Birds 8 Days 3+ People Season: spring, summer and fall Heritage: wings and wines


On this tour we will visit some of the most significant locations of the main Picos range. In addition, we will also head into the more accessible Palencia Mountains so as to obtain a broader impression of the region. This tour will also include a rich variety of ecosystems as we will be discovering habitats of incredible contrast such as alpine, pastures, meadows and grasslands. To add to this, we will be passing through two very opposing climate regions; that of the wet Atlantic, and the continental Mediterranean, both of which harbour a diverse distribution of interesting species.

Even though the tour is mostly focused on birds, there will be plenty of opportunities to enjoy the exquisite native flowers, reptiles, and butterflies as well as visiting some significant human heritage sites while taking in their legacy. Additionally, we will set enough time aside to do a few sit-outs in the hope of sighting mammals which inhabit the region. But be forewarned, they are not always easy to locate and our efforts may be in vain, but rest assure, we will at least see some traces of their presence.

The walks featuring in the itinerary are of an easy nature not requiring great levels of physical fitness or ability, therefore being suitable for most, if not all visitors. The tour could run from late April until late October. However, the inclemencies of the weather mean all seasons can be expected in just one day at any time during this period. So as a rule of thumb, it is advisable to bring layers as well as some adequate clothing for hiking or plain wet weather gear. And whatever you do, DON’T forget to bring a good pair of a binoculars and a camera.



We will set out from either Santander, Oviedo or Bilbao airport towards “Los Picos” taking the narrow but incredibly spectacular Hermida Gorge road. Over millions of years, the Deva river has cut an impressive path through these mountains leaving limestone overhangs which will have you instinctively ducking as we drive under them. Traveling against the flow of its pristine waters as they meander towards the coast, we will suddenly emerge into a vast clearing where the charming town of Potes awaits. Heading past this iconic mountain village, we will keep driving up to our destination; the Hotel El Oso, surreally nestled in the quaint little town of Cosgaya. We should have plenty of time to settle in while enjoying a relaxing walk around the town before dinner. On the chance we should set out from Bilbao, and providing we have enough time on our hands, we will make a short stopover at the Santoña saltmarshes to observe wading birds, which is practically guaranteed, and in springtime even moreso.
Up at daybreak, we will take the first cable car of the morning which will whisk us skyward gaining 800m in height in just over 5 minutes. On arriving at the upper station, where the views are quite frankly nothing short of breathtaking, we can begin immediate observations of alpine birds and chamois, although we may need to stray from the station to view the latter. Weather permitting, we are also likely to see species such as lammergeyer, short toed eagle, golden eagle, egyptian vulture, water pipit, northern wheatear, alpine accentor, alpine chough, snowfinch and wallcreeper. When our time is up in this limestone and snow covered terrain, we will take the cable car back down to the base. However, don’t let your guard down here as there is a good chance we will get a furtive sighting of the black woodpecker, local inhabitants of the beech forest, which we will be gliding past during the descent.
We will take a pleasant drive up to San Glorio along the mountain road where we will get some amazing views and also try to spot some interesting birds such as ring ouzel, citril finch, crossbill, rock bunting, crested tit, water pipit, hawfinch, red billed chough, quail, grey partridge, golden eagle. Here, it is also highly likely that we will get the chance to observe the iconic iberian ibex. We will do a walk towards Portilla de las Lleguas first and then another one later on just a few minute’s drive down the road in Llanaves de la Reina. After a full day of birding, we will head back to the hotel to freshen up before dinner.
Located on the border of Cantabria and Palencia we will discover this region high above sea level nestled between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean climate regions; its beech and oak forests being testament to this. Therefore, it offers great potential for some high pasture species such as the dunnock, mistle thrush, montagu´s harrier, ortolan bunting, white stork, dartford warbler, southern grey shrike, red legged partridge, rock thrush, corn bunting, bluethroat, whitethroat, skylark, iberian green woodpecker, goldcrest, and eventually sightings of mammals such as brume hare, chamois can be enjoyed. We may even come across evidence of the presence of the emblematic brown bear. From here, we will drive down a bit further towards Palencia as far as Santa Maria de Redondo where we will discover the spring of the Pisuerga river. Here, we will go on an interesting walk while, of course, doing some birding on the way. In addition, we will need to keep our eyes peeled for chance sightings of wild cat next to the road. Furthermore, we could visit some of the very historical romanesque chapels which Palencia is famous for.
We will spend the day exploring several charmimg villages of interest while including hot birding spots in a variety of habitats in locations such as, Pendes, Mogrobejo and Brez. We will be looking out for birds such as middle spotted woodpecker, wryneck, western bonelli´s warbler, nuthatch, short toed treecreeper, white wagtail, pied flycatcher, yellowhammer, great spotted woodpecker, common redstart, peregrine falcon, ciril bunting, dipper, tree pipit, iberian chiffchaff, goshawk, grey flycatcher, honey buzzard, booted eagle, griffon vulture, common buzzard. We will also need to be alert for potential sightings of mammals such as fox and roe deer. We will also visit the historical town of Potes and Santo Toribio de Liebana. After exploring these quaint mountain villages, we will make our way to Arenas de Cabrales where our new hotel will be waiting for us; Hotel Picos de Europa.
Early in the morning we will go up to Covandonga Lakes and go on an envigorating walk in one the most sublime landscapes the western massif of the Picos has to offer. Here, we are likely to see bullfinch, yellow wagtail, tawny pipit, common kestrel, black redstart, serin, linnet, black woodpecker, iberian woodpecker, grey wagtail, marsh tit, woodlark, firecrest, goshawk and if we are lucky enough, the lammergeyer. After the lakes, we will explore the iconic historical church of Covadonga and its cave. Later on, we will stop in La Molina for a pleasant afternoon walk along the Casaño river before making our way back to the hotel.
We will go to Vegas del Toro to take in some fabulous subalpine scenery with healthy alpine pastures and grasslands. This area is ideal for the observation of big raptors and also some charming little birds such as rock thrush, red backed shrike, and stonechat. In addition to this, we will get to see an ancestral way of livestock farming in this idyllic setting thus obtaining a better understanding of how shepherds managed to coexist with the iberian wolf. After the morning itinerary, we will visit the cheese factory where they actually make the cheese and also the cave in which the iconic Cabrales cheese acquires its famous aroma. Once you smell it, you will never mistake it for any other cheese. It really is in a category of its own. Shortly afterwards, and with the aroma of cabrales cheese lingering in our nostrils, or if you are brave enough to try it, still stinging your taste buds, we will enjoy our last supper back at the hotel in Arenas de Cabrales.
On the advent that our trip back to the airport coincides with the low tide, we will stop at the beach of La Franca where we will explore and admire the caves in the coastal cliffs, which, as you can guess, are only accessible when the tide is out.
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