The Way of St. James is known worldwide, and yet it still holds some secrets that only a fortunate few have been able to discover. This is the case of the Vadiniense Way. Part of the route coincides with the Libadian Way. This Jacobean way enters one of the natural wonders of Spain. The National Park of peaks of europe (Picos de Europa in spanish). Although demanding due to its steep slopes, the route is worthwhile, as is a stop along the way to explore the green valleys, the high peaks and, of course, the ethnography of the area, always accompanied by good food. Let’s take a look at what the Picos de Europa have to offer.
The Camino de Santiago: The Vadiniense route
We will begin our way by the little known Vadiniense route. One of the best options that the pilgrim has to venture into the great Cantabrian massif, which runs imposing through Cantabrian, Asturian and Castilian-Leonese territories.
Without stopping at the layout and stages of this alternative to the Way of St. James (you will find information on this in another blog entry), it is necessary to mention the visit to Liébana, whose Blessed contemplates in the eighth century Santiago Apóstol as patron and protector of the then Hispania; he writes:
Oh, very worthy and very holy Apostle,
golden gleaming head of Hispania,
powerful defender and very special patron attends
pious to the flock that has been entrusted to you.
[O Dei Verbum]
The Roman road between Las Salas and Villayandre-Verdiago is particularly important, as is the section of La Remoña and the port of Pandetrave (1562m). There we will enjoy unbeatable views of the green Cantabrian mountain.
All this, delighting our sight not only with the water running in the deep valleys, the green of the slopes or the impassive rock of the high mountain, but also by the action of human hands that, for centuries, inhabited the area. The architecture, civil and religious, is simply formidable. Architecturally, Romanesque dominates the scene, also sprinkled with pre-Romanesque art. We will also find ethnographic samples such as hórreos and pallozas reconditioned as we pass through green fields covered with “capilotes” (also known as queen’s daffodils).
However, if, exhausted of so much beauty, the pilgrim decides to make a stop in his route and get out of the way, in the zone there are infinity of routes and activities that, as it happens during the Way of Santiago, will feed the stomach, but above all the spirit.
Enjoying the scenery: hiking in Picos de Europa
Beginning with the routine that the pilgrim undoubtedly brings, that which involves exercising the body daily for a few hours, no one should miss the affordable, but impressive, route of the Cares: 12 linear kilometres with hardly any difficulty or unevenness, but which run through a valley of high mountain, with large steps oradados in the rock, which leave no one indifferent. Although partially overcrowded in holidays and high season, the influx of people has its advantages: there are excursions from Cangas de Onís, to make the experience comfortable. For those who choose this option, they should not leave Cangas de Onís without trying Isidorín’s exquisite homemade cider.
Continuing the journey, 8km from Poncebos, the starting point or arrival point of the Cares route, we find Bulnes, an image of tradition in Picos de Europa, as is Sotres, from where we can admire (and the most prepared, ascend) the icon of the Cantabrian massif: the Naranjo de Bulnes.
We cannot fail to mention, for lovers of the mountain and hiking (and, perhaps, to make queues and greet constantly), the visit to the Lakes of Covadonga and the cable car of Fuente Dé, which transports us to the heart of the high mountain, halfway between land and sky.
Because not everything is walking: gastronomy and leisure
But, in his exploits of explorer and mountaineer, the pilgrim to Santiago also deserves to enjoy the multitude of activities and visits that the Picos de Europa offer. From the ski resort of San Glorio in Portilla de la Reina to water sports such as sailing, rafting or the descent of the sella. Numerous snow sports, but also speleology, canyoning, or via ferrata (in Valdeon), will delight the adventurers.
And since we mentioned Valdeón… cheeses are one of the gastronomic wonders of the area. The blue cheese of this valley, the D.O. Quesucos with its four varieties, Cabra de Riaño, Sajambre, de la Reina, Villalón… the list of possibilities is inexhaustible.
Among the gastronomy, also of obligatory mention are the cocido lebaniego, the montañés and that of arbejos, the chafaina (typically eaten by shepherds in the mountain), and the fresh fish of river, that makes of the soup of trout insignia.
And for dessert? The place of reference for the most greedy will be the monastery of Gradefes, in the León area of the Vadiniense road to Santiago. Of Romanesque architecture, the Cistercian sisters who inhabit it, delight the palate with ties of San Guillermo, coquillos and roscos, shavings of St. Joseph, sequillos of Mother Pilar … A whole experience not suitable for diabetics!
Would you like to know more about the peaks of europe? Keep reading HERE.