From the moment you land in Santander airport, you get a feel of what to expect when you visit Cantabria. It belongs to "green Spain", and that is the first thing you notice getting of the plane, it is green.
On this particular morning, I set-off on my first real day of cycling through beautiful Spain.
In a mad notion, I had decided to cycle from Santander (Northern Spain) to Malaga (Southern Spain) over the course of 9 days.
This idea came along during Christmas when i was seated at the window of a Ryanair flight from Malaga to Dublin. Flying over the vast landscape of Spain, i thought it would be a great idea to plan this cycle taking many of Spain's National Parks into my route.
So here I was 6 months later pushing my bike up yet another hill leaving the coastal town of Suances behind me. On this particular day, it started off foggy.
Having spent the night in Hotel Albatros and having enjoyed a decent breakfast, i was ready for a long day in the saddle which would bring me up through the Cantabrian Mountains.
I had left early on this particular day as I wanted to visit the highly popular town of Santillana del Mar, and as you know from our previous adventures, i love to visit these popular tourist spots before the hordes of tourists arrive.
So on this particular morning in June, I rolled downhill into the town.
Santillana del Mar looks like a film set of a medieval movie. The cobble stoned streets which are kept traffic free together with the houses with flower filled balconies are postcard perfect.
And where I found myself walking through the village without a single soul around, you must know it was early. Normally, the town would be full of tourists visiting this gem of a town. And it is not just the town these tourists visit, the nearby world renowned Altamira caves draw a huge amount of visitors as well.
Santillana del Mar is on the northern pilgrim's route to Santiago de Compostela and is labelled as one of the best preserved medieval towns in Cantabria.
This medieval town originates back to the VIII century where the town was developed around the church of Santa Juliana, an example of well preserved Romanesque architecture.
Fresh bread was delivered to the many restaurants and hotels this early in the morning, but was still hanging untouched at the many doors. It was uncanny quiet in the town, the only sound being that of my bike rattling on the cobblestones. The streets were filled with the scent of the flowers which beautifully decorate the colourful balconies.
After having navigated the beautiful streets, I reached Plaza Abad Francisco Navarro where I admired the old Lavadero where ones people washed their clothes.
Here you will also find Colegiata de Santillana del Mar, the beautiful church around which the town was developed .
Passing the church, you find the Plaza las Arenas where the Palacio de Los Velarda is located, an imposing renaissance building. Santillana del Mar is worth a visit, but be prepared to pay higher prices in the bars and restaurants. This well preserved medieval town has a lot on offer, but it is not just the town which attracts tourists.
Within the area, you can also visit the famous Altamira caves which are world renowned for their prehistoric parietal cave art featuring charcoal drawings of fauna and hands.
I visited the area on a Monday in June, a day when the caves are unfortunately closed, hence a reason to return again to this beautiful part of Cantabria.