decided to do the most popular hike called “The Cares Route” and I highly recommend doing the same. We drove to the town of Poncebos and started the track from there. The first half hour of the hike is all uphill. Afterwards the trail is mostly flat and winds along the cliff as you follow the path of the gorge below. I wouldn’t say it is particularly difficult however it is long! It’s recommended to leave yourself 5 – 6 hours for the return journey. The hike took us around 3 hours to the town of Cain, including stopping for 30 minutes for a picnic lunch and to take photographs along the way. There are no services throughout the track so be sure to pack plenty of food and water. In the town of Cain there are a couple of restaurants, bars and supermarkets if you want to stop to recuperate before the return journey but be warned they are all rather touristy and over priced as per usual. The return trip (taken on the same track) took a little over 2.5 hours. If you’re not the fittest person don’t worry as you can take it as slow as you like and there are plenty of lovely spots to stop and have a breather along the way. Rest assured it is well worth the effort! The place is incredible and there’s always plenty to look at whether it be mountain goats passing you by, herds of sheep, waterfalls or the hydroelectricity canal. Just make sure you don’t trip while you’re busy looking around as there are no guar rails throughout (if you’re scared of heights this trail ain’t for you!). No photographs or describing words really do the Picos de Europa justice but I’ll leave these below regardless.
- We wanted to make the most of being in the national park so we decided we’d do another hike before we left. We opted for the “Covadonga Lakes” trail which is a circular route around two lakes, Enol and Ercina. From the campground we were staying at it was about a 35 minute drive out to the town of Covadonga. Unfortunately as it was Summer and peak season, we were forced to park our car and pay for a bus ticket (Eur 9 per person, return. Buses run every 15 minutes) which takes you up to the top of the mountain. Retrospectively I’m glad we did take the bus as the roads are really narrow and super windy, herds of cows also use the roads (but appear not to have the same road rules as the Spanish) and on the day we visited the mountain was covered in fog making it impossible to see anything further than 3 meters away. We did this hike with our newest van life friends (“The Isaacs”, two adventurous and hilarious Aussies who we met at the campsite) and luckily despite the poor visibility and being caught at the top of the mountain in torrential rain we still had an absolute ball. On a sunny day I’d imagine it would be beautiful to take your time and have a picnic lunch. There’s lush greenery everywhere and more cows than tourists! However if you only have time for one hike than The Cares Route wins by far.
PLACES TO STAY:
- Camping Naranjo de Bulnes. We absolutely adored this camp ground and it made it into my “Top 8 van life destinations (so far) (https://foreignerfaz.com/2018/08/09/top-8-van-life-destinations/). It’s located a short 10 minute drive from Poncebos which makes it a great place to stay if you intend on doing The Cares Route hike (as described above). However even if you aren’t intending on doing the hike it’s still a wonderful place to camp and simply enjoy the beauty of the national park. We were lucky enough to turn up without a reservation and still managed to score an incredible site that backed on to a glacial river. Despite it being summer the river was still cold enough to chill our warm beers and act as our “ice bath” post hike! Swimming is only for the brave. Or are we mad? The campground is mostly grass, very spacious and filled with plenty of trees. There’s wifi, amenities, water, washing machines and an onsite restaurant/bar. (Eur 21 per night for 2 people and a van, without power).
- You absolutely need a car for this trip. The national park itself is rather large and if you intend on doing more than one hike you may need to drive a fair distance as many of the hikes have different starting points. Be sure to do your own research before going. You also need at least a base level of fitness and sturdy knees to complete even the easiest of hikes. If you’re unable to hike there are a number of driving routes which offer spectacular views from the roadside.