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6 Great Hikes in Spain and the Canary Islands
June 14, 2018

Scenic vistas, mountain ridges, green beltways, flowing rivers and epic views of the sea await you in Spain. 

There are many famous hiking trails in Spain, most notably the Camino de Santiago. However, if you are looking for the most satisfying trails in Spain, keep reading for the top 6 hiking trails to check out on your next trip to Spain.

1. Picos De Europa National Park

Ondón. Picos de Europa

The Picos de Europa National Park has been called the Switzerland of Spain. It is valued for its spectacular groups of mountains and cliffs. It’s a wonderful place to start your outdoor adventure. There are hundreds of hiking trails in this park but to start you can focus on one trail in particular: the Cares River Route.

The Cares route is one of the best hikes in Europe, it has been called the “Divine Gorge” and for good reason. The hike usually starts at Poncebos, and begins with an incline for about 2km – but this is the most difficult part. The trail runs next to the river Cares and although most of it is flat, easy terrain some areas can be narrow as you walk through small, rocky tunnels and across hanging bridges. Once you get to the top of the starting incline, enjoy the rest of this 12km trail as you take in the beauty of the snow-capped mountain vistas, fields of wildflowers, small tunnels, forests and crystal clear streams. It will take you about five or six hours one-way to complete and runs about 12km from Poncebos to Cain, so don’t forget to take plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen and your camera.

For a more challenging option, you can journey for two days through rugged limestone terrain to hike the highest mountain of the Picos de Europa, Torre Cerredo peak (2648m), where you traverse dirt tracks and rocky trails before negotiating a final scramble to the top. However you will need a harness and helmet to even get close to the summit, and you must only do this with a guide.

2. Camino del Norte


The Camino del Norte is an alternative route to the famous Camino de Santiago. It is a scenic route that takes you across Northern Spain also known as “Green Spain” because of its lush green hills and mountains. You will see a variety of sights along the way, as much of the trail runs along the coast. You can look forward to seeing everything from sandy beaches to small coastal towns, fishing villages to beautiful mountain scenery.

The full route is quite long, it is divided into 34 stages so you have the option to break up the trail by only doing a section. This is a great hiking trail especially if you also like to explore cities and are interested in culture and are a bit of a foodie. You can start your hike in Irun and go through various cities ending up in Galicia.

3. Monte Teide

Una isla maravilosa

Monte Teide is the highest summit in Spain, reaching up to 3,718 metres, and is located on the Canary Islands. It’s located on the island of Tenerife in the Teide National Park. This is a demanding hike but utterly unique, you will feel as if you are on another planet. Monte Teide is one of the largest volcanoes in the world and you will encounter a landscape of rock formations, craters and rivers of petrified lava all under the impressive shadow of Monte Teide. Due to the sensitive volcanic environment on Monte Teide, the National Park does limit the number of people who can climb to the summit of the crater daily.

You will need to apply for a free permit to climb to the peak, you can do this through the Teide National Park website. Once you have filled out the form, print the permit and take it along with your ID to present at the beginning of the trail. Be sure to be prepared for the higher altitude, changing temperatures and spectacular views.

It will take you about five hours to complete the hike up to the summit if you start with the path La Rambleta.

There are a few ways you can access Monte Teide. You can take the cable car which takes about eight minutes and you can walk down. You can also do the reverse, starting at the path called La Rambleta, which starts at kilometre 40 of the TF-21, the road that crosses Teide National Park. You can also stay here overnight, at the mountain refuge Altavista at 3,260 metres, and catch the sunrise at the summit. 

4. Cahorros, the Sierra Nevada region

Hiking in the Sierra Nevada

This is a beautiful hike through the Monachil valley near Granada. The trail is 8km and will take you about two and half hours to complete the circuit. You will see wildflowers, fruit trees, hanging bridges, and dramatic gorges. You will smell the lavender, thyme and rosemary as you pass through this lush valley. This is an especially beautiful hike in spring or autumn.

The hike is fairly easy except for a little necessary climbing near the gorge. Although this is the most beautiful part of the trail, it can be a bit narrow at parts due to low head clearance in some areas. There are metal handles set into the rock at this point to help you. The trail starts in the village of Monachil and follows the river up through the gorge. You can then return by a higher route which will give you great views of the Monachil valley.

5. OMA Painted Forest

Omako Baso Margotua / Painted Forest of Oma

In the centre of the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve is a really unique, hidden surprise which combines nature and art. Created by artist Agustin Ibarrola, the Oma Painted Forest is a surreal sight to behold.  If you love art and enjoy walking through a forest of pine trees and ferns this is a must.

The best way to access the forest is to park near the Lezika Restaurant. Right across from the restaurant is the main entrance where you will see a trail that will take you to the forest. 

It will take you about an hour to reach the forest and an hour back to your starting point. You can expect the terrain to be varied with some inclines, but it isn’t difficult. Be sure to bring water with you as some of the inclines are steady, although not very steep.

Don’t forget to get a map from the entrance so that you can see what the artist intended for you to see. You can also follow the small yellow triangles on the ground.

Combine this walk with a visit to the cave of Santimamine, which is close by in the same reserve. You can add the cave of Santimamine for a great excursion combining modern art and nature with cave paintings which date to the Paleolithic times. The cave of Santimamine is included on the UNESCO World Heritage list and you can take a guided tour for 5 euros to see the 47 paintings from the Stone Age.

To reach the cave, starting at the Lezika Restaurant, you will see some stairs just a few hundred metres away.

One great advantage is that this area is accessible by bus and train, which makes it a great day trip if you are staying in Bilbao.

6. Ruta de las Xanas

In the Asturias region of northern Spain, the Ruta de las Xanas trail wanders through some of the most beautiful landscapes we've ever seen. Then at the top of the trail we were stuffed with local food and then had to waddle back down the mountain. More i

This trail, Ruta de las Xanas or the ‘route of the fairies’, is about 7.5km return. It’s located near the village of Villanueva near Oviedo and will take you a little over three hours to complete. The route takes you through lush, green landscapes and beautiful grey mountains, parts of it hug the mountainside as if the trail were carved into the mountain itself.

The majority of the hike is flat and easy terrain but there are some inclines and some areas with steep drops, that don’t have protective railings. So you will need to have your wits about you but the views are amazing and well worth the extra effort.

One great plus to this hike is that the endpoint is the village of Pedroveya. You will be greeted by the restaurant Casa Generosa, a family-run traditional restaurant that specialises in the local Asturian cuisine. Don’t forget to try the hard cider, it’s famous in this region.

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