Cantabria is one of Spain’s autonomous regions. It sits within what’s known as Green Spain, in the north of the country, along the Bay of Biscay. Not so well known as some of Spain’s other regions, it’s tucked in between the Basque Country to the east, Asturias to the west and Castilla y León to the south. Here are 11 reasons why you should visit Cantabria at least once in your lifetime.
The region of Cantabria is blessed with 220 kilometres of coastline, along the Bay of Biscay, and boasts more than 90 beautiful beaches. Two of the best resort towns with stunning white sand beaches are Laredo and San Vicente de la Barquera.
Like many regions in Spain, Cantabria has its own regional dishes. Some of these include a hearty bean stew called cocido montañés, sobaos (a type of sponge cake) and quesada pasiega (a kind of cheesecake).
Gaudí is of course mostly associated with Barcelona, however he did design a few other buildings across Northern Spain too. The region of Cantabria is home to El Capricho – a fantastical building of quirky turrets and chimneys, and brightly coloured glazed tiles. It can be found in the small town of Comillas.
The region is home to a number of excellent spa resorts and wellness centres, making it the perfect getaway to simply relax and rejuvenate. One of the best and most luxurious is Puente Viesgo Spa Resort, located in the village of the same name, around a 35-minute drive southwest of Santander.
The UNESCO World Heritage Altamira Cave is one of the best examples of prehistoric cave art in the whole of Europe. Located close to the historic town of Santillana del Mar, the cave art here dates back to the Palaeolithic period – from 35,000 to 11,000 BC.
Nestled in the Cantabrian Mountains, the Santo Toribio de Liebana Monastery is said to be one of only five places in the world (including Santiago de Compostela, Jerusalem, Rome and Caravaca de la Cruz in Murcia), which can issue perpetual indulgences. According to the Catholic Church, these are ways to reduce the amount of punishment one has to undergo for sins. A beautiful old building, it dates all the way back to the 6th century.
The opulent Palacio de la Magdalena is one of Santander’s top sights, and one of Cantabria’s too. Located on the sprawling Magdalena Peninsula, it was built between 1908 and 1912, and was used as a summer residence for the Spanish royal family.
The Soplao Cave (meaning ‘blow’ cave) can be found in the western part of Cantabria, between the mountains and the sea. An underground world of magical rock formations, stalactites, stalagmites and huge cavernous corridors, these natural galleries stretch for around 20 kilometres. Visitors can see the cave on a magical guided tour.
Comprising both wild coastline and a dramatic mountainous interior, Canatabria boasts some stunning landscapes. Lush, green and wild, you won’t be able to keep your camera away for long when visiting this northern Spanish region.
Santillana del Mar is a charming, small historic town located around 30 minutes’ drive west of Santander. Surrounded by defence towers and renaissance palaces, this medieval town is well worth a visit. The town’s most striking feature is the collegiate church of Santa María.
The Picos de Europa is one of Spain’s most stunning and dramatic natural parks. Located in the Cantabrian Mountains, it is situated on the border between the regions of Asturias, Castilla y León and Cantabria. Characterised by soaring peaks, deep valleys and picturesque gorges, it’s an atmospheric place for a hike.
Feeling inspired? Why not read our guide to the 15 reasons why you should visit Green Spain at least once in your lifetime?