Cantabria is a Spanish historical community and autonomous community to the north of the country. Its capital is Santander, bordered by the Basque Autonomous Community, the provinces of Castile and Leon, the Principality of Asturias, and the Cantabrian Sea or the Bay of Biscay. Cantabria belongs to Green Spain, the strip between the Bay of Biscay and the Cantabrian mountains, so called as such because of its particularly lush vegetation due to the wet and moderate oceanic climate. The region is known to be the richest region in the world for archaeological sites from the Upper Palaeolithic period, particularly for the most significant site for cave paintings.
What to see & do
Santander – The port city of Santander is the capital of the autonomous community and historical region of Cantabria. It is situated on the north coast of Spain, located east of Gijon and west of Bilbao, with a population of over 178,000 (2013). Santander has led a rather colourful history, being under the Roman Empire and considered as the official summer residence of monarchs from King Alfonso XIII and down. It is also an important port for Castile in the late Middle Ages, and a port for trade with the New World before officially becoming a city in 1755. Great fire grazed the city almost burning it down beyond recognition in 1941. A lot of the city's gems were destroyed by the fire, only living a frame, a skeleton – of the city that it once was. Today, Santander is a modern city that is almost full to the brim with Europeans who would want to dip and sunbathe in its beautiful aquamarine waters and white sand beaches. Visit the beaches of El Sardinero and Los Peliggros, among others.
Gran Casino del Sardinero – The Gran Casino del Sardinero is a leading gambling casino in the city of Santander. It is part of the Plaza de Italia in El Sardinero, and has been a very popular location for royalty before fire demolished it in the 1890s. What took its place is a building built in 1916, designed by architect Eloy Martinez del Valel. Since its re-opening, the casino has combined roulette and baccarat with dancing and staging of various forms of theatrical acts. As of 2011, the casino tends to a huge game room and a room of slot machines, a restaurant, three dining rooms, two bars, a cafe, and a party room. It also has a showroom/exhibition room where various artists display their works. The casino also sponsors and organises various cultural and sporting events, including the Festival Internacional de Santander, photographic contests, sculpture and painting exhibitions, bowling, football, rowing, and other activities.
Cave of Altamira – The Cave of Altamira is a cave famous for its Upper Palaeolithic cave paintings that feature drawings and polychrome rock paintings of wild mammals and human hands. It was the first cave in which prehistoric cave paintings were discovered, located near the town of Santillana del Mar, some 30 kilometres west of the city of Santander. The cave with its paintings has been declared a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO.
Rio Deva – The Deva is a river in Northern Spain that flows through the Autonomous Communities of Cantabria and Asturias, until it joins the Cares River and flows into the Atlantic Ocean in the Bay of Biscay. Travellers visit this enchanting river to canoe and just enjoy the sights.
How to get around Cantabria
Santander's bus system is good and relatively simple to use. Tickers are relatively cheap, and handy stops include La Catedral, Correos, Jardines de Pereda, Puerto Chico, La Magdalena, and Plaza de Italia. Passengers should pay on the bus. There is also a narrow-gauge railway operating between Santander and Oviedo, stopping at San Vicente de la Barquera. Taxis are relatively affordable and are available from the main city centres of Santander and El Sardinero. Minimum fares differ during the day and at night, and total fares also differ depending on the destination. Car rentals are probably the best way to enjoy and explore Cantabria especially if a traveller is not keen on public transport. Car rental companies such as Avis and Europcar rent out vehicles on various rates, depending on the make of the car. Driving is on the right side, and road conditions are fine.
How to get there
The Santander Airport is the main international airport located in the capital of Cantabria, Santander. It is also the only airport in Cantabria, and is served by various airlines including Iberia, Ryanair, Vueling, and Volotea. Both regular and seasonal flights are available here.