Rio Cares Pictures, Picos de Europa,  Spain

Rio Cares Pictures, the road through Garganta del Cares, Picos de Europa, Asturias, Spain

The road through the Cares Gorge to Poncebos from Arenas de Cabrales. Rio Cares Pictures.

Rio Cares trip, Picos de Europa

After our very enjoyable Picos de Europa/Fuente Dé Teleferico experience we decided we should try another easy way up via the funicular at Poncebos, which is on the northern side of the mountains, where Fuente Dé is on the southern side.

The route from Santander was the same fast and easy route up to Panes on the A8 Autopista at which point we drove west alongside the Cares river to Arenas de Cabrales, good road and good views, until we turned south at Cabrales into the Garganta del Cares where the views became spectacular, better than any of the road views on the Fuente Dé trip through the Hermida Gorge.

A beautiful section of the Rio Cares, Picos de Europa, Asturias, Spain

This road had many more stopping points and sights than the Hermida Gorge route (to Fuente Dé), especially this stunning but nameless location.

A large, spectacular car park near Poncebos village, Rio Cares Pictures, Picos de Europa, Asturias, Spain

About halfway along the Rio Cares road we came across this large, free car park, in August about 11am.

There was no sign indicating what this parking was for or why people parked there as it was two or three kilometres from Poncebos, but Google Satellite shows tracks around there so it’s either a popular starting point for everyday trails, or a longer term park for hikers doing the awesome Ruta del Cares hike and planning to stop over in Caín.

Rio Cares walking, Picos de Europa

A view of Poncebos village, Rio Cares Pictures, Picos de Europa, Asturias, Spain

Poncebos in Asturias province.

Poncebos is the popular starting point for the awesome Ruta del Cares hike between the tiny villages of Poncebos and Caín in León province. The route is 12kms long, so 24kms if you plan to walk the return too. If you don’t then the yellow building on the left, Hotel Rte Garganta del Cares, can organise a return bus ride, as can, we assume – the Hotel Mirador de Cabrales on the right.
Continued below. . .

A high level section of the Ruta del Cares hike, Asturias, Spain

Part of the dramatic, high level Ruta del Cares hike along the Cares Gorge.

This hugely deep gorge, Desafiladero del Rio Cares, also known as Garganta del Cares, is several hundred metres straight down in places but quite easily walkable thanks to an old and mostly horizontal hydro-electric maintenance track carved into the limestone cliff-faces.

PR-PNPE 3: Ruta del Cares, 3 hours one way. The 12km trek Poncebos to Caín is especially beautiful in its upper section but will get very busy in peak season/weekends and is probably best avoided by those who suffer from vertigo. The unfenced track can narrow to 1. 5m in places and if you meet another group on the path who takes the outside track? Not me!

The path is very rocky in places so it is essential to wear solid footwear such as hiking boots; trainers do not offer enough support.

Parking at Poncebos is free in car parks if you get there early enough or at the side of the road under the guidance of local authority employees, though spaces become scarce quite rapidly in high season.

Although the walking route between Poncebos and Caín is only 12km, the geography is such that driving between them demands around two hours and a distance of over 100km so it’s best to do the return journey on foot if possible. If not then one of the hotels in Poncebos (and probably Caín too, in season) can organise tickets for a bus.

But if that’s all too much effort, or too much time, then jumping the funicular up to Bulnes village is an easy option. . .

Bulnes village walk, Pico Urriellu

Bulnes village, Picos de Europa, Asturias, Rio Cares Pictures, Spain

Bulnes village, Spain’s most remote village, the main point of the Bulnes funicular.

The funicular (a kind of large cable-car on rails, usually in the open but this one ran through a tunnel) from Poncebos to Bulnes was more expensive than and not nearly as entertaining as the Fuente Dé cable car, though/consequently waiting time was less.
Furthermore on arrival we were unpleasantly surprised to find ourselves not on a high plateau as at Fuente Dé, or even at the top of some peak, but a long way down with peaks towering above us. Not at all like the Fuente Dé Mirador del Cable experience!

A view of Bulnes village from a mountain trail, Rio Cares, Pictures, Picos de Europa, Asturias, Spain

Whatever, after a short wander around the tiny village we headed for the Mirador, more in hope than expectation.

Some hikers were starting their hikes at this point but the majority of passengers in the funicular were either old or unfit or parents with small kids, doing a return journey. If we had known – and there was no clear information on what to expect – we wouldn’t have spent the time or money on this mediocre experience. Better to have spent 3 hours on the Ruta del Cares and taken a bus back.

A view of Naranjo de Bulnes peak from Bulnes, Picos de Europa, Asturias, Spain

So we were not disappointed when the Mirador yielded little more in the way of views than the short Bulnes trail.

However, we did get a fuzzy look at Pico Urriellu, also known as Naranjo de Bulnes, the second highest peak in the Picos de Europa (about 2, 519m) and apparently the number one mountain climbing target. The highest peak is Torre Cerredo at 2, 650m (8, 690ft).

A lovely road in the Picos de Europa near Poncebos, Asturias, Spain

What did not disappoint were the roads around Poncebos which yielded fantastic views and almost no traffic.

In good condition too though best to hope that a rockfall doesn’t happen at the wrong moment as we couldn’t help but notice this printed on the local Picos de Europa Parque Nacional map: ‘Your safety is our concern, but it is your responsibility’