Picos de Europa national park
The mountainous landscape of the Picos de Europa National Park makes it a favourite of many walkers, trekkers and climbers. The range of mountains stretches a mere 40km across either direction and is huddled between three huge river gorges, straddling the autonomous provinces of Asturias, Castile and Le├│n and Cantabria. The area was given National Park status in 1995 and on July 9, 2003, UNESCO approved Biosphere Reserve status for the park as well.
Almost all of the rock in the Picos is limestone, and glacial action has contributed to create an impressive area of alpine karst. The highest peak is Torre de Cerredo, with an altitude of 2,648 metres and many other peaks reach altitudes of over 2,400 m. Despite the relatively small size of the region, walking routes in the park are incredibly diverse, with routes of all levels. Some of the most popular and spectacular routes pass along the 12km Cares Gorge and around the high peaks, which can be reached via cable cars leaving from Fuente D├ę. The Picos de Europa are one of the most challenging mountain ranges in Europe and weather conditions in the region are often unpredictable so inexperienced trekkers and climbers are advised to use only the marked trails which are clearly signposted. There is a good network of well-established mountain refuges. The best-known climbing site is the Blankos de Yamos.
The Picos de Europa national park is also home to a wide variety of wildlife. There is a host of bird colonies in the Cares Gorge including griffon vultures, ravens, black redstarts and wallcreepers. Goats, wolves and small numbers of bears also reside in the park.
The park has become an increasingly popular tourist destination and the most popular areas can get very crowded in the summer months. It is possible to enter and leave the park via a number of different roads: from Santander and the coast, to the northeast; from Le├│n to the south; Oviedo and Cangas de Onis, to the northwest. Public transport also runs throughout most of the park, although services are infrequent. There is a useful tourist information office in the bus station at Potes (a town at the base of the east side of the Picos, near Fuente D├ę).