If you are looking for an exotic mix, you have to come to Cabárceno. I love nature, and probably many of you do too. I’ll tell you a few things about this natural park, and for sure you’ll find it irresistible.
It’s located in the Cantabria, 17km from Santander, and you can reach it from the towns of Obregón and Cabárceno.
The Cabárceno Nature Park is not a conventional zoo or just a natural park: it’s a space that has been naturalized by man; it has a karst landscape and is located in an ancient opencast mine.
There are more than a hundred animal species from the five continents; they’re in semi-liberty, you can see them at ease and even touch some of them!
There are more than 20km of roads that lead you through the park and pass by marvelous ravines, lakes and rock formations.
Santillana del Mar is said to be one of the prettiest villages in Spain because it's so well taken care of. It's a pleasure to walk through the streets and see the pretty houses with their flowers and balconies. The best plan is to visit the town during the Renaissance festival when the plaza fills up with medieval stands and people in period dress. It's like going back in time! Since it's only a few streets wide, you can see Santillana del Mar pretty quickly, but it's best to take your time and enjoy all the history that happened there.
In the peninsula of Magdalena there is a palace that was built to house Alfonso XIII and his family when they visited the area.
It has a neoclassic French and English style. It currently houses the university (Universidad Internacional Palacio de la Magdalena Menéndez Pelayo), where they give important lectures every summer.
The gardens are perfect for getting lost.
This is a traditional Spanish fishing town that has grown in importance ever since the singer David Bustamante became famous with Operación Triunfo (a Spanish version of American Idol). During the summer, the town receives many tourists and everything is packed.
It’s still a beautiful town, both during low and high tide. The rest of the year you can enjoy a bit more peace and quiet.
Potes is a magnificent city, with a special charm, that allows you to stroll in its streets calmly and without hurry.
You can go down to the river, explore under its bridges, and rest next to its crystalline waters, all the while looking for a good place to eat and gazing at the peculiar views of the ancient fountains.
It’s full of interesting places to photograph and it’s a real pleasure for the senses. The area has wonderful landscapes. I wonder how it must look in the fall.
I know of few cities that combine beach and city as well as Santander. You can sit on the sand of any beach in Santander and it seems like you're miles from the city just lounging around with other tourists and beach-goers who are just there to enjoy the sun and the waves of salty water that heal the body and ease the mind.
But as soon as you leave the sand, you discover large urban avenues lined by clean, white sidewalks and asphalt.
Take a few steps from the beach and your swimsuit and sarong become increasingly out of place. The north is elegant by nature and the streets of Santander are sober but with a touch of character. I understand why some people prefer Northern summers. This temperature and cultural refinement make it a really enchanting place.
It is very pretty, but it costs 5 Euros, you can see it in no time and there is no guided visit. But you have to see it because it is beautiful and it was made by Gaudí. Comillas is a must stop. You can see the Palacio de Sobrellano in the background.
At the end of the 19th century, Comillas was gorgeous: splayed out along a large sandy beach and surrounded by enormous cliffs battered by the pounding surf. Life in the town revolved around the small fishing port and the historic district with its arch-lined squares, cobblestone alleyways, and homes of noble families.
The Villa de los Arzobispos, named such for having been home to numerous prelates, seduced the first Marquis of Comillas who undertook works to embellish it even more. That’s how Gaudí, Joan Roig, Cascante Colom, Joan Martorell, Llimona i Bruguera, Vallmitjana, and Lluís Domènech came to leave their marks on some the most important Modernist buildings in Cantabria.
These days, a visit to Comillas is a fascinating experience full of things to see and enjoy. The impressive Palace of Sobrellano and its pantheon-chapel, the university, and El Capricho, Gaudí’s would-be summer home, all embody the essence of Modernism, a style characterized by a heavy Gothic influence, the presence of motifs inspired by the natural world, curved forms, and asymmetry.
But Comillas doesn’t stop there. The ocean breeze sweeps you around the narrow little streets and towards new little corners to discover. One of the most interesting was the Punta la Moira panoramic viewpoint, or the cemetery built on the remains of a 15th century church and presided over by an imposing winged statue. This small village by the sea is a truly moving place.
This is the best beach in all of Santander. It has a young vibe and lots of waves. I’d recommend it 100%.
The water is always clean and it’s a perfect place if you’re interested in surfing. Be careful, though, as the waves and current can be quite strong.
Playa del Sardinero is a gorgeous urban beach a little ways outside of the city center. There’s a large parking lot and plenty of services like bars, restaurants, sun chairs, and lifeguards. There’s also a pleasant boardwalk that lines the entire beach. Even on cloudy days, the beach is full of people swimming, walking, and playing paddleball. It’s a must if you’re in Santander.
Castro, the ancient fishing village known to the Romans as Flaviobriga, is a small town on the Cantabrian coast not far from the border with the Spanish Basqueland. It's the perfect place for a lively weekend getaway.
Make sure to pay attention when parking as it can become complicated. I’d suggest parking along the breakwater on the waterfront since it’s free.
This is a town with a fishing port and a strong industry based around the sea. It's also a place where you can enjoy some fabulous seafood, tasty "pinchos" in the bars (the squid croquettes at Cierbanata in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento are exquisite!), or locally canned goods (especially the anchovies, just delicious!).
Despite having grown a lot recently, Castro still has its charm. If you're in downtown, you can visit its streets, pier, and the church at the top of the village where you can see the Bay of Biscay in all its glory. If the sea is calm, you can admire its expansiveness, if not, I'm sure you'll be impressed by the ferocious waves!
It also forms part of the Camino de Santiago along the coast, so it may be another reason to visit.
The Cabo Mayor Lighthouse is located in a large green area about 2km from the city centre and has a cafe with spectacular views of the Cantabrian Sea and city of Santander.
The rock formations surrounding this lighthouse are quite peculiar and it's a good place to take a walk and get away from the city.
I went up by cable car, impressive ascent that went almost vertically! After the climb we did the more complicated route, the trail begins on the flat and is smooth enough to go through it, but as you continue going there are steep turns and a path of stones and rocks, so it´s necessary to have good shoes, because twisting it would not be very difficult with all the stones in the road. It is a hard climb for people who are not used to it, but worth the views, if you are lucky and there is much movement of clouds you can see some beautiful light changes.
Bárcena Mayor is a small village in Cantabria and the only village within the Saja-Besaya Natural Park. The village is surrounded by mountains and forests and is said to be one of the oldest villages in Cantabria. It was declared a historic-artistic complex in 1979. While all of the Cantabrian mountain towns are beautiful, it’s the well-preserved streets and homes in Bárcena that really set it apart. It’s very small and you can explore the entire village in an hour or two.
You have to park in the visitors’ parking lot (it’s free) at the entrance to the town. It’s a great place to stock up on regional products like cheese (amazing), honey, and wild boar salami. There are a couple of restaurants in town as well if you want to get something to eat.
This is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular trips you can take in a cable car across northern Spain, because it does it while climbing up toward Picos de Europa. From above, the view is breathtaking and if you're brave you can look down through the wire mesh, and see the huge drop beneath your feet. Besides the viewpoint, this point is the start of many routes through the mountains.
On our trip through Asturias we decided to include a visit to the Picos de Europa, Covadonga and specifically the lakes . Covadonga is a natural landscape where a camera is a must, you can visit the Sanctuary very easily at mid-day and see everything worth visiting in the area: Holy Cave, Basilica, Museum, etc. To climb the Peaks of Europe we recommend taking advantage during the day since the area and route although very easy to navagate does take time and you do not want to rush to see such wonderful scenery. Currently it can not be accessed by car unless before 8 am and after 8 pm in the summer. Therefore plan your trip so that you can leave the car in the car parks and take the bus that goes up and down to Lagos.
This beach is nearly 2 miles of good waves and fine sand. You get to Somo (next to Santander), park the car in the garage, arrive at the beach and suddenly it's all surfboards, wetsuits, and waves.
The scenery is something right out of a postcard. There's a little wind and you're all of a sudden struck by a tremendous desire to get into the water and enjoy the play between the cool water and the hot sun. This is one beach that you can’t miss on your vacation to Cantabria.
If you want to learn to surf, it's perfect. I rode my first wave last week at this beach. You can rent a board for four hours for dirt cheap and, although the best thing to do is take a class, you can go try it out yourself if the waves aren't too fierce. Choose your favorite surfer (one with a sympathetic look about them) and ask your questions. They'll be delighted to help you.
This cave was opened to the public in 2005, but it was really discovered in 1908. It's one of those places where nature goes on a whim and uses only water to create dazzling rock formations.
The Soplao cave has the highest concentration of “eccentric” stalactites and stalagmites in the entire world. The stalactites grow out randomly in every direction any seem like a rock forest or a stone coral reef.
This is an unusual phenomenon and is only found in a few caves. Of course, it's much nicer to see it in person. To see the cave, there's the standard route (€10.50) that's fully accessible for people with disabilities. Or, you have the Adventure route (32€) where, with a suit and helmet provided by the guides, you can explore the interior of the cave. This visit is more expensive than normal, but it lasts 2.5 hours and you’ll see many more chambers that have not been changed by human hands.
The cave is a must-see and, as you can imagine, I'd suggest going on the Adventure route!