Santillana del Mar
This small town had the advantage that it was a short hop from the port at Santander and additionally, it is undeniably one of the prettiest towns that you are likely to come across. You can see why it is a bit of a tourist trap, with its countless tourist and souvenir shops, but in early May, you can virtually have the place to yourselves.
It will not take long to walk around and enjoy the beauty of its gorgeous sandstone mansions, some dating back to the 15th century and its church, with its cloisters dating back to the 12th century. There is a small admission charge and they are closed on Monday’s.
The Romanesque La Colegiata, originally a monastery which provided the focal point for the town.
Many of the houses have their own coats of arms, with either fine wooden galleries or iron balconies and it is hard to believe that until recently, the villagers used some of the lesser mansions to house their cattle.
The town has two main cobbled streets.
Though it does not take long to explore the town, with the aid of a map guide from the very helpful tourist office, it pays to linger over a coffee or lunch and savour the atmosphere of this truly remarkable place.
Within cycling distance are the Caves of Altimara. The good news is that they house some of the best prehistoric cave paintings in the world but the bad news is that to all intents and purposes you can not see them and will have to be content with seeing replicas in the museum next door.
The caves were closed because of the damage caused by visitors, though there is pressure to reopen them, with limited access being made available now.(see link)
We stayed at the Camping Cheque Campsite, which has the advantage that it is walking distance of the town. The site is not the best and if you have a caravan, particularly if you are a large unit, then you would be better advised to look for an alternative.
A full review can be seen using the link below.