Exquisite alpine flowers in their perfect settings
- Join casual flower walks with David Charlton in May & early June
The Picos de Europa National Park represents an easy and rewarding introduction to alpine flora. Numerous tracks and paths at village level provide easy access to walkers of all levels of fitness to the phenomenal flora that thrives on our doorstep.. From the moment the first spring flowers burst forth through the snow-melt, the floral magic of the Picos is there for all to see. Whatever it is that ultimately attracts you to these special mountains, you cannot fail to be overwhelmed by this natural splendour.
Stunning flora and fauna
The Picos invites visitors of all abilities to experience the joy of alpine flowers, from the valleys of the Liébana to the extraordinary landscape of sheer limestone cliffs that awaits you at the viewing platform at the top of the exhilarating 800m cable car at Fuente De. The joy of seeing alpine flowers in their perfect setting never fails. And that’s the real magic.
Designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2003 the diversity of the wildlife is second to none in the whole of Western Europe with over 1400 species and nearly 50 types of orchid, many flourishing in the hay meadows that are amongst the richest of European habitats - Pink Butterfly, Bee, Spider, Burnt, Fly, Lizard, Man and Birds Nest are among the many botanical highlights.
The deciduous woodland and meadows at lower level are home to species such as white asphodel, semi-parasitic yellow rattle, heartflowered serapias, tassel hyacinths, early purple orchids, fragrant orchids – there are more than 40 orchid species in the national park! – masterwort and lungwort, to name but a few.Higher up, nestled between the limestone, summer grazing pastures become a floral paradise – tall purple spikes of monkshood aconites, the Merendera montana lily, gentians, carpets of wild narcissus, snakeshead fritillary, burnt orchids, black vanilla orchids, and common spotted orchids, all making their homes here. Under ancient oak, lime, chestnut, walnut, hazel and elm trees, grow species such as wood anemone, wood sorrel, stinking and green hellebores, dog violets, primroses, and martagon lilies. Above the tree-line, small rock gardens play host to hardy species like bellflowers, ferns, stonecrops, saxifrages, sedges and toadflaxes.
early season flower walks
By May, there is much to enjoy in the Picos for flower lovers. In Summer 2014 between 18 May and 6 June, guests of Collett's will be able to go out on free and optional flower walks with David Charlton. As one of our regular flower walkers in the Dolomites, David is well-known to many of our flower-loving guests and recently co-wrote the book ‘Mountain Flowers – The Dolomites.’ David is new to the Picos, so he is keen for us to stress his flower walks will be as much a mission of discovery for him as they will be for you (!) and hence we emphasise their informal atmosphere.
From river-valleys at almost sea-level to alpine habitats in the high mountains, the Picos de Europa are home to a wealth of animal-life. The graceful and agile ‘rebeco’ (or chamois) are often seen on higher slopes. Roe deer dart through the woodlands, where you might also see red squirrels. The marten, wild cat, stoat, otter, fox, badger, polecat and weasel will be seen by the more alert amongst you. Evidence of wild boars is common but sightings are very rare – but not as rare, however, as sightings of the Cantabrian brown bear!
Golden eagles are regular visitors to the skies but it is more common to see the Egyptian and Griffon vultures riding the mid-day thermals. The crimson winged wallcreeper remains elusive but you might see one on the remoter rock-faces of the national park. Of course, the ubiquitous alpine choughs will loiter cheekily at mountain refuges or known picnic spots. Also making an appearance during your stay will hopefully be the black woodpecker, middle spotted woodpecker, treecreeper, snow finch, alpine accentor, eagle owl and peregrine. Butterflies abound here, particularly in the lower wildflower meadows. Some are endangered, such as the marsh fritillary, but others thrive and bring great pleasure to low and medium level walkers.
In pictures – Wildflowers, Birds & Butterflies Walks