Cantabria

Northern Spain a region less known...

 

The province of Cantabria is part of what is known as Green Spain due to its lush vegetation a result of the wet and moderate oceanic climate characterized by warm summers and mild winters.   It has managed to escape mainstream tourism as many travelers are still unaware of what this magnificent region has to offer. 

cantabria-landscapeFor many centuries, Santander, the capital, was the port of Castilla, the wheat from its fields and the wool from its sheep awaited by England or Flanders set sail from Santander and other small ports in the region.  One can only imagine the impression produced on the Castellanos traversing the mountains of Cantabria as they discovered this unknown countryside on their journey to rainy Santander.  Even today travelers are taken aback by the scenery when making their way from the arid interior of the peninsula and are greeted by these breathtaking green landscapes.  Rather than the small concentrated towns of the province of Castilla Cantabria’s villages are scattered through the valleys giving life to the Atlantic landscape.  This Northern region stands in total contrast to the southern part of the peninsula where inhabitants have a propensity to be more social and the land tends to be more agricultural or desert, the predominantly mountainous North is more traditional with a richer natural environment, its people are more reserved and a little more resistant to change.

In Santander, an elegant city extending over a wide bay, as in San Sebastian Madrid’s bourgeoisie found a place where to spend their summer vacations.  La Playa del Sardinero and its surroundings are reminiscent of those long summers of the first half of the twentieth century.  Despite a terrible fire that devastated much of the city in 1941, Santander still retains a deserved reputation as one of the most beautiful cities in the region.

The coastline is known for its fishing ports such as Santoña, east of Santander, famous for itscantabria-casa-rural magnificent anchovies and San Vicente de la Barquera, to the west, for its unparalleled sardines.  On either side are endless beaches with clean, crystal clear waters surrounded by stunning natural landscapes.  In this region surfing aficionados can enjoy some of the best surfing spots in the peninsula such as the one at Somo beach, one of the most visited spots in Spain by surfers around the world.  The interior of the region is a succession of green valleys and high mountains, among them is Cabuérnica from where some of nature’s best treasures, Saja and Pas, can be reached.  In this area bears, wolves and eagles still roam and the rivers are full of salmons and trout.  The latter one, Pas, embraces the rural flavor of the region with its many picturesque villages.  Most of these villages retain good examples of vernacular architecture with its houses with wooden beams and balconies, small palaces and some mansions built by the Cantabrian conquerors at their return from the New World.  As a reminder of the New World some palm trees can be found among their gardens.

At the Southwest of the region rise the Picos de Europa an area highly recommended for any traveler that enjoys trekking, mountaineering and camping.  The cheerful people of Potes and their village are the gateway to these mountains being the geographical center to many of the trails.  Potes is an old market town with balconied houses and plenty of shops. The Monday street market has been continuously held since the middle Ages.  The town tends to get quite busy with hikers during the month of August.

Cantabria is the richest region in the world in archeological sites, the most famous being the world renowned Cuevas de Altamira, whose paintings are part of an extraordinary treasure.  Nearby is perhaps one of the region’s most beautiful villages, Santillana del Mar, a medieval town which hascantabria-balneario remained intact since the seventeenth century and definitely worth a visit.

If you are visiting the region and it is one of those days where the weather is rainy, the best option is to visit one of its excellent balnearios (health spas), such as Liérganes or Puente Viesgo, to enjoy the good life and savor the delights of the Cantabrian cuisine, not to miss are the succulent cocido montañes, a white bean stew typical of western Cantabria, sopaos (soupy stews) or quesadas (cheesy dessert).

When visiting this area travelers will find a peaceful countryside, glorious mountains with inspiring trails, good food, few tourist and most of all a warm and inviting welcome.

 

 

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