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Landscapes of Northern Spain - Picos De Europa (Sunflower Landscapes) Paperback – 30 Apr 2001
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The titles in the "Landscapes" series are designed to take visitors away from the tourist centres and out into the countryside, exploring by private or public transport, or on foot. Included in this revised edition are 24 long and short walks, one car tour, and five picnic suggestions.
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The car tour is "the classic car tour in the whole of the Cordillera Cantábrica" It is a circular tour with suggestions for short out and back detours. Anyone with a decent map of the area would be able to identify a route. Descriptions are basic as "they include little history or information that can be found in pamphlets available from tourist offices".
I would have liked more information about the settlements and things to see in the area. Information on the web is variable. Google's English translations are often not easy to read or understand. Failing this, contact details for tourist information centres would be appreciated. It is basically a route finding description of the route, although it does include some useful comments about the state of the roads and presence of the tourist coaches - often an issue on narrow winding roads.
There is a large selection of walks starting with short easy walks aimed at the motorist who wants to stretch their legs to longer routes for serious hikers. These have good 1:250,000 maps showing contours at 100m intervals. Distance is given with an estimate of time and also information on height climbed or lost. Route finding directions are clear which are given in terms of time rather than distance
A bonus in this book is the author's obvious love and knowledge of wildflowers - which is reflected in the information in the book as well as many of the super illustrations.
If you decide to go walking in the Picos - it's much better to have your own transport. Buses seem to become fewer and fewer. You'll probably find it best to divide your time between one base in the south and one in the north: for example Potes and Arenas de Cabrales.
One of the best Sunflower guides!
You might say that we didn't use it much -- we followed the one day circular driving tour and did one of the 'short' walks off it -- but the book was great for helping us decide that was what we wanted to do, and for giving clear directions when we got there.
The book is well written, the walk instructions were clear and easy to follow, and there was just the right amount of background information about the places that we visited. Rare with a 'walks' book in my experience, there were no 'nasty surprises'.
We only had the time and inclination to do what we did, but the book helped us decide that in advance, and we left wanting to go back and do more.
The Picos are a fabulous area and this is a very good guide to them.
Since our first vacation in Tenerife in 1994, we stumbled upon Sunflower books and have been big fans ever since.
They most often have a nice mix of popular walks and 'off the beaten track' walks. That's what we really enjoy: see the highlights in a region, but also get a taste of the unspoiled nature, where you have the feeling that you are one of few people who have walked a path.
In the Picos de Europa we set off with the lesser known tracks (you get a good idea of the popularity / crowdiness from the introductions of each walk). There were nice little walks, nothing spectacular and rather ordinary (of course Sunflower can't help the scenery). Although we enjoyed the feeling of discovering a walk with barely encountering any other people, there were some walks that we were really disappointed about: too boring, certainly combined with the energy they required.
We decided to switch to the more crowded highlights and they were indeed worth their while.
Maybe it's because we are more interested in landscapes than in flora (the writer points out flowers and trees along the way), but this is the first Sunflower book that didn't give us satisfaction. The 2 most popular walks are described in a lot of books and brochures, so you don't need this book for that.
If on the other hand you want to do walks where you don't see other tourists, but where the scenery isn't always spectacular, this book is a terrific guide.
Anyway, we are now planning our next trip and we are sure taking a Sunflower with us.
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