4.8
| 5 reviews

The 'Ring of Picos' Challenge in Spain

5 nights
Tough

A frenzied circular scramble in the Picos de Europa, summit bagging your way through Europe's hidden humdinger of a mountain range

What's Included?

Small Like-minded Groups

Solo-friendly by design, join our small n’ sociable groups of up to 14 like-minded, active and outdoorsy people
From

excluding flights

What's it like?

4.8
| 5 reviews
I would highly recommend this trip if you’r...
August 2023
Jamie
I would highly recommend this trip if you’r...
August 2023
Jamie
I would highly recommend this trip if you’r...
August 2023
Jamie
I would highly recommend this trip if you’r...
August 2023
Jamie
I would highly recommend this trip if you’r...
August 2023
Jamie
This was a tough and challenging few days o...
August 2023
Doug
This was a tough and challenging few days o...
August 2023
Doug
Picos de Europa

Scramble to the summits of Cotalba (2026m), Jario (1913m), Jultayu (1940m) and to the Mirador de Ordiales (1750m) for epic lookouts over the Picos range

Finish gruelling days on tough terrain at remote mountain refuges, where cold beers are served with a side of incredible views and unforgettable sunsets

Complete one of the toughest hiking challenges in Spain - circumnavigating the western massif of the Picos via rocky summits, gorges, valleys, glacial lakes and dense forest

Looking for a trek in the Picos that’s a little less full-on? Check out our Hiking Adventure in the Picos de Europa

Key Information

Day 1

Arrival and transfer to Cangas de Onis

Your host will meet you on arrival at Asturias Airport in Oviedo and drive you to the picturesque town of Cangas de Onis. Meet up with your guides for a chat about the challenge ahead and tuck into a traditional meal - go easy on the sidre and rioja tonight!

Day 2

Covadonga Lakes to Vegarredonda Hut

Picos de Europa

Trekking

6-7hrs · 13km · 950m up · 350m down

The challenge begins. Following a short drive to the Covadonga Lakes, start out with a trail that forms a classic day hike in this part of the Picos. Two hours in, the high peaks of the western massif will come into view and the terrain will get rockier. Curious chamois will watch as you pass along the track to Ordiales refuge, then you'll tackle your first summit to reach Cotalba peak (2026m). The founder of the Picos de Europa National Park is buried here - it's quite the final resting place, with stunning views of jagged mountains and a sheer 1000m drop below into the Angon Valley. Day 1 is completed as you head to Vegarredonda hut for dinner and to bunk down.

Day 3

Vegarredonda to Vegabaño

Hiking

8-10hrs · 16km · 1000m up · 1100m down

Today is the toughest day without a doubt. Leave the shelter and ascend to Collado Les Merines at 2100m, entering a huge limestone area through the Pozas Jou. Take a rest at the Prieta spring before continuing past the enormous peak of Vega Huerta and heading south down the Canal del Perro. Descend among the beech trees that surround the Vegabaño shelter, a welcome refuge after a killer day. Soak up this beautiful spot - next to the source of the Dobra River and by the thousand-year-old oak tree of Vegabaño - with sundowners, dinner and an overnight stay at the refuge.

Day 4

Vegabaño to Caín, via Jario Peak

Trekking

12km · 5-6hrs · 600m up · 1000m down

Bid farewell to the Vegabaño shelter and enter the beech grove, going up a gentle slope and passing the habitat of capercaillie birds. Time for another summit: hike steadily up to Jario peak at 1913m. Separated from the rest of the massif by large meadows, you'll find an extraordinary viewpoint from which you'll see the summits of the Picos de Europa and the mountains of Ponga and Redes. Continue through the virgin woodland up to Dobres Rock, before starting your descent into the Valdeon Valley all the way to the village of Caldevilla. Follow the course of the Cares River to the village of Posada de Valdeón for a late lunch back in civilisation and a short taxi ride to the small village of Caín.

Day 5

Tackle the bruising Canal de Trea

Trekking

7hrs · 7km · 1300m up · 0m down

The only way is up! Another challenging day is ahead, with the most elevation to get through, but on an incredible route. Start hiking into the famous Cares Gorge, crossing tunnels and bridges through the spectacular canyon with steep drops towards the river below. Just before the bridge at Bolin, a sign indicates the start of the Canal de Trea, a steep ravine that offers no respite - there is a constant ascent until you reach the meadows of Vega de Ario, where you'll take a well-earned rest. Well done, you've completed one of the toughest stages of the Ring of Picos! The impressive views of the central massif are an excellent reward for today's push, accompanied by more sundowners and a hearty refuge dinner to refuel. Hopefully, you'll also be treated to an amazing Picos sunset.

Day 6

The final stretch

Hiking

5-6hrs · 10km · 350m up · 900m down

One last push today, fuelling up on breakfast at the refuge before climbing to the summit of Jultayu (1940m) for unobstructed vistas of the entire central massif - home to the highest points in the Picos de Europa. Descend back to the plain of Ario and enjoy a steady downhill trail to the Collado del Jito (and yet more magnificent views), and then cross the Jou Llaguiellu to reach Lake Ercina - the end of the challenge. The Ring of Picos has been overcome! You'll be driven back to Cangas de Onis for a celebratory lunch, where you can toast an epic adventure and the completion of a memorable challenge, before your host transfers you back to the airport in time for evening flights.

Day 1

Hotel · Twin share

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 2

Mountain hut · Same sex dorm

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 3

Mountain hut · Mixed dorm

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 4

Hostel · Mixed dorm

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 5

Mountain hut · Mixed dorm

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Day 6

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

What is the food like?

In Cangas de Onis and Caín your evening meals will be local specialities at the restaurant of the hotel and hostel. 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 or a glass of the famous Asturian sidre (cider). In the mountain huts, you'll fuel up with various dinners of pasta, lentils, chickpeas, soups and meat-based dishes. Lunches are not included, you will buy your own each morning before the day's trekking (from local bakeries and shops in Cangas de Onis, and then on from the mountain refuges and the hostel in Caín). You should budget around €10-15 per day for your lunches and any snacks.

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

What is the accommodation like?

Cangas de Onis

Your first night of the trip is spent at Hotel Los Lagos Nature in the centre of the picturesque town of Cangas de Onis, which sits at the foot of the Picos and on the banks of the Sella River. Housed in a historic building with a characterful bar and restaurant, you'll stay in twin-share rooms with en-suite bathrooms.

Mountain Refuges

You'll spend three nights at different refuges within the western massif of the Picos de Europa National Park: namely Refugio de Vegarredonda, Refugio Vegabaño and Refugio Vega de Ario. 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.

Cain

Breaking up your stays in the remote mountain huts during the challenge, you'll stay in the small village of Caín, gateway to the famous Cares Gorge. Bunk down at Albergue el Diablo de la Peña, a small hostel in a stunning setting with a great little comedor serving up traditional dishes such as fabada (bean and chorizo stew).

Upgrades

Due to the nature of the refuges and hostels used on this trip, it is not possible to have a private room.

The Area

map

Logistics

Starts

Asturias Airport, Oviedo (OVD)

16:00 on Day 1

Ends

Asturias Airport, Oviedo (OVD)

17:00 on Day 6

Transfers

Your host will meet you at Asturias Airport and transfer you to Cangas de Onis for your first night. On the final day, your host will transfer you from Llanes back to Asturias Airport. Airport transfers are included in the trip cost as long as you arrive on Day 1 and depart on Day 6. Your host is able to arrange private airport transfers from Asturias Airport or from Santander Airport if you are arriving before Day 1 or departing after Day 6, please see Optional Extras for more details.

Travel options

Asturias Airport is accessible via various direct flights from the UK and mainland Europe. Flights from the US generally connect through Madrid, Paris or Amsterdam. If you're looking to make your own way to Cangas de Onis and not use the group transfer at Asturias Airport, you may wish to look into combining flight options into/out of Asturias, Santander and Bilbao airports, all of which are only an hour or two's drive away from Cangas de Onis and have public transport options between them.

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 via Bilbao's main railway station - Bilbao Abando - which is well connected to various major cities in Spain and France if you are travelling by train from the UK. From Bilbao you can get as far as Arriondas by train, and from there it's a short bus ride to Cangas de Onis.

Enjoy 12.5% Off Outdoor Gear

In need of a few more items? All bookings receive a 12.5% discount 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 Cangas de Onis
Hiking pack (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 and 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)
Lightweight inflatable pillow
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
Two reusable water bottles x1 litre

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

*Requests for optional extras can be made after booking on your “My Bookings” page

Private Transfer Asturias or Santander Airport to Llanes (1-8 people) from

Payable Before Departure

Private Transfer Asturias or Santander Airport to Llanes (1-8 people) from

Jamie(August 2023)
I would highly recommend this trip if you’r...
I would highly recommend this trip if you’r...
I would highly recommend this trip if you’r...
I would highly recommend this trip if you’r...
I would highly recommend this trip if you’r...

I would highly recommend this trip if you’re after a challenge. Scenery was spectacular and the route well planned by our local guides Irene and Alejandro. Our guides were patient, knowledgeable and very good fun. Hoping to join them for another trip in future. Don’t let the 5/5 challenge rating put you off.

Doug(August 2023)
This was a tough and challenging few days o...
This was a tough and challenging few days o...

This was a tough and challenging few days of trekking, which packed in so many great experiences. The limestone terrain is truly beautiful and we moved between the lower forest areas and the higher moon-like areas of rocky ground pock-marked with craters from erosion. There is a little scrambling involved, but not that much - less than Tryfan or Crib Goch for example. That said, there are long sections of challenging rocky terrain which require careful footing, as well as some scree sections. We were lucky with the weather, which was dry but not too hot. There aren't that many places to fill up water in the mountains so you need to carry adequate. The refuges are basic mountain refuges, sharing 8, 16 or more people to a room so earplugs are definitely recommended. Food is basic but hearty and plentiful. Refuge Vega de Ario even manages draft beer despite needing a helicopter to deliver it! And the showers at Vegarredonda must be experienced (they're unique). I had a great time and it's certainly opened my eyes to the beauty of the Picos de Europa.

Jonathan(August 2023)

Great trip and great guides

Sue(July 2023)

Fantastic trip and certainly challenging. Amazing local guides. Great mountain refugios. Superb food. Spectacular scenery. We were very lucky to have some great weather. Not very much scrambling, but be prepared for challenging hikes carrying a heavy pack.

Geraint(July 2023)

Awesome trip..exactly what I hoped for and more! Ernesto & Alejandro were brilliant guides, very knowledgeable and professional Highly recommended 👍👍

We partner with the World Land Trust to ensure this trip achieves Net-Zero emissions. We also support their Buy an Acre programme, helping local communities to buy and protect natural habitats in perpetuity.

What's the number?
It works out on average at 78kg 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 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. We partner with the World Land Trust to ensure this trip achieves Net-Zero emissions. We also support their Buy an Acre programme, helping local communities to buy and protect natural habitats in perpetuity, ensuring the protection of the reserve and its wildlife.

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.

Sure can! Over 70% 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.

Yes, you can leave your luggage in Cangas de Onis as you'll be returning there before heading on to the airport on Day 6.

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 for all of our adventures and you are required to provide your policy information before departing.

Your insurance should include adequate protection for overseas medical treatment, evacuation/repatriation, your baggage and equipment and the specific activities involved on your adventure. We also strongly recommend it includes cancellation and curtailment insurance, should you be unable to join your trip for specific reasons such as illness.

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.

You're always in good company on one of our adventures.

Our trips are typically made up of a mixture of solo travellers and small groups of 2 or 3 friends, with most in their 30s-50s.

Our sociable adventures are solo-friendly by design and naturally attract outdoorsy people with a shared mindset; a love for adventure, a desire to push themselves and meet awesome, like-minded people along the way.

It’s this camaraderie that has so often turned a great adventure into a life-changing one.

Don't just take our word for it:

  • 95% of people rate the group dynamics on our trips 5/5
  • 90% of people recommend joining a trip to make new friends
  • 75% of people have met people on our trips that they would now consider friends

See here for more info about the Much Better Adventures tribe.

Interested in a more exclusive experience? Opt for a 'Private Group' through the dates and prices tab to book this adventure for just you and your chosen companions.

Our team of Adventure Hunters create exclusive adventures with highly vetted, specialist hosts. We only work with independent, local in-destination experts who know the very best places to explore and how to stay safe. Read more information about the local teams we partner with.

Private trip

Got questions? We've got answers

Our friendly and expert team is on hand to help you choose one of our adventures. So if you want answers to questions like "Who else is going?" or anything else about this trip – please get in touch.

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Connect before you go

You'll be invited to join a WhatsApp group to get to know each other before your big adventure together. Full details

DEPARTURE DATES

Private trip

Go private and split the bill with ease.

Forget complex logistics, we've taken care of all the details to ensure a hassle-free get together. All of the adventure, none of the faff.

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