Filled with traditional villages linked by classic Swiss mountain trains – not to mention the highest mountains in the Eastern Swiss Alps – the Engadine is a hiker’s paradise, which we invite you to discover on a Collett’s summer walking holiday. Boasting a unique location on the southern side of the Alps, here you can expect an Italian climate with 300 days of sunshine a year. The many mountain lakes that comprise much of the valley bottom are a tranquil joy for leisurely strollers, whilst the rugged peaks that tower impressively above accommodate a host of enthralling higher adventures for the more ambitious hiker. And in between, intermediate walkers will surely thrive too, catered for perfectly by a network of panoramic waymarked trails at moderate and high level.
This is a special corner of Switzerland yet to be discovered by British walkers, but the Graubunden (the canton in which the Engadine lies) is certainly no secret to the Swiss. Many people come up from the heat of the lowlands around Bern and Zurich to walk in this sunny wonderland, where the air is crisp, clean and invigorating. The Upper Engadine lies at 1800m, its signature mountain lakes fed by high glacial valleys. You can see it all on whichever walks you choose to do here. Every cable car, funicular, bus or train – all provided for free with your included mountain pass – is a window to a world of sheer natural majesty.
Such is the magnificence of this area, the train journey from Chur to St Moritz and beyond has been given UNESCO World Heritage status. The Bernina Express might be slow for an express, but it will absorb and enchant you. Weaving its way through the valleys of the upper Rhine river, you skirt precarious mountainsides, span viaducts high above tumbling waters, before arriving in the glamourous destination of St Moritz.
For years St Moritz has been a winter destination for the rich and famous, and whilst still true to a point, summer hiking has come to the fore in recent years. We have the perfect base in Sils to explore the surrounding area in all its beauty. A short 10 minute drive from St Moritz, Sils provides an injection of traditional tranquillity, where hustle and bustle comes in the form of horse-drawn carts trotting up and down the main village thoroughfare on their way to show visitors the gorgeous Val Fex.
The Upper Engadine is a relatively undiscovered gem for walkers from the UK even if it is popular amongst the Swiss. It provides an impressive variation of stunning walks from very leisurely lakeside strolls, to challenging adventure at high level. Picturesque valleys and glacial lakes are loomed over by the majestic 4000m peaks of the Eastern Swiss Alps, Piz Bernina (4049m) being the tallest point in the region with glaciers cascading off all sides.
Nestled below all the drama between the two largest lakes in the canton, Sils is a joyous and picture-postcard springboard for outdoor enthusiasts.
It lies on a network of trails that criss-cross the region and are there for the pleasure of all walkers, from the high-level adventurer to those who simply need a relaxing mountain retreat. This is where Collett’s comes into its own. Our Ideas & Information Files – along with our local Walks Team – will help you find a succession of unforgettable walks just right for your level of fitness so that you are always in your comfort zone free to enjoy the air and the landscapes.
There is abundant choice in the Engadine and our carefully-researched selection of walks have all options covered. The expanse of trails crossing the region have unrivaled variety and each day will be a genuine breath of fresh air. Pathways from Sils soon get walkers to the large sparkling lakes of the valley bottom, where gentle trails radiate in a variety of directions to the complete satisfaction of the leisurely meanderer who craves an easy ose who wish to have a day surrounded by majestic mountains without the altitude gains associated with higher level walking.
Due to the unique location of the valley, spring is late in the Engadine. As a result, flower walkers can enjoy lush alpine meadows right through July. Thanks to the cable car and mountain railways system in the area, a much wider area is accessible to us including some easier high-level walks above the valley floor. You can immerse yourself in the stunning landscape thanks to the availability of the free mountain pass.
Within easy reach of our picturesque base in Sils, there are woodland trails surrounded by larch and spruce trees, often flanked by waterfalls and upland pastures filled with docile cattle. These meandering walks are surrounded by mountains that contain a wealth of wildlife including eagles, vultures, ibex, marmots and even the rare and elusive European brown bear. Whilst it’s not always easy to spot these impressive animals, the location of Switzerland’s only National Park, just a short drive away, should reassure you that the chance is always there.
Surrounding yourself with such impressive peaks comes as standard in the Engadine and we help you take advantage of the trails that connect them. The 4000m peaks of the Eastern Swiss Alps and the dramatic glaciers cascading from their summits can all be seen up close from our wide variety of walks. We’ve taken the time to carefully select the very best walks from the area, from mountain passes and flowing glaciers to summit tops and river headwaters.
A lot of our proposed walks unfold above 2500m, amongst the highest peaks in the Eastern Swiss Alps. You will venture up to historically important passes, once used as trade routes between Italy and Germany. The added bonus of mountain huts (berghaus) provides the chance to sit back and enjoy the view with well-earned refreshment. Some of the harder hikes are close to our base in Sils, whilst others are easily accessed by brilliantly operated local transport including the famous Bernina Express.
Sat between the two largest lakes in the region, Sils lies in the bottom of the valley surrounded by towering mountains on all sides. With it’s easy access to the shores of the lakes and also to the valleys and mountains beyond thanks to the local cable car and wider mountain railway system, it really is a hikers paradise. Sils has a regular flow of horse drawn carriages trotting their way through the village, taking tourists to Val Fex, the spectacular valley lying just beyond the boundary of the village.
Once back from your walk, there are a number of cafes and bars with sunny terraces waiting to greet you with a warm welcome and a relaxing drink to end your day. Those looking for a pre breakfast amble or a post dinner stroll can take a short walk to one of the two lakes. Meadows and wetlands are just a stroll away, where flower walkers can be enchanted at the wide variety of flowers.
At the head of the valley and the next town from Sils lies the village of Maloja. It sits at the top of the pass that bears the same name and is a gateway to Val Bregaglia, a distinctly more Italian valley with the picture postcard village of Soglio as it’s highlight. Within easy reach of Sils thanks to the free mountain pass, this little gem was voted Swiss village of the year in 2015 and retains all the charm you’d expect for such a title.
The trails that spread from Sils are connected to the wider Engadine via the local cable car and train network, all provided to you for free with a local travel pass.
The Zugspitz Arena is an alpine phenomenon, a vast natural bowl formed by a seemingly unending rim of high peaks that converge on it from all directions. Named after the highest of these peaks (the Zugspitze – 2962m), these mountains form the beautiful backdrops that define Ehrwald as one of the most spectacularly located villages in the Alps and the perfect springboard for those who come to explore the network of trails that traverse these mountains at low, medium and high level.
The Zugspitze at 2962m is Germany’s highest mountain and Austria’s fifteenth. The border of the two countries passes through its summit glacier. Its northern face dominates the sought-after Bavarian resort of Garmisch, whilst on its southern and Austrian side, described by locals as the sunny side, it converges with other prominent massifs to form a remarkable natural bowl known as the Zugspitz Arena.
Lying amidst lush and pretty alpine meadows in the middle of this seemingly unending rim of light-grey limestone pinnacles and ridges is Ehrwald, a picture-postcard Tyrolean village with startling views in every direction. It is a classic alpine gem, still comparatively undiscovered by British walkers, yet perfect for exploring an enchanting part of the main alpine chain with an abundance of walking of all grades and also numerous thrilling Via Ferrata (or Klettersteig).
The Zugspitze forms part of the Wetterstein group, extending to the east, whilst to the north there are the Ammergauer mountains, which give their name to the village of Oberammergau, world-renowned for its once-a-decade version of the Passion of Christ. Looming large to the south of Ehrwald is the Sonnenspitze (2417m), the northern terminus of the jagged Mieminger mountains with ridges like teeth, some half a mile long jutting into the sky. These stretch almost as far as Innsbruck, an hour away by car along the picturesque Gaistal with its sunny, wildflower-strewn meadows, some of which spill into Ehrwald itself. Reaching out to the west of Ehrwald are the Lechtaler Alps, interspersed with pretty alpine villages and rife with mountain lakes and plunging streams. Indeed, water – from wide open lakes to high refreshing tarns – is a significant feature of a Classic Collett’s Walking Holiday in Austria’s Tyrol and Bavarian Alps.
Either way, Ehrwald is a launchpad for beautiful walks of all grades and you can expect fascinating fauna and flora, classic alpine hamlets and farmsteads, lakes and tarns, welcoming huts and a chance to discover the mountains of the Wetterstein, Ammergauer, Mieminger and Lechtaler Alps on walks that are off the beaten track and breathtaking.
The Zugspitz Arena is the perfect springboard for an extensive range of walks, from idyllic easy strolls in flower-strewn meadows that meander between pretty Tyrolean hamlets and villages, to challenging high trails on precarious rocky ridges. Whichever walks you choose to do – whether you self guide or join our organised walks – the scenery is inspirational in every direction and you will be bewitched by the towering peaks and rock walls of the Lechtal, Mieminger and Wetterstein groups, not to mention the Zugspitze itself.
There are countless easy and moderate walks here. Idyllic tracks traverse the flower meadows that stretch out from Ehrwald towards Lermoos and Biberwier, which share the Zugspitz Arena with Ehrwald. For a sensational view of Ehrwald with the Zugspitze behind, you can stroll up to the Wolfrathauser Hutte. There are walks along the banks of the River Losaich, which springs forth close to the village of Biberwier, crossing the Moos at Ehrwald before descending to Garmisch and then winds to the Danube river. You can also wander to the local waterfall on the Rundwasserfall weg, or along the old mill path, flanked by the crystal clear waters of the River Gaisbach on one side and vivid flower pastures on the other. The Partnach Klamm is perhaps our easiest stroll and takes its name from the Partnach river, which originates high up on the Zugspitze glacier, then plummets dramatically into a ravine, which is the backdrop for much of this walk.
Waterfalls are an absorbing feature of the walking here. High above Ehrwald, the glacial lakes of Sebensee and Drachensee send their icy water crashing to the valley bottom and many walks are punctuated by waterfalls. There are also some vast and dramatic gorges, notably in the Wetterstein group, which are spellbinding options for easier walks. Many of the lakes near Ehrwald are ideal for picnics and swimming and also have idyllic tracks that take you around the lake on walks that are easy and pleasant.
There are several moderate walks that you would not piece together easily if you came here independently. These breathtaking routes are a mix of flower pastures, woodland tracks, remote lakes (in which we occasionally swim!), scree traverses and ascents to some of the easier peaks with views to die for. A real gem is our spectacular ascent of the Hollentalklamm, a gorge above Grainau to an old German Hutte with views of the Zugspitze glacier. This is a showstopper and includes an impressive network of tunnels, caves, gorges and crashing waterfalls, before traversing a high bridge and descending into an enchanting Bavarian village.
This is an area where the high level walker will thrive and be totally enthralled. In Ehrwald, we have excellent access to many challenging, high level routes, comprised largely of the dramatic rocky terrain that unfolds above the high alpine pastures. High level walkers can venture into wild corries and walk paths that traverse towering cliffs, where gams and marmots can be seen. The exhilaration is considerable on these walks and a head for heights is certainly necessary for some of the lofty ridge trails that snake their way between beautiful high lakes and tarns, such as the Drachensee and Seebensee. Of course, when it comes, the sight of a hospitable mountain hut is always a welcome one on these high and remote trails and we duly enjoy well earned refreshment and hearty home-made Tyrolean specialities on sun terraces with breathtaking views.
The Gartner Wand is real high level classic, which requires a degree of alpine experience and a good head for heights. The reward, however, is one of the best days out you could have in the Austrian Alps, since it is one of the most stunning ridge walks you will find anywhere in the Alps. Accessed by cable car in the first instance, it takes in two summits, a long ridge with awe-inspiring views either side and a few sections of protected path cable. The walk returns the same way and takes advantage of the Grubig Hutte for a well earned refreshment before taking the cable car down.
Our summer season of walking in the Tyrol & Bavarian Alps runs from early June to late September. People who visit us in June and July will witness the explosion of colour that characterises the the phenomenal flower season. They will marvel at snow-capped peaks and see waterfalls at their most abundant. Alpine flora thrives in its own way throughout the season, but after mid July, you just have to get a bit higher to appreciate it. In June you can’t miss it. Exquisite flowers grow everywhere, from roadside verges to high rocky crags.
Typically, the area livens up and dies down as the season unfolds. Early June is quiet and sometimes we can venture out on a walk and not see anyone all day. It’s almost like having exclusivity to your own mountain paradise. After mid-June, we move into a mid-season atmosphere as local services intensify a little and more local shops open.
In alpine terms Ehrwald lies in a superlative location. Nestled at the heart of the majestic Zugspitz Arena, this is somewhere special, pretty and unspoilt. The views in all directions will absorb you for hours. It enjoys an easy-going pace of life, which reflects its status as both an authentic working village and a place that attracts walkers, alpine enthusiasts and other visitors.
The main street and square is a pleasantly tree-lined area and there are several attractive green spaces in the village centre. There are cafes and bars with sun terraces, from which you can gaze at the stunning 360° panoramas. There are also shops, banks, a tourist office and all the amenities you would expect from a village that is home to a mountain dwelling community that wants to accommodate its visitors well. The village indoor swimming pool has landscaped grounds for outdoor sunbathing and makes a pleasant alternative (or addition) to walking.
One of the most attractive features of Ehrwald is the Moos, which is effectively the flat bottom of the natural bowl that is the Zugspitz Arena. Perfect for a pre-breakfast stretch of the legs or a post-dinner evening stroll, it is an extensive labyrinth of tracks and trails that link Ehrwald to the neighbouring villages of Biberweir and Lermoos. As you can imagine, it is surrounded by magnificent peaks, so the views are fabulous and you will constantly reach for your camera. It is also a wealth of flora and fauna, as it is quite marshy in places. Sightings of beavers are not uncommon here. If every village had a Moos, the world would be a better place!
Walkers who visit Ehrwald benefit from extensive, efficient and impressive local infrastructure, provided specifically to facilitate their easy access to the mountains. You can, of course, venture out on trails that start from the village, but there are also local shuttle buses (some of them free) that take you to key trailheads just outside the village or in neighbouring villages – or to local chairlifts and cable cars, as well as the railway station, which can also be used to good effect by walkers and day trippers.
With their explosive shapes and unique colours, the Dolomites are arguably the most stunning mountains in the world; they are certainly the crown jewels of the Alps. At every turn you are stopped in your tracks by their sheer magnificence. We know you will share our appreciation of this sheer natural splendour. It is a paradise for walking holidays, whether you are a high level trekker, moderate hiker or idyllic stroller, not to mention flower lover, artist, photographer, Via Ferrata climber or an all-round alpine enthusiast. Or, if you simply seek out an idyllic alpine retreat.
We are based in the prettiest valley of the central Dolomites, where unspoilt Tyrolean villages bewitch you with their wood-rich chalets and picturesque churches in a landscape of wildflower-strewn pastures, while the colossal natural monuments, which are the Dolomites, tower above you like castles of rock, which soar to the sky as if frozen in mid-explosion.
The central Dolomites lie largely in Italy’s northernmost province, the South Tyrol, which borders Austria and Switzerland to the north. To the south are the alluring historical cities of Venice and Verona. Geologists believe they were heaved up by great movements in the earth’s crust 50 million years ago when Europe and Africa collided. Since then the actions of ice and water have carved them into the overwhelming sculptural forms we see today. More recently history has shaped the area. After WWI, the area passed from Austria to Italy. In spite of drastic efforts, Mussolini failed to italianise the region and the area now thrives on the harmonious co-existence of the Austrian and Italian cultures in a region where Latin meets Germanic.
Add to these cultures, the influence of a modern mountain-dwelling community with an enlightened, yet conservative approach to tourism, and the result is a unique atmosphere of character and charm in a place where there is so much to see and do.
For walkers, we offer a memorable holiday experience in an area with UNESCO World Heritage status. Our base in Corvara provides superb access to beautiful waymarked trails of all grades. We are flanked by two natural parks: the Fanes to the east, stretching dramatically towards Cortina, and by the Puez-Odle to the west, extending equally dramatically to the Val Gardena. To the south towards Arabba, we have a vast natural plinth, Monte Sella (3152m) and our highest peak, the Marmolada (3343m), Queen of the Dolomites.
These majestic massifs host our brilliantly-researched and extensive portfolio of walks. Within our tried and tested gems, there are a handful of must-do classic hikes, but otherwise with Collett’s you will get off the beaten track into special and breathtaking landscapes.
Easier options are punctuated by exquisite wildflower meadows, sleepy hamlets, traditional farmsteads, riverside and woodland trails, whilst the challenging itineraries will expose you to the most dramatic rock formations in the world.
Our accommodation in Corvara will launch you into a paradise of your choice so that you are always in your comfort zone.
The scenery is glorious, whatever the altitude you view it from. Gentle strollers will gaze upwards in awe from idyllic lower-lying trails at the startling rock formations that surround them. Meanwhile, high level trekkers look down with amazement from the rocky reaches to the exquisite
Here in the magical Dolomites, the intermediate walker and gentle stroller will thrive on the many waymarked paths, which wend their way at low and medium altitude between picturesque hamlets and villages. You can enjoy the spectacular scenery in many different ways, perhaps meandering casually for two or three hours on riverside tracks and through wildflower-strewn meadows, or by venturing a little higher on to the woodland trails, upland pastures and occasionally the lower rocky reaches of the massifs themselves. Many of these routes were originally hunting or smuggling trails.
Welcoming mountain huts, known as rifugios, are dotted around this extensive network of numbered paths, each one with its own sun terrace, on which walkers can soak up their magical surroundings, whilst enjoying well-earned refreshment.
Some people come here with specific intentions: fossil collectors love the region’s rich geology; artists and photographers try to capture their own visions of these unique mountains; bird and wildlife observers can admire a diverse range of fauna and, whilst spotting a pair of golden eagles is fortunate, sightings of buzzards, chamois, deer and the comical marmots punctuate many lower level walks.
It is hard to think of anywhere in Europe that offers the high level walker such good access to an extensive network of sensational walks on waymarked trails and protected paths. It is all on our doorstep. At every turn, you are exposed to the most mesmerising landscapes, whilst enjoying a choice of routes that suit individual fitness levels.
From Corvara, you can venture on foot into both the Puez Odle and Fanes national parks on walks of a lifetime. Just to the south of Corvara the valley reaches its terminus and here we are towered over by the colossal flanks of Monte Sella, a natural plinth, monumental in size and splendour, where you might easily spend a week without repeating the same walk.
Further afield, yet still within easy access, there is Cristallo (3221m), Tofana (3244m), Lagazuoi & Cinque Torre (2800m) with its World War Tunnels and Open-air WWI Museum and, of course, the Marmolada (3343m), Queen of the Dolomites, with its brilliant white glacier dominating many a panorama. The rifugios are a positive part of high level walking in the Dolomites. The welcome is warm and the food, service and refreshment are excellent and affordable. Opening on a seasonal basis, they vary from timbered huts to stone lodges. They offer unforgettable panoramas from their sun terraces. Some are close to chairlifts and cable car stations, others are remote, perhaps sitting where two trails meet. Finding the rifugios is easy, as there are good trail signs at regular intervals. Once there, a feeling of camaraderie prevails amongst hikers.
Like all our destinations, the Italian Dolomites is world-renowned for alpine flora, providing good access to celebrated sites, such as the Pordoi Pass, the Bindelweg and the Vallunga. We offer flower walks for 2 weeks in June when you are guaranteed an explosion of colour in the meadows and upland pastures that surround us.
It is one of life’s great pleasures to walk in breathtaking landscapes that are so rich in fascinating flower habitats, where classic and rare species flourish. Over the years we have documented the locations of the sought-after species and this invaluable knowledge grows each year, providing so much pleasure for our flower enthusiasts.
Every August we welcome Dr John Scanlon to the Dolomites and 4 times a week you can join him on his intriguing World War I walks. As usual, you can join these itineraries as and when you please at no extra cost. Simply drop into Office Hour to obtain details and sign up.
We are convinced the remnants of the WW1 mountain conflict between Austria and Italy will astound you. A bonus of these itineraries is that they take place in one of the most scenically rich locations in the Dolomites. Fighting broke out here between Italy and Austria in 1915, as the border between the two countries ran through these mountains. Committed to the Russian front, Austria abandoned political boundaries and retreated to defendable mountain tops and passes. In snow and freezing temperatures, a tragic and inconclusive conflict ensued, as both sides pushed for high positions in the massifs, ingeniously building fortifications, trenches, look-out posts and miles of tunnels. Much of it is still here in the form of an open-air memorial museum. John Scanlon is as entertaining as he is informative and unsurprisingly his walks have a keen following.
Our summer season of walking in the Dolomites runs from mid June to mid September. People who visit us in June and July will witness the explosion of colour that characterises the the phenomenal flower season. They will marvel at snow-capped peaks and see waterfalls at their most gushing. Alpine flora thrives in its own way throughout the season, but after mid July, you just have to get a bit higher to appreciate it. In June you can’t miss it. Exquisite flowers grow everywhere, from roadside verges to high rocky crags.
Typically, the area livens up and dies down as the season unfolds. June is early in terms of tourism and sometimes we can venture out on a walk and not see anyone all day. It’s almost like having exclusivity to your own mountain paradise. After 20 June, we move into a mid-season atmosphere as local services intensify a little and more local shops open.
In Winter, Collett’s is in the heart of the Dolomites in 3 picturesque resorts, each offering easy access to the Sella Ronda and Superski Dolomiti. Corvara, Badia & Arabba are nestled under some of the world’s most majestic peaks. We offer 2 chalet hotels (Bracun & Roch) 2 exquisite hotels and self-catering apartments. This is the perfect springboard for inspirational days out on snowshoes and some of the best skiing in the world.
Collett’s is about the personal touch. Our painstakingly-recruited hosts set us apart from the rest. They don’t wear uniforms or sell excursions. They will make you feel welcome, well-looked-after and well informed. Each evening over a pre-dinner drink they are on hand to help you plan your days. Contact us now if you would like to communicate with someone who has lived in our winter resorts and knows them well. They will make your booking process an informed pleasure right from the start.
For a walking holiday in the Dolomites, Corvara takes some beating because strategically it is the best located village in the South Tyrol’s prettiest valley. Over the years it has been a genuine pleasure to watch the reaction of our guests as they arrive and are immediately awe-struck by their surroundings. The close harmony of monumental rock formations with the lower heart-warming alpine landscapes of wildflower-strewn pastures and picturesque Tyrolean villages is as enchanting as it is staggering.
Our valley is the Alta Badia and it is one of the most beautiful valleys in the Alps. Unsurprisingly, the area acquired UNESCO World Heritage status in 2009. The valley wends its way below majestic peaks to Monte Sella (3152m), a glorious and colossal plinth, which typifies the drama of Corvara’s location with magnificent rock formations looming over wildflower-strewn pastures, woodland and sleepy hamlets, where the window boxes of old farmhouses overflow with colour.
Corvara is the principal village of the Alta Badia and has two gondolas, one to the Pralongià Plateau at 1980m for easier and moderate walks, the other to the eastern turrets of the Sella at 2152m for amazing high level walks and also two Via Ferrata. It is a vibrant mountain resort with some delightful cafes and bars, stylish shops and a good range of locally-supplied alpine activities including sport climbing, a climbing wall, high ropes, skating, a swimming lake, golf, tennis, archery etc. It is also close to some absorbing places of interest. In short, whatever you choose to do, you’ll soon be glad you came.
Corvara is home to our chalet hotels, hotels and self-catering apartments. We have been here for many years and this will only have positive repercussions for your holiday. Whichever accommodation you choose, you will have good access to the village centre, the Collett’s Walks Team and some fantastic views. You will be a stone’s throw away from idyllic flower meadows and easy woodland trails, where you can meander at leisure.
For high level walking, trails radiate from Corvara to the high rocky terrain of the Puez Odle and Fanes National Parks, which spectacularly dominate the valley and offer countless, dramatic itineraries.
The Cordillera Cantabrica, of which the Picos de Europa form a part, separates the high dry plains of central Spain from the dramatic lush green northern coast of the Bay of Biscay, the Costa Verde. Indeed, these mountains are so close to the ocean that according to legend, the Picos de Europa (literally the ‘Peaks of Europe’) got their name from trans-Atlantic sailors approaching northern Europe from the new worlds of the Americas.
Today, most of the region is protected by the Picos de Europa National Park. This centres on a compact and beautiful range of high limestone mountains, which rise up from the coast, gloriously crowned by soaring peaks. These magnificent summits are impressive and stronger high level trekkers will surely thrive here in breathtaking landscapes. Simultaneously, these towering peaks and massifs form the inspirational backdrops for moderate and leisurely hikers who choose to walk at lower levels, where the flora, fauna and butterflies will simply enchant you, not to mention the quaint ‘step-back-in-time’ mountain hamlets that also characterise these walks.
In many ways, this mountainous gem matches step for step the colours and natural drama of the Dolomites. The range consists of three major massifs: Central, Eastern and Western. The Central and Western massifs are separated by the inspirational, mile-deep Cares Gorge (the Garganta del Cares). With Collett’s, you will have the opportunity to walk in this natural phenomenon at least once during your stay.
Culturally, the area is rich, vibrant and traditional. It is famed, amongst other things, for its cider and its piquant blue cheeses, which are traditionally matured in local caves.
Some years ago when our only walking holiday destination was the Italian Dolomites, we sought from our guest database recommendations for new destinations. The Picos de Europa came a close second to Austria and the rest is history. Such is the geography of the Picos de Europa, walkers of all levels of fitness and ambition will thrive here. There are rambles through oak and beech covered foothills, walks which weave along ancient ‘caminos’ between timeless mountain villages, high peaks to conquer and high mountain circuits to complete. And if you fancy something different or a coastal hike, we are just 45 minutes from Spain’s dramatic Costa Verde with its pretty harbours, beautiful beaches, secret coves and impressive cliffs.
People in search of easier and moderate walking can venture out on a superb selection of delightful walks, which unravel in the foothills beneath towering peaks. The lower level valley landscapes here in the Picos are a natural joy and you will be completely entranced by their charm and beauty. You will discover woodland, rich with fauna; idyllic upland pastures, profuse and vibrant with flowers; and picturesque hamlets, where time seemingly stands still.
It is a special pleasure to wander into a sleepy hamlet, then to find a rustic café and drink in your idyllic surroundings, whilst being part of a pace of life so slow that you forget time and worry. In these exquisite landscapes, where the only sounds you hear are bird, animal or agricultural, you will look up in awe at the magnificent mountains that surround you. If you are tempted and you fancy a cable car ride, these also offer a few high level tracks that less ambitious walkers will surely enjoy, whilst the views to the valleys below are sensational.
We look forward to helping our fitter trekkers explore the exhilarating high trails that make the Picos de Europa a first class high level walking destination. The Picos de Europa might not be as high-profile as the Swiss or Austrian Alps, but the high level hiking here is every bit as spectacular, enthralling and challenging. Once any late lying snow has retreated, local classics become accessible, such as the mighty Peña Prieta (2539m), Horcados Rojos (2344m), Naranjo de Bulnes Circular and the great Vega de Liordes. Also, each week we offer two must-do itineraries for the more serious walker…
The most famous route in the Picos de Europa, the majestic path which follows the Cares Gorge (Garganta del Cares) in the deep narrow canyon that separates the western and central massifs. Not for the vertigo-prone, this track exists because of an amazing feat of engineering. It was carved out of the cliff faces of the western walls of the gorge with a series of bridges and tunnels during the 1920’s while building a 12km water canal for a hydro-electric station in Poncebos. It is a 90 minute drive to the start of the walk, which would normally be an unfeasible distance to a trailhead, but we deem that this world-celebrated hike is well worth the trip and our guests always agree.
Another wonderful feature of the Picos de Europa is Fuente Dé. A dramatic cable car ascent whisks walkers between Fuente Dé and El Cable, perched precariously at 1800m in the central massif with its expansive views south across the Cordillera Cantabrica. From here there are options for both moderate and high level walkers and you cannot fail to be captivated at every turn by the awe-inspiring scenery. Our walks are likely to either climb towards the Horcada Rojos with its awesome views of the signature peak of Naranjo de Bulnes, or we will head towards the historic Chalet Real and the gentian-covered alpine meadows which surround Refugio Aliva, before meandering down to the idyllic mountain village of Mogrovejo.
Our summer season of walking in the Picos de Europa runs from early June to late September. People who visit us in June and July will witness the explosion of colour that characterises the the phenomenal flower season. They will marvel at snow-capped peaks and see waterfalls at their most abundant. Alpine flora thrives in its own way throughout the season, but after mid July, you just have to get a bit higher to appreciate it. In June you can’t miss it. Exquisite flowers grow everywhere, from roadside verges to high rocky crags.
Typically, the area livens up and dies down as the season unfolds. Early June is quiet and sometimes we can venture out on a walk and not see anyone all day. It’s almost like having exclusivity to your own mountain paradise. After mid-June, we move into a mid-season atmosphere as local services intensify a little and more local shops open.
Potes is the vibrant principal centre of the Liébana valley region. It provides well for the holidaymaker, whilst being a charming step back in time. There is a hustle and bustle that somehow adds to the rustic splendour of this remarkable little town.
On market day especially, it is a hive of activity. Historically rich, Potes boasts impressive medieval buildings and a labyrinth of fascinating cobbled streets with interesting shops, markets and atmospheric cafés. These streets radiate from a beautiful town square, itself perched dramatically above the river, which flows through the town. In every direction, Potes enjoys majestic mountain backdrops and clearly this adds to its appeal for walkers.
Collett’s chose Potes partly for its weather. It has a temperate climate and generally enjoys the sun and warmth of León and Castille, whilst leaving the wetter westerly weather fronts to the northern and western side of the range. Our delightful base is in the hamlet of Tama just 2kms outside the town. You can walk to Potes from Tama along a riverside track.
The spectacular mountains of the Pyrenees stretch for 480km from the Atlantic coast across to the Mediterranean, forming an impressive natural frontier between France and Spain. These mountains have a rugged grandeur that will entrance you. As well as accommodating some of Europe’s most exhilarating high and moderate walking trails, they host some staggering flora and fauna – and numerous quaint and traditional mountain villages, which overflow with character and charm.
The backbone of the range, the frontier ridge, lies just to the north of our base in Panticosa. It is a chaotic jigsaw of wild rock formations and crags, which reach for the sky with many soaring effortlessly above 3000m. These peaks dominate much of the Valle de Tena, our home in the Pyrenees. This glacial valley boasts the vast limestone walls of the impressive Sierra de la Partacua and the Sierra de Tendeñera, which rise abruptly in the south, forming much of the overwhelming panorama that is enjoyed from Hotel Sabocos in Panticosa, our delightful base.
A little lower down a majestic mountain landscape unfolds with a heady mix of lush green meadows, abyss-like canyons, awe-inspiring cirques, azure blue lakes, u-shaped valleys, pristine woodlands, sparkling tarns and cascading streams.
Not surprisingly, walkers have been coming to the Pyrenees for years, venturing into this magnificent terrain from picturesque mountain villages. From Panticosa we walk on both the Spanish and the French sides of the frontier ridge. In spite of their proximity to each other, the differences between the two sides are quite dramatic. Our walks will help you see just how different the Spanish and the French sides are in an area where the common denominator is breathtaking mountain scenery.
Our delightful base in the Pyrenees is the perfect springboard for an organised or self-guided walking holiday. Whatever it is that brings you to the Pyrenees, you are sure to thrive in the mountains that surround Panticosa, whether you self guide or join organised walks – whether you seek high level adventure or the easier moderate itineraries in the lower hills and valleys. Either way, the extensive knowledge of our own hosts and walkers is available each evening at Office Hour so that you can enjoy a succession of memorable walks in these beautiful mountains.
And we can give you everything you need to create a succession of memorable days out in the mountains. Our Ideas & Info files detail up to 40 fabulous hikes, from moderate classics to high level drama. At your leisure you can browse these well-researched options; for each walk we give the duration, ascent, degree of difficulty and the relevant section of map. You can also borrow on a daily basis an easy-to-carry Route Laminate for each itinerary. The files also contain details of scenic drives, places of interest, bike rides, ideas for rainy days (as if!) and other days out.
Furthermore, each evening (except Wednesdays) over a sociable pre-dinner drink you can chat with the Collett’s Walks Team, who will offer you their first-hand knowledge of the itineraries that take your fancy. They will be only too happy to help you find beautiful walks that tick all the boxes for you.
We believe the wilder character of the Pyrenees gives you the opportunity to experience one of Europe’s last largely undeveloped mountain ranges. The walking options are superb and hill walkers who enjoy a more untouched and undeveloped landscape are sure to feel at home here.
Routes vary from walks across grassy pastures and plateaus, to high trails, which wend their way through the peaks of the frontier ridge. Old trading, pilgrim and smuggling routes thread the mountain cols, whilst the wonderfully exposed ‘fajas’ of the Ordesa canyon are the ultimate in high level exhilaration.
People in search of moderate walking can venture out on a superb selection of delightful walks, which unravel in the enchanting foothills beneath towering peaks. You will discover woodland, rich with fauna; idyllic upland pastures, profuse and vibrant with flowers; and picturesque hamlets, where time seemingly stands still. It is a pleasure to wander into an enchanting, sleepy hamlet and sit at the table of a rustic café, gazing at the seemingly unbroken rim of peaks that surround the valleys and provide the high level walker with an extensive variety of mouthwatering adventures. That said, there are a handful of walks at high level – one or two accessible by cable car (season dependent) – that are not too challenging and these routes allow the less ambitious walkers to enjoy days out at higher level.
If you are a high level walker, we look forward to helping you explore the exhilarating trails that will make for some unforgetable days out. Once any late lying snow has retreated, you can access many local classics, such as the awe-inspiring Ordesa and Monte Perdido UNESCO National Park, the Pic du Midi d’Ossau Circuit and the stunning peaks and trails above the Valle de Tena.
These cliffs are home to the uniquely dramatic rock cornices known as ‘fajas’, high altitude balconies of stone formed over millions of years. Along them cling sensational walking routes of varying exposures, providing walkers at every turn with adrenalin fuelled views of the canyon and its many magnificent fairytale waterfalls.
Panticosa lies in the glacial Valle de Tena, which is surrounded by a ring of high mountains. To the south-west and south-east, the vast limestone walls of the impressive Sierra de la Partacua and the Sierra de Tendeñera rise abruptly, whilst looming large to the north-west and north-east are the mighty granite peaks of the frontier ridge.
Consequently, the Valle de Tena boasts an entertaining mix of landscapes: from the relatively flat pasture lands of the Col du Pourtalet with its gentle meandering streams; past the striking crimson rocks of the Vértice and Pico de Anayet, both the remains of old volcanic chimneys, standing guard over the idyllic Ibones de Anayet lakes below; on to the great mountain lakes of Brazatos, Azules, Bachimaña and Respomuso and the high granite peaks and rocky cols in and around Balaïtous and the Picos del Infierno.
Whilst predominantly the domain of the mountaineer, the Sierra de Tendeñera and Sierra de la Partacua, provide spectacular backdrops to our easier walks, which traverse their lower slopes and feature gentle cols, secondary peaks and beautiful lakes, such as the enchanting green blue lakes of Sabocos and Asnos high above Panticosa and the exquisite Lake Escarra, best viewed from the Collado del Pacino.
Just ten minutes away by car is Sallent de Gállego, which nestles quietly below the looming Peña Foratata, and Baños de Panticosa. Both these villages represent the start and end of a range of scenically splendid walks along scarcely trodden paths, which enticingly disappear deep into the rugged upper valleys of the range.
The Pic du Midi d’Ossau stands just on the French side of the range and is probably the most recognisable peak in the entire Pyrenean range. From miles around you can see the distinctive twin peaks of volcanic rock, which rise dramatically above a small collection of lakes and high meadows.
We believe the best view of the Pic du Midi d’Ossau is from the Lacs d’Ayous and the Refuge d’Ayous.
The Pic du Midi is one of the classic landmarks of the Pyrenees and, with its numerous walking itineraries, it is a magnificent area to explore on foot. You can access this from Panticosa on a short drive that takes you across the border at the Col du Pourtalet, where the Valle de Tena meets the Vallée d’Ossau.
Nestled high in the Valle de Tena in the Alto Aragón region of Spain is the charming village of Panticosa, a labyrinth of traditional stone built houses lining narrow streets around a 13th century Romanesque church. It is a tranquil mountain village, which has retained much of its old world charm, whilst providing for the modern day visitor with a handful of shops, bars and other amenities including an outdoor swimming pool. There is an easy-going pace of life and there is a certain charm to sitting with a drink at the café in the village square watching the world go by.
Significantly, it is surrounded by Spain’s westernmost concentration of 3000m peaks, each dotted with azure blue lakes and punctuated by high mountain cols. This makes Panticosa a superb springboard from which to venture out into this beautiful region. In July and August, a modern cable car whisks walkers and mountain bikers up to the delightful Asnos and Sabocos Lakes and to within a whisker of the imposing north face of the Sierra de Tendeñera.Nearby, higher up in the cauldron of mountains, which tower above the village, is the historic Baños de Panticosa, a spa village fed by six mineral springs and said to have been frequented by the Roman emperor, Tiberius.
We have chosen Panticosa as our base because it is a superb springboard for two of the three National Parks in the Pyrenees, with their numerous trails, magnificent scenery and mountain huts and it provides superb access to many stunning walking areas. Each week our programme of organised walks visits a different area each day. From Panticosa, we walk in the Ordesa & Monte Perdido National Park, in the Pic du Midi d’Ossau area of the Pyrenees National Park, and locally in the Valle de Tena.
For the wildflower enthusiast the Pyrenees offers a floral crossroads where the alpine gentians, primulas and pasque flowers of northern Europe meet the wild daffodils of the Iberian peninsula. Many species are unique and such is the variety (with around 160 endemic species) that the Pyrenees are often referred to as the Flower Garden of Europe.
In early spring, the rugged grandeur of the Pyrenees is complemented by a profusion of flowers equal to any in Europe for beauty, abundance and variety. It provides great pleasure for all and a unique experience for the botanical enthusiast.
A Classic Collett’s Summer Walking Holiday in the Pyrenees is certain to be a floral festival for flower enthusiasts. The scenery will be stunning throughout your time here, so make sure you look upwards occasionally! Numerous tracks and paths provide access to the phenomenal flora that thrives here. Whilst every flower season is different, we know exactly where the rare and celebrated species thrive in all their splendour and abundance.
As the snow recedes, and the hillsides come to life, elegant pink snowbells and pyrenean buttercups are some of the first flowers to emerge. Carpets of wild daffodils are punctuated by vibrant blue gentians, cowslips, oxslips, burnt tip orchids and swathes of pink and yellow elder-flower orchids. By running water, the dramatic yellows of marsh marigolds and globeflowers can be seen from afar, whilst closer inspection reveals purple large-flowered butterworts, dainty pink birds-eye primroses and a dazzling array of moisture loving orchids. Out in the open, the feathery plumes of the Pyrenean asphodel reach for the skies. The equally stunning St Bruno, St Bernard and martagon lillies can often be found nestling in shady spots.
Two endemics worthy of particular note are the Ramonda (often found in shady crevices with purple flowers rising from rosettes of fleshy green leaves); and in the limestone rocks and crags, the striking Saxifraga longifolia, both of which you will not see anywhere else in the world. For a few weeks in June the delicate Lady’s Slipper also flowers in the Valle de Tena, which is so rare all viewings are conducted under the watchful eye of a local guard!
For self-guiding guests, a little later in the season, two more beauties unique to the Pyrenees emerge and flood the slopes: the electric blue flowers and the silver prickly leaves of the Eryngium bourgattii and the large, elegant and purple English Iris. Great yellow gentians and false helleborines burst into flower. Simultaneously, delicate spring squills, cross gentians, dark red helleborine and Edelweiss will continue to enchant walkers.
Even as late as August and September, some flowers are still emerging for the first time such as the proud blue and yellow monkshoods, the deep purple cups of the autumn crocus, and the large sunflower like heads of the stemless Carline Thistle.