If you are anywhere in the region of the of the Picos de Europa then you have to walk the ‘Garganta del Cares’ – the Cares Gorge. Is it the best day walk in Spain? I don’t know the answer as I’ve not walked them all (yet!), but it’s a walk of staggering beauty with breathtaking views.
Cares Gorge is 12km long and is bookended by the villages of Caín in the south and Poncebos in the north. The gorge was created by the river Cares and splits the western and central massifs of the Picos range.
The scale of it is phenomenal and in some parts is more than a kilometre deep.There is some exposure as the gorge plunges below the path at some points. That said, the path is always good, flat, and at least a few meters wide. My companions on the day are not fans of being in exposed places and they managed it without any problem and loved the walk. The best bit is that it is easy walking.
You can start the walk from either end and you can go there and back in a steady but long day. If you wanted to make the walk more leisurely then you could make plans to stop in either Caín or Poncebos and do the walk there and back over two days. Or the third option, which is the one we took, you could walk for a specified time and then turn around and head back knowing it would take you exactly the same time to get back.
The drive from our base of Potes in Cantabria to our starting point in Caín was spectacular enough, as we travelled up and over winding roads and mountain passes with great views, through lush valleys with birds of prey surveying our progress, and then finally down the ever tighter road that takes you into the pretty village of Caín.
Although small, Caín has all the amenities that the walker needs for stocking up before setting off, or refuelling after returning from your day. We picked up some hot lomo sandwiches before setting off on our walk – there is nothing more Spanish than packing a huge baguette of some delicious meat wrapped up in tin foil when walking in Spain.
The first part of the walk takes you out through the bottom of the village and then initially through a series of small, occasionally damp tunnels that have been burrowed through the rocks. The gorge is narrow here and you will traverse a couple of well constructed bridges before the walk stars to open up, and from here on you are rewarded with the views of high cliff faces and steep drops into the river below.
Cares Gorge can be busy, particularly if you are walking on a Saturday or Sunday in July or August, but many people will only do a small section, so after the few kilometres the crowds will start to thin out.
The only other thing that will slow you down will be the number of photo stops that you will take. As you round each turn, the new vista is better than the last. The drops from the side of the path make for some dramatic photo opportunities, but don’t be deterred, the path is flat, wide, and safe as long as you keep a distance from the edge. It’s only in the last section just before Ponecebos that the walk take you up a significant climb, and this is a good spot for turning back if you are returning to Caín.
The other god thing about the walk is you can’t get lost! As you walk north you will have cliff face to your left, the gorge below you to your right and beautiful views in front and behind you.
So if you are in that part of Spain, do not miss the la Garganta del Cares. Take your time, enjoy the views, take a stack of photos, and I’m sure you will be as blown away as we were on this marvellous, jaw dropping walk.