Every visitor of northern Spain should tour Picos de Europa. This is by far the most impressive mountain range in the whole Iberian Peninsula. Probably, that is why the Picos de Europa area was the first national park in Spain!
I offer private tours around the most beautiful areas of Picos de Europa. Usually starting in the cities of Santander or Bilbao but we can arrange the pick up from nearby small villages like Comillas, Llanes and Ribadesella. All those places are good points to start a day tour around the Picos de Europa. If you have the opportunity to spend two days we can start in other cities or places farther from the Peaks of Europe!
Aliva, Picos de Europa. It is a place of worship for me, probably my favorite place in the world.
All my tours are private and custom made but to give you a good idea, this is a long description of my «Picos de Europa Tour». If you want the short one just go to my Trip Advisor page.
Santander, the capital city of Cantabria region could be the best city to start this tour and it is where I pick up the majority of my customers. Anyway, there is no problem to pick you up wherever you want…
From Santander, the tour starts with about an hour driving, sometimes we decide to stop in a charming local bar to have a tea or to get whatever for the trip. Anyway, we quickly continue through the «interesting» road of «La Hermida gorge». There are some tour companies which «sell» this road like a tourist attraction….well, it is nice but for me is just the road we need to take to get to the fascinating places that I like. In Picos, to get to the really nice places you need a 4WD vehicle, that is for sure. I only use in all my tours my personal 4WD vehicle, a Toyota Land Cruiser with capacity up to 8 people and specially prepared to get us through the tough terrain that Picos can be, specially in winter! My first focus is not the enjoyment of the trip but the safety of all my customers and myself. That is why I have done several acredited 4WD courses, prior to years of professional experience using a 4WD to get to really remote areas in the middle of a desert. Well, that is another part of myself being an exploration geologist in remote parts of this world…anyway I don’t want to write my biography or an endless description but I think is important to say something about my experience driving with this kind of vehicles in rough terrain. This is not the usual tour in the back of a small van through paved roads. I offer to my customers a full 4WD experience into Picos, normally a very confortable experience but basically we can enjoy as much rough terrain as you want. Usually just the neccesary to get a few spots which are a few kilometers from tar roads! Sometimes I get customers from areas where mountains are very few and small so to get in a 4WD and go up a thousant meters in a few kilometers can be quite exciting and emotional.
Usually I spend one day in this tour but we could enjoy Picos for several days, I mean, time flies and usually I feel that we need to visit something else during the trip, basically because I enjoy a lot being at Picos. Because of that I always ask to my customers at what time they want or need to be back and how «fresh» they are to keep visiting places! 🙂 I enjoy this tour as much as you will do so it is easy for me to arrive late to the city. In my tour there is not a fixed itinerary or a maximun number of kilometers. I just want you to enjoy the way and flow with the time using a well executed itinerary which I am always thinking about.
Ok,we have crossed the gorge of «La Hermida» and we are now in the famous valley of Liebana! Well known for its great weather, amazing landscapes and welcoming people. At this stage of the tour I like to do a bit of 4WD and get to one or several of my favourite less known places in Liebana. To some of them we can get with the 4WD and for others we need to do a short and nice walk. After some photos in a few spots usually is around mid day and so we visit the village of Potes. Potes is the largest village and the capital of Liebana, with a population of a bit more than a thousand people is no crowded but it is a lively small town. Potes is for me the most beautiful village of the Picos de Europa area, it is well preserved and it has a cosy old town area and few great old buidings. The history of Potes is amazing: the Romans named the area as Pontes and a first very small village was founded in the 8th century by Alfonso I of Asturias!
We «must» do a walk through Potes, just choosing the nicest streets, have a coffee or whatever you wish! If you want we can visit the Torre del Infantado, a emblem of Potes, built in the 15th century! It is an imposing building made of stone where indeed my uncle worked for a very long time! It was the city council but now it is open for visits. Honestly, not many times we get into the building, just because the top attractions of this tour are still to come!!
It is now about 1pm and we follow up the Deva river, yes, the one which carved the gorge of La Hermida! We will be around its course for half a day! After a few minutes of driving we will choose a place for lunch. There are many restaurants in Liebana but not all of the same quality. For me the quality of food is a matter of importance that is why my tours include always the lunch and maybe other meals too. I have been living / visiting Liebana all my life so as you can imagine I have my favourites, ones have the quality of its food, the location, or a special charm difficult to explain with my basic english skills! Anyway, my favourites restaurants have a good mix of these important factors so we will choose one that I am sure you will like. Food here tends to be traditional, with great meats from the area. The «cocido lebaniego» it is the classic, the original, the unrivalled stew for my taste! Done with chickpeas, soup, different kind of meats, cooked veggys and a bit of «relleno» which I really like. A mix of bread, egg, spices, etc. It is a powerfull meal if you ask for «cocido lebaniego» more than likely you will eat more food until the dessert time because you are not going to end it…:-) During my private tours around the Picos de Europa you can eat and drink whatever you like. Usually people like to taste the tradional «cocido lebaniego» but there are other options as good as this one. Personally I almost always ask for it because it is lots of work to do it at home! 🙂
After enjoying a delicious meal we continue following up the Deva river, until Fuente De, the place where it starts. Fuente De is famous because it is a truly an amazing place. It is a glacial circus, there you are surrounded almost 360 degrees by a incredible and imposing limestone wall of almost 1000 meters high! You have to be there to beleive it. Being a geologist is one of my favourite places, the only disvantage of the place is that in the middle of august can be too crowded for my taste!
This is me with my two kids enjoying winter in Fuente De.
But anyway every tourist should see it. Maybe you have heard of the cable car of Fuente De. As you can imagine you can get it and go up about 1000 meters in a few minutes….. simply an experience to remember! It is a almost a «must» to take it, specially if there is no fog or clouds up in the mountains. If the weather it is no great maybe is not neccesary because we are gonna get up almost as high with the 4WD using this kind of gravel roads.
After going up wildly following this «roads» in which is not reccomended either safe to get in with a non 4WD vehicle and a experienced driver we will arrive to Aliva. This is almost a sacred place for me. Here you will feel the beauty of Picos de Europa almost in all its glory!
Two friends from Texas enjoying my tour through Picos de Europa.
Ok, we are now enjoying some of the most beautiful open landscapes of Picos de Europa! The green grass fields of Aliva are surrounded by some of the highest peaks of Picos….Pena Vieja, Pena Olvidada, Pico Cortes… it is just amazing. The options now are very different. Some customers prefer to enjoy this area for the rest of the afternoon, or even the evening! To see how the sun dissapear after the incredible limestone wall of Pena Vieja is something difficult to forget.
For the most adventurous we can continue our 4WD tour to the remote village of Sotres, the highest in Picos de Europa. It is a tiny village but very interesting to see. From Aliva is about half an hour of driving through a beautiful gravel road, a bit bumpy but not too bad if you go slow and steady. Of course we usually make the neccesary stops to enjoy the area, is not rare to see some wild animals, specially early in the morning and late evening.
It is now probably about 6 pm and we can take the road back to the touristic Santander city. Normally is what we do but a few times we still have energy to visit an still more remote village called Tresviso! Yes, famous for its blue cheese and fantastic views to the Desfiladero de la Hermida, etc. If it is foggy, which is not very rare in Picos, is not worth the time to get there and we can focus in get back to our hotel.
If the customer desires I give the option of going out in the evening, around 9pm to have some true spanish food, tapas, pinchos, and a few drinks. An small tour around my favourite bars of Santander is worth the effort…but the reality is that the mojority of the customers are exhausted of the long day out in the mountains…maybe for the next day!?
Tour Picos de Europa with me! You will not get dissapointed! The tour is not ending here!! More to come soon!