Wild Photography Holidays - Photographic Adventure Travel: North Spain – Wild Coastline and the Picos de Europa

Sunrise over the eastern massif of the Picos De Europa

North Spain – Wild Coastline and the Picos de Europa

Highlights include…

  • Dramatic mountain scenery
  • Delicious local food
  • Medieval churches
  • Abandoned villages of Los Beyos, Ponga
  • Soft morning mists with superb light
  • Los Lagos, spectacular high mountain lakes
  • Wild coastal scenery
  • Traditional local hotels
  • Cable car into the mountains
  • Mountain railway
  • Traditional Fishing Villages

“Like Cornwall crossed with the Dolomites – is this Europe’s most underrated destination?”

Ben Ross The Telegraph 2019

“…it is just unbelievable that this stunning area is not crawling with photographers, we had no idea that Spain could be like this! Gorgeous food, sublime mountain landscapes, a true feel of the medieval and wild, wild coastline is incredible… the free wine with dinner was a nice touch.”

Megan & Michael 2018

“…the holiday in the Picos was outstanding, the landscapes and the light exceeded all expectations. Once again, thanks Geraldine, you looked after us and demonstrated a great knowledge of the area and its culture, thanks Martin for your endless patience and good humour whilst helping us to get the best shots and how to develop them.”

Chris and Wendy 2017

General Summary – New Itinerary

The soaring and pinnacled mountains of Spain’s Picos de Europa are often likened to Italy’s Dolomites. This exciting photography holiday explores fabulous mountain scenery, quaint old villages, a culture from years gone by, some gorgeous forests and breathtaking coastal scenery. Photographers who come here for the first time are usually amazed that all of these lovely landscapes are not thronging with tourists. Here in north Spain you will encounter a truly magical photographic destination where wolves and bears still wander in the old forests, it is strongly reminiscent of Tolkien’s ‘Hobbit Land’! Bizarre lunar landscapes with knife edge ridges rise sharply from luscious high mountain pastures and soft morning mists shroud abandoned villages. Unbelievably it is only a short drive down from the mountains to discover superb sandy beaches with fine rock architecture. This whole wild rugged ‘Bay of Biscay’ coastline is known as the Costa Verde. The whole area enjoys a laid back approach to life with a strong Celtic culture, bagpipes known as ‘Gaitas’ and gallons of yummy Cider! We stay in delightfully located hotels mainly run by families we have known for a long time. A sense of adventure together with a love of times gone by is all that is needed to thoroughly enjoy this holiday which offers many excellent opportunities to create a fine collection of images from this diverse and highly photogenic area that you will surely wish to return to again. This is a new and improved itinerary.

Brief Itinerary

For full details please download the trip description PDF

Day 1: Arrive and Transfer to Hotel Cudillero

Our first meeting as a group for introductions and a trip briefing will be at our hotel in Cudillero at 19:30. The local airport is Oviedo, Asturias (OVD) and is well served with flights from Europe. Please contact the office if you require further information. We will include transfers to the hotel meeting flights coming into Asturias Airport between 11:00 and 18:30 on Day 1. If you are arriving outside of these times taxis are available at the airport and cost around 25€. Cudillero is known within Asturias as one of its most picturesque fishing villages. Colourful houses are squashed together and piled on top of each other. Topped with rust coloured terracotta roofs they are built on a mishmash of steep terraces that tumble down to a tiny harbour with turquoise water and bobbing boats. Many of these traditional Asturian houses are crumbling and abandoned. Essentially a fishing town, late afternoon the boats come back in with their catch and they head to the market to auction them off. Along the walls by the harbour we sometimes find lines of fish called ‘curadillos’ stretched and hanging in the sun to dry. The village is famous for eating fish and drinking Cider. Our lovely traditional hotel is just on the edge of the village.
Accommodation Hotel Cudillero (D)

Day 2: Drive to Espinama

This morning after breakfast we will photograph one of the many scenic beaches close to our hotel. Afterwards we will set off for the pretty drive to Espinama, our base for the next two nights. We will pass through some lovely countryside, villages and small market towns including Cangas de Onis, an old Roman town. En route we will enjoy a picnic lunch. Espinama is a typical rural village and our hotel for the next two nights is owned by Santi and his wife Aurora who is a fabulous cook! The village itself nestles under the soaring limestone peaks of the Picos de Europa mountains. The village is great for a wander with camera in hand! Lots of old stone buildings with attractive red tiled roofs, local produce shops and superb surrounding forest.
Accommodation Hotel Espinama (B,L,D)

Day 3: Espinama in Liébana

Sunrise will be in the Central Massif of the Picos de Europa when the first rays of sun light up the impressive jagged peaks. We have breakfast before wandering around the pretty old village of Espinama. After lunch It is likely that we will take an afternoon cable car ride up into the central massif of the Picos de Europa. The excursion offers dazzling views of the whole area; some superb locations on top of the world in the very heart of a remarkable rock landscape. This is a wildly graphic landscape of towers and sheer rock faces carved during the ice age, a peaceful and magnificent place to capture striking images in the evening sunlight. Quite often we will see the Rebeccos which are very sure footed small deer, rather like Alpine Ibex. Our hotel owner Santi will often pick us up for an interesting 4×4 drive back down to our hotel.
Accommodation Hotel Espinama (B,L,D)

Day 4: Potes and Drive to Cain

This morning we will explore Potes a traditional market town with interesting cobbled streets and traditional architecture. This is the perfect place to sit outside one of the excellent street Cafes to watch the world go by whilst enjoying a coffee or something stronger. Potes is the perfect place for buying local products and souvenirs. Late morning we begin the spectacular drive to Cain south of the Picos. Our journey will be punctuated by stops to photograph many special places. We enjoy a picnic lunch on the Saint Glorio Pass at 1600 metres. Here there are fine views of the mountains of the Picos de Europa. En route to Cain is the Consejo of Castilla de Leon, we capture images of a gentle and traditional way of life where the women work in the fields, men scythe the meadows and wear clogs. Our hotel is beautifully situated in the tiny village of Cain at the start the phenomenal Garganta del Cares, a stunning water filled ravine that cuts dramatically through the Central and Eastern massifs of the Picos.
Accommodation Hotel Cain (B,L,D)

Day 5: The Cares Gorge

Our sunrise location this morning allows us to shoot the remarkable limestone walls of rock being lit by the morning sun. The village of Cordianes makes a gorgeous foreground. We return to our hotel for breakfast. Ana will make sure that we have plenty to eat during our stay. After making up our picnic lunch we set off on foot to explore locations in The Cares Gorge arguably one of Spains most incredible walks. At first the river meanders gently before plunging abruptly into a deep ravine. Trees grow haphazardly from the dizzying cliffs and the ever-changing light will make for some exciting and interesting photography. At each and every turn there is something to catch our eyes and take our breath away. Look out for the wild goats leaping nimbly on the precipitous cliffs and griffon vultures soaring in the thermals high above. Alpine Choughs often gather in large numbers at this time of year. If we are extremely lucky we may get a glimpse of the tiny Wallcreeper an extremely elusive bird that lives on steep mountain cliffs and resembles a butterfly when it flashes its brilliant, crimson-patterned wings. We return to our hotel late afternoon in time for a pre dinner get together outside on the terrace.
Accommodation Hotel Cain (B,L,D)

Day 6: Abandoned Villages of the Beyos

Our route today passes through some memorable locations. We will travel by road visiting a few of the most traditional and picturesque villages that Asturias and Leon have to offer; this is surely one of the most lovely drives in Spain. We visit Los Beyos in Ponga, the wildest and most unexplored corner of the area. Deep ravines, ancient forests and towering limestone walls have limited the development of villages to the river’s edge or in the high meadows where they cluster together, all seem lost in time, and some, like Viboli with only 10 inhabitants are almost totally abandoned. We will photograph some fine examples of traditional Beyos architecture. We stop at both the Mirador de Piedra-shitas and Mirador de Valdeon both stupendous locations for photographing the west and central massifs of the mountains. This is a busy but rewarding day photographically. This evening we go out for dinner in Cangas de Onis one of the main market towns of Asturias.
Accommodation Hotel Soto de Onis (B,L,D)

Day 7: Los Lagos and Traditional Villages

Before breakfast an impressive drive takes us high into the mountains to our sunrise location; the serene Los Lagos These high lakes are set against a back-drop of limestone peaks providing excellent sunrise colours and reflections. We return through Covandonga, the spiritual heartland of Asturias.
Breakfast is served by Emilio the owner of our small family hotel, a full “English” with everything else besides! Mid morning we will drive to Arenas de Cabrales, named after the famous mouth numbing blue cheese that this area is famous for. We may well take the under-mountain funicular railway to the tiny village of Bulnes. If you are feeling adventurous there is a lovely walk back down the mountainside on a path which is the only other way to access the village. Late afternoon we drive up to Asiego, a beautiful small village with many photographic sites. We will take a walk to an impressive view point located here that will give us some views of the high summits of Picos de Europa including the most dramatic of all, El Naranjo. After our sunset shoot we head back to our hotel for dinner.
Accommodation Hotel Soto de Onis (B,L,D)

Day 8: Tazones and Muros de Nalon

Following an optional early morning wander around the village we will enjoy a leisurely breakfast before heading to the coast. We will drive down the coastal estuary of Villaviciosa, an area of great beauty and diversity to the quaint fishing village of Tazones. This very traditional fishing village has steep old cobbled streets, typical brightly painted terraced houses and doors, wooden galleries and some of the best small fish restaurants in Northern Spain. Fortunately for us, the wild coastal scenery of the Costa Verde is little known except to the more discerning Spanish. After lunch, we will spend the afternoon wandering at a leisurely pace exploring and photographing the village. Perhaps we can enjoy a glass of the delicious Cider so revered in Asturias. Late afternoon sees us taking the 45 minute drive to our final hotel, Palacio de La Magdalena Hotel overlooking the estuary of the Nalon River as it flows into the Bay of Biscay.
Accommodation (B,D)

Day 9: Airport Transfer

After an early breakfast we transfer (10 minutes) to Asturias Airport for our homeward flight. If guests wish to stay on at the for an extra night, please contact the office and we will give you the details. There will only be one transfer to the airport after breakfast, if your flight is later in the day then the hotel can book you a transfer taxi.

Joining arrangements and Transfers

The local airport is Oviedo, Asturias (OVD). It is well served with flights from Europe. There will be timed transfers from/to Oviedo/Asturias airport on Day 1 and Day 9. We will provide transfers to the hotel meeting flights coming into Asturias Airport between 11:00 am and 18:30 on Day 1 and after breakfast on Day 9. If you are arriving/departing outside our official transfer times, taxis will be available at both the airport and the hotel. They cost around 25€ each way. If you prefer to arrive before Day 1 we are able to advise you of our small hotel in the first night village of Cudillero. Please contact the office if you require further information.

What’s Included

  • 8 nights small family run hotels
  • 8 breakfast, 6 lunches, 8 dinners (B,L,D) indicated on the daily itinerary
  • Local wine with dinner
  • Airport transfers x 2 (within the specified times)
  • Guide
  • Photographic tutor
  • Cable car
  • Funicular railway

What’s not Included

  • International flights
  • Lunch on Day 8
  • Alcoholic beverages except some house wine with dinner
  • Snacks, alcoholic drinks and hot beverages other than with meals
  • Travel insurance

Complete Itinerary and Full Details

This page is only a brief summary. A complete itinerary and full details can be found in our trip description PDF It is important that you read the full day-to-day description and further information for this holiday before making your booking.