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Cangas de Onis to Panes

Distance: 56km (35 miles); 1 hour

This tour travels along the relatively straight C-6312 from the western to the eastern entrance to the Picos de Europa region. A number of unusual excursions can easily stretch this into an all-day outing.

From Cangas de Onís, head west about 1.6km (1 mile). You'll reach the turnoff to:

1. Cueva del Buxu

Inside the cave is a limited number of prehistoric rock engravings and charcoal drawings, somewhat disappointingly small. Only 25 people per day are allowed inside (respiration erodes the drawings), so unless you arrive early, you won't get in. Open Wednesday to Sunday from 10am to 2pm and 4 to 6:30pm. Admission is 3€.

Some 6.5km (4 miles) east, signs point south in the direction of:

2. Covadonga

Revered as the birthplace of Christian Spain, Covadonga is about 9.5km (6 miles) off the main highway. A battle here in A.D. 718 pitted a ragged band of Christian Visigoths against a small band of Muslims. The resulting victory established the first niche of Christian Europe in Moorish Iberia. The town's most important monuments are La Santa Cueva, a cave containing the sarcophagus of Pelayo (d. 737), king of the Visigothic Christians; and an enormous neo-Romanesque basilica, built between 1886 and 1901, commemorating the Christianization of Spain. At the end of the long boulevard that funnels into the base of the church stands a statue of Pelayo.

Return to the highway and continue east. You'll come to the village of Las Estazadas; then after another 11km (7 miles) you'll reach:

3. Las Arenas de Cabrales

Note that some maps refer to this town simply as Arenas. This is the headquarters of a cheese-producing region whose Cabrales, a blue-veined cheese made from ewes' milk, is avidly consumed throughout Spain.

Drive 5km (3 miles) south from Arenas, following signs to the village of:

4. Puente de Poncebos

This is shown on some maps simply as Poncebos. This village is several miles downstream from the source of Spain's most famous salmon-fishing river, the Cares, which flows through deep ravines from its source near the more southerly village of Cain.

Beginning at Poncebos, a footpath has been cut into the ravine on either side of the Cares River. It is one of the engineering marvels of Spain, known for centuries as the Divine Gorge. It crosses the ravine many times over footbridges and sometimes through tunnels chiseled into the rock face beside the water, making a hike along the banks of this river a memorable outing. You can climb up the riverbed from Poncebos, overland to the village of Cain, a total distance of 11km (7 miles). Allow between 3 and 4 hours. At Cain, you can take a taxi back to where you left your car in Poncebos if you don't want to retrace your steps.

After your trek up the riverbed, continue your drive to the village of:

5. Panes

This village lies at a distance of 23km (14 miles), to the eastern extremity of the Picos de Europa.

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.