Helen has lived in Cantabria, Spain for the past year as an auxiliar de conversación for the Spanish government. Here she tells us about her top 10 reasons to live in gorgeous Cantabria— and they sound tempting!
“Cantabria Infinita” – the region’s slogan says it all. Infinite beauty. Infinite friendliness. Infinite opportunities!
Cantabria, Spain is located in the north of the country, to west of the Basque Country and to the east of Asturias. It is located in a part of the country called “Green Spain”, a region with beautiful mountains covered in lush vegetation. If you’re looking to live in a region where the mountains reach the sea, Cantabria is for you!
Why should you choose to live in Cantabria, Spain?
1. It’s Gorgeous Here
Cantabria, Spain is located between the Cantabrian Mountain Range and the Bay of Biscay. The contrast between the mountains and the sea is a beautiful sight. In fact, a photo taken from the port of San Vicente de la Barquera was the region I chose to move to Cantabria! The frequent precipitation means the landscape stays a beautiful shade of green nearly year-round. Many have compared Cantabria’s green hills to Ireland, and the Picos de Europa mountains of the region’s south-west corner to those of Switzerland.
2. Life is Good
Just like any region in Spain, the quality of life is quite good in Cantabria. However, I’d argue that the after work coffee/beer/glass of wine tastes a lot better when you’ve got a view of the beautiful Cantabrian Sea or the green hills just to the south!
Cantabria is one of the smaller Autonomous Communities in Spain and it’s easy to get around. RENFE and FEVE trains run north-south and east-west, respectively, and ALSA offers bus service into most towns. It’s relatively easy to live in the capital city, Santander, and work in another part of the region.
4. The Food
Cantabrian food, like that of most regions in Spain, is wonderful. Be sure to try the locally caught fish, the famous Cantabrian stew (Cocido Montañes), Cantabrian Style Cheesecake (Quesada Pasiega), and typical Cantabrian pastry (Sobaos Pasiegos). The region also has great cheese and orujo liquors. Take note of the occasional Ruta del Pincho (tapas route), which are held throughout the region. Most offer a glass of wine, beer, or grape juice (mosto) with a delicious pincho for around two euros. It’s a great way to get to learn about Cantabrian gastronomy!
Cantabria is easy to get around and easy to leave should you choose to explore Europe. Santander has an international airport and the Bilbao airport is just an hour away. International bus lines run through the Santander bus station. The city is linked to Madrid by train and a regular ferry service links Santander with England.
From the Roman roads to the Altamira Caves, Cantabria has been an important region throughout history. Fascinating historical sites can be found throughout the region, and a number of local festivals commemorate historical events in Cantabria.
If you like to hike, swim, kayak, ski, or go caving, Cantabria has it all. Plenty of great hiking trails can be found across the region. Alto Campo ski mountain is located near the city of Reinosa in the south of the region. Cantabria is also home to some of the most important caves in the country.
Cantabria is home to a number of exciting fiestas in the region! From Potes’ Festival de Orujo in November to Carnavales in Santoña and the Desembarco de Carlos V in Laredo as well as numerous city or neighborhood festivals, there are plenty of opportunities to pasarlo bien in the region, especially during the warmer and less rainy summer months.
9. The People
While folks in the north of Spain tend to be considered more reserved than their compatriots in the south of the country, Cantabrians tend to be wonderfully kind and helpful. I will never forget the kind older gentleman who helped me find my hotel when I first arrived – lost and scared – in the region. Having grown up in New England, I feel right at home in Cantabria!
10. A Perfect Place to Learn Spanish
Given the relative lack of English-speaking immigrants in the region you are pretty much forced to practice your Spanish skills. People tend to be patient with you as long as you try! I’m a firm believer that full-immersion is one of the best ways to learn a language, and Cantabria is a region where if you want to be fully immersed in the language you can be.
I think Cantabria is often overlooked by many people visiting or deciding to live in Spain. Truth be told, I don’t really want the secret to get out about how life really is here! It’s a beautiful region with great food and great people. I came with the idea of staying just for a year – it has now been four years since I first stepped off that bus in Santander. I’m very happy with my choice!
Thanks to Helen (who wishes to remain annonymous) for her great article about Cantabria. Hopefully it inspires the rest of us to go for a visit, or consider it for a place to live in Spain.