Whichever way you look at it, there’s a hard winter ahead. Nobody can predict what is coming. That’s why I decided to get away, feel the wind in my hair and the sun on my face, and hike in the stunning national parks of Asturias.
This autonomous region is a dream destination for hikers. It offers a fantastic choice of well-marked routes, many of which are in the famous Picos de Europa National Park in the Principality of Asturias. After the long drive from Alicante (with a couple of overnights on the way, of course) I couldn’t wait to get my walking boots on and discover the natural wonders of this area.
The first route I tackled was the famous Ruta del Cares, a 24-kilometre round trip between the villages of Cáin, in León and Poncebos, in Asturias, that runs through the Cares river gorge. If you don’t like heights, then you won’t like this hike. The path was once goat track and is between one and three metres wide. It is carved into the cliff face, so you have a rock face on one side and a dizzying precipice on the other. Thank heavens for my Nordic walking sticks. The views are stunning, and you will cross vertiginous bridges and walk through dark tunnels on the way. Since this path is incredibly popular, parking spaces are few and far between. You must get there early or do as I did and hire a driver and a vehicle to take you through restricted areas of the park, drop you off at the starting point and then pick you up. It’s an experience you won’t forget. Never in my life have I been on such terrifying narrow roads in such high-up places.
Well and truly warmed up, I decided to visit the picturesque village of Bulnes, splashing out on the incredibly expensive ticket to go up on the funicular (€22 for an eight-minute round trip). I did this not because it is interesting, but because it avoided a 4.6 km uphill climb. After arriving in the tiny stone village, I hiked up the rugged path to the spot from which the iconic Naranjo de Bulnes peak is visible, all I could hear was trickling water and birdsong. Continuing on, the trail is lined with hazelnut and oak trees. It is very rugged, so after an hour or so I turned around and then walked in a different direction, coming across a lovely restaurant with friendly staff where I enjoyed lunch. It was a beautiful day, and I even dropped in at a typical Cabrales cheese cave on my way home.
The next day I caught a bus from Cangas de Onis and then hiked around the two glacial Covadonga Lakes. A bus takes visitors to the vicinity, climbing to 1,100 metres above sea level along an impossibly torturous road, negotiating hairpin bends and leaving a sea of mist and clouds far below. The track that leads around Lake Enol and Lake Ercina is varied and is supposed to take three and a half hours to complete, but I went the wrong way, so it took me an additional hour. You will get up close with the local cattle and possibly step in the odd cow pat as well as walking through a forest and negotiating a rather challenging rocky mountain path, all surrounded by beautiful scenery.
Wherever you live, before the winter sets in, try and spend some time with nature or, if you can where you can breathe the clean mountain air, get some exercise and forget the chaos going on in the real world, if only for a little while.