The Cantabrian Mountains to the south, Picos de Europa to the southwest, and the Bay of Biscay to the north,Estacas de Trueba make up the natural boundaries of Cantabria as well as its most remarkable geographical peculiarities. The Cantabrian Mountains plunge abruptly into the sea in less than 40 Km in a straight line. The mountain range is also broken perpendicularly by river valleys. This, as a whole, forms a landscape of mountains and hills that lose height gradually from south to north, with short but fast-flowing rivers squeezed into them. These rivers flow into the Bay of Biscay forming bays and estuaries. South of the Cantabrian Mountains, the central part of the region stretches away in two areas, Campóo and Valderredible, that go deep into the Castilian plateau.
Photograph: Photo taken from the passes of Las Estacas de Trueba. Looking westwards, we can admire the peculiar Cantabrian landscape and spot Picos de Europa in the background.
From west to east, the rivers that form the aforementioned valleys are the following: Deva, Nansa, Saja, Besaya, Pas, Miera, Asón and AgüeraRio SajaThese rivers shape beautiful valleys in their way to the sea, and so do their tributaries. Only the river Ebro, that rises in springs at Fontibre (CampÛo), doesn't flow into the Bay of Biscay, but into the Mediterranean Sea. This river flows through Cantabrian territory in its first kilometres, and, in order to regulate its volume of water, it is dammed up in the Arroyo dam. Paradoxically, when it goes trough Valderredible after having been dammed up, the Ebro has a higher volume of water in summer than in winter.
Photograph: River Saja high course.
Rios de CantabriaRiver valleys are a characteristic feature of inland Cantabrian landscape. Those same rivers that lend the region its peculiar geography of valleys orientated from south to north also determine the shape of the coastline. The mouths of those rivers form bays and estuaries that, along with impressive cliff formations, make up the Cantabrian seaboard. Finally, rivers and pools end their journey meeting beaches that give the final touch to this peculiar coastal geography, matchless in beauty and variety.

The Cantabrian coastline, a much indented one, is made up of cliff formations, bays such as those of Santander, Santoña or San Vicente de la Barquera, and estuaries like those of Tina Mayor, Tina Menor, Suances, Mogro, Ajo and Oriñon.

Cliffs line great part of the Cantabrian coast, being especially stunning those of Tina Mayor and Tina Menor, in the western part of the region, and those of Santoña and Oriñón, in the eastern part..Monte CandinaAlso in the eastern part, the Monte Candina, shown in the photograph, reaches 472 metres in height to suddenly drop towards the sea. Equally impressive is El Buciero, in Santoña, that reaches 380 metres in height to plunge in an even more abrupt way towards the sea.

The spectacular nature of these cliffs increases on the days of galerna, a violent north-west wind that blows on the north coast of Spain. The high cliffs are interspersed with fine golden sand beaches. There are 58 beaches, with great size variations, from the 5 kilometres beach of Laredo to the few meters of little ones formed in recondite coves. This is the case of the beach of Prellezo, close to San Vicente de la Barquera, which is shown in the lower photograph. Sometimes, dunes get formed, being those of Oyambre and Liencres the most remarkable ones.


The geography above depicted has an exception in Picos de Europa, a continuation of the Cantabrian Mountains in the western part of the region. Lying closer to the coastline, only 25 kilometres away from the sea, Picos de Europa has peaks that surpass in height those of the Cantabrian Mountains, reaching over 2000 meters. Picos de Europa is a stunning limestone mountain range with deep gorges carved out by rivers. Taking those rivers as reference, we can distinguish three massifs:

  • El Cornión, between the rivers Sella and Cares, located in the provinces of León and Asturias. Its highest summits are Torre Santa de Castilla (2596 m) and Torre de Santa María (2486 m)
  • Los Urrieles or Macizo Central, being the wildest out of the three, and housing the highest summits. It is located between the rivers Cares and Duje and shared by the provinces of León, Asturias and Cantabria. The borders of the three provinces meet at Pico Tesorero (2570 m). The highest summits are Torrecerredo (2648 m), Llambrión (2642 m) and Peña Vieja (2613 m).
  • Macizo Oriental or Macizo de Andara. Most of this massif belongs to Cantabria, although a small part of it is located in the province of Asturias. It lies between river Duje and river Deva, and its highest summits are La Morra de Lechugales (2444 m) and El Cortés (2373 m).
If the heights of the Picos de Europa are impressive, no less impressive are its subterranean formations, housing some of the biggest caves and chasms of Europe.Picos de Europa. Macizo Central It must be said that, although any amateur mountaineer can climb and walk along its mountain routes (depending on weather conditions and the season), it is not the case of the subterranean ones, only accessible to specialists with a high preparation level.
Photograph: Macizo Central in Picos de Europa at dawn. Peña Vieja peak (2613 m) stands out. On the left hand side of the photograph, further away, so does El Pico Tesorero (2570 m), in which the borders of Aturias, León and Cantabria meet.
In the shelter of Picos de Europa, bordering on the Cantabrian Mountains, is the Valle de Liébana, a valley that, in fact, is not one, but three:
  • Val de Baró, crossed by the river Deva.
  • Valle de Cereceda, crossed by the river Vejo, a tributary of the former.
  • Valdeprado, crossed by the river Bullón and also a tributary of the river Deva in Potes.
This peculiar region has a microclimate that allows the growing of Mediterranean species.


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