The Picos de Europa
The Picos de Europa consist of three mountain ranges that go by the names of the Eastern range or Andara, Central range or Urrielles and Western range or Cornión, which together form a national park. It is the highest limestone formation in Europe, with important Karst caverns and clear glacial lakes.
The Picos de Europa spread over three provinces: Asturias, Cantabria and León.
The national park has high summits alternating with deep gorges and canyons creating spectacular and picturesque scenery; boasting 200 peaks of over 2,000 metres, and many vertical drops of over 2,300 m.
The central range is the most abrupt of the three that make up the national park and the highest peaks can be found there: Torrecerredo (2,646 m), the highest summit in the Picos, Naranjo de Bulnes (2,519 m) and Pico Tesorero (2,570 m). The western range is the most extensive, and it too possesses high summits like Peña Santa de Castilla (2,596 m), intermingled with meadows, hillside forests, beech and oak groves and moors. The famous Covadonga lakes can be found in the western range. The eastern range, smaller and lower, blends sharp crags with green pastures.
The Park is crossed by four rivers channelling through deep gorges: la Hermida Gorge, crossed by the River Deva; Los Beyos Gorge, by the River Sella; La Garganta Divina, (Divine Gorge) through which the River Cares runs and La India Gorge, through which the River Duje flows.
There are numerous viewpoints in the park from where you can admire its beauty. An interesting trip is to use the Fuentedé funicular (mini train), with which you can go up to a height of more than 1,800 metres above sea level.
The region’s history dates back to 200 BC when Cantabria was a town that fought alongside the Carthagians against Rome; the region fell to the Romans, regained an era of independence and then fell again to the Moors in 714.
However, many Cantabrians fled to the mountains to defend their territory, aided by the neighbouring Asturias, Romans and the Christian Resistance, they fought for many decades to restore independence to their land. In the 15th and 16th centuries, towns like Santander, Laredo and Santillana became the economy drivers of the region and the whole region started to prosper.
Leisure & recreation
The area is ideal for all alpine pursuits; there are many local professional alpine, trekking and outdoor specialists, which can provide guides and equipment for mountaineering and walking.
The area is well served by a good interconnecting road network, allowing access to the many villages and towns. A vacation in the Picos D'Europa is to experience quiet and beauty amongst welcoming and friendly people. It also offers thrill seekers and extreme sportspeople with terrific opportunities.
Along the dramatic cliffs and headlines live the graceful and spectacularly athletic Chamois and the dense forests are inhabited by roe deer, wolves and the occasional bear.
The national park is home to more than 100 species of birds, among which are the black woodpecker and Capercaillie. There are also populations of large predatory griffon vultures and golden eagles in the region.
Much of Cantabria’s charm is its natural and dramatic beauty and the calling of the wild. However, if cultural attractions are what you crave on a holiday, then there are plenty of sites, which will interest you.
The Museum of Altmira in Santillana del Mar is one of the most important Palaeolithic museums in the world, where the ‘Neocueva’, a lifelike reproduction of the original Altmira cave is displayed.
For those interested in architecture Cantabria has much to offer. Roman examples include The Roman Baths of Camesa Rebolledo in Valdeolea and The Domus of Julióbriga in Campoo de Enmedio. The Palace of Sobrellano, is a majestic building constructed for the Marquis of Comillas, next to the palace is El Capricho one of the first works of Antoni Guadi, are two cultural delights of Cantabria.
For maritime lovers, a must visit is the Maritime Museum of the Cantabrian Sea in Santander; a space dedicated to maritime culture, including a large aquarium.
The list is endless, once you know where in the region you are visiting, you can investigate the range of cultural attractions on offer.
Rich meat dishes using steak, pork, wild boar and venison; fresh seafood including lobster, crab, clams, squid and sword fish and some excellent local cheeses, all form a part of the region’s cuisine.
Specialties include ‘Sorropotún’ (a traditional fisherman's stew, Cocido Montañés, Anchovies from Santoña and the famous ‘Corbatas en Unquera’, a delicious dessert made from puff pastry.
Due to their geographic location – 20 kilometres from the sea, and the prevailing Atlantic weather systems, The Picos attract a fair amount of rainfall throughout the year; although the summers are warm, the winters can be snow-filled creating beautiful dramatic landscapes.