With mountains, beaches, stunning views, and rich history, the Cantabria coast is a goldmine of authentic Spanish beauty. Slightly off the beaten path from major tourist areas, Cantabria's remoteness lends to its charm. Here's what you can look forward to when you set out to drive the Cantabria coastline.
The capital of the region, Santander offers a resort town feel with sprawling beaches, plenty of shopping, good eats, and tourist attractions like La Magdalena palace and gardens, and the medieval gothic cathedral. Enjoy the historic city center, and then relax on one of the city's white sand beaches.
Oyambre Nature Reserve
No visit to Santander is complete without a stop at Oyambre Nature Reserve, one of the largest dune areas in Cantabria. The reserve boasts some of the best landscapes in the region, with beaches, dunes, hills, cliffs, and valleys, all set against the backdrop of the Picos de Europa mountains.
Great beaches aren't limited to Santander — the entire Cantabria coastline offers more than 60, each with large stretches of white sand, turquoise waters, and stunning views well worth the drive. It's difficult to choose just one to visit, but popular picks include Oriñón beach for families, El Sardinaro beach for sunbathing, and Salvé beach for watersports.
Picos de Europa
Spain's first national park, Picos de Europa offers high mountains, deep ravines, and exquisite beauty. You can see the mountains from your vehicle, but for a better look, park the car and ride the Fuentede cable car, which carries you a mile high and offers a birds-eye view.
El Capricho de Gaudi
Cantabria offers more than just natural beauty. One of the top tourist attractions in the area is El Capricho de Gaudi in the town of Comillas. The palace, built in the 19th century by Antonio Gaudi, is an architectural wonder which reflects a unique Modernist style that blends Arabesque and neo-Gothic elements and is a must-see tourist stop.
Museo de Altamira
Cantabria is famous for its abundance of caves with prehistoric drawings. One of the most renowned places to view prehistoric art is Museo de Altamira. Considered the Sistine Chapel of paleolithic art, Altamira is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After visiting, head to the nearby Cave of El Castillo, home to the world's oldest cave paintings made more than 40,800 years ago.
Santillana del Mar
Enjoy a stroll through the picturesque village of Santillana del Mar. With stone buildings, cobblestone streets, and much of the architecture dating from the 14th to 18th centuries, the area is considered one of Spain's prettiest towns. The medieval architecture has earned the entire town a designation as a National Monument.
Another seaside gem, Noja is a quiet, friendly town on the water. Surrounded on one side by beautiful beaches and the other side by lush green mountains, it offers an oasis of beauty and relaxation. Points of interest include the town's many 17th century buildings and the popular beaches Playa de Ris and Playa de Trengandin.
The small coastal town of Castro Urdiales entices visitors with quiet beaches, a pleasant harbor, and the Iglesia de Santa Maria, a Gothic church built sometime in the 13th to 15th century. Other highlights include the Pena del Cuco cave and the Ocharan Palace and gardens.
Cabárceno Nature Park
Cabárceno Nature Park is a must-visit for animal lovers and nature lovers alike. The park is home to more than 50 species of wild animals, including exotic breeds like African elephants, lions, jaguars, and rhinos. The animals enjoy plenty of room to roam among the countryside's beautiful limestone landscape.
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