Santillana Del Mar, Cantabria, Spain
Santillana del Mar is one of Spain’s most historic towns located in the region of Cantabria, on the northern coast of Spain. It is therefore one of the most visited towns in this region. It is also hugely popular because it is very cultural, with interesting museums and exhibitions. Only 30 km from Santander, most of the houses in this medieval village were built during the 14th and 15th century, and it is only possible to explore it on foot. However, the absence of cars makes it a very relaxing experience and helps to preserve a tranquil atmosphere as you stroll through the streets.
Many of the rural nobility lived in traditional houses with the finest examples found on Canton Street. One particularly impressive house is the Leonor de la Vega identified by the coat of arms that include two knights. This gothic style home was owned by family of Santillana’s first Marquis. On this same street you will find the most significant building in town, which is the Santa Juliana Collegiate Church. The church was originally a Benedictine Monastery until the mid 12th century, after which the order of Saint Austin took over. The statue at the front depicts the constant fight between good and evil, the importance of penance, and forgiveness.
One of the most interesting squares in town is the triangular shaped Ramon Pelayos Square, which separates Santo Domingo Street and Carrera Street. Here you will find a splendid collection of historical buildings such as Del Aguila y La Parra´s house, the Town Hall, and two 14th century towers; the Merinos Tower and the Don Borjas Tower owned by the Barreda family.
Only 2 km from Santillana is the Cave of Altamira discovered in 1879. Inside are hundreds of prehistoric paintings and engravings of figures and wild animals. They are considered to be the most famous prehistoric cave paintings in the world, and the cave has consequently been nicknamed the Sistine Chapel of Prehistoric Art. Now declared a Cultural Heritage Site, there is a limit to the number of visitors they can allow in each year in order to protect the paintings. However, to satisfy the high volume of tourists, a replica has been recently built as consolation for those who are not fortunate enough to get in.
Santilla del Mar is also relatively close by to the Cabarceno Wildlife Park, which is a wonderful day out for the family. Exotic animals from all over the world have relative freedom as they wander through the wildlife park. It is almost like being on a mini safari with tigers, antelopes, and elephants. The park is set within the beautiful Pena Cabarga Nature Reserve, which also offers opportunities to go caving, hand gliding, climbing and canoeing.
While you are visiting Santillana del Mar, book yourself into the Parador Hotel Santillana. This traditional manor house has been converted into a three star hotel by the Parador group and is set in very tranquil surroundings. It is relatively small and therefore quite intimate, and has a garden, sauna, and restaurant serving Cantabria cuisine. Do be sure to time your visit with the festivals as well, which take place in January and June through to August.
About the Author: This article was written by Susan Bartle who is a seasoned traveller and freelance travel writer.
Originally from Canada she currently resides in the UK and recent research has resulted in expert knowledge of the Pousadas and Paradores. Click here to read about other destinations where these luxury hotels can be found.
Or visit her travel website covering countries in Europe and all around the globe.