WALK PICOS was established in 2003 and is based on the countryside surrounding the city of Bilbao (north Spain) It was started up and is being run by, brother and sister team, Covadonga Rey and Rafael Rey. Covadonga, with a degree in business management, has taken upon herself the running of the business part of the company, while Rafael guides, designs itineraries, checks accommodation, etc... The company has been constituted under Spanish law, and complies fully with any financial, legal and insurance requirement.
After some years working as a software engineer and field geologist (Rafael) and as a bank employee (Covadonga), our enthusiasm for outdoor activities and desire to set up and run our own business, led us to create WALK PICOS, an independent family-run company which organizes one-week scheduled treks and tailor-made ones for parties, through the mountains and valleys of Picos de Europa National Park (northern Spain). We organize treks for hillwalkers and hikers who wish to capture the mystery, the charm, and the haunting beauty of the scenery in one of the most awesome landscapes in Spain.
- --environmentalism: low impact trekking, no use of 4x4 off-road vehicles, promoting ecotourism.
- --no crowds: minimum group size is four people and maximum is eight (larger groups can be arranged by special request)
- --respect for local culture
- --enjoying the mountain ambience in the company of like minded walkers of all ages
- --gaining knowledge in local flora, fauna, geology, economy, sociology, history ....
- --great memories at the end of your walking holiday
- --being led by a caring, efficient and competent leader
- --providing clients with highly fulfilling and rewarding experiences.
Name: Rafael Rey Age: 50 Birthplace: Bilbao (Spain). Graduate in Geology (Basque Country University (Bilbao) and University of St Andrews (Scotland)). Expert rock and ice climber, cross-country skier and snowboarder, Rafael fell in love with Picos de Europa National Park at an early age while in summer camps run by his school, soon to start climbing the most renowned peaks and walls and making winter ascents all across the Picos area. At the same time, through the years he has walked and climbed in many countries in Europe, North Africa, South America and the U.S.A. Since his early walks and hikes at Picos de Europa, he has acquired a vast store of knowledge about local flora and fauna, as well as local geology (his true passion) and local culture. Rafael's experience extends to cycle tourism (his preferred way of travelling), having 'pedalled' long distances in countries like Norway, Morocco, Spain, France, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Costa Rica. First aid certificate.
He currently spends the months of April, May and October guiding treks in the mountains of Mallorca.
"This was the second time I have been on a Walk Picos Trek - I went to the Picos with Rafael three years ago and enjoyed it so much I wanted to repeat the trip. I'm pleased to say that the second time was even better than the first. The six days of walks are very cleverly arranged so that you gradually cover the whole of the Picos National Park, staying at different small friendly inns each night. You walk the famous routes in the north of the park, including near the Lakes at Covadonga, plus the Cares Gorge, but you also walk in the much quieter and totally unspoilt southern part of the park, staying at the timy hamlet of Soto de Sajambre and also in Posada de Valdeon.
Each day is a well planned and testing walk, taking you to places you would probably never find on your own. Rafael is an excellent, interesting and very informative guide, telling you many things about the Picos National Park as you progress through it. Rafael meets you at the airport when you arrive and returns you there a week later. By then you will have had an wonderful trek through the Picos and you will have a much better knowledge of it.
I suspect that, in a few years time, I might well be planning a third visit to the Picos and Rafael's company!."
Mark Harvey HAMPSHIRE
"Walk Picos provided a wonderful service that went 'above and beyond' what can be reasonably expected of a tour company. Each stage of our booking was easy and helpful with specific advice about planning our accommodation and travel.
The walking tour itself was wonderful: an ingeniously planned route with an experienced guide who enabled us to traverse from one side of the Picos range to the other, explaining its geology, flora and fauna as we walked. The description on the website of the effort involved in each of the days is accurate and gives a fantastic opportunity to savour the mountain scenery. We felt Rafael was a considerate and generous person who wanted to ensure we enjoyed this part of Spain to the full. We recommend this tour without reservation."
B&M T. Comrie PERTHSHIRE
"I would like to thank you again for a great trek, you were the perfect guide and went above and beyond the call of duty in terms of the service you provided. I can honestly say it was my best walking holiday."
B. H. GUILDFORD
"We joined Rafael for one of his guided treks to the Picos de Europa in early June 2014 and we could not have been more delighted with how everything went. Rafael is an excellent guide and companion and he takes you on a comprehensive tour around all the best parts of the National Park, showing you and telling you far more than you would have ever have seen and learnt on your own.
You will fully experience not just the famous sights like the Cares Gorge, but also discover the much quieter, less well known areas, such as the tiny hamlet of Soto de Sajambre in the south of the Park. Some days you will follow trails so remote that you are unlikely to meet anyone else. Rafael is with you all the way, from meeting you at the airport when you arrive, to taking you back there when it’s time to leave. You will learn an enormous amount from Rafael about the geology, flora, fauna, history and people of the Picos, but also you will learn a great deal through him about modern Spain in general terms.
The treks are a pleasantly tiring day’s walk but the pace is steady, not rushed and there are plenty of stops for rest, admiring the amazing views and a picnic lunch every day. Each evening, you arrive in a different village and stay in a small hotel, where you are extremely well looked after, not least because you are now a friend of Rafael, who of course, the local people know very well. Rafael cleverly arranges the transport so that you do not have to carry very much with you as you go.
All meals, accommodation and transport (apart from your flight) are included in the price, so this is not only a great experience but also a very good value holiday.
I have wanted to explore the Picos for many years and thanks to Rafael’s brilliant treks, I have now done so far more thoroughly, safely and enjoyably than would ever be possible on my own."
Mark Harvey HAMPSHIRE
"I just wanted to say thanks for a great week in the Picos. I enjoyed the week very much indeed. I fulfilled an ambition that started around 25 years ago. It was hard work at times but well worth the effort. Fantastic scenery, good exercise, great hotels, authentic food, a chance to practise a bit of Spanish, I learned some geology, and I enjoyed your company. Thanks again for a great week."
L. J. Evesham WORCESTERSHIRE
"We enjoyed the trek. Until we meet again!"
L. K.&S. S. San Fernando Valley CA,USA
"We have been on many guided tours, but we have never ever had such a wonderful experience as WalkPicos ...your WalkPicos Adventure had a quality that none of our previous adventures have had: It was down to: 1) You and 2) your enthusiasm; 3) the trek that you had planned 4) the quality of the accommodation and the food."
N&G. Ch. Mill Lane READING
"Thanks for a great trip. I'm going to write it up for our ramblers club."
J. F. LEEDS
"We really enjoyed the trek and your good company and excellent food and hotels. We have been telling our friends and colleagues about it."
F&K. M. Wormit FIFE
"Thanks again for the walking trip - really enjoyed it."
D. T. Dulwich LONDON
"Thanks for the pictures, they captured the walk perfectly.I hope I'll see you again sometime on your other walk."
D.O. Grange Park LONDON
"Thank you for a fantastic holiday in the Picos!.We were both very impressed by your in-depth knowledge of the area, especially from a geological standpoint, and we both learnt a lot.
Rafael, a great guide who went out of his way to ensure we all had a great, and memorable holiday."
A&A. S. Bray co. WICKLOW IRELAND
"Thanks for a wonderful holiday."
B&S. R. St. Martin GUERNSEY CHANNEL ISLANDS
"Thanks again for being such a good guide in the Picos. We will definitely recommend you to our friends."
S.R.&J. C. Southend-on-Sea ESSEX
"What a fabulous week I had and I'd like to say thanks to you all and especially Rafael for making the week so good. Thanks once again for a fabulous week, it was all I expected amd more."
A. S. Long Eaton DERBYSHIRE
"Really enjoyed this trek. Using his intimate knowledge of the area, Rafael’s itinerary skilfully encompasses what must be the pick of the walks in the Picos. These provided excellent variety passing through woodlands, meadows, valleys, gorges (including the spectacular Cares Gorge) as well as memorable ascents (including one after having taken the Fuente De cablecar) and descents (memorably the zig-zag down from Tresviso). Rafael strings together the walks nicely by pre-booking the group into strategically placed and charming local hotels - often well off the beaten track - which were very comfortable and with excellent food. He also “juggles” with the trek vehicle during the week such that your rucksack need carry no more than 2 days worth of clothes etc at any one time. As a moderately fit person of 54 who usually does a 3 to 5 hour moorland or coastpath walk each weekend, I found these longer walks to be “pleasantly stretching” but there is little pressure; you walk at your own pace and there are quite a few opportunities to opt out or take a gentler route if you don’t feel up to it. I think it would be very difficult to plan and organise a trek of this scope/quality/value under your own steam – I valued being able to “switch off” and concentrate on the walking/surroundings with the comfort of Rafael’s expert guidance on the trails and in the knowledge there was going to be a comfortable hotel/good dinner waiting for you at the end of the day! An added bonus was that the group I found myself with were charming and good company – we had plenty of giggles during the week! All in all, I’d thoroughly recommend."
Pete Douds Dartmoor DEVON
"For anyone considering a walking holiday in the Picos de Europa - look no further! We had a great time. That the trip was such a success is entirely down to our guide, Rafael, whose careful planning and attention to detail was second to none. His quiet and understated manner ensured that a relaxed atmosphere was enjoyed by everyone during the course of the week. As the tour progressed it became clear that a great deal of thought had been given to the itinerary. We particularly enjoyed the more or less linear crossing of the Picos from East to West on foot. It would have been impossible for us to have planned such an interesting itinerary ourselves. Our stay in the remote and inaccessible village of Soto de Sajambre was a particularly memorable highlight [though we have many others] ---- we didn’t know such places still existed!. Having never been on an organized walking holiday before, what was particularly appealing about this tour was the small and intimate group size and the fact that our guide was Spanish (but with perfect English!). We enjoyed the sheer diversity of habitats, ranging from 100m – 2400m above sea level and passing through numerous altitudinal zones. For anyone interested in birds, the Picos has a fantastic avifauna. Some of the more interesting [from our perspective] species seen included Short-Toed Eagle, Golden Eagle, Griffon Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, (Red-billed) Chough and Alpine Chough foraging together and, the ace in the pack - Wallcreeper. Rafael managed to hit a perfect balance between being a professional guide and, as the walk progressed, becoming a personal friend who was able to care for our individual strengths and weaknesses. His support and the cohesion of our group helped us to complete some of the most memorable walks we have ever undertaken – no faint praise from a couple who live in the Lake District and have walked in many of the mountainous regions in Europe. Book this holiday with confidence – ‘softy’ or hardened hill walker, you will have a fantastic experience."
Peter&Sara Ullrich CUMBRIA
"I am speaking for a group of friends consisting of 10 US and Dutch hikers (52-73 years of age), 4 women, 6 men, who hiked under your guidance in the Picos during the second half of September 2010. We greatly enjoyed our 8-day hike (including one rest day) organized and managed by WalkPicos. The design and management of the trip, including the pick-up and drop-off at the airport, the hike itself: we walked in one of the most beautiful areas of Spain; the hiking options offered (the choice of shorter distances, if preferred), the value-for-money hotels in picturesque villages, the meals and lunches; and the transport of luggage, were all handled flawlessly. Also, the pricing and the financial arrangements were much to our liking. It made the whole experience a great pleasure. Rafael, you and your two colleagues were incredibly knowledgeable, supportive, and courteous. We warmly recommend you and your company to anyone interested in hiking the Picos de Europa. I encourage you to put this comment on the WalkPicos website. In case of any questions from potential Picos hikers, I will be happy to provide additional information as will be any of the other participants. All the best and continued success with Walk Picos."
Hendrik Groen Zeewolde-NETHERLANDS/Alexandria VA, USA
"A wonderful experience! We joined Rafael for one of his WALK PICOS treks in September 2010 and had an amazing holiday. The Picos De Europa is a beautiful and stunning area and the views from the walks were spectacular. The walking was enjoyable and at the right level for pretty fit, keen walkers (not necessarily in their first flush of youth!). The accommodation in a variety of local Hotels was great. Each had their own character and many had their own culinary speciality. As Rafael knew the area and the hotels, he was able to ensure that we had a comfortable and authentic experience. As a guide, Rafael was excellent. He used his knowledge of the mountains to safely and discreetly ‘guide’ us on each day’s trek. He helped us understand the geology of the area and to spot and identify the fauna and flora. He certainly goes the extra mile to be generous, hospitable, kind and and caring – he collected us and returned as to the airport on days outside the trek dates, as we had wanted to spend some time in Bilbao and shortly after our return to the UK we received a Photo CD record of our trek. We would thoroughly recommend WALK PICOS."
Dave&Bridget Heggarty Chester CHESHIRE