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Through the beautiful mountains of Picos de Europa in Asturias runs the Route of the Cares, a hiking path that follows the gorge carved in the mountains by the River Cares. This route has its starting point in Poncebos (Cabrales) goes to Caín, in the neighbour region of León, having a total distance of 12 kilometres. It is the most known hiking route in Asturias, apart from the Way of St. James.

The route runs through some of the most astonishing settings in Asturias: the National Park of Picos de Europa. As you go through the mountains you will be overwhelmed by the beautiful nature. With all reason the Cares gorge is known as “The Divine Gorge”.

To get to the route you must follow the AS-114 road that goes from Cangas de Onís to the region of Cantabria, and then in Arenas de Cabrales take the AS-264 road going south 5 kilometres, following the course of the river Cares, until you arrive to Poncebos. There you can find parking spaces near the cable car.

The Route of the Cares has a total distance of 12 kilometres, or 24 if you want to do the return trip. There are some companies that provide transfer from Caín back to Poncebos for a fee.

The difficulty of the route is medium-low, with only the first 2 kilometres of steep climb and medium difficulty.

Although the main route ends in Caín, the original one goes until Posada de Valdeón, also in León, and adds 10 more kilometres to the route.

It is advisable to take some precautions before doing the Route of the Cares due to its nature:

–        * Use suitable, sturdy, footwear. Although the route is accessible to anyone, there might be parts with loose rocks.

–         * It is also advisable to take Windstopper clothes due to the frequent winds in the gorge.

–         * Bring water, as there are no drinking fountains during the route, and until you reach the tunnels there are no shadows to take shelter from the sun, so there is a possibility of dehydration.

–         * Bring food. The route can take some time to complete, and even more if you do it from Poncebos to Caín and back, so it is advisable to take some food with you.

–         * Due to the amount of people doing the route and its characteristics, it is forbidden to do it on bike.

–         * Dogs are allowed, but always with a leash.

–         * Being a mountain route, it is advisable to look at weather forecasts before going.

–         * Take sun protection.

–         * Bring a mobile phone, even if you do not have signal in some places, emergency service 112 has signal in almost all places.

And most important of all, take you camera with you to have a reminder of this wonderful place.

The Route of the Cares is fit for anyone, but not recommended for children under 6 years old.

Originally this route was only suitable for the most adventurous locals, as it implied rock climbing, going through narrow walkways on the verge of the gorge and crossing the river Cares on rudimentary bridges made with logs or cut-down trees. The Route of the Cares was improved at the beginning of the 20th century to connect the town of Poncebos with Caín and Posada de Valdeón during winter snowfalls. Going through the 71 tunnels carved in the stone you will be part of this history that mixes bravery and tragedy. 500 people worked to create the original Route of the Cares from 1916 until 1921, carving the route on the stone with their own hands, and 11 of them lost their lives in this place. Later on during the 40s the route was improved to create the one we have nowadays.

In Cabrales you can also visit the Bulnes cable car that will take you from Poncebos to Bulnes, considered the most remote village in Asturias, frequently isolated during winter until the cable car was built. You can also climb in some of the wonderful peaks of the region, including the worldwide know Urriellu Peak or “Naranjo de Bulnes” due to the orange cast of the rock during sunset, the most difficult climb in Asturias with several climbing routes, or the Torrecerredo Mountain, the highest point in the Cantabric Mountain Range. It is only 30 minutes away from the coast, so it’s the perfect place to enjoy a day out in the mountain and the beach.

After the Route of the Cares you can enjoy some of the best Asturian cheeses, the widely known Cabrales Blue Cheese, granted with a Protected Designation of Origin, and made in a traditional way. Most of the small family run cheese factories will give you a tour around their small factories, usually located in natural caves.

If you want more information contact Where is Asturias at info@whereisasturias.com

Images supplied by Tomás Fano.