Beautiful scenery, smooth roads, few cars, and some challenging climbs.
The Picos de Europa in Northern Spain is a little known paradise for cyclists. There are few places with so much variety: rugged limestone mountains, deep gorges, ancient forests, mountain pastures and unspoilt villages. The climbs are also varied: gentle and meandering or short and sharp, and then there is the Alto de l’Angliru, which is just brutal (and thankfully optional!).
We have designed the Classic route so that the distance and gradients between the hotels is manageable and enjoyable for most cyclists, if taken steadily. However, each day there are ‘optional extras’ increasing the possible daily ascent to between 2000m & 3600m, so this holiday is also suitable for those looking to really push themselves and take on our Challenge route.
It is important to us that you book the right holiday for you, so do read the Trip Notes for all you need on how this holiday works: food, accommodation & travel…
Read more about the area and our adventures supporting Cyclist Magazine’s Big Ride feature by clicking this link.
For the latest travel advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office including security and local laws, plus passport and visa information, check www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
Departure Dates & Prices
We are pleased to offer some tempting discounts on the basic trip cost (not including extras such as single rooms or bike hire):
- Book & pay your deposit more than 6 months in advance of the start of your holiday for our 5% Early Bookers discount
- Be rewarded for your loyalty by receiving a 10% discount from your 3rd Marmot trip onwards
- Get a group of 10+ people together for a 10% Group discount
Please note that there is a maximum 10% discount on any holiday.
Day 0: Travel Out
We offer included transfers from and back to Bilbao BIO airport at scheduled times on the arrival and departure days. More info can be found in our Trip Notes.
Meet your guides, assemble your bikes and have a welcome briefing and great dinner in the peaceful setting of our hotel.
Day 1: Day Ride from Potes
The Puerto de Piedrasluengas (1355m) is a great introduction to the Picos. It starts off ‘relatively’ kindly but does have a few cheeky sections in the middle. As you climb up, you eventually emerge from the trees to be treated with a great view from the Mirador (view point) overlooking the Picos to the East and the plains to the South.
From here you head back to Potes for lunch. The afternoon can be spent relaxing by the pool, visiting the historic town or cycling into the heart of the Picos De Europa National Park. The road to Fuente Dé (1105m) is well surfaced and takes you to a cable car station, where you could enjoy the breathtaking ride up 700m in just 4 minutes (make sure you turn Strava off!). Alternatively, you can enjoy the amphitheatre of limestone cliffs from the comfort of a café. Being a ‘there and back’, it does not matter if you don’t get to the top, but the higher you get, the longer the descent!
Day 2: Potes to Soto de Cangas
Head North through the deep gorge of the Desfiladero de la Hermida, almost down to sea level before joining a beautiful road that skirts around the North high peaks of the Picos. Your only real significant climb is the Alto de Ortiguero (443m), which should test the legs for what is to come later in the week. After 75km we pass our hotel for the night, where you have the option of retiring gracefully, maybe visiting the mountain town of Cangas de Onís or to take on the recommended and infamous Vuelta stage ending, the Lagos de Covadonga (1120m).
The challenge comes 7km from the lakes when there is an 800m section of 15%! Your reward? A justifiable lie on the grass by the side of a beautiful lake / café at the top before free wheeling most of the way back to the hotel. If that is not enough cycling (!?) then the Alto de Riensena/Torno (534m) would be a fitting finale to the day.
Easier option: Ortiguero (75km, 400m ascent)
Classic route: Ortiguero + Lagos de Covadonga (114km, 1600m ascent) [Ride Profile]
Challenge route: Ortiguero + Lagos de Covadonga + Riensena (150km, 2400m ascent) [Ride Profile]
Day 3: Soto de Cangas to Riaño
It’s worth a post-breakfast churro today before starting the climb of the Puerto del Pontón (1280m). 46km long, its gradients are kind (mostly!) and the constantly changing scenery is bound to keep you motivated to the top. You are now on the high plateau of the Picos, a landscape of small forested peaks, surrounded by lush fields that have been laboriously levelled from this otherwise harsh, rocky land.
Our destination is the ‘new’ town of Riaño, built on a rocky peninsula after the old town was flooded under the huge reservoir. Our hotel offers classic hospitality and its kitchen produces some excellent local cuisine.
Day 4: Riaño to Santa Cristina de Lena
We traverse the high plateau West of Riaño, over several small mountain passes, through narrow gorges, remote villages and terraced hillsides. It is a truly stunning ride and the descent from the Passo Pajares (1378m) is a real treat. Options here: retiring gracefully to the hotel in the small hamlet of St Christiana de Lena or taking on one of two great climbs…
The Alto de la Cobertoria (1173m) is no stranger to the Vuelta and with good tarmac and stunning views; it is bound to be a highlight of the trip, despite being fairly tough! Those wanting even more can then add on the Alto del Gamoniteiro (1772m) – this is often known as the Ventoux of Spain and it is a brutal climb to the top of the mountain but the views are mind-blowing!
Day 5: Santa Cristina de Lena to Riaño
What goes down, must go up again! The Alto de San Isidro (1520m) is another epic climb, going on for the best part of 30km. Next up is the beautiful, gentle climb to the Puerto de Las Señales (1625m) before rolling back down to the reservoir and Riaño hotel. For those on the Classic route, a detour up the Alto de la Collaona (850m) early in the day is well worthwhile.
Foolhardy masochists might want to take on the gradients of the mighty Alto de l’Angliru (1570m) today – a climb that rivals Alpe d’Huez and Mortirolo as one of the most demanding in professional cycling. The main ascent is only 7 km, but has an average gradient of 14% and an extended section of 24% – ouch! In order to get to the Angliru you must first endure the Alto de El Cordal (789m) which serves as a good ‘warm up’!
Day 6: Riaño to Potes
Today is a day of narrow gorges, towering limestone cliffs and lush green meadows in the heart of the Picos. Start gently with the understated Puerto de Panderruedas (1450m), descending to the mountain town of Posada de Valdeón. Enjoy a coffee whilst you contemplate the Challenge route option of taking on the most famous ‘tourist road’ in the Picos – the narrow gorge to Caín de Valdeón. Unusually, you descend to Caín where the road turns into a narrow path, so you turn around and face the climb back up! The road is narrow and our support vehicles cannot get down here so it’s a committed decision.
Day 7: Travel Back
We offer included transfers at scheduled times from Potes to Bilbao Airport.
Full travel advice and airport transfer timings (essential reading before booking your flights) can be found in our Trip Notes.