Walking in Asturias – The Camino Real del Puerto de la Mesa

Having hiked in Asturias a few times before I was prepared for open trails and amazing views. The Camino Real del Puerto de la Mesa, high up in the mountains provides all this, along with an amazing insight into local history.

The GR-101 is a path that runs from south to north through Asturias, leaving Torrestío and ending at Las Cruces, after passing through Belmonte. The route follows the old Roman road of La Mesa, more commonly known as El Camín Real. This route linked the Castilian plateau with the town of Gijón.

The Roman road is around 45km long. This trail also has a variant, the GR-101.1 Camino Real de Cueiru to Villanueva, which is what we walked (in reverse).

For an Open Street Map view of the whole of the GR101.1 click here – we opted to walk as far as the old historical town of Bandujo / Banduxu.

Walking the GR 101.1

We started our walk along the trail from Castanedo del Monte, a small village in the hills above the old industrial town of Trubia and heading for the medieval town of Bandujo.

Should you wish to start the trail lower down the valley is possible to walk up the hill from Villanueva, along the old packhorse trail, following the signs for Cuevallagar. (We used this route to head down to Villanueva a few days later and I can confirm its easy to navigate and a lovely walk through the woods – although preferable downhill!)

From Castanedo del Monte the trail, signposted as the GR 101.1, heads out of the village on a small lane which hugs the side of the hill and looks out over the woodland and valley below.

The lane eventually turns into a dirt track and heads into the woodland towards the old local mines. The town of Trubia in the valley used to be a bustling industrial town with workers coming up the hill to work in the mines. Now the mines are abandoned and provide an interesting feature along the walk.

From the mines the path winds up the hillside to eventually reach the top and the village of Linares, where you can follow the road to reach a small car park where people come to sit and admire the view.

Here the Camino Real del Puerto de la Mesa, is at its peak. The track now heads across the top of the hill, giving amazing views to the mountains beyond as it winds along.

On a scorching hot day at the end of August it was beautiful, but also a shade free place to be at midday. We continued along the track as it wound around the hillside, past farm fields and small limestone escarpments above. Despite being a walking trail this is also farming country, with lots of cattle roaming, and the occasional farm truck whizzing past kicking up the dust.

Around lunchtime we reached Cuevallagar, a plateau with a perfect lunch spot near a tree.

After a feast of Asturias cheese and bread with cider we followed the GR101.1 towards Maraviu, turning off the track to head across the grassy plateau. Eventually the track re-emerges for a while and you start to wind downhill to a bend where you reach a junction and turn right to end up in another grassy field. Here you head across and uphill to reach a gate and the road.

We were met at the gate by an old farmer tending his cattle and a small yapping chihuahua. He offered his chilled CocaCola from a hidden freezer box, which Leah of course accepted in her fluent Spanish. He confirmed that we were on the road which headed down to Bandujo.

While the route was no longer the official trail and now a tarmac road it was still quiet and peaceful and on arriving near Bandujo I could see why Leah had insisted that this was our goal.

The church of St. Mary in the centre of Bandujo is of medieval origin and underwent restoration in the 18th century. The palace of Bandujo and its tower is one of the best preserved late medieval defensive towers in Asturias. This building also served as a prison and town hall.

Here we were lucky enough to be met by Dan, Leah’s husband for a lift back to Villanueva.

Asturias – Cares Gorge walk

After an amazing couple of days in Somiedo National Park we jumped on the early bus back to Oviedo to catch another two to eventually arrive in Arenas de Cabrales for two days of walking in the Picos de Europa mountains.

The tiny tourist info centre in Arenas provides free maps but they aren’t great. Green (easy) routes are easy to navigate as well waymarked but we did have an afternoon mishap trying to navigate a blue (medium) route back to Arenas as the path disappeared and we had to scale a wall and under a fence to get on a track. Serves us right for walking into Poo de Cabrales just for a photo of the road sign (immature i know!)

So the following day we went for a proper hike.

Ruta de Cares – 12km one way

229 cares gorgeWe paid 7 euros for a taxi to Poncebos to the start of the Cares Gorge route. It was already scorching hot despite it being early morning so it didn’t take long to tire us out. The route is simple to navigate as you just follow the only path there is, take care in wet or windy weather as it is a very long fall down into the gorge.

Also, take lots of water if it is hot, as there is nowhere to get water along the way (the canals alongside the path are too high to dip a bottle into). Its 12km before you get to the little village of Cain at the end of the gorge.

244 cares gorgeLos Calloas is the highest point of the route, its pretty much downhill or flat from there on.

249 cares gorgeYou can just see the path wind around the mountainside.

288 area boundaryAlong the route you officially leave Asturias and walk into the district/ region of Leon. We were too hot to be impressed to be honest.

289 cares gorgeEventually the gorge becomes less rocky and sparse (and dusty) and becomes lush with trees. And then the tunnels and bridges start to appear.304 cares gorge

Eventually the path meets the river and you arrive in Cain village centre. A wonderful little village surrounded by the mountains of the Picos de Europa national park326 cainNow you need to know the following important fact that no-one seems to share on the net or even at the tourist information office, but we were glad to find out.

It is possible to just walk one direction.

Obviously this is only possible if, like us, you got a taxi to the start in Poncebos. However, so you avoid being ripped of by the multitude of taxis waiting in Cain, you need to arrive well before 4pm to catch one of the two little buses that run from Cain to Cangas de Onis.

We would have been happy to walk back if it hadn’t been 35 degrees C but we lacked enthusiasm to walk from the lush end of the gorge back to the dusty sections, which also meant walking uphill. So it was wonderful to find out there was a bus we could catch.

It is definitely worth getting there early as some people start at Cain and turn back, and there is only two little buses. So if you arrive early buy the tickets before you run for lunch or ice-creams.

The bus ride was suprisingly worth it, to see the other side of the Picos where it is more forested, and to see snow still on the summits, even in September sunshine. It is also a bargain bus ride as it is less than 8 euros for a 1 and half hour bus ride.

Cares Gorge on the Ruta de Cares is impressive and a great taste of the Picos de Europa mountains, I’ll certainly be back.

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Asturias – walking in the Somiedo National Park

Having spent an afternoon in the major city in Asturias, Oviedo, we jumped on the bus to Pola de Somiedo for a couple of days of walking.

Having never visited Asturias before I was amazed at how big and beautiful the landscape is and I certainly would recommend Somiedo to everyone. Its quiet and being a national park it is never going to be over developed like some of the towns in the Picos Mountain area.

86 ruta de los lagos de la salencia

Its really easy to get maps from the tourist information office in the centre of the village but you do need to book a taxi to get to the start of the walks, there is only one in the village and he gets very busy. It went against my better judgement to set off on a huge walk with just a leaflet, but the whole area is really well sign posted so its easy to navigate. Having being unable to get a proper map, and having walked in the Alps before I knew a leaflet would do.

Ruta de los Lagos de Saliencia – 23.5 km

Make sure the taxi drives through the village of Valle del Lago and drops you at the start of the path to the Lago del Valle (the lake). Follow this path to were it splits and the signs point to the Ruta de Siliencia which starts to head up the hillside. From here the path is way marked by a white and yellow striped symbol on rocks, make sure you follow these. The map we had confusingly suggested that we needed to zig zag up the hillside, but we trusted the way markers more than the map so we headed along the track a bit further. Eventually we reached another signpost half way up the mountain path.

103 routesWe would eventually walk back here to head across to Lago del Valle, but for now we continued up the mountain pass to Lagos de Saliencia.

A map would have usefully told us how far we would have to walk, as in the 35 degree heat it eventually took us 2 and a half hours to reach the lakes from this point. On the way to the top of the pass there is a water trough with a spring near the top which is useful for filling up bottles. From there, the path heads steadily downhill towards the lakes.

116 ruta de los lagos de la salencia

Compared to the Lago del Valle route which is more popular along the valley bottom, the route to Siliencia is very quiet and once your over the mountain pass it feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere.

When you get to the final high point, you need to cut off the main track to the right over a little rocky path to see the most beautiful lake of the 4 in the area – lake Calabazosa. A great spot for a late lunch, since from here you need to head back.

134 Lago de calabazosa

After lunch we headed back to the top of the pass, filled up our water at the spring, and headed back to the sign. From here we decided to carry on to do the Lago del Valle walk too, so from the sign we continued on – contouring around the mountainside. The path here is narrow and obviously less well walked but otherwise easy to follow.

151 valle de lagosWe were glad to have made the effort to walk to the Lakes of Saliencia as Lago del Valle is big but dammed and with a wide track to its edge it feels a lot less remote. We walked across the dam and headed down the far side through the woodlands.

The path through the woods eventually becomes a track but is a great spot to see the branas, old sheperd huts which have been preserved. It was also great to finally be out of the sunshine.

167 brana

The whole walk took us 9 hours and 20 minutes but we did have a long lunch and paddle in the lake.