Walking Holidays

Europe’s majestic mountains ~ with a genuine specialist
Organised & Self-guided Walking

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Organised & Self-guided Walking with a Genuine Specialist

“I wonder if there is any better way to spend a week of a what is a short life than wandering at a gentle pace in warm, sunny weather through acres of alpine meadows filled with spring flowers and framed by snow capped mountains?”

Add to that a background sound track of jays, chiff-chaffs, cuckoos and cow bells and some very good company and you have, in my view, the recipe for a perfect trip… The Spring flower season here is short but spectacular – there are around three weeks between 20th May and 7th June when the mountains burst into life with a wide array of colourful alpine plants. You can see at least 170 different plants (the number featured in Mountain Flowers, Pyrenees and Picos by Cliff Booker and David Charlton) including some stunning orchids and a number of plants that grow only in this region, making sightings extra special. Meadows jam packed full of orchids that would be protected as a site of special interest and attract numerous visitors back home in the UK are laid out here seemingly just for you. On the majority of our walks in the Picos this week, we saw no-one on other than the group we were walking with.

Walking in  the Tuscan Hills with Collett's Walking in  the Tuscan Hills with Collett's
Flower Holidays in the Picos de Europa Flower Holidays in the Picos de Europa
Flower Holidays in the Picos de Europa Flower Holidays in the Picos de Europa
Flower Holidays in the Picos de Europa Flower Holidays in the Picos de Europa
Flower Holidays in the Picos de Europa Flower Holidays in the Picos de Europa
Flower Holidays in the Picos de Europa Flower Holidays in the Picos de Europa
Flower Holidays in the Picos de Europa Flower Holidays in the Picos de Europa
Flower Holidays in the Picos de Europa Flower Holidays in the Picos de Europa
Flower Holidays in the Picos de Europa Flower Holidays in the Picos de Europa
Flower Holidays in the Picos de Europa Flower Holidays in the Picos de Europa
Flower Holidays in the Picos de Europa Flower Holidays in the Picos de Europa
Flower Holidays in the Picos de Europa Flower Holidays in the Picos de Europa
Flower Holidays in the Picos de Europa Flower Holidays in the Picos de Europa
Flower Holidays in the Picos de Europa Flower Holidays in the Picos de Europa

We joined a trip organised by Collett’s Mountain Holidays and were very impressed with their organisation and how the trip was constructed – I would recommend them highly.

The Picos is where Northern and Southern Europe meet. This means that you can see a huge variety of flora in one place. The weather during our week was warm and sunny and quite hot on a number of days towards the end of the week – even in the high mountains. The cool mountain breeze really helped to refresh us on the hot days though. We had just a shower of rain on the first day, although the forecast was for more rain the week after our trip finished, so I think we were somewhat lucky with the weather.

​The trees are mostly deciduous here which gives a lovely soft feel to the mountain sides and the play of light through the branches makes for much more interesting scenery than you would get if the trees were evergreen. It would be a beautiful place to visit in the Autumn as the leaves began to turn, although you would not see as many flowers as we did then. We picked our way carefully through the paths, treading gently and taking care not to tread on the delicate little alpine plants we had travelled so far to see. In several places, it seemed at first sight that there was nothing much to see – you could easily have driven or walked straight past and missed everything. With careful guiding though, a closer exploration of woodlands, rocks, meadows and crevices yielded a string of treats and surprises. Stopping to inspect still closer, the intricate beauty of the alpine flowers slowly reveals itself. When you are seeing so many orchid, which are the undoubted stars of the show here, it is all too easy to overlook some of the other equally beautiful plants. For example the alpine eyebright – a minuscule flower only just over a couple of millimetres wide – so small you could pass by without noticing or easily crush it underfoot. Pause a while to inspect its delicate beauty and you will be well rewarded.

Fascinating fact: The alpine meadows are in fact man -made. If they were not grazed or mown, they would cease to exist because they would be overtaken by woodlands. The tree seedlings that you see scattered through the meadows are a constant reminder of this.

Foodie Firsts: Padrón pepper. Pimientos de Padrõn are small, bright green peppers from the northwest part of Spain. They are mild but occasionally surprisingly spicy making eating them an exciting voyage of discovery. To make them at home, take around 300 grams of Padrõn peppers and wash and dry them well. Heat around 50ml of extra virgin olive oil in a pan over a high heat until it starts to smoke. Add the peppers and cook, tossing them continuously until the skin starts to blister and soften. Pile the glistening green peppers high on a serving plate and season generously with flaky sea salt to taste. Heavenly!

Wish I had packed: – binoculars, plastic bags for picnic waste, compede plasters (we walked a LONG way in the heat!). Woolly hat and gloves – we didn’t actually need them, but it could well have been cold up there in the mountains and they are no use to you left back at home.

Glad I packed: – suncream, water bottle, raincoat.

Margot Harbot is a walker and travel blogger – you can see her blog at lovetowander.co.uk and you can follow her on instagram @lovetowander.co.uk

For next year’s dates – see Flower Walks in the Picos de Europa for more information.

In Summer 2018, I hosted walks for walkers on flower holidays in the Picos de Europa with Collett’s Mountain Holidays. When I got there in mid-May there was snow up high and the valleys were warm and arid with an unusual scarcity of flora. This was a problem, as May in the Picos is usually a festival of flora. What was I going to do? Well, I was let off the hook by the rain, which precipitated a quick and wonderful explosion of floral development and snowmelt. But it remained a unique May from the flower lover’s perspective. The daffodils were not as abundant as usual – and the same applied to the wetland orchids. But the Mediterranean orchids that thrive in warm and dry conditions blew my socks off and I had never seen such an abundance! That said, the Pink Butterfly orchids (Orchis papillonaceae) in their thousands took the biscuit.

Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Scarce swallowtail Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Scarce swallowtail
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Sawfly orchid Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Sawfly orchid
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Knapweed fritillary Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Knapweed fritillary
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Saxifraga Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Saxifraga
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Rebecco Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Rebecco
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Dogs tooth violet Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Dogs tooth violet
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Fuente dé Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Fuente dé
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Fuente dé Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Fuente dé
Walking Holiday Ideas and Information - Office Hour Walking Holiday Ideas and Information - Office Hour
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Daffodils Peurto de San Glorio Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Daffodils Peurto de San Glorio
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Peurto de San Glorio Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Peurto de San Glorio
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Man Orchid Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Man Orchid
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Meadows near Fuente dé Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Meadows near Fuente dé
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Bartons orchid Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Bartons orchid
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Angels Tear's Narcissus Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Angels Tear's Narcissus
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Grass Snake Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Grass Snake
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Schriebers Green Lizard Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Schriebers Green Lizard
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Lebana Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Lebana
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Flower rich meadow Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Flower rich meadow
Walking Holiday Ideas and Information - Office Hour Walking Holiday Ideas and Information - Office Hour
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Spiny Toad Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Spiny Toad
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Pink butterfly orchid Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Pink butterfly orchid
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - White Storks at Vanes Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - White Storks at Vanes
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Daffodils Peurto San Glorio Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Daffodils Peurto San Glorio
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Spring Gentian Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Spring Gentian
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa
Walking Holiday Ideas and Information - Office Hour Walking Holiday Ideas and Information - Office Hour
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Peony Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Peony
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Asturias Daffodil Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Asturias Daffodil
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Bug orchid Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Bug orchid

Any flower walking holiday in the Picos de Europa with Collett’s is likely to feature Lebena in the Hermida Gorge and in 2018 it was a real winner. In exquisite low-lying woodland we were overwhelmed by Mediterranean flower species, thriving in the gorgeous weather. Further up, another wood accommodated deep pink Peonies (Paeonia mascula), which I had never seen in flower previously. Another first for me was the yellow Pyrenean lilies (Lilium pyrenaicum) that typically flower In July. The pastures were unbeatable in their offerings and we stood in awe in front of a backdrop of impressive rock formations. Experiences like these gel a group of like-minded, flower-appreciating strangers very quickly and we were soon a close-knit bunch, bonded by the heartwarming power of a flower holiday.

Fuente Dé is a ‘must-visit’ location for alpine flower lovers – superlative in almost every way. Here the trumpet daffodil Narcissus asturiensis took our breath away because it was so abundant. The Pasque flowers were impressive too. The first to bloom are the Spring Pasque flowers (Pulsatilla vernalis) with pretty white petals tinted with purple outside and golden stamens within. After these, we saw the Common Pasque flowers (Pulsatilla vulgaris, a rare British native) with flowers of deep purple. We also saw Pulsatilla hispanica subspecies rubra, endemic to the Picos with maroon flowers that seem black in sunlight.

I left the Picos at the end of May and made my way to the carpet of Gentians, Saxifrage and Primulas in and around Panticosa, where I was to host flower holidays in the Pyrenees for Collett’s. Nevertheless, my visit to the Picos had confirmed to me that they represent one of the best places in Europe to enjoy high alpine flora simultaneously with profuse meadow flowers, woodland species and an unrivalled display of orchids.

For upcoming dates and holidays – see Flower Holidays in the Picos de Europa for more information.

“…there is a lot for the naturalist to discover and enjoy in the Picos, and we look forward to finding more interesting species next year” – John & Jo Morris

We were delighted to be invited by Collett’s to lead ten wild flower walks in May 2016. We stayed in the very comfortable Posada El Corcal in Tama run by the Soberon family, with meals in their friendly restaurant just nearby. It was our second visit to the Picos, having been shown a number of good flower sites by David Charlton during our stay the year before. However this year we started a couple of weeks earlier in mid May. It had been a cold winter with quite a bit of snow, so some flowers were later to appear than we had expected.

Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Scarce swallowtail Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Scarce swallowtail
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Sawfly orchid Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Sawfly orchid
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Knapweed fritillary Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Knapweed fritillary
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Saxifraga Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Saxifraga
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Rebecco Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Rebecco
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Dogs tooth violet Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Dogs tooth violet
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Fuente dé Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Fuente dé
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Fuente dé Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Fuente dé
Walking Holiday Ideas and Information - Office Hour Walking Holiday Ideas and Information - Office Hour
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Daffodils Peurto de San Glorio Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Daffodils Peurto de San Glorio
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Peurto de San Glorio Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Peurto de San Glorio
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Man Orchid Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Man Orchid
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Meadows near Fuente dé Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Meadows near Fuente dé
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Bartons orchid Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Bartons orchid
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Angels Tear's Narcissus Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Angels Tear's Narcissus
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Grass Snake Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Grass Snake
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Schriebers Green Lizard Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Schriebers Green Lizard
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Lebana Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Lebana
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Flower rich meadow Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Flower rich meadow
Walking Holiday Ideas and Information - Office Hour Walking Holiday Ideas and Information - Office Hour
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Spiny Toad Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Spiny Toad
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Pink butterfly orchid Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Pink butterfly orchid
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - White Storks at Vanes Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - White Storks at Vanes
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Daffodils Peurto San Glorio Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Daffodils Peurto San Glorio
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Spring Gentian Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Spring Gentian
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa
Walking Holiday Ideas and Information - Office Hour Walking Holiday Ideas and Information - Office Hour
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Peony Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Peony
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Asturias Daffodil Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Asturias Daffodil
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Bug orchid Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Bug orchid

David suggested we visit Lebena early on to see the wild peonies. We found them in full flower during our first walk, along with lots of sword-leaved white helleborines and tall violet limodores in the woodland. All had finished flowering when we went back just a week later, but we were then treated to flower rich meadows with pink butterfly orchids, robust marsh orchids, so many serapias, and my first ever bug orchid.

A similar story of rapid flowering was seen elsewhere. We went up by cable car to the heights of Fuente Dé twice during our stay and the first time there was still lots of snow so few species of flowers to be seen. But we did see numerous tiny Asturias daffodils flowering in the melt areas and we had great views of rebecco, a local form of the chamois, and of choughs and griffon vultures. When we went back to Fuente Dé for our last flower walk at the end of May, the bright blue spring gentians and various pasque flowers all opened during the day. We also found the yellow Saxifraga fellineri , Saxifraga conifera and a tiny Daphne shrub Thymelaea dioica.

There are some spectacular mountain views from the high passes, making the windy drive up to Puerto de San Glorio with its impressive bear statue worthwhile. Here a pine plantation, thinned since our visit the year before, had a carpet of dogs tooth violets Erythronium dens-canis in full flower, along with Hepatica nobilis, to be almost completely replaced by wood anemones by our second visit. Other highlights of this area were the delicate forms of numerous white angel’s tears daffodils Narcisuss triandrus and of the beautiful sand crocus Romulea bulbocodium. There were also good numbers of Pyrenean fritillary and elder-flowered orchids in both pale yellow and purple forms. During our lunch break on this walk we enjoyed a thrilling view of a hovering short toed eagle and later saw red backed shrikes in the scrub.

In the beech woods below Fuente Dé were many plants that I am familiar with from the Chilterns where I work, but with plenty of extra species. These included large pale blue Scilla and other plants which are rare back home but growing in good numbers here, such as red helleborine, herb Paris and Solomon’s seal. In the lower meadows we found a good mix of showy orchids including sawfly and very fresh dull orchids, only to find on a second visit that cattle had been allowed in to one flower rich area, including a sizeable bull, so our exploration was more limited than expected! Nearby, Bartons and Man orchids were in full flower. In wet flushes were colourful masses of purple insectivorous large flowered butterwort, golden marsh marigolds and the tight yellow heads of globe flowers.

In the fields around the fascinating old town of Potes just up the valley from the Posada, where Collett’s is based, there were many other species to see, including lizard, green winged, bee and woodcock orchids. Birds such as swifts, redstarts and black redstarts can be seen flying around the old buildings from the cafes in the centre of town.

In this part of Spain as well as an amazing range of alpine and lowland flowers, birds, butterflies, and amphibians can all be seen in good numbers. We found reptiles such as the spectacular blue headed Shreiber’s green lizard, grass snake and slow worm. Walking the mountain paths we were lucky to come across a rare fire salamander and a spiny toad sitting in a perfectly clear mountain stream. We enjoyed a drive to Vanes to see white storks on their nests on the roof tops of the village by the lake, their comical displays of clacking bills contrasting with their beautiful soaring grace in flight. At a mirador viewpoint overlooking the spectacular Hermida gorge we shared our packed lunch with an abundance of swallowtail, scarce swallowtail and other butterflies, with close views of Griffon and Egyptian vultures.
So there is lots for the naturalist to discover and enjoy in the Picos, and we look forward to finding more interesting species next year.

John & Jo Morris

For next year’s dates – see Flower Walks in the Picos de Europa for more information.

Wildflower Report – Summer 2017
Picos de Europa Wildflower Walking Holidays with Collett's Mountain HolidaysPicos de Europa Wildflower Walking Holidays with Collett's Mountain HolidaysPicos de Europa Wildflower Walking Holidays with Collett's Mountain HolidaysPicos de Europa Wildflower Walking Holidays with Collett's Mountain Holidays

With thanks to John & Jo Morris – Flower Walks Hosts

Well what a difference a year makes! 2017 was a very different flower season in the Picos de Europa to 2016. This led to new discoveries. Just as in England spring started very early in March and it had been very dry period with little snow, which unfortunately led to some forest fires in April. These burnt areas could prove to be very interesting for wild flowers in the next year or two.

We stayed in the very comfortable Posada El Corcal in Tama run by the Soberon family with other Colletts guests. Birds such as redstarts and black redstarts are common, serin (a small yellow green finch) and Egyptian vultures, black kites and short toed eagles can all be seen flying around from the Posada, along with numerous house martins, swallows and swifts. Tama is just a couple of miles from the ancient market town of Potes, the centre of this region, with plenty of shops, bars and restaurants. You can easily walk there along the back road by the river. The red squirrels around here are almost black, I had a close view of one in an orchard opposite the supermarket! Lizard and bee orchids grow in the road verges.

A mammal highlight was a probable beech marten crossing the road on the drive to the limestone heights of Fuente De. We went up by cable car at Fuente De three times. This year the bright blue spring and trumpet gentians were everywhere, along with pale blue spring squill. A highlight was finding black pasque flowers, which seem to develop after the white and purple species. In the beech woods below Fuente De were many plants that I am familiar with from the Chilterns where I work, including herb Paris and Solomon’s seal. We also found a couple of very early English iris, normally a summer species. In these woods and meadows we found many orchids, some familiar from England like twayblade, pyramidal, early spider, man and birds-nest orchids, but others such as woodcock, dull bee, bartons, sawfly and pink butterfly orchid which occur in the Picos. A first for me was the delicate pink of Lange’s orchid in woodland. We recorded and photographed over 30 species of orchids in the three weeks we were in Spain.

This part of Spain has an amazing range of alpine and lowland flowers, many birds, numerous active butterflies (over 150 species of butterflies have been recorded in the Picos De Europa) and other interesting species. We also found reptiles such as the impressive foot long green Occelated lizard. There are spectacular mountain views from the high passes, making the windy drive up to Puerto de San Glorio with its impressive bear statue worthwhile. I saw my first Citril finch from the picnic site at the pass. One bright sunny day we continued on through the Picos De Europa National Park to Cain and the start of the famous Cares Gorge.

I was pleased to find a number of areas with ancient veteran trees, mainly old sweet chestnut pollards, some now in woodlands but others in wood pasture with grazing cattle and horses. Whilst at Pendes admiring these trees overhead there was a circling flock of over 60 Griffon vultures and not far away Peregrine falcons were calling to their young. Along with a return trip to the highly entertaining nesting storks at Vanes, both the flora and fauna of the amazing Picos de Europa area were as impressive as ever.

Thanks to John & Jo Morris for the report and superb photos.

Orchids in 2017
White lizard orchidWoodcock orchidPicos de Europa Vanilla orchid

Orchids found by John Morris

  1. Man Orchid
  2. Early Purple
  3. Lange’s
  4. Lizard
  5. Pink Butterfly
  6. Pyramidal
  7. Early Spider
  8. Dull bee
  9. Bartons
  10. Birds nest
  11. Common  Spotted
  12. Burnt
  13. Sawfly
  14. Violet Limodore
  15. Sword leaved white helleborine
  16. Woodcock
  17. Bug
  18. Robust Marsh
  19. Southern Marsh
  20. Small tongue – Serapia
  21. Tongue orchid – Serapia
  22. Heart tongue – Serapia
  23. Red helleborine
  24. Broadleaved helleborine
  25. Small leaved helleborine
  26. Fragrant – (marsh)
  27. Fragrant – (chalk)
  28. Vanilla
  29. Elderflower
  30. Bee
  31. Twayblade
  32. Pale flowered orchid
  33. Green winged orchid

Birds in 2017
Nesting white storksVultureVultures in the Picos de EuropaAlpine Choughs in the Picos de Europa

Birds seen by John Morris

  1. Redstart
  2. Black redstart
  3. Robin
  4. Swift
  5. Swallow
  6. House martin
  7. Crag martin
  8. Jay
  9. Magpie
  10. Raven
  11. Carrion crow
  12. Blackbird
  13. Song thrush
  14. Mistle thrush
  15. House sparrow
  16. Corn bunting
  17. Cirl bunting
  18. Chaffinch
  19. Goldfinch
  20. Greenfinch
  21. Bullfinch
  22. Citril Finch
  23. Linnet
  24. Serin
  25. Wren
  26. Egyptian vulture
  27. Griffon vulture
  28. Buzzard
  29. Sparrow hawk
  30. Kestrel
  31. Peregrine
  32. Black kite
  33. Short toed eagle
  34. Great spotted woodpecker
  35. Stonechat
  36. Spotted flycatcher
  37. Grey Heron
  38. White stork
  39. Chough
  40. Alpine chough
  41. Blue tit
  42. Great tit
  43. Long tailed tit
  44. Goldcrest
  45. Treecreeper
  46. Nuthatch
  47. Willow warbler
  48. Blackcap
  49. Whitethroat
  50. Spotted flycatcher
  51. Wood pigeon
  52. Red backed shrike
  53. Grey shrike
  54. Dipper
  55. White wagtail
  56. Grey Wagtail
  57. Mallard duck
  58. Rock bunting
  59. Alpine accentor
  60. Snow finch
  61. Water pipit
  62. Yellowhammer
  63. Skylark
  64. Tree pipit
  65. Tawny Owl (H)
  66. Cuckoo (H & S)

Other Fauna

  1. Fox (near Puerto San Glorio)
  2. Red squirrel (including in Potes)
  3. Beech Marten (crossing road near Fuente De)
  4. Mole (dead)
  5. Rebecco (on Fuente Dé)
  6. Occelated lizards at Lebena<
  7. Wall lizards
  8. Toads

Butterflies in 2017
Black veined whiteOld Cleopatra on ValerianOrange Tip on Blue Gromwell

Butterflies seen by John Morris

(most were photographed to help ID)

  1. Orange Tip
  2. Scarce Swallowtail
  3. Swallowtail
  4. Brimstone
  5. Clouded yellow
  6. Cleopatra
  7. Small tortoiseshell
  8. Painted lady
  9. Red admiral
  10. Green hairstreak
  11. Small blue
  12. Adonis blue
  13. Long tailed blue
  14. Black veined white
  15. Purple shot copper
  16. Small copper
  17. Marbled white
  18. Meadow brown
  19. Pearly heath
  20. Speckled wood
  21. Large white
  22. Cardinal
  23. Queen of Spain Fritillary
  24. De Prunners Ringlet
  25. Heath Fritillary
  26. Marsh Fritillary
  27. Spotted Fritillary

Useful book DK / RSPB Pocket Nature – Butterflies & Moths of Britain & Europe photo guide

Well what a difference a year makes! 2017 was a very different flower season in the Picos de Europa to 2016. This led to new discoveries. Just as in England spring started very early in March – in the Picos it had been very dry with little snow, which unfortunately led to some forest fires in April. These burnt areas could prove to be very interesting for wild flowers in the next year or two.

We stayed in the very comfortable Posada El Corcal in Tama run by the Soberon family with other Collett’s guests. Birds such as redstarts and black redstarts are common, serin (a small yellow green finch) and Egyptian vultures, black kites and short toed eagles can all be seen flying around from the Posada, along with numerous house martins, swallows and swifts. Tama is just a couple of miles from the ancient market town of Potes, the central market town of this region, with plenty of shops, bars and restaurants. You can easily walk there along the back road by the river. The red squirrels around here are almost black, I had a close view of one in an orchard opposite the supermarket! Lizard and bee orchids grow in the road verges.

Wildflowers, Birds & Butterflies

Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Vanes Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Vanes
Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Fuente Dé Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Fuente Dé
Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Fuente Dé Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Fuente Dé
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Fuente Dé Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Fuente Dé
Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Fuente Dé Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Fuente Dé
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Vanes Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Vanes
Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Fuente Dé Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Fuente Dé
Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Globe flowers Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Globe flowers
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Fuente Dé Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Fuente Dé
Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Lebana flowers Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Lebana flowers
Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - San Pedro Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - San Pedro
Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Fuente Dé Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Fuente Dé
Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower Walks, Birds & Butterflies in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Fuente Dé Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Fuente Dé
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - San Pedro Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - San Pedro
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Pena Sara Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Pena Sara
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Pyramidal orchids and yellow rattle Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - Pyramidal orchids and yellow rattle
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - San Glorio Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - San Glorio
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - San Glorio Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - San Glorio
Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - San Pedro Wildflower walks in the Picos de Europa - San Pedro

A mammal highlight was a probable beech marten crossing the road on the drive to the limestone heights of Fuente Dé. We went up by cable car at Fuente De three times. This year the bright blue spring and trumpet gentians were everywhere, along with pale blue spring squill. A highlight was finding black pasque flowers, which seem to develop after the white and purple species. In the beech woods below Fuente De were many plants that I am familiar with from the Chilterns where I work, including herb Paris and Solomon’s seal. We also found a couple of very early English iris, normally a summer species. In these woods and meadows we found many orchids, some familiar from England like twayblade, pyramidal, early spider, man and birds-nest orchids, but others such as woodcock, dull bee, bartons, sawfly and pink butterfly orchid which occur in the Picos. A first for me was the delicate pink of Lange’s orchid in woodland. We recorded and photographed over 30 species of orchids in the three weeks we were in Spain.

This part of Spain has an amazing range of alpine and lowland flowers, many birds, numerous active butterflies (over 150 species of butterflies have been recorded in the Picos De Europa) and other interesting species. We also found reptiles such as the impressive foot long green Occelated lizard. There are spectacular mountain views from the high passes, making the windy drive up to Puerto de San Glorio with its impressive bear statue worthwhile. I saw my first Citril finch from the picnic site at the pass. One bright sunny day we continued on through the Picos De Europa National Park to Cain and the start of the famous Cares Gorge.

I was pleased to find a number of areas with ancient veteran trees, mainly old sweet chestnut pollards, some now in woodlands but others in wood pasture with grazing cattle and horses. Whilst at Pendes admiring these trees overhead there was a circling flock of over 60 Griffon vultures and not far away Peregrine falcons were calling to their young. Along with a return trip to the highly entertaining nesting storks at Vanes, both the flora and fauna of the amazing Picos de Europa area were as impressive as ever.

John & Jo Morris

Thanks to John and Jo Morris for all the superb photographs!

See Flower Walks in the Picos de Europa for more information.

So many curious, beautiful mountains, so wild and unknown! So many gorges! So many sharp needles! So many forests! If you seek the unknown, this is where you must come – Count of Saint Saud

Approximately 300 million years ago a huge chain of mountains rose up out of the earth’s crust due to plate tectonic movement creating the Picos de Europa. History then repeated itself 50 million years ago furthering the height of these soaring giants.

Walking in the Picos de Europa - Bustantivo Walking in the Picos de Europa - Bustantivo
Walking in the Picos de Europa - Cicera Loop Walking in the Picos de Europa - Cicera Loop
Walking in the Picos de Europa - La Hermida Gorge Walking in the Picos de Europa - La Hermida Gorge
Walking in the Picos de Europa - Los Urrieles Walking in the Picos de Europa - Los Urrieles
Walking in the Picos de Europa - La Hermida Gorge Walking in the Picos de Europa - La Hermida Gorge
Walking in the Picos de Europa - Los Urrieles Walking in the Picos de Europa - Los Urrieles
Walking in the Picos de Europa - Cicera Loop Walking in the Picos de Europa - Cicera Loop
Walking in the Picos de Europa - San Pedro Walking in the Picos de Europa - San Pedro
Walking in the Picos de Europa - San Pedro Wildflowers Walking in the Picos de Europa - San Pedro Wildflowers
Walking in the Picos de Europa - San Pedro Walking in the Picos de Europa - San Pedro
Walking in the Picos de Europa - San Pedro Group Walking in the Picos de Europa - San Pedro Group
Walking in the Picos de Europa - San Pedro Walking Group Walking in the Picos de Europa - San Pedro Walking Group
Walking in the Picos de Europa - Somaniezo Stroll Walking in the Picos de Europa - Somaniezo Stroll
Walking in the Picos de Europa - Somaniezo Stroll, Lunch break Walking in the Picos de Europa - Somaniezo Stroll, Lunch break

An abundance of rain and snow, due to the proximity of the sea to the mountain peaks, has then been responsible for dissecting these limestone giants through erosion and the freeze thaw effect into the three Massifs we know today; El Corniōn (the Western Massif), Los Urrieles (Central Massif), and Āndara (the Eastern Massif).

Along with providing us with these three soaring peaks, over time erosion has also delivered gorges, two of which; La Hermida, and The Carres Gorge you can witness during our organised walks. Numerous passes providing perfect high level lunch spots with panoramic views. Chasms and caves, all sculpting the Picos scenery to what we now see today, one of the most important and varied karstic landscapes in the world.

See Walking Holidays in the Picos de Europa for more information.

Thanks to Emma Saunders and Mike Ball two of our walk organisers from the Picos de Europa team for these superb photos and blog piece!

The Picos de Europa team are all set up and have had a glorious first week welcoming guests. John and Jo, our resident flower walkers, have included a variety of gentle strolls and managed to sight 4 different species of wild daffodil, an assortment of orchids including both the Man Orchid and Pink Butterfly Orchid, and a plethora of Peonies. They also topped off their week with an extension to the Hamlet of Vañes to watch the mating rituals of storks who reside amongst church rooftops.

Spring Walking in the Picos

Bustantivo Circular - Walking in the Picos de Europa with Collett's Bustantivo Circular - Walking in the Picos de Europa with Collett's
Pink butterfly orchid, picos de Europa Pink butterfly orchid, picos de Europa
Bustantivo Circular - Walking in the Picos de Europa Bustantivo Circular - Walking in the Picos de Europa
Angels Tear Drop Daffodil Angels Tear Drop Daffodil

The walks here in The Picos are awe-inspiring whatever level of walker you are, with something to offer for everyone. However, we are excited to share that the Bustantivo Circular is now clear of snow and ready for guest adventures. Some late snowfall had put some of our high level routes on temporary hold, but the Bustantivo Circular is an excellent option for guests seeking more of a challenge.

Starting at 1100m, this circular route provides superb views towards Fuente Dē cirque and both the Central and Western Massifs. The 16.3km/10 mile route climbs to approximately 1900m offering panoramic views and making you feel like you can soar with the birds.

See Walking Holidays in the Picos de Europa for more information.

Thanks to Emma Saunders, one of our walk organisers from the Picos team for these superb photos and blog piece!

We have your details and we will send you a brochure as soon as possible. You can view our beautifully presented online version by clicking here or by clicking on the brochure below – It is also possible to download a pdf version.

If you are keen to book accommodation now or would like any advice, please call us on 01799 513331 or make an enquiry here.

You will receive a confirmation by email with a link to the online brochure, please check your junk email folder in case and mark enquiries@_colletts.co.uk as a safe sender.

Thank you for making an enquiry for a walking holiday in the Picos de Europa.

You will receive a confirmation by email, please check your junk email folder in case and mark enquiries@_colletts.co.uk as a safe sender.

Kelly, Pete or George will check on our availability and your specific requirements and get back to you with regards to your enquiry as soon as possible. If you need an immediate response please call 01799 513331 (if calling from outside the UK please call +44 1799 513331 or from the U.S. call 011 44 1799 513331).

2015 was the second year in which we have offered guests flower walks in the Picos. We have now located, documented and photographed a splendid range of meadow, woodland, high pasture and mountain locations. We can show guests all aspects of the glorious flora of these beautiful mountains.

With thanks to David Charlton – Flower Walks Host

Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Globularia repens Globularia repens
Solomon's seal Solomon's seal
Gentiana occidentalis Gentiana occidentalis
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Gentiana verna Gentiana verna
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain
Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain Wildflower walks with Collett's in the Picos de Europa, Spain

Spring snow in 2014 meant that the high mountain flowers were late, but the lower meadows and the diverse array of orchids were magnificent. In 2015 the spring was very dry. The lower meadows, though still lovely, varied and very floriferous, were surpassed by the high mountain flowers on the screes, pastures and limestone pavements above Fuente De.

I have never seen such a wonderful display of high mountain flowers, encouraged into their full glory by long days of vivid sunshine. By early June the whole area was a magnificent natural rock garden with gentians, saxifrages, daffodils, pasque flowers and many other species providing superb opportunities for photographers and artists. It was interesting to find plants that normally only grow in woodland – dog’s tooth violet, hepatica and hellebores – unexpected survivors perhaps of a time when there was a layer of shrubs on these high rugged rocks.

As always, guests enjoyed the great variety of orchids on display. No fewer than 33 species were seen, some in huge numbers, and several excellent new locations were explored. A beautiful meadow, pink with hundreds of pyramidal orchids, was particularly memorable.

The joy of the Picos is that flowers familiar in northern Europe blend with those normally expected in much warmer climes towards the Mediterranean. Ancient olive and fig trees grow in the mild sheltered gorges while snowmelt flowers open in the snow capped mountains visible high above them. This unique blend of climates and habitats guarantees a fascinating experience for those in search of wildflowers in magnificent surroundings.

Click Wildflower Walking Holidays in the Picos de Europa for more information.

Thanks to David Charlton, one of our wildflower hosts from the Picos team, for these superb photos and blog piece! Also thanks to Jane Stirland for the extra photos of the walks and flowers.