Visit Cantabria, a Spanish maritime and mountain region
The region bordering the Atlantic Ocean in northern Spain, between Asturias and the Basque Country, the capital of Cantabria is Santander.
Its people of Celtic origin, nicknamed “los montañes” in reference to the mountains, as evidenced by the numerous archaeological sites dating back to the Palaeolithic period, occupied the area well before the arrival of the Romans.
Like nine other caves in Cantabria, the cave of Altamira, whose rock paintings date from between 16,000 and 9,000 BC, is classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. This cave is located in Castillana del Mar, one of the most beautiful villages of Cantabria.
The 280 km of the coastline of La Costa de Cantabria, dotted with villages, small fishing harbours and seaside resorts, show a succession of beaches, gulfs and bays, capes such as Cabo de Ajo, the northernmost of the province. At this point, the Oriental Montaña ends in cliffs interspersed with small beaches.
Deep bays also characterize the Cantabrian coastline, at the edge of one of them, on the right bank of the river Pas, the natural park of Las Dunas de Liencres offers beautiful landscapes with a rich geological, botanical and faunistic ensemble. Beaches are added to the dune landscapes that characterize this place, which is protected by the Ría de Pogro, a place that also serves as a refuge for lizards, snakes, vipers and other amphibians.
In the hinterland, the mountain is everywhere, pierced by deep valleys with peaks exceeding 2500 meters in the famous Picos de Europa nature park in the west of the province.
A beautiful region that will seduce lovers of nature and sports activities, both maritime and mountain. Do not miss the Saja-Besaya Natural Park, Sierra de Peña Sarga or in the eastern part of the province the beautiful and wild massif of Montaña Oriental.
Stages to visit in Cantabria
In front of the Bay of Biscay, the region’s capital is a seaside resort on the Spanish Atlantic coast.
In Santander, the ocean water is certainly not of an ideal temperature, but the waves make surfers happy.
Situation: 25 km southwest of Santander.
Sea and mountains for the second city of Cantabria. A few minutes from the coast of Suances, Torrelavega is located in a beautiful environment.
The monumental complex of Viérnoles with its 17th and 18th century palaces and residences is its main historical and architectural heritage.
Its Virgen Grande festivities, which take place in mid-August, have been declared of tourist interest.
Situation: about 30 km from Santander, on the northeast coast of the province.
Laredo is one of the most important seaside resorts in Cantabria, located between the bay of Santoña and the Ría de Treto. La Salvé’, a vast stretch of sand 5 km long, is one of the most beautiful beaches on the coast.
Laredo is defined around three sectors: the old town, Ensanche, the new district and its extension to the tip of the Puntal at the western end of its beach.
The old town, whose origin dates back to the Middle Ages, still preserves the remains of its medieval ramparts. It is composed of narrow streets dominated by large buildings erected between the 16th and 18th centuries.
They are dominated by the bell tower of the Gothic church of Santa María de la Asunción. The new Ensanche district extends as far as Plaza Carlos V. It has become the commercial and administrative centre of the city.
Between Ensanche and Puntal, 3 wide avenues stretch parallel to the two beaches of the city. One on the Ría de Treto and the second, la Salvé, on the Atlantic Ocean.
Santillana del Mar
Situation: 20 km west of Santander
Santillana is a small medieval town that developed around its collegiate church of Santa Juliana, considered one of the most beautiful examples of Romanesque architecture in Cantabria.
Furthermore, Santillana has several defence towers and Renaissance palaces that make it a significant historical site.
The site of Las Cuevas de Altamira, caves also known as the Palaeolithic Sistine Chapel of the Palaeolithic, has been classified as a World Heritage Site.
About 2 km outside the city.
The historical centre, whose origin dates back to the 8th century, is an important part of the North Road of Compostela.
Situation: 50 km west of Santander.
Throughout its squares and paved streets, Comillas sees towers, manor houses and modernist buildings. Among these are a Gaudi building,’ El Capricho’ with its characteristic portico and walls decorated with ceramics, or the neo-Gothic Sobrenallo Palace and the Pontifical University.
On its beaches, surfing and other water sports are widely practiced. Next door, the park of Oyambre offers a coastal fringe made up of dunes, marshes and cliffs, to which is added a ría of significant ornithological importance.
Situation: 75 km south of Santander.
In a mountain environment, the historical district of Reinosa allows to trace the history of this small town, situated on the banks of the Ebro river, through its monuments. Among them: the baroque church of San Sebastian, the 16th and 17th century stone buildings that adorn the town hall square, or La Casona, a stately mansion dating from the early 19th century.
For amateurs, the proximity of El Ebro Lake offers water sports facilities and the Alto Campoo ski resort, about fifteen kilometres away, makes Reinosa an ideal base for various sports. Just above the station, the Tres Mares peak, at an altitude of more than 2000 m above sea level, offers a unique panorama of the southern Cantabria which it dominates.
On the gastronomy side, the restaurants of the old town are not to be outdone; on the menu of their cards: trout, deer and wild boar, not forgetting the “cocido montañes”, a cantabrian variety of cassoulet and the “pantortilla”, a local delicacy.
Natural Park of Saja-Besaya
Situation: approximately 70 km southwest of Santander.
The Saja-Besaya is a concentrate of mountain landscapes that characterize the interior of Cantabria.
Large, ecologically valuable native forests, grazing meadows or shrub-covered hills are found here.
Among these wooded areas are oak and beech groves or “brañas”, transhumance hamlets planted with holly.
Natural habitat of otters, the park can also be visited by rare wolves or even brown bears. The most common animals are roe deer, wild boar and in the air: vulture, grouse, peregrine falcon or golden eagle…
Sierra de Peña Sagra
Situation: about 80 km southwest of Santander. Access to the villages of Tudanca and La Lastra.
La Peña Sara is a mountainous chain of about fifteen kilometers which separates the valleys of Nansa to the east and Liébana to the west.
Slightly more than 5000 hectares of the Sierra are classified as protected areas for birds. This area includes the highest areas of this massif frequently exceeding 1800 m in altitude. Its highest peak, the Cornón de Peña Sagra, peaks at 2047 m.
In addition to being a paradise for partridges, the Peña Sagra is home to pale eagles, choucas in its rocky escarpments, golden eagles and falcons.