Cantabria is located in the centre of the Spanish North coast, bathed by the Bay of Biscay. The flora and fauna are very varied, with threatened species like bears, wolves and capercaillies in the reserves of Saja and Picos de Europa. In general, the climate is smooth and humid, and the coast, sparkled with fishing towns, has beaches and small creeks. In the interior the mountains mark a territory with beautiful valleys and small villages.
And it is peculiar how in the ‘Piedra Labra’ mountain range, from a summit without much importance called the ‘Peak of Three Seas’, the fallen rain water can go as much to the Atlantic Ocean, as to the Bay of Biscay or the Mediterranean Sea. This mountain is the origin of the Pisuerga River that further down joins the Duero River, ending in the Atlantic Ocean; the Hijar is another stream that immediately is transformed into the Ebro River which flows into the Mediterranean Sea; and finally the Nansa river spills its waters in the Bay of Biscay, from just the same peak. From this summit it is possible to undertake mountain excursions and to descend the Ebro River by canoe.
Cantabria has several natural parks. The Park of Nature in Cabarceno is located 17 km. away from the capital, and consist of a singular landscape where different animals still live in liberty. It is located in the municipalities of Penagos and Villaescusa, and an old iron mine that has a network of small ways, made in Roman times, allow you to cross its extension entirely. Diverse sports like trekking or bicycle strolling can also be practiced in the park, as well as fishing in one of the two lakes.
The Cantabrian capital, Santander, is located in a great bay, and benefits itself with ample cultural shows that unfold, mainly, during summer time, thanks to the International University Menendez Pelayo and the International University of Santander, located in the Palace of the Magdalena, that offer summer courses. The casino in El Sardinero Harbour, is another landmark that this cosmopolitan city offers.
Few kilometers away from Santander is Santillana del Mar, a beautiful village that, along with Barcena Mayor, is one of the oldest populated sites in Cantabria. It is a medieval village considered Historic Artistic Set since 1889.
Prehistoric art has one of its most important monuments in the cave paintings of Altamira, declared Historical Human Heritage by UNESCO. Since the caves have restricted access to avoid their deterioration, a trustworthy reproduction of the original Cave of Altamira, just next to the original one, allows people to enter in the magical universe of the world-wide well-known “Sistine Chapel of the Palaeolithic Art”. The Altamira Museum is also considered as one of most important ones in Palaeolithic rests. In addition, other prehistoric caves in the region can be visited, as well as the Church-cave of Santa Maria de Valverde.
One of the main Jacobean routes, the Way of the North or the Cantabrian coast, crosses Cantabria from east to west. Another religious pilgrimage through the region takes us to the monastery of Santo Toribio de Liebana, the place where presumably the relic of the Lignum Crucis is conserved (supposedly the largest piece of Christ´s Holy Cross that exists).
The attractiveness of the mountains is evident for all those that visit Cantabria. 28 km far away from Potes, the cableway of Fuente Dé can be found, a comfortable and original way to access the central mountain mass of Picos de Europa. The National Park of the Picos de Europa is the most significant Cantabrian mountain range. The immensity of its landscape filled with narrow passes, valleys and high peaks welcomes a good number of animals. In the zone of Liebana we find towns that still conserves an intact rural flavour like Mogrovejo or Dobres. Alto Campoo, with its magnificent winter sports resort, is another option for tourism outside summertime. Staying in the middle of nature is not a problem in Cantabria since the autonomous community has the largest number of camping places in all Spain.
The traditional celebrations, crafts and gastronomy of the region offer much attractiveness for the visitor. The ‘montañes’ stew is a version of a dish that, with different variants, is repeated in different regions of Spain, each with prepared with the vegetal raw materials that abound in the region. In the ‘montañes’ stew white beans are combined with cabbages, bovine meat, bacon, blood sausage and garlic sausage. The Cantabrian meat par excellence is the bovine one, specifically the tudanca cow. Pastry-making traditions are ‘quesadas pasiegas’ and ‘sobaos’, both from Pas region.
But the nutritional base of Cantabria is the Bay of Biscay, which offers great quality fish and seafood. Barnacles, clams, lobsters, spider crabs, ‘necoras’, Norway lobsters, sardines, prawns or calamaries can be found in any ‘tasca’ or restaurant and they are of an unsurpassable quality: some local recipes as hake in green sauce or casserole clams are an example of culinary delights waiting for the visitor. Every year the village of Potes celebrates the ‘Orujo’ Fair, an appointment already consolidated in the festive calendar of the region, and which can be the perfect excuse to visit Cantabria and taste the gastronomical delights of the region.