The two classic walks in the Gredos mountains are best approached from the so-called Plataforma, at the end of a twelve-kilometre stretch of paved road running from the village of Hoyos del Espino, where you can purchase detailed maps of the area. You could also reach this point by walking up from El Hornillo or El Arenal on the southern side of the range, although it makes for a tougher challenge. A functional pamphlet of the area can be obtained from the tourist office on the Plaza de San Pedro, in Arenas de San Pedro (Mon–Fri 10am–1pm & 4–7pm, Sat 10am–1pm; t920 372 368, warenasdesanpedro.es).
Circo de Laguna Grande
The Circo de Laguna Grande is the centrepiece of the Gredos range, with its highest peak, Almanzor (2593m) surrounded by pinnacles sculpted into utterly improbable shapes. The path begins at the car park at the end of the road coming from Hoyos and climbs towards the high Pozas meadow. From there you can reach the large glacial lake at the end of the valley, a spectacular two-hour walk that winds its way down the slopes on a well-defined path. The route is best done in late spring, summer or early autumn, as snow makes it a treacherous walk in winter.
Circo de las Cinco Lagunas
For a tougher and much longer route – the Circo de las Cinco Lagunas – you can continue on from the Laguna Grande, where there is a refugio and camping area, to the Cinco Lagunas (allow 8hr from the Plataforma). Take the signposted path to the right just before the lake, which follows an old hunting route used by Alfonso XIII, up to the Portilla del Rey pass. From there you will be able to look down on the lakes – which are reached along a sharp, scree-laden descent. The drop is amply rewarded by virtual solitude, even in midsummer, and sightings of Capra pyrenaica victoriae, the graceful (and almost tame) Gredos mountain goat. There are also species of salamander and toad found only in the area. It is another four to five hours on to the village of Navalperal de Tormes, which is 14km west of Hoyos del Espino.