Naranjo de Bulnes, Urriellu, Picos de Europa, Northern Spain


Today we decided to walk from the village of Sotres to the refuge at Delgada Ubeda, basing it on a walk we had seen in the book "In the Picos de Europa by Vicente Ena Alvarez, and a Picos map. This allows us to walk to the base of one of the most magnificent peaks in the Picos, Naranjo de Bulnes, which stands at 2519m. The top is only accessible by rock climbing. It is called the orange mountain due to the colours cast on the limestone at sunset. This is a lovely walk which enables you to get into the heart of the Picos, and gaze in awe at one of the most iconic mountains.


The hotel La Rivera Arenas de Cabrales where were staying served breakfast from 8.30am, but having decided to leave earlier than this we went to Santelmo cafe, Arenas de Cabrales, coffee and toast €6 for 2. Then a 30 minute beautiful drive passing through tunnels via Panes(full services) brought us to the mountain village of Sotres. Parking at 9.10am in the already busy car park, we searched in vain for the start of our walk

We walked back through the village and down the road we had just driven up, for 20 minutes. Then on a corner is a left turn signed for Urriellu, where parking is available on the road. Frustrating, but hey ho. We continued along a track turning right at another sign and descended through a beautiful empty settlement.  We could only presume that the buildings here are used to house cattle during the cold winter months. We continued over the river and up the rough road, wondering why so many cars were coming past us.

Eventually at 10.55am we came to the end of the road.  Now it became apparent why there are so many cars, as there was a big parking area. Checking a Spanish walking book later, this was given as the start of the walk. In our book the start was in Sotres!! I would recommend parking here, but at the same time given the condition of the road, I may be concerned about driving up it. Frustratingly we definitely could have parked a lot nearer to the start of the walk, given the heat this would have been a good idea.

From the parking area at 1100m go up the grassy slope, then follow the sign saying Refugio Vega Urriellu 2 hours 40 min. We thought this a bit of a long time, as we had already been walking for nearly 2 hours.

The real walk now begins surrounded by beautiful countryside, scree slopes, huge mountains with vultures and alpine choughs- which are quite unique with yellow beaks, and orange legs, soaring over head. Take the left hand turn. We reached the Refuge Terenosa at 11.30am, but we continued past as we needed to get going. The well marked trail which keeps to the left hand side of the valley has some steep drops to the right and is easy to follow. Rounding the corner, we had the first stunning views of the mountain, which we found to be better from a distance than up close. We got overtaken by 3 donkeys and their owners, who were taking supplies to Refugio Delgado Ubeda.


We happily arrived at the top refuge 1953m at 2pm, quickly eating our lunch, realising it was a long way back to the car. It is possible to stay in the refuge as many on the path were doing, a lot carrying ropes in order to summit Naranja, the only way possible is by rock climbing. We left here at 2.15pm, by 2.45pm back amongst the boulders, 3.40pm through the gap in the rock. It was hot, somewhere in the high 20s, with little shade, and the sun bouncing off the rocks. The donkeys on their downwards journey overtook us once more.

On this occasion we stopped at the Terenosa refuge at 4.15pm for coffee, coke, and chocolate, you could stay the night here. We looked at the very cramped mattresses together with the lack of bathroom facilities and decided it would not be for us!  Ten minutes  later we were back at the signpost and a lovely view to Sotres where our car was parked, looking far away on the other side of a valley. By 5pm back in the turning circle and at 6pm back on main road. We walked steeply uphill back through the village to the car park at 6.15pm. A 9 hour day, but could have been reduced if parking further down the road, which I would heartily recommend

We ate dinner in Santelmo restaurant in Arenas de Cabrales, the service was slow, poor overcooked chicken, pork so thin it was barely on the plate, together with chips, lettuce, tomato and onion. Obviously we should have just stuck to eating breakfast there.

Distance 14.05miles (22.05km)

Duration of Walk Hours  8.45

Average Pace  Min/Mile 37.17

Steps  47913

Elevation gained 47431feet (1440m)


Take plenty of water, food, sun hats, sun screen, wear walking shoes/boots and mind your step.

If parking in the official car park in Sotres, remember that this will add about 90 minutes  each way to the walk. It is possible to park on the road which leads to or at the end of the road is a parking area.

This area of Northern Spain is accessible from England either by driving through France, or flying to Bilbao, then hiring a car or the route that we took, driving from our home in Manchester then catching the 24 hour relaxing ferry from Plymouth to Santander. From there we visited Aldi in Torrelavega  as the food is more expensive in the Picos national park area, and drove to where we were staying in La Rivera Arenas de Cabrales for 5 days.

Resources used

In the Picos de Europa-a slightly strangely written book, by Vicente Ena Alvarez.

Map Picos de Europa topographic map, with 50 hiking trails, scale 1:80,000.

On this walk we met the only English couple of the trip who were staying in Sotres and going out for walks from there each day, sometimes catching a taxi to the start. Maybe a plan for another time. They recommended a book Spanish Trails, Book 1, Los Picos De Europa by Phil Lawler. They had parked at the top of the track, relieving  themselves of the additional many hours that we had walked. Obviously this is the book we needed to buy.

Another book is Picos de Europa et sur la cote Cantabrique, by Alban Boyer. This is in French, but with maps in and accurate timings, you could get the gist even without knowledge of the language.