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The Picos de Europa is a mountain range in the north of Spain. It's a beloved trip for people that love to go hiking, mountaineering and of course nature lovers. The area has a couple of great hikes, but below the surface also a couple of the largest and deepest caves in Spain. There are also a couple of very nice mountain lakes that are worth a visit. The Picos de Europa is also the second biggest nature reserve of Spain, and spans the complete mountain range measuring 647 km².
It lies on the borders of Castile and León, Asturias and Cantabria. The Picos is part of the Cantabrian mountains that span over the north of Spain from the Asturian border with Gallicia until the Pyrenees.
The Picos de Europa can be divided into three massifs: Andara (west), Urrieles (central), and Cornión in the east. The highest peak in these mountains is the 2,648-metre high Torre de Cerredo.
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There are no big cities in the region, but a couple of the villages make an excellent base for trips into the Picos de Europa. Most villages lie in a circle around the Picos de Europa. Only a couple lie in the mountains itself. Arenas in the north, Cangas de Onis in the northwest and Potes in the southeast make good starting points for exploring the Picos.
The Central and Western massifs are split by the river Cares, which has left a deep gorge between the towns of Cain and Camareña. The path leads along and above the river. The best views are on the southside of the trip, towards Cain.
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At Fuente De you can take the Gondola (Teleferico) to make going uphill a bit easier.
In the Picos the Europa a number of endangered species can be found. The Cantabrian brown bear, wolves and lynxes live in the more remote areas of the mountains. The numbers of each of these species is not very high, and an encounter highly unlikely. An estimated 20-30 Cantabrian brown bears live in the Picos. Chamois are much more common animals to see in the mountains, as are a number of birds of prey. In the Picos you will also find a huge number of butterfly species.
The weather in the Picos de Europa is not the kind of weather one associates with Spain. The north of Spain sees a lot of rain, and the weather can be more or less compared to that in the United Kingdom, though slightly warmer. The Cantabrian mountains of which the Picos de Europa are a part, causes for a large part the division of the climates between the northside of the mountains, the so-called Costa Verde, and the mainland which has a dry land climate. When going hiking or mountaineering it is best to be prepared for rapid changing weather. A raincoat should be in your daypack at all times.
In winter snowfall is common. If you plan to head to the Picos in winter, snowchains are more than advisable.
The Picos de Europa is circled by a number of bigger roads. the AS-114 runs on the north. Between Panes in the east and Cangas de Onis in the west, connecting to Las Arenas somewhere in the middle. The N-625 runs on the west, and the N-621 on the east of the mountains, both heading south, and connecting with eathother, south of the mountains in Raiño. The head for the destinations in the Picos, you need to get onto the smaller roads, that head to towns like Cain and Fuente De.
There are some busses run by Alsa that go to towns in the Picos de Europa, but the frequency is very low, making it time wise a lenghty undertaking to travel by bus.
The car is the best mode of transportation in the Picos. Many of the destinations are deep within the mountain. Some experience in driving in the mountains is very helpful.
The low frequency of buses in the Picos makes it an unpractical way of getting around in the Picos.
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