Smaller neighbour to the east of Asturias, Cantabria is blessed with the same stunning natural beauty and some cultural and archaeological sites of interest. Hugely popular with Spanish visitors throughout the summer months, the main towns and villages are Santander, Santillana del Mar and Comillas. Yet Cantabria is known mainly for its beaches and dunes - exquisitely clean, sandy, almost tropical regions. Further inland, is some of the lushest, greenest and most picturesque countryside in Spain.
The visitor will enjoy the great diversity and richness of this land - more than 60 beaches of fine, white sand; the mountains of the Picos de Europa reaching over 2,600 metres in height, numerous rivers winding through the landscape, and wonderful lush green valleys all combine to make Cantabria a beautiful part of Spain to visit.
On the coast, there are several towns and villages worthy of note, including Santander, the capital city of Cantabria. Despite its busy port area, it is a calm and peaceful city surrounded by several attractive beaches. It's quiet for most of the year but very popular with Spaniards throughout July and August. In addition to its great beaches, Santander has some wonderful gardens and promenades. Well worth visiting is the Palacio de la Magdalena, with stunning views over the bay.
In the historic centre of the city, the Plaza Porticada is a main focal point, especially during the city's International Festival of Music and Dance. The festival, which takes place in August, is lively and fun, with a wide variety of street performances adding to the already buzzing holiday atmosphere.
50km west of Santander is Comillas, a pretty coastal town with several attractive features here to detain you. Comillas became a flourishing, albeit small centre of art at the end of the nineteenth century thanks to Marqués of Comillas, who patronised a series of works, including the Palacio de Marqués de Comillas, designed by Gaudi's associate, Juan Martorel.
To step back further in history, take a walk to the cemetery, situated amidst the ruins of a 15th century church. If your stop here coincides with dinner, you must book a table in "El Capricho" a modernist palace designed by Antonio Gaudí himself.
A further 15km west of Comillas lies one of Spain's most beautiful fishing ports, San Vicente de la Barquera. Not surprisingly, there are some excellent fish restaurants in and around the harbour. Higher up above the village, is an impressive Renaissance palace and if you peer beyond, you will see the stunning Picos de Europa, providing a magnificent backdrop to San Vincente. Another charming coastal village is Castro-Urdiales, east of Santander towards Bilbao. Again you can enjoy excellent seafood here.
For those who'd like to discover the interior treasures of Cantabria, there are many, many rewards - Santillana del Mar, close to Comillas, is a lovely town where visitors might feel they're in the middle age. Its origin was a chapel constructed in the 8th century and around which the village grew through the centuries. The main "casonas" (country houses) and palaces, with their own coats of arms, is the result of a economic booms during the 15th and 18th century. The Collegiate church is perhaps the most outstanding example of Romanic architecture in Cantabria.
Smaller neighbour to the east of Asturias, Cantabria is blessed with the same stunning natural beauty. There are more than 60 beaches of fine, white sand making it a popular destination for Spaniards. Further inland, is some of the lushest, greenest and most picturesque countryside in Spain.