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Picos de Europa
Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrLocated in northern Spain, in the community of Asturias, the Picos de Europa, which form part of the Cantabrian Mountains, tower over the shores of the Cantabrian Sea. The name ‘Picos de Europa’ is literally translated as the “peaks of Europe.” When ships traveling from the Americas brought passengers to Europe for the first time, these impressive peaks were often one of the first views of Europe, which garnered them the name ‘Picos de Europa’. The stunning range of mountains stretches over the three Autonomous Spanish communities of Asturias, Castile and León , and Cantabria. Today, the Picos de Europa is a popular destination for hikers, climbers, and mountaineers who utilize the national park’s many trails and climbing sites.
The expanse of limestone that make up the Picos de Europa were shaped by slow moving glaciers during the Quaternary period. The glaciers left impressive caverns, chasms, and depressions over the soft limestone and these same formations are what gives the range of mountains such an impressive form. The Picos de Europa National Park was the first national park established in Spain in 1918 and is still one of the most popular today. Historically, the Picos de Europa have been the site of several mining operations and much of the mining infrastructure remains today in the form of man-made caves and dams. The area continues to support a small community of shepherds who graze their livestock on the verdant greenery of the mountainsides during the summer months.
The Picos de Europa contain some of the most famous peaks and natural landmarks in northern Spain. In the mountain range’s western massif, the Lakes of Covadonga draw in thousands of tourists each year with their natural beauty. While the highest peak in the range of mountains is Torre de Cerredo, one of the most popular peaks is the Naranjo de Bulnes, which is considered to be the most popular climbing site in Spain. The area is dotted with tiny, picturesque villages, some of which are only accessible by hiking trails, where visitors can take a break from their hike to enjoy a caña or sit down for a traditional Asturian meal.
The range of mountains forms a diverse ecosystem that supports several species of flora and fauna. In the more isolated regions of the Picos, the rare Cantabrian Brown Bear exists alongside some of the last remaining wolves in Spain. Hikers and climbers are often accompanied on the trail by groups of Chamois, a type of horned goat-antelope species, as they nimbly climb along the rocky mountainsides in search of food.
The Picos de Europa National Park is surrounded by some of Spain’s largest cities including León, Santander, Oviedo, and Gijón, and can be reached by car from the A-8 highway in the north or from the N-625 highway from the south. The best way to experience the national park is to base yourself from one of the small mountain hostels in the area, where you can spend the days exploring the many hiking trails, or for the more adventurous, by planning a backpacking circuit and sleeping under the stars each night.
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Author: CoryWard. Last updated: May 20, 2015