Welcome to our guide on the Cantabria region of Spain. We are Andrea and Roger – a Spanish couple from Barcelona. Me, Andrea – I’m a biologist and I started travelling in the second year of my degree. I wanted to do an internship during summer and the destination I chose was Costa Rica.
I went to work in a turtle protection refuge and then I took the opportunity to do a tour around the country. That moment was a turning point in my life because I liked it so much that I only thought of repeating such an experience the following year. So next summer I went to work at a chimpanzee sanctuary in Cameroon and also toured the country a bit.
And finally, I decided to finish my degree by doing an internship in Uganda for eight months where I took the opportunity to explore the country. When I returned to Spain, I started work again but I promised myself that even If I didn’t have all the summer free – like when I was at university – that I would still dedicate at least a month every year to take a trip.
When I met Roger, I was about to go to Madagascar on a group tour and he was going to go to Indonesia. We started dating and those were our last solo trips. From there, we started to take weekend trips and getaways – until the trip of the year arrived: Vietnam. This would be our first big trip away together. And since then we have not stopped travelling as a couple.
We are both so passionate about travelling that all we do is feed each other and raise the frequency. There’s no place we don’t want to go and discover.
Travelling around the Cantabria Region of Spain
One place we had the pleasure of discovering recently was the Cantabria region of Spain. I (Andrea) had a work trip planned to Santander – the capital of Cantabria – and had never been to this region before. Luckily, I had a few days off and so we decided to take advantage of that trip.
I was documenting the region myself and I noticed how easy it was to travel around Cantabria, since the distances are small between the main destinations. In addition, I saw that in 6-7 days it would be feasible to visit all the main points of interest. So finally we spent a week in Cantabria.
Our trip consisted of two days in Santander and then we took a trip around Cantabria visiting some of the most beautiful villages and places like Castro Urdiales, Lierganes, Comillas, San Vicente de la Barquera, Fuente De, Mogrovejo, Potes and Santillana del Mar. It was an unbelievable trip!
Favourite Places in Cantabria: Costa Quebrada, Playa de Berellin & Valley of Liebana
There are three places that caught my attention in Cantabria. Firstly, the Costa Quebrada and its impressive beaches between cliffs. I especially loved Playa de Covachos which presents like an island linked to the land by a tongue of sand. For a moment it transported me to Southeast Asia.
Then the impressive Playa de Berellin took my breath away. It’s a wild and paradisiacal beach with rocks that form bridges over the sea. A place that seems like it was taken from a movie set. And finally the beautiful Valley of Liebana where you can find the spectacular Desfiladero de la Hermida and Fuente De with its cable car and amazing views of Picos de Europa.
There is nothing quite like disconnecting for a few days in this area and being surrounded by mountains and charming villages at every new turn.
7 Best Things To Do in Cantabria
This lush green region of Northern Spain, right next to Asturias, offers something for everyone. From adventure, to beaches, to history and quaint villages – this is easily one of the most underrated places of Europe! In addition to the three recommendations above, I would add these:
1. Discover the Amazing Architecture of Comillas
Comillas is a coastal town that, in addition to being one of the most beautiful towns in Cantabria, contains the greatest modernist architectural heritage in the province. Among these are El Capricho – a villa designed by Antoni Gaudi. The town is also set across hilltops where you can explore beautiful buildings. A must-visit on your itinerary!
2. Wander Down the Beautiful Cobblestone Streets of Santillana del Mar
Santillana del Mar is a town with cobblestone streets and is considered one of the most beautiful villages in Spain. The town is in a fantastic state of preservation with its cobblestone streets, old brick buildings and balconies full of flowers. Here you will also find the Cave of Altamira with its prehistoric parietal cave art paintings and drawings.
3. Visit the Capital of Cantabria, Santander
Santander is the capital of Cantabria and it cannot be missed! It’s a beautiful coastal city with a large bay and many places of interest. Not only is it a popular place with Spanish locals but it’s also starting to become more popular with foreigners with easy connections from Europe.
4. Explore the Epic Cueva El Soplao
This beautiful cave was discovered by miners in 1908 and it’s one which is full of stalagmites, stalactites, columns and eccentric formations. “El Soplao” in Spanish refers to a mining term which means “the air that is felt when perforating a tunnel from another with less oxygen”. The history and natural beauty of this place makes for an intriguing visit.
5. Marvel at the Giant Trees of Bosque de Secuoyas
A sequoia forest located near Cabezon de la Sal. Here you can stand back and admire the giant trees which sprawl across 2 ½ hectares of amazing forest. Bosque de Secuoyas transports you to something reminiscent of the Instagram-famous Sequoia National Forest in California.
6. Spend a Day in the Beautiful Lierganes
Lierganes is a small mountain town with a lot of charm. The town is located at the base of two small peaks called the Busampiro peaks. A funny story about this town is that these small peaks are often referred to as the “Tetas de Lierganes” and you will understand why when you see it! Discover beautiful old churches, chapels and houses too.
7. Try the Delicious Seafood of Castro Urdiales
Castro Urdiales is a beautiful little fishing village that has a great historical and cultural heritage in Spain. If you like fish and seafood, then you can delight your palate all day long in this town! Wander around the pretty harbour and get lost down the narrow lanes that make up its medieval town centre. See what amazing seafood restaurants you can find!
Amazing People, Culture & Food of Cantabria
It’s difficult for us to describe what the people of Cantabria are like, because the truth is that their culture and way of life doesn’t differ much from the rest of Spain. So it would be more or less like describing us. But in general during our trip we met friendly people, especially in the mountain villages. I would also say that the people of Cantabria like to eat well.
We were surprised by how well people eat in Cantabria, really. If you are a lover of seafood – you will enjoy it the most because you will find this food in almost all places and its quality is top notch. Sardines, squid, anchovies, scallops – you name it, they’ve got it! Meat lovers: don’t despair. Their stews stand out. What we enjoyed the most was the local cheese.
In almost all of the restaurants you will find an assortment of cheeses. As you can probably tell, this is not the best province in the world for vegans. In Santander, because it’s a larger city, there are food alternatives but outside of the cities the vegan choices become less available.
Additionally, in Santander, you can try “pinchos” which are common and something you can’t miss! We especially loved the potato omelette – a real delight. I can recommend many fantastic restaurants in Cantabria too.
Best Restaurants, Cafes & Bars in Cantabria
Firstly, in Santander, you have to visit Casa Lita and Quebec Restaurant for delicious pinchos. Then, for seafood, the best place is Taberna La Radio – a classic. Finally, one of my favourites in Santander was La Malinche Restaurant – a place that offers typical Cantabrian food with a touch of fusion. There you can find fish, meat and vegetarian meals.
For breakfast, brunch or coffee – I can recommend three cafes in Santander: Salvaje Santander, Santa & Co and Wabi Sabi Cafe & Craft. They are perfect for any hour of the morning or afternoon for a meal/coffee.
Outside of Santander, one restaurant that you can’t miss is Restaurante La Aldea de Comillas. As the name suggests, it’s located in the pretty town of Comillas and it’s undoubtedly one of the best restaurants we ate at during our trip. Don’t miss the tuna tacos with “ajo blanco” sauce, the octopus or the assortment of cheeses at Restaurante La Aldea de Comillas.
Lastly, I can recommend other restaurants like Restaurante La Jugueteria in Lierganes, Hotel de Oso near Potes, and Posada de la Abadia in Santillana del Mar. All of these restaurants serve incredible local food.
Where to Stay in Cantabria: Hotels, Hostels and More
When it comes to accommodation, In Santander I recommend the Hostel Santander for its price-quality ratio and location. Also, Hospedaje Botin and Art Suite are two great hotels you can find in that city. But you must bear in mind that staying in the city during high season is not cheap.
Outside the capital, I recommend two hotels where we were super comfortable. First of all, Hotel Rebeco in Fuente De – a mountain hotel surrounded by nature and located in one of the best enclaves, just five minutes from the Fuente De cable car. It’s a simple hotel but it offers great food, unbeatable hospitality and personal treatment by the staff.
Then we stayed in a nice hotel in Santillana del Mar, Posada de la Abadia. This family hotel is situated in a typical restored mountain house, just five minutes from the center with Wi-Fi and a buffet breakfast.
Hiring a Car and Road Trippin’ through Cantabria
In my opinion, the best way to explore Cantabria is by car – either yours or rented. Because with a car you can easily reach all the places of interest in a short time, without depending too much on schedules. The roads are in fantastic condition and the distances overall are short and easy.
In addition, this will allow you to stop wherever you want. You can stop at beaches on the coastal areas of Cantabria or drive by specific places. And in the mountains you can locate the lookout points and other interesting spots. Having a car gives you a lot more freedom and flexibility.
Favourite Memories from our Cantabria Trip
We have a couple of favourite memories from our Cantabria trip. Firstly, the amazing sunset we enjoyed at the Cabo Mayor Lighthouse in the vicinity of Santander. It was a beautiful sunset in front of this amazing lighthouse – overlooking the sea and surrounding cliffs. A truly unforgettable moment.
Then, without a doubt, the mountain route that we took through Fuente De. We went up the cable car and were amazed by the spectacular views of Picos de Europa. After that, we made a route through the mountains surrounded by incredible landscapes and fauna. On the way we came across cows, sheep, goats and horses. It was a fun day immersed in nature!
What you Need to Know Before you Go
If you go during summer you should know that it will be high season. So the best thing you can do is wake up early to visit the popular places – such as the beaches and Cave of Altamira – before they are filled up with people.
In addition, if you go in summer or on the weekend, we recommend booking your tickets in advance for the Fuente De cable car, the entrance to Cueva El Soplao and for El Capricho de Gaudi in Comillas.
Another recommendation to keep in mind is that in summer it will be hot but the nights get colder. Pack warm clothes for the evenings and for the days when you are in the mountains. This way you can keep warm.
Finally, although the distances are short and you can take day trips from Santander, we recommend staying overnight in Santillana del Mar and some of the other little villages. You could even stay two nights in the Valley of Liebana as it’s such an incredible spot. There are endless possibilities in the beautiful Cantabria! Thanks for reading everyone 🙂