Thursday, 5 July 2012

Picos de Europa

Barbara and I have just returned from nine days spent in one of Europe's last mountain wilderness areas.

A few days after Biohydromet '12 we took the car ferry from Plymouth to Santander in northern Spain, and then the short drive to the Picos de Europa.

The central massif of the Picos de Europa
The Picos de Europa are a geological unit composed almost purely of carboniferous limestone, and are the largest single mass of mountain limestone in Europe. Laid down over 300 million years ago, later periods of uplift during the Pyrenean and Alpine orogenies thrust the limestone high above sea-level, fracturing and folding it due to the great stresses involved, until three huge lumps of limestone remained - the three massifs. More recently, glaciations during the ice ages widened the fractures into narrow but deep gorges. The actions of ice and rain continue to erode and dissolve the rock, forming the characteristic landscapes of today.

With a highest altitude of 2648m the Picos de Europa do not have the majestic grandeur of the alps but the scenery is nevertheless spectacular, with jagged peaks, deep canyons and glacial lakes, as shown in our photos below.

Walking near the glacial lake, Lago Enol
Lago de la Ercina

The village of Bulnes
Fuente De

Valle del Naranco
Our essential guide to the area was the excellent Picos de Europa by Teresa Farino (Sunflower Books), and for the first 6 nights we stayed at the Parador de Cangas de Onis, which proved to be very disappointing, as did the restaurants in the town. Our final 3 nights were in the southern Picos at Cosgaya's Hotel Del Oso, which we would highly recommend, both in terms of the accommodation and the excellent restaurant.

Driving around the Picos has been an unexpected pleasure.The long winding roads are immaculately maintained and were almost devoid of traffic, at least at this time of year.

Cooling off in the Rio Casano in the
La Molina Gorge

It is also a fine area for walking and on some of the walking trails we had perfect solitude, the icy rivers in the deep gorges providing a great way to cool off when temperatures became excessive!

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