Along its 130 miles of gorgeous Atlantic coastline there is a panorama of beautiful beaches and picturesque coves many of which are blissfully free of development. Add rugged green headlands for invigorating walks, sweeping estuaries, pretty fishing ports to wander around and cafes to refuel in. This is a seaside experience that's difficult to better.

There are handsome seaside resorts, fine restaurants and a whole host of rewarding outdoor activities suitable for all ages. And because of its compact size and excellent roads, Cantabria is day-trip heaven; nothing is very far away and there is so much to see and do.

Inland, there are deep valleys with villages untouched by time; forested hills rise to green pastures and then higher to mighty limestone mountains; the landscape is laced with rivers that flow to the coast with the lowlands shaped by centuries of small scale agriculture.

To compliment natural splendour, there are cultural gems a- plenty. Santillana del Mar, near the coast and Santander, is a perfectly preserved pedestrian-friendly medieval village.

A few minutes' drive away is something very much older: the Altamira Cave. It's here that some of the world's best examples of ancient rock paintings were discovered - the depictions of animals are 14,000 years old. A little further west at Comillas, you'll find some striking architecture including Gaudi's Caprichio nestling in the hills overlooking the resort.

With such a superb natural setting, it's no surprise that there are lots of ways to get active; top pursuits are hiking, mountainbiking, horse-riding, kayaking, white water rafting, surfing and sailing. Indeed Santander will host the 2014 Sailing World Championships. And as for golf... well, this is the home of the late great Seve Ballesteros and a string of emerald courses.


Top places to visit

Noja is a fantastic example of the beauty of Green Spain - a small town of stunning 17th century architecture surrounded by lush countryside, majestic mountains and gorgeous beaches

Often considered one of the most beautiful towns in Spain, Santillana del Mar is a medieval town of stunning architecture 

Santander, the capital of Cantabria, is an elegant city stretched across a wide bay with many stunning beaches.

Potes in Cantabria is a pretty medieval town beside the stunning mountain backdrop of the Picos de Europa National Park.

Top things to do

'The biggest and best climbing experience in the Picos de Europa'. This activity centre (for all ages) in the pretty village of Hermida in the heart of the Desfiladero de la Hermida gorge also offers trekking trips. Expect...

This wonderful park is in an old mining site where you'll find, in partial freedom, animals from all over the world. Between trees and cliffs you can admire bears, lions, tigers, wolves, elephants, camels etc.

This is considered to be one of the 4 best zoos in Spain with over 2000 animals and 300 species of trees and flowers set in 60,000sqm. There's also a Stone Age park taking visitors back to the time when the local Altamira cave...

This casino was built at the turn of the century when Santander became a very popular summer resort due to the presence of the royal family on its beaches.