Cantabria is one of Spain’s most ancient and historical regions. The region is located in the north of Spain and has been largely overlooked my mainstream tourism, making this the hidden jewel of Spain.
The landscape here is diverse and the weather unpredictable, but for those who enjoy rural tourism, cultural breaks and rugged natural coastlines then Cantabria won’t disappoint.
Some of the best mountain walks in Europe can be found here, along with great cuisine, cider houses, prehistoric caves – including the famous Altamira, spectacular beaches, Los Picos de Europa (Peaks of Europe), and many other interesting attractions, which all go to make Cantabria one of the most exhilarating regions of Spain, indeed of Europe.
Cantabria is known to be the richest region in the world for archeological sites from the Upper Paleolithic period, the famous caves of Altamira date from around 16,000 to 9000 BC and along with nine other Cantabrian caves, have been declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO.
Another site of interest is the El Soplao cave (known as "The Sistine Chapel with stalagtites"). Hidden inside the cave is a real natural paradise, made up of geological phenomena such as stalactites, stalagmites, false ceilings, and the so-called "helipticas" which cause all kinds of optical effects involving light and shadow as well as unusual colours and sensations. You can take two different types of tours of the cave: one suitable for children, and the other for adults only and including the hire of equipment and helmet.
The region is interspersed with mountain ranges, emerald valleys, canyons and gorges and rugged beautiful coastlines.
The humid and mild climate of Cantabria provides the right ingredients to create the lush green
landscape of the region. Cantabria falls within the ‘Green Spain’ region and is particularly abundant with lush green vegetation, deep green forests natural meadows.
Despite being a fairly small region there are several natural parks and reserves, which makes this a ramblers paradise. The most important is the Picos de Europa National Park, which also enters into Asturias and Castile and Leon. Plus you can visit the Collados del Ason Natural Park, Saja-Besaya Natural Park, the Dunes of Liencres
Natural Park and the Santoña, Victoria and Joyel Marshes Natural Park.
Nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts come from all over the globe to visit Cantabria, where they
partake in numerous activities including hiking, mountain climbing, rafting, mountain biking and much more.
For keen bird-watchers (and even amateurs), the estuary of La Rabia, is an absolute must. The marshes of the estuary are home to an impressive variety of waterfowl that have settled and established breeding sites here, thanks to recent attempts at conservation. You can see, among others, herons, common egrets, common swans, black swans, and a variety of ducks including mallards, teals and red ducks.
Some of the best beaches in the area are El Sable, Barnejo or Berellin, Amio, Aramalar, Pedrero
and Las Arenas. The river estuaries, Tina la Mayor and Tina la Menor, form magnificent wetlands.
The region’s capital Santander combines historic beauty with a fashionable beachside resort.
For culture lovers there are several interesting sites, including the former summer palace of King Alfonso XIII and the beautiful bulding of the Grand Casino of El Sardinero.
The region's cuisine is very much influenced by game and seafood, the area is famous for its delicious anchovies, and shellfish such as crab, lobster and prawns, are also delicacies of the region. Wild boar and venison are often found on the menu.
When in Cantabria you should absolutely try the local specialties such as Sorropotún, a traditional fisherman's stew, Cocido Montañes, is a typical stew from the mountainous region, the famous Corbatas en Unquera, is a delicious dessert made from puff pastry and Los Sobaos Pasiegos
The Mistela sweet wine and Orujo de Liébana are both popular drinks made in the region.
Most of Cantabria is under the influence of an oceanic or Atlantic climate, whose two main
characteristics are to give mild temperatures with limited variations and abundant rainfall throughout the year..
In Santander the average temperature of the coldest month (February) is around 9 degrees Celsius whilst average temperatures for the warmest month (August) are usually closer to 20 degrees centigrade and annual rainfall totals exceed 1,100 mm.
Slight variations apply to the entire coastal strip.
Further inland the temperatures are more contrasted, with colder winters and hotter summers. Moving away from the coast also increases rainfall, except in the area of Liebana, which has a microclimate in the mountains with only 700 mm of annual rainfall.
In the higher areas the winters are long and have frequent snowfall.