Located in the foothills of the Picos de Europa mountains (and just outside the National Park boundary) is a small town called Potes.
As you might’ve guessed, adventure sports and hiking are the main attractions here. But why would you visit Potes when the imposing mountains of the National Park are just around the corner?
Well, it turns out that Picos de Europa is (or at least was) a little difficult to visit if you’re short on cash. Public transport coverage is extremely limited and hostels are few and far between. Potes, on the other hand, is more suited to budget travellers and still has some great hiking.
The great thing about Potes is its location; many of the walking routes start and finish in/around the village itself, meaning no need to drive or get public transport each time you go for a hike.
Two such walks that I did were to Porcieda and Cahecho. The one to Porcieda was definitely my favourite as it took me to some abandoned rural settlements – not something you get to see everyday! It also had the better views (mostly of the Picos de Europa mountain range) and was a loop walk rather than a same-track return.
For other routes, ask at your accommodation or the local tourism office – they should be able to provide you with some details and a map.
Alternatively, check out www.wikiloc.com for tried and tested routes by fellow hikers. Some of the routes in the area are Spanish National hiking routes – these are denoted by colourful markers (usually white & red) so are the easiest to follow.
Take some safety precautions!
Potes isn’t very touristy so you might be alone on many of these walks – I’d advise taking a map and some water and telling your accommodation where you plan to go because if you get lost there might not be anyone to help.
How to get to Potes
The bus journey to Potes is actually a very picturesque one – rolling hills and fields soon give way to winding rivers, snaking their way through steep mountain valleys. Enjoyable for most, but maybe not the best idea if you suffer from travel sickness.
Buses to Potes leave Santander at the following times:
➲ Mon-Fri 10:15am & 5pm.
➲ Sat 11:15am.
➲ Sun 3pm.
Journey time is 2.5hrs.
Another town where you can catch the bus from is Torrelavega – they depart here around 30mins after leaving Santander (i.e. Mon-Fri 10:45am & 5:30pm).
Read more: Why I like layovers.
Not quite Ordesa
Despite having some fantastic hiking opportunities and beautiful landscapes, the area around Potes is no match for Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park. I didn’t quite get that same sense of awe in Potes – it was just missing that “wow” factor.
Based on these pictures, you might think that Potes look better, right? That one view of the Picos peaks is spectacular…
But that’s exactly it – that one view is the main attraction; Potes’ party piece if you like. Whereas Ordesa has fresh stunning views at every turn in the path, constantly amazing you with its beauty.
You can find all the details about Ordesa – Europe’s answer to Yosemite – by clicking here. In my article I cover hiking routes (in far more detail than this post), transport logistics and more.
So, is Potes worth visiting?
To conclude, I’d make seeing Ordesa your priority (read the article above to find out why).
Next up on the list of best places to hike in Northern Spain has to be Picos de Europa; if money isn’t too much of an issue then I would recommend checking out some of the villages within the [Picos de Europa] National Park, for example Sotres.
However, for those of you on a tight budget, like I was, Potes is a great substitute as it’s accessible by local buses and has cheap accommodation options.