Picos de Europa National Park

Whether you’re an avid walker, a professional mountaineer or just someone who appreciates a view, Spain’s oldest national park, Picos de Europa, is a definite must-see during your time in Spain. As the 3rd highest mountain range in Spain, and with its highest peak (Pico Torrecerredo) reaching 2,648m above sea level, hikers are in for an exciting journey; braving the rugged limestone mountains whilst discovering some of the most breathtaking views on the peninsula. For a more relaxed yet equally exhilarating adventure through the park, the Cares Gorge Path - which separates the central and western massifs - might be a more fitting route. As the most popular walking route among the Picos, this 12km journey meets tunnels, lakes and bridges (and even the occasional goat!) and allows the most complete and enriching taste of the park at your own pace, not forgetting an endless supply of photo opportunities!

The Story of the Peaks

Shared amongst three of Spain’s autonomous communities, the peaks are spread over Asturias, Castilla León and Cantabria rendering an exciting blend of cultures with Pico Tesorero (2,570m) marking the point where the three meet. In addition, the park’s relatively close proximity to the Atlantic and the Bay of Biscay gives rise to an even more exciting climate with changeable and unpredictable weather from the East along with a more temperate and drier front to the West. The Picos de Europa became Spain’s first national park in 1918 under its former title as ‘Parque Nacional de la montaña de Covadonga’. On the 30th May 1995 the park was expanded and renamed ‘Picos de Europa National Park’ covering 64,600ha and encompassing a total of 3 massifs: East, Central and West.

Due to its overwhelming size, there is a larger population of humans within the park than would be expected which makes conservation and natural co-existence difficult. As a result, the park supports and encourages traditional methods of livestock farming and there still exists a small community of shepherds.


The Picos de Europa national park isn’t just home to some of the highest peaks in Spain, it also has some of the deepest caves and there are miles and miles to discover just over 1200m below the surface. Among the most well-known of these caves are Torca del Cerro (-1589m), Sima de la Cornisa (-1507m) and Torca los Rebecos (-1255m). Also a must-see is a small chapel nestled in the mouth of a cave at the Cavadonga Cave Shrine and Basilica . Quaint yet impressive, the spot provides the perfect opportunity to explore a traditional Asturian village and take in some of the breathtaking scenery.

Flora and Fauna

Due to its location and varied climate, the Picos de Europa National Park is home to a vast medley of flora and fauna which adds to its overwhelming beauty. Forests of beech and Holm trees reign over the higher ground, giving way to those of ash and Pyrenean oak on descent. A hay meadow gives the park a striking dash of colour with its abundance of orchids and rare flowers in the spring. Due to its assortment of trees and flowers, the park is included in the EU Habitats Directive.

In terms of wildlife, the Picos de Europa National Park is difficult to contend with. Among the most important of its residents include the griffon vulture, the Cantabrian brown bear and the Iberian wolf as well as a number of rare bird species such as the Cantabrian capercaillie. One cannot also forget the Cantabrian chamois, which is also the emblem of the park.
In total, the park is home to 1,400 species of plant, 70 mammals and over 150 known species of butterfly.

Visitor Centre

The park is also home to two large visitor centres, which are well worth a visit even if you don’t intend to explore the park first-hand.

  • Pedro Pidal Visitor Centre:
    he centre is named after the first man to scale the most famous peak in the park, Naranjo de Bulnes 2,519m (naranjo - orange representing the naturally formed orange crystals in the rock) and there is a section dedicated to his story within the centre. The centre is also home to a projection room, a bookshop and a number of exhibits examining the national park more closely.
    For contact information and opening times visit: www.infoasturias.com
  • Sotama Visitor Centre:
    Despite its misleading appearance (from the outside the centre looks like more like a barn than a visitor centre), Sotama is a must-see. Covering three levels including film rooms, displays, exhibitions and a map and book shop as well as a room with a 360º panoramic view of the Picos de Europa National Park and the Cantabrian mountains, the centre is the perfect place to discover more about its beautiful surroundings in an exciting and interactive way.
    For opening hours visit: www.spain.info

In addition to the two main visitor centres, there is also numerous tourist information offices dotted around the park.