Sotres, touching the sky on the heights of Asturias

Sotres appears as a vision, furtive but accurate, in the middle of the hug of the mountains. The Central Massif of the Picos de Europa hosts this small village, at more than 1000 meters of altitude, in the heart of the relief of the Cantabrian Mountains. Far from the sea, but very close to the sky, emerges this paradise, natural park, between peaks and valleys. Traditional home of shepherds and herds, which still today are drawn on the green meadows. The flavour of a cheese-making tradition settled in the depths of the limestone mountains guides the visitor.

Reaching Sotres means being very close to fulfilling the fantasy of touching the sky with the tips of your fingers. Sometimes, opening imaginary grooves, splashing a bluish vault with droplets. Others, taking a moment to pick out a cotton candy among fluffy clouds. Always under the watchful eye of Pico Urriellu on the horizon, touching the stars. It means living the dream that nature has made a reality in Asturian lands: traveling through a Biosphere Reserve. Getting to know sister towns, riverbeds, rocky gorges, funiculars, legends and kilometers of routes that open up in the rock, like cartographies eroded over millennia.

Reaching Sotres


Sotres in the Picos de Europa.| Shutterstock

Sotres can seem far from everything. A remote feeling that is hard to ignore, despite the fact that it is only 19 kilometers away from Carreña, capital of the Cabrales region to which it belongs. It seems almost like a mirage, dressed in its best clothes every season of the year. Perhaps the wind disorients and misleads, howling between gorges and cliffs. Or maybe the altitude is to blame for changing the point of balance of those who visit this area of Asturias.

Whatever the reason, the truth is that in Sotres, the perspective changes. The perception of the small and the big, the high and the low, the noise and the silence is transformed. Being in the highest village of Asturias implies a before and an after. Something that can already be sensed when you travel the different roads that lead to it.

Starting from Carreña, it is advisable to stop and visit its hermitage. One of the most beautiful of the region, of the Asturian side of the Picos de Europa and, many say, of Asturias itself. A place where the legend survives attached as lichen to the facade of the temple. According to the story, the Virgin who rests there came from Seville, brought by a neighbor, in exchange for recovering her sight. But the reality that surrounds this mountainous area is even more incredible than the history that surrounds it.

It is impressive to reach Sotres by road, taking Arenas de Cabrales as a starting point. A population center that holds the title of Villa since 1910 and that, today, hosts the contest of its famous cheese. But Arenas de Cabrales is much more. Above all, it is a strategic point, as it is considered the gateway to the Picos de Europa. Besides feeling the silent presence of the Naranjo de Bulnes, shouting to the four winds its greatness.

Urriellu Peak

The Urriellu Peak on the horizon. | Shutterstock

The Urriellu Peak and the surrounding routes attract the constant presence of mountaineers and lovers of active tourism. But also of people who long for the peace of the mountain, breathe fresh air and live closely the traditions preserved in the area. It is possible to walk among granaries enjoying the views until you reach the Church of Santa Maria de Llas. Discover its medieval paintings, trying to guess the coat of arms of Cabrales, or imagine the ancient uses of the magical Yew planted outside.

A natural cave awaits anyone who wishes to feel the tradition of the traditional cheese factory from its very origins. Later, with the table ready, the only thing left to do is to get ready to enjoy. Visiting Sotres and its surroundings is also an appointment with a delicious cuisine, from the legendary gastronomy of the area to its most current interpretation.

Legend and nature fly together, wrapped in the wind, over an incredible landscape. The air howls through the branches of the trees telling the traveler that, even without realizing it, the road continues. The end of the route is almost here. Or maybe this is just the beginning.

Sotres and its surroundings


Invernales del Texu, in Sotres. | Shutterstock

There is Sotres, already visible in the distance from the road that winds its way up an unforgettable ascent from Poncebos. In winter the image looks like something out of a postcard. The chimneys of the rustic houses that offer shelter to the visitor smoke. Accompanying the path is the dull sound of eagles flapping their wings. Meanwhile, from some vague point, comes the aroma of a hot dish cooked on the warm fire of a house.

In any season Sotres looks like a village stolen from the pages of a story. An imagination that becomes solid and real, imbued by the strength of the mountains that surround it. The Picos de Europa fill the landscape with their mysticism. Ascending about a kilometer we find the Invernales del Texu, bordering the Invernales del Cabao. Walking through them and breathing them serves to relive, at least for a few moments, the life of the shepherds. There, the stone buildings that served as shelter for them and their flocks still keep the warmth of their lives. Long days of ice and snow nestled in the middle of the Reconquest route, 915 meters before the clouds.

Cares Route

Picture of the Cares Route. | Shutterstock

In Sotres there is also space to live adventures and fulfill dreams. It is the beginning and end of many routes. It is next to the famous Cares route, 12 impressive kilometers between Poncebos, still in Asturias, and Cain, already in León. A path that, once you start, it is easy to understand the reason for its nickname: Garganta Divina (divine throat). A seemingly endless depth, carved into the rock, with the greenish sound of the Cares River in the background.

The Bolín Bridge and the Rebecos Bridge serve to circumvent the beautiful obstacle of the river and stop for a few moments to digest the breathtaking scenery. The Naranjo de Bulnes, towering over the village that gives it its name, watches over the beginning of the road, in Poncebos. Approaching it, looking at it from the front or from the side, it doesn’t matter, is an unforgettable experience.

Also nearby, the small village of Tielve offers the dream of a mountainous and solitary isolation. The church of San Cristobal presides over a main square where a typical wash house is preserved. Although the real protagonist here is the river Duje that advances, emboldened by the descent, from the heart of the Picos de Europa. In this area it rests, forming natural pools, perfect for cooling off in the summer, which, in the end, always comes. Then, after the calm, the tempest of its course returns, until it flows into the Cares River.


Tresviso, in Cantabria. | Shutterstock

Sotres runs in a network of peaks and valleys, riverbeds, and gorges nested by vultures. Kilometers of mountains and slopes, forests that are gateway and natural border between villages and communities. On the other side of one of these borders, at the end of a dizzying road, awaits, for those who dare to get there, Tresviso. The most isolated village of Cantabria is twinned with Sotres through a challenging road or at the end of the Cares Gorge Route. There it is, disconnected from everything, but indissolubly united with a nature that places it, like its name, ‘behind the abyss‘. This town in the Liébana region, overlooking the Urdón Valley, is the missing piece to complete the puzzle.

Ascending to Sotres is a gift for all the senses. It is the desire for a star in a clear and clean firmament. It is the reality of a wild nature seen up close, the flavor of an ancestral region. Finally, to arrive means to steal moments from the present to keep them eternally in memory.

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