Cares Gorge - The Best Walk in Spain?

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.

ruta del cares

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.

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cares gorge route sign
path through the gorge cliff tunnels

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.

path in the spanish gorge

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.

great spanish walk

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.

walk under the cliffs

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.

in a cares gorge tunnel

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.

climb high in the gorge

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.

big steep drop from the path

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.

walking through the gorge

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.

sunshine on the gorge walk

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.

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  1. Hi, how long is the walk. Is it a circuit or a there-and-back?

    1. Paul Taylor says:

      Hi Nola

      The walk is linear as opposed to a circular route, but this means that you just see different views on the way back that you missed on the way out.

      In terms of time then it’s completely up to you as you can turn around at anytime and it will be an equal distance back. If you go all the way from Caín to Poncebos then it’s 2.5 to 3 hours depending on your pace, and therefore 5-6 hours in total plus any breaks. When we walked we stopped just short of Poncebos before a short uphill section and turned back from there so the whole walk was around 4.5 hours.

      You’ll love it if you go though. I think this is one of the best walks I’ve done in Spain.

      ¡Que la pases bien!

  2. john eyre says:

    Nice one mate …five times I’ve cycle toured Austrias and still never got there….car hire this time around….

    1. PAUL TAYLOR says:

      it’s worth the effort to get there and it’s a beautiful drive to if you start from Cain. You’ll love it. As you will know it’s a great cycling area too – the Vuelta went through Potes which was our base last year.

  3. Tina and Peter says:

    Thank you for this Paul, we love walking gorges and this is definitely on the list for this year. We will be touring Spain in our motorhome so we’re wondering if you know if there is a safe place to leave it while we do the walk? When I say safe I’m not talking secured but rather more one with plenty of people about so that the alarm goes off if anyone tries to break in it. I’m about to click on your link to see what other walks there are. Thanks again Tina and Peter

    1. Paul Taylor says:

      Hi Tina and Peter

      There is safe parking and plenty of people about at both ends of the gorge. We started the walk from Caín which has a few parking spots – you will be charged a few euros but the village is very safe. The road into Caín is a bit tight in places but I’m sure you’ll be fine if you are experienced drivers of motor homes.

      Poncebos is more easily accessible – depending on where you are coming from – and there is safe parking there also although the walk has a steeper start from this end.

      I’d recommend a week day if you can manage it to avoid the crowds.

      And if you are touring Spain and enjoy gorge walks then have a look at Mont Rebei in Catalunya. I’m going to try and get there this summer.

      Paul Taylor

    2. Mrs Sharon E Wignall says:

      Did you do this in the end via your motorhome? Any feedback? Thanks

  4. Agness of aTukTuk says:

    This is a truly picturesque place and a perfect destination for hiking. I am definitely adding it to my bucket list thanks to your post, Paul! Do I need to hire a guided tour to hike there?

    1. Paul Taylor says:

      Hi Agnes, I’m glad that you enjoyed the post and that it has taken a well deserved place on your bucket list. To answer your question, no you don’t need to hire a guide to do the Cares Gorge. It’s flat, relatively easy but with dramatic views all along the route. In terms of practicalities there are no stops or toilets on the walk so plan accordingly for this and take plenty of water if you are doing this in summer. There are some public transport options in the summer but I’d recommend hiring a car and doing a return trip to your starting point. There are lots of other fabulous walks in the area which I’ve done an overview of in this post
      Go and do it – you’ll love it!

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