The Picos de Europa mountain range in northern Spain is incredible. On the Cantabrian side we recommend travelling to Fuente Dé and going up the cable car to the top of a rocky plateau. It’s truly breathtaking, and not just because of the lack of oxygen! This blog is kind of written in reverse starting at the top and then making your way back down towards the coast.
Park in the extensive car park near the Parador (or stay there for a treat!) then walk up to the teleférico ticket office where a return ride will cost you €17. At busy times you may well have to queue for a while. With ticket in hand you might have to wait again to get into a cable car. You can travel any time from 10am until 6pm. Then the fun begins as you are are hoisted nearly 800m up the mountain along almost 1500m of cable in just under 4 minutes. If you are afraid of heights you may find the views a little intense but it is an incredible experience!
There are cafes at the bottom and at the top but it really is better to have your coffee with a spectacular panoramic view. From the terrace you get an amazing view of the vultures soaring below you, and if you are really lucky (we weren’t!) you may even get a glimpse of a golden eagle. There is also a gift shop and a small exhibition about how the cable car was constructed over 50 years ago.
From the top of the cable car there are some fabulous walks which are not too taxing. You can, of course, extend them further if you are fit and full of energy, or you can just amble around and enjoy the fresh air. It’s even possible to walk all the way back down to the lower station, but that’s going to take you at least 4 hours but you will save €6 as you’ll only need a one-way ticket! We settled for a short walk around and some absolutely breathtaking views. We were rewarded by getting up close to a Cantabrian chamois which crossed our path right in front of us. For the more adventurous there also opportunities for rock climbing. Each to their own!!
There are accommodation options nearby like the Parador and the Rebeco, or the Hotel del Oso which we loved so much. You could also drive back down the road half an hour or so to Potes. Better still, do as we did and stay at the Hotel Infantado in Ojedo and walk a mile back up to the town. Potes was a lovely place to wander exploring its beautiful narrow streets and riverside views. The stone bridges and traditional houses which hang over the river make for some wonderful scenes. There are lots of eating and drinking options too, especially around the open plaza. Set menus offer incredible value and you can eat at tourist times rather waiting until late in the evening like the Spanish do.
Another few miles further downhill is the Picos de Europa Visitor Centre in Sotama. You’ll probably do as we did and stop here on your way up which makes far more sense. Whilst the building will no doubt polarise opinion with its looks, inside there is an awful lot to see. There are maps and displays documenting the rich flora and fauna of the area. There is also the chance to learn about the demise of the mining industry and see how local products like cheese and cotton were made.
Moving further back downhill is the town of La Hermida. We stopped here for a picnic lunch on our way up. The reason? Well, the river runs through the town creating some fabulous views and there is an easy riverside walk which we enjoyed. That’s not the main attraction though. Hot springs feed the river and we had heard you could just go in the river and enjoy them near the Hotel Balneario. The steps down to the water have deteriorated badly though and they looked pretty dangerous so we didn’t try. Perhaps one day we’ll treat ourselves to a thermal bath inside the hotel instead.
Having visited the Cantabrian Picos, why not continue onto the Asturian side of the mountain range?