Panes to Potes
Distance: 29km (18 miles); 45 minutes
Except for one optional detour, this drive extends entirely along one of the region's best roads, N-621, which links León and Valladolid to Santander. The drive is most noteworthy for its views of the ravine containing the Deva River, a ravine so steep that direct sunlight rarely penetrates it.
About two-thirds of the way to Potes, signs point you on a detour to the village of:
This village is .8km (1/2 mile) off the main road. Here you'll find the church of Nuestra Señora de Liébana, built in the 10th century in the Mozarabic style. Some people consider it the best example of Arabized Christian architecture in Europe, with Islamic-inspired geometric motifs. If it isn't open, knock at the door of the first house you see as you enter the village; it's the home of the guardian, who will unlock the church if she's around. For this, she will expect a tip. If she's not around, content yourself with admiring the church from the outside.
Continuing for about another 8km (5 miles), you'll reach the village of:
This is a charming place with well-kept alpine houses against a backdrop of jagged mountains.
Three kilometers (2 miles) southwest of Potes, near Turiano, stands the:
3. Monasterio de Santo Toribio de Liébana
The monastery dates from the 17th century. Restored to the transitional Romanesque style it enjoyed at the peak of its vast power, it contains what is reputed to be a splinter from the True Cross, brought from Jerusalem in the 8th century by the bishop of Astorga. The monastery is also famous as the former home of Beatus de Liébana, the 8th-century author of Commentary on the Apocalypse, one of Spain's most famous ecclesiastical documents. Ring the bell during daylight hours, and one of the brothers will let you enter if you are properly attired.
At the end of a winding and beautiful road to the west of Potes is the:
4. Parador de Fuente-Dé
You can spend the night here or just stop for lunch. The drive following the path of the Deva River for the most part will take you to:
Once you're here, a teleférico, the third-largest cable-car system in the world (tel. 94-273-66-10; www.cantur.com), carries you 800m (2,624 ft.) up to an observation platform above a wind-scoured rock face. The cable car operates July to August daily 9am to 8pm, September to June daily 10am to 6pm. A one-way fare costs 8€; round-trip is 14€. At the top you can walk 5km (3 miles) along a footpath to the rustic Refugio de Aliva (tel. 94-273-09-99), open between June and September 15. Doubles cost 75€. If you opt for just a meal or a snack at the hostel's simple restaurant, remember to allow enough time to return to the teleférico before its last trip down.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.