The PR PNPE 24 Ruta Puertos de Aliva is without a doubt one of the most popular walks in the Picos de Europa. We’ve done it before, but had heard that it had been improved, and it was now completely circular, starting and ending in the car park at Fuente Dé, so we thought we’d better do it again!
Of course, we made sure we chose a beautiful day to do it! And being late spring/early summer, we had the bonus of slightly snowy mountain tops and orchids to boot.
Part of this route’s attraction is its start – taking the cable car from Fuente Dé above Potes, right up into the mountains. There are things to take into account with this in July, August and weekends. Arrive early is the most important thing! Or at lunchtime. As soon as the coach parties start turning up you’ll be in for a LONG wait. Check opening times, and try to get there when it opens, it’ll be worth your while.
Once you get to the top, it’s a question of your vertigo level as to whether you step out onto the viewing platform! But the views are spectacular of course. There’s a restaurant in the top station, and a souvenir shop, and an exhibition on the building of the cable car. Oh, and toilets!
It’s then a half hour gentle climb up to the pass which takes you up to the pass with Peña Olvidada towering above you. From the pass the views are spectacular over the green Aliva valley, surrounded by peaks. For many visitors, just walking up here is enough, before taking the cable car back down – and its a nice spot for a picnic if that’s your inclination.
Walking down into the valley is very lovely – past the Chalet Real (old royal hunting hut), to the Hotel Refugio de Aliva – which when open has a restaurant, drinks and snacks as well as picnic benches (and more toilets!). We enjoyed a drink here, before continuing down the track across the valley to its eastern “entrance”, where another path goes off, the PR PNPE 22 Ruta Peña Oviedo to the pretty village of Mogrovejo (of Heidi film fame).
Our walk continues down, following the mountain stream leaving the valley, before turning off over said stream over a little wooden footbridge. It then goes steeply down (we saw some lovely orchids here) before entering the woods – and the first shade since the start of the walk – very welcome!
The walk through the woods is quite long, and does get repetitive after a while, but then you come out into a wetland clearing below the mountains, full of orchids and flowers, real photo op!
The path then continues on with views up to the Fuente Dé cirque, before coming out behind the Parador and then through the meadow below the cable car to the bottom station once again.
The whole walk is billed as taking around 4-4.5 hours, although in our experience with stops, photos and achy legs it’s best to assume an hour or so more – plus of course it depends how long the queue is for the cable car at the start. Although the route is principally downhill, it is a long walk, and the constant downhill can be very tiring on the knees – we were glad of our walking poles. Bear in mind that apart from the Hotel, there is no water on the route either – and take suncream and a hat, as there is no shade at all until you reach the woods. Similarly, come prepared if the weather looks like it could turn (this can happen very quickly in high mountains like the Picos), as the path is very exposed and there is little shelter en route.