Explore fine white-sand beaches hemmed by forest-fringed mountains and rugged caves decorated with prehistoric art in Spain’s lush northern oasis.
The small northern region of Cantabria packs an enormous range of attractions into its borders. Travel along its coastline of magnificent beaches interspersed by lively fishing ports and breathtaking cliffs or explore inland, where the mountains will awe with their natural beauty. Walk time-honored trails or drive along scenic roads to visit Cantabria’s intriguing towns, medieval villages and ancient archaeological wonders.
Visit the Cantabrian capital of Santander to experience a cosmopolitan seaside city that prides itself on its vibrant beach scene and buzzing tapas bars. The city’s enchanting plazas and the Magdalena Palace are sure to impress. To the west you’ll find the idyllic preserved medieval village of Santillana del Mar, while Comillas features a landmark by the modernist master Gaudi. Check out the region’s beaches, which are as unhurried as they are picturesque. Popular resorts include the towns of Laredo and San Vicente de la Barquera.
Make your way to El Castillo, Covalanas and Altamira to see staggeringly ancient cave paintings, which are believed to be some of the best-preserved relics of prehistoric paintings in the world. Altamira is a World Heritage Listed site that has been touted as the Sistine Chapel of prehistoric art.
Don’t miss exploring the region’s dramatic interior, which features the rugged peaks of the Picos de Europa National Park. Hike through these magnificent mountain landscapes in Cantabria’s western region and take in views of its forested foothills.
Cantabria also lies on the Way of Saint James (Camino de Santiago), a revered pilgrimage trail that rewards trekkers with fantastic mountain vistas.
Reach Cantabria by flying into Santander’s airport. The region’s peak periods are during Easter and between July and August, when Santander’s fiesta season is in full swing. Visit in May, June and September to avoid the crowds and enjoy the mild climate.
Whether you’re visiting the coast or the colossal Picos, be sure to book ahead to avoid disappointment. Cantabria is usually a less-traveled counterpart to its busy provincial neighbors and its small villages and seaside retreats can book out in the summertime.