The power of a flower holiday
in the Picos de Europa
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. 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.