The Spanish village that cannot be reached by car

Sound. The sound of water, of pebbles cracking under a traveller’s steps. The chirping of a thrush, the tapping sound of rain… But, what about the sound of traffic? No cars in sight. Not one. The thing is, this bastion has never seen a vehicle pass by. Perhaps a helicopter, when one of the few inhabitants of Bulnes was in need of aid, since they are almost the only remnant of humanity in the mountains of Asturias.

Stone houses in Bulnes next to a creek and a mountain in the background

Stone houses in Bulnes. | Shutterstock

Being a passageway for cattle, Bulnes became a village when some shepherds decided to stay and live there. At first, and for the most part of history, the inhabitants of Bulnes have remained isolated from the world. Literally, considering there is nothing connecting it to civilisation other than a mountain path leading to the municipality of Poncebos.

However, their lives changed when they established a cable car in 2001. Said cable car connects Poncebos and Bulnes through an underground railway that goes on for 2 kilometres. Thus, the visitor can get there in about 7 minutes. However, everyday at 6pm, the cable car stops running and the village goes back to being isolated from the world.

A route into the heart of Picos de Europa

Spectacular mountains surrounded by fog and some trees in the front

The peak Naranjo de Bulnes. | Envato

When we step out of the cable car, the views awaiting us are simply spectacular. Bulnes lies at a height of 649 metres, in a lovely valley surrounded by the mountain range of Picos de Europa. In the distance, the renowned peak Naranjo de Bulnes, also called Pico Urriellu, watches over the village. In fact, Bulnes is a prelude to the peak, only four or five hours away by foot. Nevertheless, there are more routes departing from there. For example, we could plan a trip to Sotres, Fuente Dé or Collado Pandébano.

If we had to choose a route one cannot miss in Bulnes, it would probably be the one departing from Poncebos and ending up in Bulnes. The Cares Trail is another delightful route that starts in Poncebos. If you were to ask the people living in that secluded spot how to get there for the first time, they would suggest taking the path that spreads along the channel of Texu. This is actually the way they used before having a cable car.

The path spreads for four kilometres and it has a slope of 400 metres, sometimes reaching an 18% angle. However, the time it takes varies from an hour and a half to two hours, and it is almost for all audiences. One can even go up and down in the same day.

Bulnes, a journey to tranquillity

The village of Bulnes with some hikers

When they installed the cable car, tourism increased drastically in Bulnes. | Shutterstock

No matter how they get there, the visitor will see the same thing: a small village with stone houses, many of them in ruins, divided into two sections. On the one hand, we have Bulnes de Abajo (“Lower Bulnes”), also known as the Villa. On the other, resting on a hill, there is Bulnes de Arriba (“Upper Bulnes”), or the castle. The latter has fewer buildings, and the houses there are older.

Bulnes de Abajo provides more services, like coffee shops, restaurants, and accommodation. When they installed the cable car, tourism increased drastically, so much so that they make a living of that during the summer months. By contrast, in winter, the inhabitants of Bulnes live as they used to in the past: with cattle and under harsh conditions not many people would be able to endure. In 2021, Bulnes had only 27 inhabitants, and most of them did not live there throughout the year.

Living in Bulnes might be a challenge, but who would decline spending a couple of days there, far from the noise of the city and the cars? At the end of the day, visiting Bulnes is but a journey to tranquility.

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