Traverse of the Picos de Europa

Walking through Spain`s finest mountain landscapes




From $1,380 Land only

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Holiday Overview


  • Trek to the summit viewpoint of Torre de los Horcados Rojos
  • Dramatic Cares Gorge walk
  • Staying in remote mountain refuges and villages
  • An excellent week of mountain walking with all meals included

Close to Spain's northern coast, the Picos de Europa is a region of steep-sided valleys, isolated villages and rugged limestone peaks. This great walking holiday makes a logical and continuous west to east traverse passing through the separate massifs that comprise this dramatic mountain range. From the pretty country town of Cangas de Onis, we hike by way of the Vegarredonda Refuge to our first objective, Pico Cotalba (2026m). We then descend the 1500 metre-deep Garganta del Cares, following a spectacular cliff-side path that is one of the great Picos walks. Climbing back up into the central massif, we overnight at a refuge beneath the awe-inspiring Naranjo de Bulnes and continue walking across a lunar landscape to the superb viewpoint summit of Torre de los Horcadas Rojos (2500m). A picturesque final day's hike to down into Espinama concludes this gem of a walking holiday. Mountain walkers will love the Picos and to do the region justice you need to make use of its charming mountain refuges which allow a more intimate aquaintance and a true mountain journey.

Is this holiday for you?

This is real mountain journey with significant amounts of ascent and descent on most days. The trails are predominantly good but there are sections on scree and bare rock. We will be walking for between 5 and 8 hours each day. This trip is suitable for regular hillwalkers, looking for an excellent week's mountain walking in a quiet region relatively untouched by tourism. Three of the refuges that we use during the holiday are not accessible by vehicle and this means that group members will need to carry minimal personal equipment for the first 5 days of the trek, with access to your trek bag at the hotel in Puente Poncebos after the first 3 days. In reality, since sleeping bags and camping mats are not needed, you should be able to keep the weight of your daysack down to no more than 7 or 8 kgs. The fact that this holiday is not vehicle supported does affect the overall difficulty.

Brief Itinerary

View in full
  • Meet at the group hotel in Cagnas de Onis. A single timed transfer from Santander Airport is provided.
  • Summit Pico Cotalba (2026m) and return to the Vegarredonda Refugio (1460m).
  • Trek to the Refugio Marques de Villaciciosa (1630m) with option to summit Jultayu (1940m) en route.
  • Trek through the Cares Gorge to Puente Poncebos.
  • Descend through the Arroyo Tejo to the Naranjo de Bulnes.
  • Summit Torre de los Horcados Rojos (2500m), via Collado Horcadas Rocas (2344m). Descend to Aliva.
  • Climb Valdecoro (1841m). Descend to Espinama
  • Departure day. A single time transfer to Santander Airport is provided.
Sun 19 Jun - Sun 26 Jun Code SPE /01/16/ Adult$1,380 Status 2 more to guarantee Book now
Sun 17 Jul - Sun 24 Jul Code SPE /02/16/ Adult$1,380 Status Guaranteed Book now
Sun 28 Aug - Sun 04 Sep Code SPE /03/16/ Adult$1,380 Status 2 more to guarantee Book now
Sun 04 Sep - Sun 11 Sep Code SPE /04/16/ Adult$1,380 Status Guaranteed Book now
Sun 18 Sep - Sun 25 Sep Code SPE /05/16/ Adult$1,380 Status Available Book now
We sell this holiday on a Land Only basis and recommend that you book your flights to Santander. Please refer to the 'Joining arrangements & transfers' section in the trip dossier for further details.

Flights SHOULD NOT be booked until you have received your booking confirmation and the trip is showing 'Guaranteed to Run' or 'Limited'.

If flying from the UK Ryanair will be the best low cost airline offering flights to Santander. Ryanair who have flights from London & Edinburgh. Other airports may be available. Click on the 'Flight information' link below for further information on booking low cost airlines. Alternatively if you would prefer to book a 'flight inclusive package' using scheduled airlines from the UK please contact our flights department for a quote. Whilst flight prices are likely to be more expensive you will benefit from full financial protection.

BOOK WITH KE CONFIDENCE - No surcharge guarantee*

* Against Land Only services.

Map & Itinerary

The Route

  • point
  • trip direction
  • peaks
  • transfer
  • trek

Holiday Itinerary

  • Meet at the group hotel in Cagnas de Onis. A single timed transfer from Santander Airport is provided.

    Meet at the group hotel in Cagnis de Onis. A single timed transfer from Santander Airport is provided. The small farming town of Cangas de Onis is our gateway to the Picos de Europa. KE Land Only package services begin with the evening meal.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Meals d

  • Summit Pico Cotalba (2026m) and return to the Vegarredonda Refugio (1460m).

    We have breakfast at our hotel and pick up packed lunches, before making the short transfer to Lago de Enol (1063m) and the start of the day's walk. Setting off beside the lake's tranquil waters, we walk on a good trail through fertile meadows, passing shepherds' cabins, until a final short climb leads to Collado Gamonal. Here, we have our first view of the Vegarredonda Refugio (1460m), our overnight accommodation. Used as an explosives store during the Spanish Civil War, it was rebuilt as a mountain refuge in 1987 and occupies a unique position for those wishing to explore the high peaks of the Maczino Occidental (Western Massif of the Picos). Chamois (locally known as rebecos) are a common sight here. Our own exploration starts with an afternoon walk to the Mirador de Ordiales, which offers breathtaking views. From here, we will be able to easily reach the nearby summit of Pico Cotalba (2026m), before returning to the refuge.

    • Accommodation Mountain Hut / Refuge

    • Ascent 930m

    • Meals bld

  • Trek to the Refugio Marques de Villaciciosa (1630m) with option to summit Jultayu (1940m) en route.

    We re-trace our approach route of yesterday for a little less than an hour, before turning west to Lago Ercina with its superb, often snow-capped backdrop of Peña de Santa Castilla. From here, a gently ascending path takes us to an excellent spring at the Vega las Bobias. Climbing more steeply now we have views of the Cuvicente (2014m) chain. Arriving at the collado and passing close by the third deepest cave system in Spain, we are rewarded with one of the most impressive views of the Macizo Central and our own closer objective, Jultayu (1940m). Following cairns along the mountain’s north face we arrive at the summit abruptly, a fine natural viewpoint with a dizzying drop straight down into the Cares Gorge and the village of Cain, 1600 metres below. This is a great place to spot griffon vultures and possibly also golden eagles soaring on the thermals created by these huge limestone walls. Descending from Jultayu, we cross limestone boulders split by water and ice to our overnight accommodation at the Refugio Marques de Villaviciosa (1630m), which is perched in splendid isolation in an impressive mountain landscape.

    • Accommodation Mountain Hut / Refuge

    • Ascent 800m

    • Meals bld

  • Trek through the Cares Gorge to Puente Poncebos.

    Today we make a memorably steep descent of nearly 1200 metres through the Canal de Trea into the Garganta del Cares, which forms a natural dividing line between the Occidental and Central massifs. The entrance to the canal is a dramatic natural balcony looking straight across to the Macizo Central and down towards the Rio Cares. Halfway through our descent we reach the beautiful spring, Fuente El Peyu rising from below a boulder, and we will be grateful to rest here for a while now that the most tricky part of the descent is behind us. The path now becomes more defined as we pass through woods of oak and beech, before finally arriving in the bed of the Cares Gorge. In places the peaks soar precipitously almost 2000 metres above us and we will be amazed to be able to descend the gorge on a path cut through outrageously difficult terrain. First built in the 1940's as part of a hydro-electric scheme, this path provides one of the most outstanding walks in the Picos de Europa. The gorge eventually emerges in Puente Poncebos where we spend the night.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Ascent 100m

    • Meals bld

    • Descent 1000m

  • Descend through the Arroyo Tejo to the Naranjo de Bulnes.

    Today our walk takes us to the base of El Naranjo de Bulnes, probably the most famous piece of rock in the Picos de Europa. Leaving our hotel, we descend to the Cares River and begin our ascent through the Arroyo Tejo. The path gently climbs beside a pretty mountain stream and through meadows with healthy looking livestock to Bulnes, a medieval village that, until very recently was only accessible by foot. The recent addition of a funicular railway has, in fact, changed very little here. After filling up with water from the village fountain, we leave on a lovely stone paved lane through a forest of walnut, linden and hazelnut trees to emerge in high pastures dotted with shepherds cabins. After buying some Cabrales cheese from a local shepherd, We finally emerge into high mountain terrain and our first sighting of El Urelliu (Naranjo) Our refugio nestlmes beneath this imposing and dramatic wall of orange limestone.

    • Accommodation Mountain Hut / Refuge

    • Ascent 1750m

    • Meals bld

  • Summit Torre de los Horcados Rojos (2500m), via Collado Horcadas Rocas (2344m). Descend to Aliva.

    Our journey continues south through a wildly graphic landscape of towers, spires and sheer rock faces that were carved during the ice age and continue to be transformed by rain, ice and snow melt. Meandering gently uphill we will surely be looking over our shoulders in the hope of capturing a few more images of El Naranjo before traversing around the abyss of ‘Hou Sin Tierre’ (‘the hole without a bottom’). Throughout the Picos there are many of these massive holes, typical features of a karstic limestone area. Herds of Rebecco, tiny but nimble deer-like animals, eagles and Egyptian vultures are often sighted in this area. As the terrain steepens we will find ourselves concentrating on a cable-assisted scramble of 300 meters up to Collado Horcadas Rocas (2344m). If the weather is good then we will climb Torre de los Horcados Rojos (2506m), an outstanding viewpoint for the whole area and a fine place to linger for a while. Reluctantly, we will begin our descent through granite boulders down to an to an old miners’ track which wends its way past two pretty turquoise-green lakes and through a col into high summer pastures, where our overnight accommodation is situated. The hotel / refugio, Aliva, has an unsurpassed mountain location with fine views of the eastern massif.

    • Accommodation Mountain Hut / Refuge

    • Ascent 550m

    • Meals bld

    • Descent 900m

    • Time 6 hours walking

  • Climb Valdecoro (1841m). Descend to Espinama

    This morning we begin our descent into the valley, but not before we have explored the most southern part of the Central massif, culminating in the ascent of Pico Valdecoro (1841m) which has fantastic views. Our route down to the valley gradually changes from high mountain scenery to meander through meadows and forest, a delightful contrast to the terrain of the past two days. We arrive back in time for a dip in the small hotel pool and there will be time to explore the village before our last night celebratory dinner.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Meals bld

    • Time 5 - 6 hours walking

  • Departure day. A single time transfer to Santander Airport is provided.

    We have an early breakfast before our timed group transfer to Santander Airport where KE Land Only package services end.

    • Meals b

Holiday Information

  • An experienced English-speaking local guide
  • Single timed group airport transfers
  • All vehicle transfers required by the itinerary
  • All baggage transfers required by the itinerary
  • All accommodation as described in the trip dossier
  • All meals

  • Travel insurance
  • Airport transfers (other than group transfers)
  • Miscellaneous personal expenses - drinks and souvenirs etc.

During this walking holiday the group will spend 1 night in a comfortable hotel in Cangas de Onis and 1 night in a similar establishment in Puente Poncebos. There will also be 1 night in a guesthouse. Accommodation in these places is twin sharing with en-suite facilities. On the other 4 nights of the trip, we will stay in comfortable mountain refuges which offer restaurant facilities and dormitory style sleeping arrangements. Toilet and washing facilities are shared at these refuges and in some cases may be outside the main building. Sleeping bags are not required at the refuges, as bedding is supplied. However, you may choose to carry a cotton or silk sheet sleeping bag. You do not have access to your baggage on days 2,3,5 and 6. You will have to carry your overnight things with you during these days as well as your lunches and set of dry clothes. It is not possible to pre book single rooms, however if you wish to have a single room it may be possible to request and pay for this locally depending on availability.

View the gallery below for images of the style of accommodation used

All meals are included in the holiday price from dinner on day 1 to breakfast on day 8. A packed lunch will be provided for each day and you will need to allow space in your daypack for 2 picnic lunches.

Breakfasts are usually coffee, tea, cereals, bread or toast and jam with fruit or yogurt. Dinner tends to be served late at the refuges and usually involves soup and a hearty main meal such as bean stew with or without sausage. Packed lunches are also provided, although you may choose to add to these with chocolate bars etc.. (which can be bought at the refuges).

Within the Land Only cost of this holiday, we provide a single timed transfer from Santander Airport to the group hotel in Cangas de Onis on day 1 of the itinerary and and a single timed return transfer at the end of the holiday. These transfers are timed to the arrival and check-in times for the Ryanair flight from/to London's Stansted Airport. The KE guide or representative will assist with these airport transfers. Anyone may use these transfers regardless of flights, but if you are not flying Ryanair from Stansted, you must check the timing of the transfer with the KE office prior to departing the UK. Please note these transfer times follow changes to the Ryanair schedule and are subject to change at short notice. Independent transfers can be arranged at additional cost.

After breakfast at our overnight accommodation, we try to get a reasonably early start. We will walk for 3 or 4 hours in the morning, before finding a suitably scenic spot to stop to eat our packed lunch. We may take a siesta for an hour or so if the weather is warm, before setting off on the afternoon's hike. We will usually walk for just a couple of hours in the afternoon, aiming to reach our overnight stop by mid-afternoon, leaving us time to rest and to explore our new surroundings. The pace of the trekking will allow us time to stop to admire the views and to take photographs.

The holiday will be led by an experienced English-speaking local guide.

We estimate that €150 should be sufficient to cover miscellaneous expenses, including bar bills and snack items, chocolate bars etc.. This will also allow you to pay reasonable tips to the local guide and driver. Money can be withdrawn form ATMs in Santander and Cangas. If you prefer to bring all your travel money with you, we recommend that you carry this in the form of euros cash. If you are intending to buy expensive souvenirs, you should budget accordingly (credit cards can be useful in this respect). The unit of currency in Spain is the euro.

Since you will be carrying your personal equipment for several days during the holiday, you should make every effort to keep the weight of your gear to a minimum. We recommend that you have a trial walk with your packed rucksack. With careful planning and considering that you will not have to carry a sleeping bag or a camping mattress, it should be possible to keep the weight of your sack down to about 8 kgs / 18lbs. Your trek bag with travel clothes and spare clothes will be transferred to those overnight stops which are accessible by road. You will have access to this bag on the evening of Day 1, Day 4 and Day 7.

All KE clients will receive a FREE KE trek bag.  These have been specially made to stand up to the rigours of adventure travel.  Your KE bag will be posted to you when your trip is guaranteed to run or on receipt of your booking if the trip is already guaranteed.  If you have travelled with us before and already have a KE trek bag you can select an alternative free gift in the booking process.

This holiday involves going to moderately high altitude.  During the course of your trip you will reach altitudes in excess of 2500 metres.  Most people will have no difficulty with this level of altitude but before coming on the holiday, we recommend you read the advice on trekking at high altitude.  You can also talk to one of our trekking experts if you have any concerns about altitude.

The following checklist should help you with your packing. As a general rule, you should always try to keep the weight of your equipment to a minimum.

You must bring the following items:

  • Hiking boots
  • Trainers / sneakers for wearing in the refuges
  • Socks
  • Walking socks (2 or 3 pairs)
  • Trekking trousers / pants
  • Lightweight waterproof overtrousers / rain-pants
  • Underwear
  • Shorts
  • Thermal baselayer shirts
  • Casual shirts and/or T-shirts
  • Fleece jacket or warm jumper
  • Lightweight waterproof jacket
  • Eyewear – sunglasses
  • Sun cream (including for lips)
  • Antibacterial hand wash
  • Water bottles 1 Litre (x2)
  • Backpack c.40 litres
  • Headtorch / headlamp with spare batteries
  • Washbag and toiletries
  • Warm hat
  • Gloves
  • Sunhat or cap
  • Sheet sleeping bag (for use in the huts)
  • Basic First Aid Kit including: headache tablets, treatment for upset stomach (e.g. Imodium or Pepto Bismol), antiseptic cream, plasters (Band aids) and blister treatment.
  • Small padlock (to lock the trek bag)

The following items are optional:

  • Spare laces
  • Ear plugs (especially if you are not the one snoring!)
  • Swimwear
  • Small towel (for swimming)
  • Camera, film, batteries
  • Penkife (remember to pack all sharp objects in hold baggage)
  • Trekking poles
  • Insect repellant
  • Travel clothes


  • Your KE Trek Bag with travel clothes, spare clothes etc. will be transferred to those overnight stops which are accessible by road.


For each holiday there is a minimum number of participants required to enable it to go ahead. Once the minimum number is reached, the trip status will change from 'Available' to 'Guaranteed to run'. You can check the trip status for each departure in ‘Dates and Prices’ table. Other than in exceptional circumstances, we will not cancel a trip once it has achieved this guaranteed to run status and so you are free to proceed with your international flight booking and other travel arrangements.

A passport with 6 months remaining validity at the end of your stay is generally required. The information that we provide is for UK passport holders. Please check the relevant embassy or consulate for other nationalities. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have the correct travel documents and visas for your holiday. Visa requirements and charges are subject to change without notice. If you are travelling outside the EU you should have at least 2 blank pages in your passport.

Visa Europe

UK and USA passport holders do not require a visa.

You should contact your GP or travel clinic to check whether you require any specific vaccinations. UK residents should obtain a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This entitles you to state provided medical treatment, but is not a substitute for medical travel insurance which is still vital when travelling overseas.

The unit of currency in Europe is the Euro.

We recommend you check if you require an adaptor for your electrical items at:

It makes a lot of sense to spend some time before coming on a trekking or climbing trip getting some additional exercise. The fitter you are, after all, the more enjoyable you will find the experience. The best preparation for a holiday of this nature is regular hiking in hill country, especially weekends where you can make back-to-back walks of 7 or 8 hours over a variety of terrain. If due to your location or time available, this is not possible we suggest that you adopt a weekly exercise regime leading up to your trip. Any strenuous exercise lasting between 30 minutes to an hour, building from once to several times a week as you get nearer to departure will develop cardio-vascular fitness and better stamina. Running, tennis and swimming are all good examples. Whatever your fitness preparation, we suggest that before departure, you try to fit in a number of long walks in hilly country.

As a reputable tour operator, KE supports the British Foreign & Commonwealth Offices ‘Know before you go’ campaign to enable British citizens to prepare for their journeys overseas, and we recommend that all KE travellers take a look at the FCO Travel Advice for their chosen destination on the official FCO website: North Americans can also check out the U.S. Department of State website: for essential travel advice and tips.

KE treat the safety and security of all clients as the most important aspect of any trip we organise. We would not run any trip that we did not consider reasonably safe.  Should the FCO advise against travel for any reason, we will contact everyone booked to travel to discuss the situation.  We receive regular updates direct from the FCO and are in constant touch with our contacts on the ground.  If you have any questions about government travel advice, please call our office.

This region is known for its changeable weather associated with its mountains and its coastal location. Although most of the region's precipitation occurs between November and February, it can rain at any time of the year. From July to September the weather is generally very good, with clear and sunny days predominating. We can expect daytime valley temperatures of between 20°C and 27°C in July and September, dropping to around 15°C overnight. Temperatures will be rather cooler than this at altitude, with daytime temperatures of between 15°C and 20°C above 1500 metres. At night the temperature could fall as low as 5°C. Conditions will generally be comfortable for trekking in shorts and short sleeved shirts (should you wish). As with any mountain area there is the risk of some poor weather, with rain and even fog.

Walks and Climbs in Picos de Europa. Cicerone. Northern Spain - Picos de Europa. Sunflower Books

Picos de Europa 1:25,000. Adrados (2 sheets)

The Picos on two detailed maps, each available either on paper or in a waterproof and tear-resistant edition. Contour interval is 10m (50m for cliff faces), and bold shading and graphic relief, provide an excellent representation of the terrain. Overlay shows hiking routes, mountain huts and refuges. The. map legend is in Spanish and English. Further information on the reverse is in Spanish only.

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