Adventures / Wild Hikes

Hut to Hut Trekking in the Picos de Europa

A wild hike through Northern Spain's hidden gem of a mountain range, with added scramble

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Trip Ref #10318

Adventures / Wild Hikes

Hut to Hut Trekking in the Picos de Europa

A wild hike through Northern Spain's hidden gem of a mountain range, with added scramble

DURATION

6 nights

LOCATION

Spain

ANNUAL LEAVE

5 days off work

SEASON

Jul-Oct

GROUP SIZE

Up to 14 people

MEETING POINT

Bilbao Airport

ACCOMMODATION

Guesthouse · Mountain hut

DIFFICULTY

Challenging

A steady hike with some big ascents and descents and some summit scrambles. You'll need good fitness and a head for heights

Tackle an epic route through rugged limestone peaks and deep valleys in one of Europe's quieter mountainous corners

Soak up the good life in Asturias and Cantabria provinces, Spain's best kept secret far away from the crowds in the South

Bunk down in rustic rural villages and hiker refuges deep in the Picos and fuel up on delicious Spanish food

All our reviews are verified

We only invite travellers to leave a review if they have booked this trip with Much Better Adventures.

Anne, July 2022

If you want to push yourself way way way out of your comfort zone, in the most beautiful of locations, with the most gorgeous views, with guides that are simultaneously super humanly able and saint like in patience, this may be the trip for you. At times very tough and technical (not a moderate hike!), I loved every second of it. A great group too.

Nancy, July 2022

Just got back from this amazing trek. Our guides Alejandro and Midori couldn't have been better at making this trek so enjoyable for us all. It was definitely more challenging than expected but with their expertise and support we were all able to complete the challenging parts in this beautiful landscape. The whole trip was organised so well from start to finish, couldn't have asked for more! The refugios are basic but in incredible locations and the food is delicious. The food and accommodation in the guesthouses were a luxury! I hope to return to this amazing region someday :-)

Anne, July 2022

Our guides, Alejandro and Midori, deserve a huge thanks for making this a fantastic week and getting the group through the challenges of a gorgeous five day hike, "scramble"! Beautiful mountains and lovely to see this part of Spain.

Included

Guides

Expert, English speaking mountain guides

Accommodation

3 nights in mountain refuges, 3 nights in guesthouses

Meals

6 breakfasts and 6 dinners

Transfers

Airport transfers and everything in between

Equipment

Hiking poles if you need them

Not Included

Travel insurance

Flights to and from the meeting point

Personal expenses

Some meals as described

Tips for your guides

The Area

map

Logistics

Starts

Bilbao Airport

12.30

Ends

Bilbao Airport

16:30

Transfers

Your host will meet you at Bilbao Airport and transfer you to Arenas de Cabrales - your start point for the trek in the principality of Asturias. On the final day, your host will transfer you from Llanes on the Asturian coast back to Bilbao Airport, arriving at around 16:30 in time for any evening flights.

Your host is able to arrange private airport transfers from Bilbao Airport or from Santander Airport if you are arriving before day 1 or departing after day 7, please see Optional Extras for more details.

Travel options

Bilbao Airport is accessible via various direct flights from the UK and mainland Europe. Flights from the US generally connect through Madrid, London or Frankfurt.

UK travellers with a bit more time (and possibly a vehicle) on their hands can travel to Asturias using the popular Portsmouth-Santander ferry route. Rail travellers can get to the start of this trip through Bilbao's main railway station - Bilbao Abando - which is well connected to various major cities in Spain. It is possible to travel from the UK to Bilbao or Santander all the way by train, transitting through Paris and Hendaye in France.

Day 1

Guesthouse · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 2

Guesthouse · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 3 – Day 5

Mountain hut · Mixed dorm

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 6

Guesthouse · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 7

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

What is the food like?

For the first, second and final day of the trip, your evening meals will be local specialities in restaurants selected by your guide. You'll enjoy a variety of tapas and 'pinchos' (small traditional snacks popular across northern Spain), a main course usually with fish or meat, dessert and local wines. In the mountain huts, you'll keep fuelled up with various dinners of pasta, lentils, chickpeas, soups and meat-based dishes. Lunches are not included, you can buy your own each morning before the day's trekking either from local bakeries and shops in Arenas de Cabrales and Espinama on days 2 and 3, or from the mountain refuges on days 4, 5 and 6. You should budget around €10-15 per day for your lunches and any snacks.

Asturias is famous for its milk, so there are plenty of cheeses to sample throughout the trip. Another local Asturian speciality is cider; your final meal of the trip is at a local cider factory where you can toast the climax of the trek in style and attempt the traditional pouring method - raising the bottle above your head and pouring into the glass from a height, so as to carbonate the cider while holding the glass low in your other hand. This becomes more challenging after your 3rd, 4th and 5th glass!

Vegetarians, vegans and other dietary requirements and allergies can be catered for - please just request on your passenger info form.

What is the accommodation like?

Arenas de Cabrales

Your first night of the trip is spent at Hotel Villa de Cabrales, nestled in the centre of Arenas de Cabrales at the base of the Picos de Europa. The River Cares runs through here, famous for its trout and salmon which you'll find on the menu throughout summer. The hotel is a renovated country home with wooden beams, stone walls, antique furniture, a cosy bar and an open fireplace. You'll stay in twin-share rooms.

Espinama

Before heading into the mountains on day 3 to more basic quarters at the refuges, you'll stay at Hostal Nevandi in Espinama. This rustic guesthouse in a historic building has a pool to soak in after your first day of trekking. The guesthouse is well regarded for its homemade traditional Cantabrian food which you'll enjoy on the terrace taking in the views of the Picos.

Mountain Refuges

You'll spend 3 nights at different refuges within the Picos de Europa National Park, namely Refugio Collado Jermoso, Refugio De Urriellu and Refugio Cabrones. You'll stay in mixed dorm-style bunk rooms. Since Covid, the refuges have stopped providing bedding and pillows, so you'll need to bring a lightweight sleeping bag and travel pillow. The refuges will serve your evening meal and breakfast, and you'll also be able to buy your lunch for each day from the refuges before setting off. There are shared toilet facilities and showers available to use.

Llanes

Your final night of the trip is at Hotel Paraiso, next door to a chocolatería and a few minutes stroll from the seafront and the centre of Llanes on the Bay of Biscay. You'll stay in twin-share rooms with air conditioning.

Upgrades

For solo travellers looking for their own space, an optional private room can be booked for an extra charge, see Optional Extras for the price. This covers the nights in Arenas de Cabrales, Espinama and Llanes. The nights in the mountain refuges are mixed dorm only, so no single rooms are available on those nights. Please request this at the time of booking.

Day 1

Arrival

Your host will meet you on arrival at Bilbao Airport and transfer you to Arenas de Cabrales, a charming rural village at the foot of the Picos de Europa. Meet up with the rest of your group for a dinner and chat through the trek with your guide.

Day 2

The trek begins

Hiking

5-6hrs · 12km · 650m up · 600m down

Kickstart your adventure with a hike through the beautiful Aliva Glacier Valley. Set off from Sotres and follow the Duje River which divides the Central and Eastern Massifs of the Picos and acts as the border between Asturias and Cantabria. Continue along the Aliva Glacier moraine and grab a snack at the refuge with views of the Peña Vieja and Peña Olvidada peaks. Then there's a gentle descent to your guesthouse at Espinima where a well earned dinner and bed are waiting.

Day 3

Deeper into the Picos

Hiking

4-5hrs · 8km · 700m up · 400m down

Driving

2hrs

Hop in the van for a scenic ride to Pandetrave mountain pass and then on by dirt road to the trailhead at Valcabao. Today's hike is a wonderful waltz, moving past the spectacular Vega de Liordes and along the cliffs of Colladinas, arriving at Collado Jermoso Refuge, your home for the night in the mountains. Enjoy sunset with views of the Valdeón valley and the Western Massif before dinner and bunking down in the refuge.

Day 4

Hut to hut through the peaks

Hiking

6-7hrs · 10km · 800m up · 850m down

Wake up in the heart of the Picos, fuel up on breakfast at the refuge before hitting the trail again along the Torre de la Collada Ancha. Descend to Horcados Rojos, a peak offering up incredible views of Naranjo de Bulnes - an iconic wedge of limestone. Descend to the Jou de Los Boches via a steep and exposed slope with a fixed rope to help you along. This section will be a challenge for anyone with vertigo but is otherwise a straightforward descent with your guide on hand to assist at any point. Cross the lunar landscape of the Jou of Los Boches and Jou sin Tierre, arriving at the Urriellu Refuge in the late afternoon where a beer and well-earned mountain refuge meal awaits.

Day 5

Hike and scramble over to Cabrones Refuge

Hiking

6-7hrs · 11km · 750m up · 550m down

Hike away from the west face of the iconic Picu Urriellu and ascend up Corona del Raso before tackling a short scramble through Brecha de los Cazadores en route to Horcada Arenera at 2283m. Another scramble to a peak nearby and continue on to the Cabrones Refuge in one of the wildest and most spectacular locations of the Picos de Europa.

Day 6

The final stretch to Poncebos

Hiking

6-7hrs · 12km · 25m up · 1780m down

The action isn't over yet as you have a tough section to navigate this morning, descending a long slope via some technical sections with fixed ropes to help. Again your guide is on hand to help. You'll reach the village of Bulnes where you can grab a beer and some lunch before the final descent down the Canal del Tejo valley to Poncebos. Bid farewell to the high mountains as you are driven over to Llanes, a small town on Asturias's coast - the perfect base to celebrate the end of the trek with some sea air, an Asturian feast and a chance to sample the famous cider.

Day 7

Adios Asturias

The adventure comes to an end today as your host drives you back to Bilbao Airport in time for your onward flight home. If you are lingering longer in Spain, the Asturian coastline has some incredible beaches, good surf and laid back bars and cafes to discover.

15% Off Outdoor Gear

In need of a few more items? All bookings receive a 15% discount on us to use at Cotswold Outdoor, Snow + Rock and Runner's Need.

What's included?

  • Hiking poles (optional)

What do I need to bring?

BAGS
Soft overnight duffel bag or rucksack for left luggage in Espinama on day 3
Daypack (40-50 litres)
Waterproof liner for kitbag or rucksack/drybags

CLOTHES
Lightweight down or synthetic jacket Lightweight waterproof and windproof jacket
Breathable wicking layers
Fleece jacket or similar
Buff or neck scarf
Lightweight trousers/shorts/skirts for hiking
T-shirts
Underwear & socks
Swimwear for hotel
Sunglasses
Sunhat
Gloves
Something to sleep in
Hiking boots (worn-in)
Lightweight shoes for refuges

SLEEPING
Sleeping bag (2/3 season)
Pillowcase

OTHER
Universal travel plug adapter
Power bank or solar charger
Passports (and visas)
Travel Insurance documents
Suncream
Personal first-aid kit (inc. blister treatment)
Personal items (biodegradable toiletries, sanitary wear etc)
Toilet kit (toilet paper, biodegradable bags to carry paper out to dispose of)
Quick-dry towel Alcohol hand-gel
Face mask
Headtorch or torch
2 x reusable water bottle (x1 litre)
Water purification tablets/treatment system

OPTIONAL
Earplugs
Energy bars and snacks
Trekking poles (your host can provide these if desired)

Single room

Payable Before Departure

Single room

Twin/Double room

Payable Before Departure

Twin/Double room

Optional Private Room Upgrade

Payable Before Departure

Optional Private Room Upgrade

Private transfer Bilbao or Santander Airport to accommodation

Payable Before Departure

Private transfer Bilbao or Santander Airport to accommodation

We've crunched the numbers to work out the total carbon footprint of this trip, and plant enough trees to suck 2x as much back out the atmosphere.

What's the number?
It works out on average at 150kg of CO2 emissions per person, including all local transport, accommodation, food, activities, guides, staff and office operations.

The only thing it doesn’t include right now is flights and travel to the destination. We do make an overall estimate across all our customers separately, but as we don’t book flights, have customers from all corners of the world, and no way of reliably knowing their travel plans, we simply can’t include an individual number in the figure on display here. We’ve got a goal for 2022 to fix that, so that when you book, there is a way to measure and mitigate the carbon emitted by your flight too.

But what does the number mean?
Yep, hard to picture eh? To give you an idea:

  • Driving 1000miles/1609km would be approx. 281kg of CO2 in an average car (or 140.5kg per person if there was 2 of you in it).
  • A return economy class flight London - New York would be approx. 1,619kg (1.66 tonnes) per person.
  • 10 trees in a temperate forest are estimated to remove approx. 250kg of CO2 from the air in a period of 5-10 years.

What are we doing about it?
Our trips are relatively low-carbon by design, and we're working with all our hosts to develop long term carbon reduction plans. For every person booked with us since 2016 we’re planting enough trees to suck at least 2x more carbon out the atmosphere than is emitted by their trips. All native trees, as part of amazing projects that are re-foresting degraded land, tackling the biodiversity crisis and supporting local communities at the same time. We go further than that too, also funding re-wilding projects worldwide to help protect important keystone species from extinction. See the reforestation and re-wilding schemes we support. See our carbon action plan.

Want to know more?
Amazingly, no international travel company has ever publicly published their carbon measurements before, as far as we know. We believe that must change, quickly. So we’re openly sharing the method we used in the hope that other companies will be able to more easily follow suit and build on what we've done so far. You'll find it all here.

This trek has some challenging sections with some big ascents and descents involved, plus 5 consecutive days of all-day hiking. Although the daily distances covered are not too great, the terrain requires steady footing. There are some technical sections using fixed ropes to help make your way along. These sections are manageable for people with general hiking and trekking experience - you don't need technical mountaineering knowledge. You can expect rugged, rocky terrain, some loose scree and some scrambling. Your expert guide is there to help on these sections if you feel you need a hand. Vertigo could be an issue on a couple of the descents, so bear this in mind if you are particularly uncomfortable with heights.

Sure can! Over 50% of our travellers travel solo, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people.

Tips are not included in the trip cost. These are entirely at your discretion and are non-compulsory on this trip. Of course, if you feel that your guides provided an exceptional experience then you are welcome to tip as much as you feel is appropriate. You should factor in tipping 10% on top of the bill in any bars and restaurants during the trip.

The water in the Picos is safe to drink and you are able to fill up freely at each of the refuges and guesthouses that you stay at. Make sure to bring a couple of 1-litre reusable drinking bottles or a bladder.

The weather in the Picos can be very changeable, so be sure to pack for all weathers. Mainly it tends to be dry and sunny on the south face of the Picos and at high altitudes over 1,500m. Lower altitudes and on the north face of the Picos is more humid and sometimes rainy. The maximum temperature is around 20 degrees and the minimum around 8-12 degrees. Perfect trekking temperatures!

Yes, you can split your luggage and leave a bag in the hotel while you do the hut to hut section of the trip (starting on day 3).

For current advice about travelling in Spain, have a read of the UK Foreign Office pages here.

Our recommended travel insurance provider is Campbell Irvine.

Travel insurance is compulsory on all of our adventures. Your insurance should include adequate protection for overseas medical treatment, evacuation/repatriation, your baggage and equipment and the specific activities involved on your adventure.

Your insurance policy should also include specific Covid-19 cover, including cancellation and curtailment cover if you, your travel companion or a close relative are diagnosed with Covid-19.

We fully endorse Campbell Irvine as their insurance offers all of the above, so get in touch with them or call on 020 7938 1734 to get your insurance sorted. We suggest that you book travel insurance as soon as you book your adventure, just to cover you for any last minute life changes. We know you’re an active lot and injuries do happen!

We automatically convert prices from the local currency that a host receives to your chosen currency. We update our exchange rates on a daily basis so this does mean that prices displayed on the site are subject to currency fluctuations, which is why you may see them change over time.

If you wish to change the currency you pay in, head to the bottom of the page.

All of our group adventures are specially designed for adults to enjoy (18+) as we want these adventures to bring together outdoorsy people who are truly like-minded. Children can be accommodated on some private departures.

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