How are you with heights? Good? Then you might like to test them on what is often described as Spain’s most spectacular walk, the Cares Gorge in the Picos de Europa, the impressive limestone mountain range that’s close to the coast of Northern Spain.
The 12km gorge follows the Rio Cares from Cain, high up in the centre of the mountains, to Poncebos at the range’s northern limits. It bisects the Picos, separating them into eastern and western segments. Lots of walkers tackle the gorge from Cain, where the gorge is no more than 30 feet wide, although it is possible to walk from the widest part of the gorge at Poncebos.
What is remarkable about the Cares Gorge is that the walk follows the course of a hydroelectric scheme that diverted the Rio Cares into a canal that was cut into the rock. The path way is the maintenance track. It too, was cut into the sheer rock face of the gorge, criss-crossing the river a couple of times on narrow metal bridges.
So what’s the big deal?
The Cares gorge is truly remarkable. At its deepest the gorge is over a mile from peak to valley floor. The path way often runs hundreds of feet above the river, often skirting vertical faces, with no barriers or fences to keep you from peering into the abyss.
Because of this, it is a ‘must see’ for people visiting northern Spain, and is one of country’s finest natural wonders. A walk along it will make you feel truly tiny, if not a bit dizzy. As you walk, the gorge’s walls widen out and the river drops away, ever further below your feet. At times it seems like it’s no more than a silver ribbon, gushing away hundreds of feet below you. With the path no more than a couple of metres wide most of the way, it wouldn’t take too much of a slip to plunge into the water below. And yet people flock to the Picos to walk its length, or to walk for an hour or so before turning back. Some in flip flops!
But what about the via ferrata?
Unlike via ferrata, which are ‘protected climbing paths’ and use safety lines and carabiners to keep you from falling off, there is no safety line or cable running alongside the Cares Gorge. While the pathway is generally wide and flat, very few of the drops are protected.
What’s the risk?
There have been very few accidents in the Cares Gorge, despite the proximity to danger and the number of people who walk it. Some walkers fairly skip along, seemingly with no care in the world, while parents carry kids on their shoulders as they stroll along like it was a walk in the park. Some people have also been known to cycle the route, although I’m not sure this is recommended!
Anyone who suffers from acrophobia – a fear of heights or falling - will find walking the gorge extremely difficult, perhaps resulting in the symptom known as vertigo. Some of the drops and peaks surrounding the Cares Gorge can certainly be described as dizzying!
I fancy walking the gorge. Do I have to get the right travel insurance cover?
If you have a travel insurance policy with us then you'll need to make sure you've got the right cover in place for any activity you wish to do when you are away. So don't forget to tell us what you plan on getting up to, whether it's gorge walking, hang gliding or surfing. It may be that we won’t have to add any extra cover to your premium, but, in the case of walking the Cares Gorge, it is likely you’d need to pay a small extra premium to include our Activity Pack 4, which specifically covers gorge walking without ropes. The via ferratas, which might be steeper, with more hair raising drops and more difficult sections, are covered by Activity Pack 3, because of the fact that, when done properly, you shouldn’t be able to fall off!
What if I decide to walk the gorge at the last minute?
Don’t worry. Give us a call and we’ll gladly put you on cover. Just remember to call, as you’ll risk not being on cover if you go ahead without letting us know. It’s the same with any activity. As long as we know we can cover it.
Call us on 0345 90 80 161 for an instant quote.
THE CARES GORGE: THE FACTS:
- The Cares Gorge is 12km long.
- At its deepest the gorge is over a mile deep.
- Around 300,000 people walk the gorge each year.
- Gorge walking without ropes is covered by Activity Pack 4.
- There is no water en route – take plenty.
- It can be accessed from Cain in the south or Poncebos in the north.
- You can walk the gorge one way but the taxi trip back is 2 hours and costs €130.
- Getting to the Picos de Europe is easy from the UK. By ferry to Santander or by plane to Bilbao or Oviedo.