Situate in the north of the country, along the Bay of Biscay, Cantabria is one of Spain’s autonomous regions. Cantabria offers a bit everything, a coastline with a sequence of soft cliffs, beautiful beaches and colourful fishing ports. The inland mountains is connected by steep passes - with sleepy villages and prove to be a feast for the eyes, whether you drive the country roads or walk the trails.
TOP 8 PLACES TO VISIT
1.MUSEO DE ALTAMIRA
The full-sized re-creation of the real Cueva de Altamira’s most interesting chamber, the Sala de Policromo - covered in exquisite, 15,000-year-old ochre-and-black bison paintings created using the natural rock relief is the museums highlight. English- and Spanish-language displays cover prehistoric humanity and cave art worldwide, from Altamira to Australia.
The arts and cultural centre opened in June 2017 and is Santander’s newest and splashiest landmark. On the 1st and 2nd floor galleries display rotating exhibits of international contemporary art. From the upper-level viewing platforms visitors can look out over the city. The ground-floor cafe has quickly become one of the city's social hubs, as has the surrounding plaza, where everyone from skateboarders to seniors congregates.
3.IGLESIA RUPESTRE DE SANTA MARIA DE VALVERDE
The “rock-cut church” dating back to the 10th century is the Ebro Valley’s largest church. Written accounts from 978 AD describe it as a simple one-nave affair; a late 12th century Romanesque expansion added the rooftop bell-gable and widened the interior into its present three-nave form. Today the church retains a magical, rustic beauty, with irregular stone arches and rough-cut stone floors suffused in ghostly subterranean light. See the displays with more information on other rock-cut churches next door in the visitors centre.
4.PALACIO DE SOBRELLANO
The fabulous 1888 neo-Gothic palace was designed by Modernista architect Joan Martorell. Highlights of the palace is the grand lounge, featuring ornate wood-carved fireplaces with Gaudí-designed dragons; the elaborate dining room with its gold-wood artesonado, the beautiful stained-glass windows and vibrant original murals detailing the marquis’ story and the his majestic family tomb.
5.CUEVA DE COVALANAS
The Unesco World Heritage–listed cave of Covalanas, discovered in 1903 is home to several breathtakingly beautiful red-hued paintings of deer and other creatures, dating to around 20,000 BC.
6.CAEVAS DE MONTE CASTILLO
The spectacular El Castillo discovered in 1903 is one of the four Word Heritage Caves and contains Europe’s most ancient cave art. As you explore 500m into the cave, visitor will see the 275 paintings and engravings of deer, bison, horses, goats, aurochs, handprints, mysterious symbols and a mammoth found within El Castillo date from around 39,000 to 11,000 BC. A red symbol here, believed to be 40,800 years old, is the oldest known cave art in Europe. El Castillo also has some exquisite cathedral-like rock formations.
7.CAPRICHO DE GAUDI
The 1885 brick building, one of Capricho de Gaudi’s early works is easily the most flamboyant. It was originally build as a summer playpad for the Marqués de Comillas’ sister-in-law’s brother. The outside is stripped of all the ceramic bands of alternating sunflowers and green leaves. The elegant interior is comparatively restrained, with touches including artesonado ceilings, stained-glass windows and slim spiral staircases. In the back garden, a bronze-sculpted Gaudí gazes upon his creation.
8.MUSEO DE PREHISTORIA Y ARQUEOLOGIA DE CANTABRIA
The elegant prehistory and archaeology museum showcases Cantabria’s immense archaeological wealth, with explanatory matter in French, English and Spanish. The detailed, interactive multimedia displays range from early hominid remains to giant stelae carved by the pre-Roman Cantabrians, a replica Roman patio, prehistoric cave art and the medieval Spanish kingdoms of Asturias and León.
OTHER PLACES TO VISIT
The easiest way to get around Cantabria is by car. The well-maintained roads will take you across the region and offer easy access to the Picos de Europa and other out-of-the-way natural beauty spots. The ferries from Plymouth and Portsmouth both allow cars on board, or it is possible to rent a car.
Considering humidity, temperatures feel nice most of the year, excluding some cold weeks in the winter, with a chance of rain or snow throughout most of the year. The hottest months are August, July, and then September.