Why Spain Should be Your Next Hiking Destination

This year our International Hiking Odyssey will be in northern Spain. This guided hiking tour in Los Picos de Europa will be one you don’t want to miss.  Here are Five Reasons why you should join our Spain hiking tour:

The Mountains – Spain actually has more mountain ranges (in terms of massifs) than any other European country.  Madrid resides in the central plains, surrounded by mountains.  To the north, the Cantabrian Mountain range separates the dry plains from the lush valleys of “Green Spain”.  Deep gorges separate the three massifs of Los Picos – Urrieles, Ándara and the Picos de Cornión. There are over 200 peaks higher than 2000 meters. The tallest is Torre de Cerredo at 2650 meters. The most famous is Naranjo de Bulnes – a monolith rising 200 meters from the surrounding mountains. It’s geography is limestone rock shaped by glaciation. The result? Incredibly steep peaks with many rifts and fissures. In addition, multiple caves inhabited during Paleolithic times have been discovered and are now declared World Heritage Sites.  Jagged landscapes, steep gorges and isolated valleys create the backdrop for trails and routes, popular with technical mountaineers and casual hikers alike.

The National Park – In 1918 Spain established its first National Park.  Originally named Parque Nacional de la Montaña de Covadonga, it was renamed to honor being the first European peaks visible to sailors arriving from the west.  There is no easy passage through the area, keeping the rugged landscape fairly isolated.  Wildlife is plentiful in this relatively small region.  The Cantabrian Bear, Iberian wolves, and majestic Chamois share space with wild boars, badgers, mountain cats, wild horses, and more.  Approved as a Biosphere Reserve, the national park takes pride in protecting the balanced relationship between its people and nature.

The Food – Our hiking tour spans a region from the Atlantic Ocean at Bay of Biscay, across the valleys of “Green Spain”, into the Cantabrian mountains.  Therefore, the cuisine contains choices from the sea, the orchards and the mountain pastures.  Must try dishes include chipirones – squid cooked in its own ink; Sopa de Ajo – garlic soup; stews like fabada Asturian made from fava beans, pork and chorizo; cheeses like the famous Asturian Cabrales and Queso de nata; and wild game.  Wash it all down with hard cider made from the local apple orchards. And for dessert? Traditional sweets like Corbata – a puff pastry, or quesadas pasiegas – cheesecake made from the freshest of milk.

The History – Spain exists in Iberian Peninsula, and has been ruled by Basques, Celts, Romans and Gothics before a major invasion by the Muslims.  Eventually, Christian Kingdoms regained control, but the significance of the divergent cultural and religious influences is perhaps more evident than in any other European country.  One of the first expulsions of the Muslim was at the Battle of Covadonga where Los Picos is today. The event makes the area an important pilgrimage destination and is a primary reason for creating the national park.  Isolation of the area kept life simple. Farming and raising livestock was most prominent, and still remains today. Fierce independence of the locals continued to play a part in the Spanish Civil War, as they fought valiantly in their extreme terrain to resist the dictatorship of Franco. Today, their independence is intact in the three autonomous communities of the region, with the common goal of administering a national park that covers the intersection of their territories.

The City Sights – Our assembly city is Bilbao, the 5th largest city in Spain.  Since its founding in the 14th century as a commercial hub of the area, the city has gone through an orchestrated urban transformation.  Named one of the most creative cities in the world and “Best European City 2018”, its popularity is on the rise.  Today, it continues to be a transportation hub with its international airport, high speed trains, rapid transit system, trams and bus lines.  Highlighting the cultural scene is the contemporary art exhibits of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, as well as many other museums, theaters, music venues and festivals.

Lastly, be sure to take time before or after the tour to enjoy all the region has to offer!

Photo by Yves Alarie on Unsplash