In the western coast of Cantabria, you can find two of the biggest cultural treasures in the region: Santillana del Mar and Altamira Cave.
Santillana del Mar is 30 km far from Santander and it is an “alive museum” of a medieval village developed around the “Santa Juliana” collegiate church, although most of the houses were built between the XIV century and the XVIII one. The whole Santillana can only be visited on foot.
You can walk north through the village by Santo Domingo Street, that becomes soon two streets in a “Y” bifurcation: Juan Infante St., that leads to the Ramon Pelayo´s Square, and the other one called Carrera St. (also known as Cantón St. or Del Río St.). In the triangular square there are some of the most representative buildings: Barreda-Bracho´s Casona (XVIII; with a splendid shield) which is nowadays the “Parador Gil Blas” (a high-quality tourist hotel), Del Aguila y La Parra´s houses, the Town Hall, the Don Borja´s Tower (XIV; one of the noblest edifications in Santillana, owned by the Barreda family, where it is the “Fundacion Santillana”) and Merino´s Tower (XIV; fortified residence of the “merinos”, the old administrators of the sovereign properties). Cantón St. presents and excellent collection of “casonas” (the old typical houses owned by the rural nobility), from the XV to the XVII; it is necessary to mention among them the “Leonor de la Vega” gothic house (XV century), who was the mother of the first Santillana´s marquis, and the Villa´s house too (also known as “casa de los hombrones”, with a big coat of arms with two knights with moustache. At the end of the street you can find the “Colegiata” (Saint Juliana´s collegiate church), the most important religious monument of the Romanesque in Cantabria.
Built over an old hermitage in the XII century, it has got a three apse ground plan, transept and three naves. In the main façade there is a triangular pediment with the martyr’s image, and above it, a gallery with fifteen arcs framed by three towers, of them cylindrical. The cloister is leaned against the north nave, and it is considered as the master piece of the whole, because of the excellent engraving of its capitals. But the genuine flavour of this stony and millennial museum, which is the village, is its own move of people, its always flowered balconies, the charm of its nooks and traditional shops, where you can have a glass of milk with “bizcocho” (the typical product of the local confectionery).
Near Santillana, just two kilometres far, it is one of the biggest treasures of Cantabria: Altamira Cave, universally appraised. They were discovered in 1879 by Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola and his daughter Maria, and they were declared by the UNESCO cultural heritage site. The cave, about 300 meters long, has 150 engraved figures made by the Palaeolithic man and great polychromatic paintings (based on natural pigments), especially the ones with bisons and wild boars.