Vega de Ario is an area in the Western Massif within the Picos National Park that I simply love. There are magnificent views of the mountains and valleys as you walk along the path and the wild fauna and flora you encounter along the way are special.
Setting off from La Pasera, the Picos de Europa lakes are a 40 minute drive up mountain roads. They never fail to impress. Arriving and parking up at Lake Ercina I took a well signed-posted path towards Majada de Belbin, a little green and luscious valley with numerous stone huts where in the old days, the shepherds would spend several months tending the herds and making cheese; these days there are only two of them used in this way and the rest are weekend retreats.
From Belbin I followed a hill side path that eventually takes you down into a valley and up a small stream where newts gather in the few shallow pools that are fed by water from the melting of the last Winter's snow. At this point I had to climb up to meet the main path that takes you up the mountains and towards Vega de Ario. Most people join at the base of Lake Ercina but I prefer this beautiful detour.
Once on the main path, after about 1 hour of a steady climb, the landscape opens up and flattens slightly and you come across one of my favourite spots within the National Park. There are some fantastic views towards the Central Massif. In this area, the abundance of alpine flowers blossoming at this time of the year within the limestone crevices create a colourful carpet.
During this walk, I came a cross a group of biologists researching how the area's bird population is affected by the increased numbers of parasites they get as the climate changes with a loss of colder areas and a lack of permanent snow. I also talked to a group of cave explorers from Cambridge University that were exploring one of the several 3000 feet deep caves there are in this particular area.
Just before heading back, I walked towards the edge of the top of the Cares Gorge, the most popular walk in the National Park and the path leading to two peaks I intend to climb in the near future and as part of my learning about mountain orientation and strengthening my map reading skills.
The return along this path takes you directly back to Lake Ercina and the occasional breeze was very welcomed on a very hot and sunny day.