Wildflower Walks in the Picos de Europa
Exquisite alpine flowers in their perfect settings
- Join informal flower walks with Collett’s wildflower enthusiasts which now run 15th May to 10th June
- Tried and tested gems – off the beaten track, rich in flora, fauna and magnificent scenery
Wildflowers in the Picos de Europa on a Collett’s holiday
The Picos de Europa National Park represents an easy and rewarding introduction to alpine flora. Numerous tracks and paths at village level provide easy access to walkers of all levels of fitness to the phenomenal flora that thrives on our doorstep. From the moment the first spring flowers burst forth through the snow-melt, the floral magic of the Picos is there for all to see. Whatever it is that ultimately attracts you to these special mountains, you cannot fail to be overwhelmed by this natural splendour.
Stunning flora and fauna
The Picos invites visitors of all abilities to experience the joy of alpine flowers, from the valleys of the Liébana to the extraordinary landscape of sheer limestone cliffs that awaits you at the viewing platform at the top of the exhilarating 800m cable car at Fuente De. The joy of seeing alpine flowers in their perfect setting never fails. And that’s the real magic.
Designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2003 the diversity of the wildlife is second to none in the whole of Western Europe with over 1400 species and nearly 50 types of orchid, many flourishing in the hay meadows that are amongst the richest of European habitats – Pink Butterfly, Bee, Spider,
Burnt, Fly, Lizard, Man and Birds Nest are among the many botanical highlights.
The deciduous woodland and meadows at lower level are home to species such as white asphodel, semi-parasitic yellow rattle, heartflowered serapias, tassel hyacinths, early purple orchids, fragrant orchids – there are more than 40 orchid species in the national park! – masterwort and lungwort, to name but a few.Higher up, nestled between the limestone, summer grazing pastures become a floral paradise – tall purple spikes of monkshood aconites, the Merendera montana lily, gentians, carpets of wild narcissus, snakeshead fritillary, burnt orchids, black vanilla orchids, and common spotted orchids, all making their homes here. Under ancient oak, lime, chestnut, walnut, hazel and elm trees, grow species such as wood anemone, wood sorrel, stinking and green hellebores, dog violets, primroses, and martagon lilies. Above the tree-line, small rock gardens play host to hardy species like bellflowers, ferns, stonecrops, saxifrages, sedges and toadflaxes.
Early season flower walks – 15th May to 10th June
Whilst every year is different, due to changing seasons, we know exactly where to find some of the best flora in Europe. As spring gives way to summer, our own wildflower enthusiasts organise a programme of walks, which are free of charge, optional and characterised by mesmerising flora and breathtaking mountain scenery. We have now added an extra week of flower walks in the Picos de Europa, following such a successful floral season in 2015. These will now run, five days a week from 15th May to 10th June not on Wednesdays or Saturdays.
David Charlton, co-author of ‘Mountain Flowers’ and our resident wildflower enthusiast in the Picos in both 2014 and 2015 recently said of the Picos, “I have never seen such a wonderful display of mountain flowers. The whole area was a magnificent natural rock garden with gentians, saxifrages, daffodils, pasque flowers and many other species. As always, guests enjoyed a great variety of orchids. 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.”
Birds, Butterflies & Wildlife
From river-valleys at almost sea-level to alpine habitats in the high mountains, the Picos de Europa are home to a wealth of animal-life. The graceful and agile ‘rebeco’ (or chamois) are often seen on higher slopes. Roe deer dart through the woodlands, where you might also see red squirrels. The marten, wild cat, stoat, otter, fox, badger, polecat and weasel will be seen by the more alert amongst you. Evidence of wild boars is common but sightings are very rare – but not as rare, however, as sightings of the Cantabrian brown bear!From river-valleys at almost sea-level to alpine habitats in the high mountains, the Picos de Europa are home to a wealth of animal-life. The graceful and agile ‘rebeco’ (or chamois) are often seen on higher slopes. Roe deer dart through the woodlands, where you might also see red squirrels. The marten, wild cat, stoat, otter, fox, badger, polecat and weasel will be seen by the more alert amongst you. Evidence of wild boars is common but sightings are very rare – but not as rare, however, as sightings of the Cantabrian brown bear!
Golden eagles are regular visitors to the skies but it is more common to see the Egyptian and Griffon vultures riding the mid-day thermals. The crimson winged wallcreeper remains elusive but you might see one on the remoter rock-faces of the national park. Of course, the ubiquitous alpine choughs will loiter cheekily at mountain refuges or known picnic spots. Also making an appearance during your stay will hopefully be the black woodpecker, middle spotted woodpecker, treecreeper, snow finch, alpine accentor, eagle owl and peregrine. Butterflies abound here, particularly in the lower wildflower meadows. Some are endangered, such as the marsh fritillary, but others thrive and bring great pleasure to low and medium level walkers.
In pictures – Flora & Flower Walks in the Picos de Europa
My questions were dealt with quickly and efficiently. We arrived earlier than expected but were shown to our room. The Collett's representative found us soon afterwards. The evening meals were very good, with unlimited good wine, and served nearby. It was lovely that all guests ate together along with 2 members of the Collett's team.
We enjoyed Office Hour as a way to chat together with the Collett's team and other guests. We only did one walk by ourselves and it was ok, some guests said the directions were not always clear.
The Collett's team at Picos really made the holiday for us. We could have done the walking by ourselves but it would not have been nearly so enjoyable. We enjoyed walking in a group as well as eating together every night with the other guests and staff members.
We felt that the Collett's staff made sure that the walks were safe for us in the weather conditions and frequently asked if everyone was ok. Everyone seemed able to walk at their own pace and felt comfortable. As experienced walkers everyone knew of the risks involved and acted responsibly. It was not an issue as I felt it might be.
We wanted the flexibility of being able to choose every day whether to walk in a group and which level of walk to choose.