The best spots in Spain to face the thrill of heights

Julia Campos
Julia Campos

If human beings had been created only to walk terrain we wouldn’t have invented the elevator. The need to discover new things and look for what is beyond our reach leads us to paths the general public would rarely peak at. Spain’s gorges, narrow pathways along the mountains formed by river erosions, are exactly what we are talking about. These spectacular routes invite you to explore landscapes, with heights as the centre of your experience.

This outing is not for the faint of heart, yet these steep heights form the most breathtaking sceneries of Spain’s geography. There are more than fifty gorges in Spain, offering an impressive collection of sights and chances for breathtaking photo-shots.

There are gorges, canyons and sickles for every need. Some adapted to any kind of experience seeker and others only for experienced hikers. We offer walks through the most stunning of them, from the well-trodden popular spots to the yet undiscovered. Feel free to choose the option that best fits the unique experience you seek!

Are you ready to face the thrill of heights?

The Cares Gorge (Garganta del Cares) – León-Asturias)

Back in the days when Picos de Europa where lands inhabited by local shepherds, free of roads crossing through the landscape, the Cares Gorge was the only path between the villages of Caín (León) and Poncebos (Asturias) during winter.

Today this track is walked more by tourists than goatherds. The Cares Trail is one of the most popular trails in the Iberian peninsula, easily accessible despite the steep fall along which it passes. The path runs parallel to the Cares river for approximately 7.5 miles and is literally carved into the rock, offering one of the most magnificent views in Northern Spain. This must be the reason why it is more commonly known as the “Garganta Divina” (the Divine Gorge).

You don’t have to be an experienced hiker to enjoy this route. If you’re motivated and have the appropriate shoes, you’re more than prepared. However, be warned that the trail advances through cliffs of great altitude with no straightforward exit. The challenge lies in the fact that you cannot leave the trail until you reach one of the villages. The Cares Gorge crosses bridges, caves and paths carved into the rocks and is undoubtedly the most well known gorge in Spain.

Foz de Lumbier (Navarra)

The least known route is the one of Foz de Lumbier, located in Sierra de Leyre (Navarra). Dug out by the Irati river, this narrow gorge is neither too high nor too long. It rises at approximately 650 feet and is only couple of miles long. However, it has something that catches you attention.

It’s perfectly located, as it crosses directly through the Natural Reserve and is surrounded by wild nature. Or perhaps it’s the variety of birds that you can encounter along the way, especially raptors such as griffons and vultures. Whatever it is surely worth to spend an exciting morning to enjoy a walk along this path along the cliffs, which, by the way, ends right in front of the Bridge of the Devil (Puente del Diablo).

If you think it’s not adventurous enough let us tell you a little story. The legend says that Lucifer himself helped to constructed this bridge in the 16th century. You can go and try to discover it yourself… Only if you dare.

The gorge of Hermida (Desfiladero de Hermida) (Cantabria)

At the other extreme of our ranking, the record for the longest route goes to the gorge of Hermida in Cantabria. The total of 21 kilometers of track along the river Deva make it one of the longest gorges in Spain. Its altitude is also not for the weak hearted ones with more than 600 meters of steep fall.

The gorge of Hermida is located in the massif of Andarra and up until this day is the only entry point from the Cantabrian coast until the region of Liebana. It was already famous back in the 19th century when a variety of explorers, rock-climbers and travellers used to cross it to get to the Picos de Europa.

The narrow walls prevent the vegetation from abounding yet at the bottom of the ravine you can see some holm oaks, cork oaks and oaks-tress. What gives this place most of its life are the birds. You can easily spot vultures, eagles and even the emblematic capercaillie flying over your heads. We guess it is not declared as ZEPA (an Area of Special Birds Protection) for nothing.

An interesting way to do the track is by taking part in a via ferrata activity from Hermida. It is open for both, newbies and experts, and crosses various Tibetan bridges which made it one of the most popular via ferrata in the country.

Gorge Mont-Rebei (Lérida)

Between the counties of Pallars Jussa and Noguera lays the best kept secret of Lerida. Its walls of more than 500 meters of height (with a width that sometimes exceeds 20 meters) surrounded by practically untouched nature deserved being declared Wildlife Refuge 13 years ago.

There are no roads which would interrupt with the natural landscape, but you can cross it on foot from the parking lot in Masieta until the bridge of Montfalco. The path carved in the rocks reveals the wonderful views of the area. Even though this track is not that long it is short of haste and surplused in value.

This untamed place holds authentic magic and contrasts. From the oak forests in the North up to the arid landscapes of the Southern side everything in Mont-Rebei must be enjoyed incorporating all of the five senses. If you also like speleology, you can not miss a visit to the nearby cave of La Colomera.

The Gorge of Collegats (Lérida)

The gorge of Congost de Collegats is of no secret to anyone. The gorge, cut by the river of Noguera Pallaresa, makes its way between the mountain ranges of Boumort and Peracalç. This time we invite you to cross the northern end of Pallar Jussà to reach the Pallars Sobirà.

The path was opened to the public in the 19th century. Up until then the only way of communication between the two counties was to go all the way up and down the rocks. Though we offer you a different way to discover this gorge of 5 kilometer long and 500 meter steep – rafting.

The descent down the river Noguera Pallaresa will gift you with an opportunity to appreciate the Congost de Collegats from a  different perspective. Moreover, you will pass by Argenteria, a unique gorge area where during the winter season the ice formations of stalactites and stalagmites shine in the sun as if they were made of silver. They say that Gaudi got his inspiration exactly from this place when he was designing the façade of La Pedrera.

On the other hand, you will also see typical pre-Pyrenean vegetation dominated by the black pine and raptors, among other fauna. In 1987 this space was declared a Partial Natural Reserve.

The Gorge of La Yecla (Burgos)

We are coming back to Castilla y Leon to now depart towards Burgos where the gorge of La Yecla dominates the impressive landscape of Peñas de Cervera. Even shorter than the gorge of Hermida, this narrow gorge offers you a breathtaking route. In some parts there are only a couple of meters of gaps between one rock wall and the other.

The path crosses a tunnel in one of the walls of the gorge and ends up at the same riverbed. It is one of those routes which you should do with no hurry, observing every single detail of the surroundings. Along the track you will find bridges, walkways, water pools, waterfalls and many other charming surprises. They also say that about 100 pairs of griffon vultures nest in the area (do not forget to take your binoculars).

Another interesting point is that the monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos is located only 3 kilometers away, and we cannot forget about the chance to continue the tour in Sierra de la Demanda.

Hoces del río Duratón (Segovia)

We are going to change things up a bit and travel to another province. Segovia holds the most beautiful and popular gorges in Spain. The sickles of the river Duraton, declared as a Natural Park in 1989, form part of an impressive encased canyon of 100 meters of height.

Among the other natural attractions, such as the scenery, here you can find hundreds of pairs of griffon vultures as well as many other raptors. Even more, the place is rich in archeological treasures such as the cave of Edad del Bronce and the architectonic hermitage of San Frutos from the Romanesque period.

Just as in the other gorges of Spain there is a great number of routes to explore. To give you a couple of options we would suggest the Senda Larga, of 12 kilometers, and the Senda Circulas de los Dos Rios, of 5 kilometers. Nethertheless, if you are not fond of walking you can also gaze upon the area from a hot air balloon witnessing the unique city and the impressive canyon from another perspective.

Hoz de Beteta (Cuenca)

Right at Serranía de Cuenca you can find a magnificent protected area with around 8 kilometers of cliffs called the National Park Hoz de Beteta and the Sinkhole of Mata Asnos

The river Guagiela is the main architect which forms the rock walls of over 80 meters of height. Here, as in other places we have mentioned, you can selected from a variety of routes. Even if you do not want to complete the whole track you can have a walk of the Botanical Path of a couple of kilometers where you will discover most of the main attractions.

Here you will find caves, meanders and waterfalls and, if you choose to visit this area in summer, some pools in which you can bathe. In terms of flora, the tillars, yew trees and hazel trees dominate the landscape.

The most daring (especially those who do not have vertigo) can continue the trek in the nearby Sickle of Tragavivos. Here parallel to the river Guadiela runs a water channel with a curb of barely 40 centimeters wide. This however, without a doubt, is only for the experienced confident mountaineers.

The Gorge of Gaitanes (Málaga)

Due to its difficulty it was also known as the path that passed through the gorge of the Gaitanes in Málaga. Built at the beginning of the 20th century by the Society of Hidroeléctrica del Chorro and inaugurated by King Alfonso XIII, the Caminito del Rey (how it was known) became the most dangerous path in the world.

Luckily today we can leave all of this behind. Ever since it was opened in 2015, after its restoration, this trek became one of the most visited ones in Spain and with no threat of danger.

Yet it is no cookie. It is combined of seven kilometers of footbridges over the rock walls of up to 700 meters high in a narrow canyon that in some parts is only 10 meters wide. All this makes the visit both overwhelming and fascinating at the same time.

Yet you must bear in mind that the access is very strictly controlled and the tickets sell out fast. So, the best idea to make sure you enjoy hiking in Caminito del Rey is to book your activity in advance.

The Canyon of Buitreas (Málaga)

Last but not least we present you another fascinating canyon in Malaga – the Canyon of Buitreas. This antique gorge of over 200 million of years runs through Serranía de Ronda with the river Guadiaro running along its feet. It was declared as a Natural Monument together with Caminito del Rey and its paths undoubtedly form one of the top best trekking routes in the Andalusian province.

This 15 kilometer route is surely not for everyone. But at least, you can always enjoy the splendid views from the Bridge of the Germans, located in about 60 meters of height. The beauty of the riverbed full of hollows, labyrinths and waterfalls, is accompanied by the flora which includes junipers, mastic trees and even exotic palms.

Even more, here you can found incredible species of fauna. As you probably have already noted, in this type of geographical areas, you can witness a couple of griffon vultures circling on top of your head. Once again, do not forget your binoculars!

As you see, there are numerous desfiles in Spain as are the options to explore them, whether on land, in water of in air. We present you only an example but knowing how many rivers cross our peninsula you can surely find many more. Do not think about it anymore and dive into the adventure. Only you can set the limits.

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