How to climb one of Spain’s most ancient and celebrated peaks

The Naranjo de Bulnes is the jewel of Picos de Europa National Park in Asturias, Spain. In an area covered in jagged limestone peaks, the Paleozoic-era Naranjo de Bulnes towers 8,300 feet above sea level, and people come from all over the world just to climb it.

Picos de Europa National Park spans 249 square miles, covering parts of three Spanish autonomous communities (loosely equivalent to American states): Asturias, Cantabria and Castile and León. This is larger than Zion, Redwood and Lassen national parks here in the U.S.

Unlike our national parks, there are no required entrance fees or permits to camp, climb or hike. You’ll also find strewn about the countryside the original villages that were established before park was created. Bulnes, for example, is accessible only by foot or by paying for a subway ride through the mountain.

Getting to the Naranjo de Bulnes

As you can imagine, there’s no real public transportation to get to such a remote area. The easiest option is to fly into Bilbao or Asturias international airports and get a rental car, then make your way to a small town called Arenas de Cabrales.

From there, you’ll go through several more small villages and end with a two- to three-hour hike to the permanent mountain hut.

Where to stay

Nearly every small Spanish town I’ve visited has had a hotel or hostel available for travelers. And they’re cheap!

Grab a room at any one of the places you see along the way the night before you start your hike. If you like planning ahead, look around the town of Sotres.

Once you’re ready to hike and climb, there’s no need to bring a tent — or food, for that matter. The permanent mountain hut, Vega de Urriellu, is fully equipped to accommodate multiple parties and offers catered food. If you don’t want to pay for meals, they have kitchens available to cook your own.

Climbing the Naranjo de Bulnes

A photo posted by Revista Oxigeno (@oxigenados) on

Climbing the Naranjo de Bulnes is no small undertaking. The easiest route, a 500-foot 5.8, is on the north face and requires an additional hour-and-a-half approach from the hut. Most other routes are in the mid-5.10 range and about 1,600 feet tall (the tallest being 2,460 feet).

In terms of climbing gear, you’ll want at least two 60-meter ropes, a standard traditional climbing rack and some aid gear. Make sure to buy a local guidebook and fully research your routes before you set out to tackle this monstrously beautiful piece of limestone.

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