Cantabria, A Hidden Gem in Northern Spain

Guest post by Alison Bailey

Map of Spain, showing the location of Cantabria, the Northern Spanish principality on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography

The Principality of Cantabria

Nestled on the Northern coast of Spain, Cantabria is rich in many ways. It has the benefit of a very temperate climate with temperatures typically ranging from 10 to 30 degrees Centigrade, averaging 14 degrees over the year. It also has a degree of rainfall not seen in the south of Spain and this gives it very surprisingly lush vegetation. I was instantly struck with how green the landscape is. For this reason, it forms what the Spanish refer to as Green Spain.

There are two distinct geologies that are immediately apparent, even before you land. There is the coastal region which extends some 10 kilometres from the sea till you hit the hilly stuff! The Cantabrian mountains still retain some snow on their peaks even heading into summer, and the warmth of the coastal region.

So what does Cantabria offer the traveller?

Quite a lot, and probably a lot more than anybody realised! For a start, there are a huge range of activities available to the adventurous traveller. Mountain biking here is fantastic, as is hiking, with plenty of trails. The Cantabrian mountains are a veritable playpark for those looking to get off the beaten track. There is also plenty of kayaking opportunities, the rivers coming off the mountains are fast, and sea kayaking in the bay at Santander is possible.

View from the highest point of the Cabarceno Safari Park, Cantabria, Northern Spain  on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-5 green_spain

Green Spain

Then there is the sailing. Santander is hosting the World sailing championships in September 2014, and there were several visiting teams testing the waters, and winds when we visited. We managed a brief chat with Fredrik Bergstrom, a Sweden competitor, and he probably has a few more followers now.

As well as physically tiring activities, there is an absolute wealth of history in the region. The first written record emerges around 195 BC, but Cantabria goes a back longer, a lot longer!

Santander marina in the northern principality of Cantabria, Spain on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-6 santander

Marina, Santander

We were lucky enough to visit the museum at the Cave of Altamira. A remarkable project replicating, the real cave, along with all the wall paintings in intricate, and painstaking detail.

The cave dates back to the Palaeolithic Era, and artefacts recovered dating back 18,500 years. The cave was discovered in 1880 by Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola, and it was his 8-year-old daughter who, being smaller in height, pointed out the paintings on the ceiling. Sadly the scientific community mocked the discovery, and it wasn’t until 1902, 14 years after the death of Marcelino that the paintings were verified as authentic. Modern dating methods have subsequently dated the cave paintings to around 35,000 years.

The real cave is now closed to visitors to preserve the paintings, which are of enormous historical importance. However, the scale of the replica is truly breath-taking. Standing in there, knowing that man inhabited this site, and painted these amazing likenesses of animals makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up!

Elephant in Cabarceno Safari Park, Cantabria, Northern Spain on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-4 elephant

Elephant at Cabarceno Safari Park

Palaeolithic art in the Cave of Altamira, Cantabria, Northern Spain on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Cantabria - 0023 cave_altamira

35,000 year old Palaeolithic art

Now, as if that was not enough, Cantabria is also home to the Cabarceno Wildlife Park.

Another of this Northern principality’s many world firsts. The park is not a traditional Safari park, but a habitat for wild animals converted from a disused quarry into close replicas of their natural environments.

The park participates fully with international projects to aid some of the most endangered species on our planet. It is a very forward thinking project, and worthy of an entire day to visit. Those that appreciate wildlife, should save some euros, and go on a tour with the keepers. It’s possible to get up really close, and personal, even feeding some of the animals.

Galleon of Vital Alsar in Parque de La Magdelena in Santander, principality of Cantabria in Northern Spain on Mallory on Travel adventure, adventure travel, photography Iain Mallory-300-7 galleon_vital_alsar

Galleon of Vital Alsar in Parque de La Magdelena in Santander

This a just a brief overview of Cantabria, future posts will feature greater detail about some of the main attractions of the region. Watch this space!

Alison Bailey of baileyphotography on the coast to coast bike ride

170 Miles Coast to Coast

About Alison Bailey

I started as a photographer at the tender age of three when my Dad gave me my first camera, a Kodak Brownie. I crawled around ‘taking pictures’ of everything, even though there wasn’t any film, and I’ve been taking pictures ever since.

I’ve worked as a Lab Technician specialising in Pathology to the promised land of Olympus cameras, and even a spell in law enforcement. I’ve returned to my first love now however, specialising in wedding photography. I predominantly use digital today, but the traditionalist in me still loves film, and the skills required to develop it.

* All photography by Alison Bailey, © Copyright of Bailey Photography 2014

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2 Responses to “Cantabria, A Hidden Gem in Northern Spain”

  1. Raul May 25, 2014 at 11:32 am #

    Hi, just found your blog. Your pics are amazing. Where are you heading off? I´m living in Zaragoza – Spain and would love to meet you and give you a couch (if needed). Let me know if you are gonna pass by.
    Oh…this summer I will make the Mongol Rally :) (just informing) hahah

    Good luck! Cheers

  2. Dean May 24, 2014 at 2:33 pm #

    Sounds like a lovely spot to visit
    Dean recently posted..Croatian Islands – 6 Must Visit Places

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Cantabria, A Hidden Gem in Northern Spain