Picos de Europa National Park, Cantabria
If you follow The Life of Stuff on my social media channels; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat et cetera then you will know that I was recently on a blog trip to the Cantabria region of Northern Spain. I flew into Santander on a Sunday, flew home to Ireland the following Wednesday and every day including those mentioned (as in Sunday through to Wednesday) was jam-packed full of exciting outdoor adventure which I will be sharing with you here on the blog … To start my Cantabria blog posts off I’ve decided to share with you my experience of the amazing Picos de Europa National Park.
Picos de Europa National Park was Spain’s first National Park. It’s history dates back to the early 1900’s but it was only named Picos de Europa in 1995. In 2002 it was awarded the title of UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. It stretches over an area of 64.660 hectares, and lies between the Asturias, Cantabria and León regions, in the heart of the Cantabrian Mountains, in Northern Spain.
Picos de Europa National Park is open all year round. The best time for hiking and walking is Spring and Autumn. The best time for snow walking and cross-country skiing is winter when the snow is harder. However with saying that you can expect to see snow-capped peaks any time of year and when I visited in May, the snow that covered the mountain provided a blanket for our group to wear snowshoes and explore just some of what the beautiful landscape has to offer.
One of the best ways to explore Picos de Europa is to take the Fuente de Cable Car.
We drove to the National Park and dined in the restaurant at the foot of the mountains and the Fuente de Cable Car Station before we embarked on our adventure. It was actually a good idea to stock up on some energy before we set off.
It was also a chance to enjoy some local cuisine – such as the Sopa de Fideo (Spanish noodle soup), Cocido Montañés (Highlander stew), fresh local cheese and Orujo (Spanish grappa) … the later to help with digestion of course.
After we had restocked our fuel, it was time to get the cable car. The Fuente de Cable Cars come and go every five or ten minutes.
Our group shared a car with young and old, and it was as easy as stepping on and off a bus.
The highest peak of the Picos de Europa mountains, which are made up of three massifs: the Andara Massif (eastern), the Urrieles Massif (central) and the Cornión Massif (western), is Torrecerredo (2,646 metres).
The Fuente De Cable Car rises to just over 1,800 metres above sea level, and so the view as the cable car rises is breathtaking.
It is also quite impressive to see the speed at which the cable car you are travelling is climbing when it passes another car on the way down.
The blue hue in these photo’s are from the windows of the cable car.
It only takes a matter of minutes to reach the top. Not good with heights? then don’t look down, just look forward all the way.
It’s a stunning scene and one to be enjoyed, savoured and remembered forever.
… And if you’ve no fear then you can stand from the grate bottomed lookout! … and look around or down. I chose around.
Once at the top our next destination was El Portal de Picos where our feet were measured, with our boots or trainers on, for snowshoes.
Once we were all kitted out with our snowshoes and our hiking sticks (poles) we were off on an adventure over the snow-capped plains and valley of the Picos de Europa.
Snowshoeing wasn’t difficult and neither was the trek we were guided on, but as the snow was becoming soft due to the time of year and the hot weather, it was important we watch our steps and keep our balance.
Our guide was great and kept an eye on us.
Having a professional and experienced guide is always the best idea especially if you’re unfamiliar with your surroundings, or like me a snowshoeing novice.
Of course there is more than just one walk or trek – there are a number of routes that can be taken, depending on your experience.
As the summer months come, the snow melts and then the National Park displays its pastures. Local farmers bring their herds of animals to graze and this once snow topped mountain becomes green with life.
The picture above is a photo of one of the many lakes that form in the park. You only realise its size when comparing it with the skier on the right!
What goes up must come down and after an exhausting but exhilarating trek we made our way down the mountain again.
Picos de Europa National Park was a highlight of Northern Spain and the Cantabria region for me so I highly recommend a visit, and when there a ride on the Fuente De Cable Car is a must. You don’t need to trek, ski or snowshoe your way around you can easily take in wonderous sight of the mountain, its raveens, crevasses, pastures, forests and wildlife (there are bears in the mountains by the way, but on the other side) by strolling about.