Located in the Cantabrian Mountains, it has been declared a Special Protection Area for Birds (SPA), a Site of Community Interest (SCI) and a Biosphere Reserve (Unesco). Its three massifs, the Eastern, the smallest and where you can visit the Morra de Lechugales, the Central, the highest with peaks such as Torrecerredo at 2648 metres, Peña Vieja or Naranjo de Bulnes and the Western Massif, called Peña Santa de Castilla, which is the largest and is home to the lakes of Covadonga, form a whole mountain front that extends through the provinces of Asturias, León and Cantabria. These massifs together with their valleys and the gorges that cross the park, the Hermida with the river Deva, the Beyos with the river Sella, the Garganta Divina with the Cares and the gorges of La India with the Duje, created by the rivers Sella, Cares and Deva, shape its characteristic and diverse landscape in which there are leafy wooded masses, large crags in its impressive limestone massifs and green mountain pastures, a small example of the many places we have to see in the Picos de Europa National Park. A topography that has been chiselled through more than three hundred million years. In this great biodiversity coexist the most characteristic species of the Cantabrian Mountains.
The large number of Palaeolithic caves with expressions of cave art are faithful testimony to the presence of the human species in the Upper Palaeolithic in the area of the Picos de Europa National Park. It was in the Neolithic when the main human activity ceased to be hunting and they learned to cultivate the land and domesticated the first herbivorous animals, the first settlers of the Picos de Europa. In the 2nd and 1st centuries BC it was the Celts who populated these mountains, brave warriors worshipped "Mons Vindius" the "White Mountain", or the white limestone rocks of the Central and Western massifs. In these lush forests and steep rocky massifs, and in the famous battle of Covadonga, in the 8th century, Don Pelayo defeated the Muslim army, thus beginning the Reconquest, a process that was to last more than 600 years. In the Middle Ages the protagonists were the churches and monasteries, roads were built and small villages were founded. In July 1918, as part of the celebrations to mark the twelfth centenary of the historic battle of Covadonga, the Peña Santa massif was declared the "Montaña de Covadonga National Park", and it was in May 1995 that it became the Picos de Europa National Park.
Visiting the Picos de Europa National Park means discovering places, nature and villages that have preserved since time immemorial an endless number of experiences, history and landscapes that, without a doubt, will not leave you indifferent. The Sanctuary of Covadonga and its lakes, undoubtedly the most visited, together with the famous Garganta Divina, the Cares route. Access the ports of Áliva with the Fuente Dé cable car. Sotres, the highest village in Asturias. Cabrales. Cangas de Onis and its emblematic roman bridge over the Sella, built in the 14th century. Bulnes, a beautiful little village that until recently could only be reached by a mountain path of about four kilometres that linked it with Poncebos. Today a fast funicular railway bridges this distance, making life a little easier for its people. Camaleño and its more than deservedly famous monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana, in the heart of the Camino Lebaniego to Santiago. Oseja de Sajambre, Posada de Valdeón, with the Church of Santa Eulalia, dating from 1098. All the towns in the national park offer us the opportunity to discover a rich historical, artistic and ethnographic cultural heritage. As we travel through this magnificent park we can stop at the numerous viewpoints which, strategically placed, allow us to enjoy the indescribable landscape that the Picos de Europa National Park offers us. Viewpoints such as Chorco or Ordiales, in Amieva. In Cabrales, the Camarmeña viewpoint, the Pedro Udaondo viewpoint, the Pozo de la Oración viewpoint and, above all, the Urriellu viewpoint. In Cangas de Onís the Entrelagos, La Reina, Los Canónigos, El Príncipe and El Rey viewpoints. In León, the viewpoints of the municipality of Oseja de Sajambre and those of Posada de Valdeón. In Cantabria, in Camaleño, the Llesbao and Cable viewpoints. And in Tresviso there are the viewpoints of Santo Toribio, Balcón de Pilatos and Valle de Sobra. A varied and undoubtedly enriching visit to the Picos de Europa National Park.
There are numerous activities to do in the Picos de Europa National Park. Well-known and very popular hiking routes such as the one that runs through the Cares Gorge, and others that are less popular but no less interesting, such as the Senda del Arcediano, the Beyos Gorge, and the Hermida Gorge. The route through the Ports of Áliva which, after climbing the vertical limestone walls that separate us from these colossal mountains thanks to the spectacular Fuente Dé cable car and after climbing the vertiginous Cable Viewpoint, takes us through meadows, old mines and hidden hermitages, passing by the Chalet Real on the way back to Fuente Dé. A total of 30 approved Small Route (PR) trails await us. For the most experienced hikers, the GR 1 Historic Path, which links the towns of Ampurias in Gerona and Finisterre in La Coruña, covers some 63 km within the park. Mountaineers, climbers... will walk along the countless high mountain routes, and tread summits such as the Torrecerredo peak at 2650 m, the majestic Naranjo de Bulnes, and other peaks and mountains that exceed 2000 metres in altitude. A more than recommendable mountaineering experience for the most experienced climbers is to follow the high mountain circular route that links the three massifs of the national park, the Ring of Peaks. These are just some of the possibilities available in the Picos de Europa National Park.
In a habitat such as the Picos de Europa National Park, where its geographical isolation, until relatively recently, has been responsible for maintaining its landscapes and traditions unchanged, it is easy to enjoy festivals that recall a whole way of life. Each part of the park has its own traditions and festivities, each one more endearing than the last, such as the Fiesta del Pastor (Shepherd's Festival) which, declared to be of Tourist Interest, brings together the shepherds of the area every 25 July in the meadows of lakes Enol and Ercina. After a mass in the chapel of the Buen Pastor, they hold a council meeting in which they share out the use of the pastures for the following year. The events begin with a pilgrimage from Cangas de Onis and are completed with different sporting activities and folkloric exhibitions. The night before is the only night of the year when camping by the lakes is permitted.
The first peg to be used in a climb in Spain was driven into the Naranjo de Bulnes, impregnable for centuries, by the German Gustav Schulze, who was the third mountaineer to crown it, as the first to reach its summit were Pedro Pidal, Marquis of Villaviciosa, and his guide, Gregorio Pérez, El Cainejo, in 1904.
It is said that until well into the 19th century, the Picos de Europa were known as "the Peñas de Europa" (Crags of Europe). This name was given to them because, from their ships, they were the first thing that sailors returning from America or from whaling in Newfoundland could see of the European continent.
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The Picos de Europa National Park has several access routes: National Road 625 from Riaño via León. From Cangas de Onís, towards Covadonga on the AS-114 and AS-262. From Potes, towards Cosgaya, Espinama, Pido and Fuente De on the CA-185. Via the AS-264 to the villages of Tielve, Sotres and Tresviso, from where you can access the Central and Eastern massifs from the North.
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