Nestled in the rolling hills of Cantabria, Santillana del Mar is a historic town renowned for its beautifully preserved buildings. It lies on the doorstep of the Cave of Altamira, where 36,000-year-old paintings of local fauna and handprints have been discovered.
Things to do in Santillana del Mar
Stroll through the centre of Santillana del Mar to admire its historic landmarks, which include medieval towers, Romanesque churches and Renaissance palaces. Marvel at the 11th-century Collegiate Church of Santillana and visit the Museum of Torture to see instruments and tools used by the Spanish Inquisition. Also nearby is the Museo y Fundación Jesús Otero, which explores the life and legacy of the locally-born Spanish sculptor.
A short drive south of Santillana del Mar is the National Museum and Research Center of Altamira, where you can see objects discovered in the region’s Palaeolithic caves and learn about the culture and living conditions centuries ago. A highlight of the complex is an exact replica of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Altamira Cave, complete with the cave paintings that were discovered here by Marcelino Sanz de Sautuola in 1879.
Travelling with kids? Don’t miss a visit to the Santillana del Mar Zoo, which is home to ring-tailed lemurs, tigers and European bison. You can get up close to Chilean flamingos, African pelicans and Japanese cranes in the themed aviaries, then come face-to-face with crocodiles, piranhas and iguanas.
Getting around Santillana del Mar
Santillana del Mar is around 15 minutes’ drive from Torrelavega and 30 minutes from Santander. Seve Ballesteros–Santander Airport is also 30 minutes away and has flights to destinations across Europe. Buses are the main means of getting to Santillana del Mar and the town is compact enough to explore on foot.