Day 23: Touring the Picos de Europa: a good day!

Wednesday, July 20th Casa Gustavo.

Bloglog: Kilometres from ‘Go’: 5322.7 (224.3 today)

Find accommodation in the Picos de Europa

This was one of the highlights of the ‘Tour’ and I guess I don’t need to point this out too much! From Potes the definitive route is over the Puerto de San Glorio – in good weather this time, down the Desfiladero de los Beyos, along the sierra on the AS 114 and back into the Picos via the Desfiladerio de la Hermida. Except – you should do it the other way round!


The Puetro de San Glorio really is a ‘must do’ of any trip into Northern Spain. At the top it’s definitely worth taking the 2 km detour to the Mirador de Llesba – amazing – I just had to go back and get more images of the views. The restricted access for trail riding is made more poignant in places like this – sadly one can’t help feeling that some of the off-road contingent have been the force behind such restrictions; local feeling about noise nuisance runs high, unusual in the normally easy going Spain. Fortunately there are plenty of other sierras in Spain where the scenery isn’t quite so fantastic – few places can beat the Picos in this respect (see below) but where the riding is, if anything, even better – read on to Day 26 for an example!

Approaching the Picos from the west toward Cain gives fantastic views which just get better as you ride right to the foot of the cliffs – and the road isn’t half bad either!

In fact I intended to have another no-bike day and picnic with Lisa and her family. But stuff happened and I set off quite late in the morning. I had also decided to take a walk through the Desfiladero de Río Cares – another tourist hot spot. The ravine was a bit of a disappointment mainly because I know so many ravines in Spain, so there wasn’t much so very new to me. Having said that I’ would recommend it to others as it is certainly in The Premier League as far as ravines go. OK, it’s full of tourists, but that’s only in July and August I imagine and at least I was able to leave my riding gear in a helpful restaurant while I went walkabout – otherwise I couldn’t have done it! Furthermore, although the village of Cain de Valdeon, at the entrance to the ravine, is little more than a strip of restaurants and hostals, I had a very good meal at reasonable cost – so fair’s fair – go there, do the walk – and the road to Cain is fabulous into the bargain!

The Desfiladero de Cares is one of the classic walks in the Picos de Europa – definitely worth a day’s excursion if you can afford the time! The walk onward from Camarmeña at the far end takes on a climb to the Peña de Maín, but no-one will blame you for taking the funicular railway there!

Moving on, I joined the N 625 at the base of the Puerto Pontón and roode on over to the head of the Desfiladero de los Bayos. This is most definitely an Ace Ride, but it is much better going uphill rather than down – as I noticed from the numerous Spanish registered bikes doing just that!  The views are much better that way – I spent a lot of time looking back over my shoulder! – and the sharper bends are in shady defiles in the terrain that obviously suffer intense frost damage in winter. Riding through these was quite horrible as I rode from brilliant sunshine into deep shade so my vision was badly affected when I most needed it as the potholes – if I can call them that as most about the size of a billiards table! – were plenty deep! In contrast the uphill side of the road seemed OK as they were a bit more in the sunlight.

At 2,478 m the Peña Santa de Enol is a dwarf by Spanish standards – just don’t tell anyone I said so!

The AS 114 runs a short distance away from the Picos along what amounts to a secondary range just to the north. And the juxtaposition of the Picos seen with the lower hills in the foreground makes for the prettiest of views. In fact I think this is what makes the Picos so incredibly special – they really are a ‘Must do’ for any visit to Spain! As I mentioned earlier, at around 2,500 metres the Picos aren’t particularly high by Spanish standards, nor are they very extensive – the Pyrenees are about 300 kilometres in extent, of which a good 150 kilometres range over 3,000 metres (the highest peak in the Pyrenees, Aneto, is 3,404 metres), but the Picos appear to be much more spectacular as they rise close to the sea as opposed to being well inland and already surrounded by high ground. Furthermore, the Picos themselves rise up amongst some lower parts of the Cordillera Cantábrica which are extremely verdant. And the biking is pretty good too!

Looking  over the mountains that surround the Picos themselves: these ‘hills’ are very inviting and inspired my subsequent route.

Back to the ride then. My jolly along the AS 114 ended at Panes where I headed back into the range towards Potes and ‘home’ on the N621, where I was looking forward to riding up the Desfiladero de Hermida – a route I’d last done well over 20 years ago! What a disappointment! I’d had expected the road itself to have been improved since my last trip, when it was the usual potholed mishmash of rough surfaces typical of Spain in those days. In fact it was the same road entirely apart from numerous layers of new tarmac that simply amplified the bumpiness of the foundation as well as making a frightening drop off the edge. Worse, by the time got there the column of day trippers, including dozens of coaches, were heading back to the coastal resorts. The coaches were the worst problem as they have to swing right into the opposite carriageway to take the sharp corners. So the lesson is to take this trip anti-clockwise and to treat the Desfiladero de Hermida as a means to an end – as lesson I used to good effect when I moved on – see Day 25. More generally: a route from Santander to Southern Spain going west of Madrid (see Long Distance Routes: Santander-Algeciras) would be to head west along the coast as far as San Vicente de la Barquera and then the A 114 to Cangas, N 625 to Riano and on into the wilds of León . . . ah, next year’s trip begins to take shape!


3 thoughts on “Day 23: Touring the Picos de Europa: a good day!

  1. Thanks for that Simon………………….I’m looking forward to a week in the Picos (mid September) using potes a a base

    1. Hi John, not at all and thanks for your feedback. The Picos i September sounds wonderful – I’m jealous! 🙂


      PS – I’ve removed your surname from the comment, call it Standard Procedure

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