Dates & Prices

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Dates: 29th June – 6th July 2020 Places available

Price: £1,495

Single Room Supplement: £150

Deposit: £150 per person


Price Includes: All meals, accommodation, local ground transport, services of guides, holiday report & donation to Butterfly Conservation

Not Included: International travel (flights, ferries, trains etc), travel insurance, drinks and any other personal items.

Conservation Donation: 10% of profits donated to Butterfly Conservation.

Leader: Patrick Barkham + local guide

Group Size & Travel: Minimum of 4 and a maximum of 12 guests plus 1-2 leaders.

Grade: Gentle paced and generally easy

Holiday Highlights


  • Explore the heart of the Cantabrian Mountains with lofty peaks of limestone, a land rich in lepidoptera!  
  • Led by Patrick Barkham – naturalist & writer of numerous highly acclaimed natural history books including The Butterfly Isles
  • Enjoy 80+ butterfly species from the 150+ that reside in the Picos (just under 100 seen in 2019)
  • Stay is an exceptional hotel, one of the finest in the whole area!
  • Star species we’ll look for include Apollo, Dusky Large Blue, Large Chequered Skipper, Scarce Copper, Purple-edged Copper, Gavarnie Blue, Lefèbvre’s & Common Brassy Ringlets & many more!
  • Some fine birds possible too, including Griffon Vulture, Bonelli’s Eagle, Short-toed Eagle & Booted Eagle, Alpine Accentor, Alpine Chough, Snow Finch & maybe even Wallcreeper or Lammergeier
  • A relaxed pace 2 centre tour, designed to enjoy maximum time in the field & soak up the sense of ‘being there’!
  • Possible to travel direct to Santander by ferry from Plymouth or Portsmouth
  • Tour supports Butterfly Conservation
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We are delighted to offer you an exclusive opportunity to share a butterfly watching holiday with Patrick Barkham in the wonderful setting of the Picos de Europa in northern Spain!

The Picos is at the core of The Cantabrian Mountain range, which stretches along the north coast of Spain for about 300 kilometres. It is one of the most beautiful and beguiling parts of the whole region.

Over 150 butterfly species reside among the spectacular and rugged range of limestone mountains. Our daily excursions from the attractive and unspoilt village which is our base, will take in a variety of habitats and scenery, including flower rich meadows fizzing with a range of fritillaries and other goodies, woodlands and sunlit glades and then up into the mountains themselves for alpine treasures, hidden among rocky pastures and limestone pavement!

We should see a good number of different butterfly species, just under 100 were recorded in 2019. These included stars such as the Apollo and Gavarnie Blue, Bog Fritillary, dusky large blue, Camberwell Beauty, Chapman’s Ringlet and Large Chequered Skipper.

Patrick has been visiting the Picos with his family over a number of years and he can’t wait for the chance to share his love of it and show off the area’s wonderful butterflies and other wildlife!

This promises to be a very popular tour – we recommend booking early to avoid disappointment!

          

This itinerary is subject to change as we react to changing weather conditions – we will adjust plans to maximise our chances of seeing as many butterflies as we can, and enjoy the best of the sunshine in the best places.

Day 1 Travel dayMeet at Santander airport, then transfer to our hotel in Aguilar de Campöo. If we make good time and it is a sunny evening we may be able to pop to a local track to look for some butterflies.

Day 2 Exploration of sites on the south side of the Picos. Overnight in Aguilar de Campöo. We will explore the more “Mediterranean” habitats just at the southern side of the Picos Mountain around Aguilar de Campöo. A short walk at the Las Tuerces Reserve near Villaescusa de las Torres takes us through some spectacular streamside and limestone grassland habitat in which there may be 40 or more butterfly species. We will also look at some other dry grassland sites and woodland tracks along the way. Target species include Esper’s Marbled White, Iberian Marbled White, Spanish Gatekeeper and the charismatic Cardinal.

Day 3 Transfer to hotel in Cosgaya and exploration of the area. Overnight in Cosgaya. Today is a drive into the heights of the Picos mountains, and beyond. We will head to a secret location in the southern reaches of the Picos which is arguably one of the best butterfly sites in the range. Possibles include Dusky Large Blue, and a long list of fritillaries, skippers, browns and whites. We will then take the mountain road up and over the San Glorio Pass (1,609m) on the N621, possibly stopping near the summit to take in Chapman’s Ringlet (a Picos endemic). We drive on into the Picos, through the pretty town of Potes and on to our accommodation towards the top of the Deva Valley at the very lovely Hotel del Oso, in the tiny village of Cosgaya.

Day 4 This will be our introduction to the wildflower meadows of the Picos. A short drive from the hotel is a lovely walk from near Pido Cheese Factory up a flower-rich limestone track, exploring the wildflower meadows on each side of the road. We will have a packed lunch (provided by the hotel every day) and take our time to enjoy these meadows, which are full of fritillaries, Clouded Yellows, coppers and blues. Target species include Weaver’s Fritillary, Lesser Marbled Fritillary, Spanish Purple Hairstreak and Purple Edged Copper. Later in the afternoon we will drive to another one or two locations to look for butterflies in the wood edges and meadows of the valley. Dinner is at nearby Hotel Nevandi, which comes recommended by our local advisers! Overnight in Cosgaya.

Day 5 We will explore some excellent butterfly sites around the picturesque village of Tudes. This is good for hairstreaks – Sloe, Ilex, False Ilex and the prettiest of the lot – Blue-Spot. We will also visit some woods near the hamlet of Aliezo and walk on a woodland track to see if we can spot the elusive Lesser Purple Emperor, which we know is flying there. If there is time, another excellent destination are two tracks north of the village of Salarzon. Together these sites provide a wide range of acid rock and limestone habitats. Possibilities here include White and Southern White Admiral and masses of fritillaries including Heath, High Brown, Dark-Green and Silver-Washed. The larger Nymphalids are notoriously elusive but there may be some more interesting big butterflies about! Overnight in Cosgaya.

Day 6 We will take the spectacular cable car (17.50 euros per person) at Fuente De to high mountain grassland at 1,800 metres and above. The scenery here is stupendous and the flower-rich rocky alpine habitat is very different to the lower meadows. There are not huge numbers of butterflies here (apart from ubiquitous Painted Ladies) but there are some notable rarities only found at high altitudes. Target species are Piedmont Ringlet, Lefebvre’s Ringlet and there is a chance we will find Gavarnie Blue (a Picos endemic). We are also likely to see some Pyrgus skippers and high altitude Small Tortoiseshells with different coloration to lower down. We also hope to enjoy views of Golden Eagles, Alpine Chough, Griffon Vultures and Snowfinch. Alpine/limestone flowers include Fairy Foxglove, Pink Sandwort and some beautiful gentians. Overnight in Cosgaya.

Day 7 We will drive north down the spectacular La Hermida gorge. We will stop for a short foray beside the Riega de Cicera, a small mountain stream, with a chance to see one extremely elusive target species. We will continue up to the unspoilt mountain village of Bejes. We will walk up a track out of the village with superb flowers and wildflower meadows. Here we are in search of a rare species which we cannot reveal here because its locations are kept secret because of fears butterfly collectors will capture it. 

This is a glorious day out but if we have time we will also explore around Colio Bridge and the meadows around the lovely historic village of Colio. Overnight in Cosgaya.

Day 8 Departure and transfer to Santander airport.