Santander and Mountains of the Cantabria Region, Spain43.4N 3.8W
Cantabria is a Spanish historical region and autonomous community, bordered on the north by the Cantabrian Sea. Its capital city is Santander, visible at the top center of this orthorectified image along the shores of Santander Bay, the most prominent indentation in the coastline.
Cantabria is a mountainous and coastal region, with important natural resources. The coastal area is a strip of low, wide and gently rolling valleys some 10 kilometers in width, whose altitude does not rise above 500 meters, and which meets the ocean in a line of abrupt cliffs broken by river estuaries, creating rias and beaches.
To the south, the coastal strip rises to meet the Cantabrian mountains. This is a long barrier made up of abruptly rising mountains parallel to the sea. The ranges are mostly made of limestone with karst topography, and occupy most of Cantabria’s area. They form deep valleys oriented north-south. The torrential rivers are short, fast flowing and of great eroding power, so the slopes are steep.
The valleys define different natural regions, delimited physically by the intervening mountain ranges: Liébana, Saja-Nansa, Besaya, Pas-Pisueña, Miera, Asón-Gándara and Campoo. The Escudo Range, a mountain range of 600 to 1,000 metres high that covers 15 or 20 km in a parallel line to the coast in the west part of Cantabria.
Towards the south are higher mountains, whose crests mark the watershed between the drainage basins of the Rivers Ebro, Duero and those that flow into the Bay of Biscay. These peaks generally exceed 1,500 m from the Pass of San Glorio in the west to the Pass of Los Tornos in the eastern part: Peña Labra, Castro Valnera and the mountain passes of Sejos, El Escudo and La Sía. The great limestone masses of Picos de Europa also stand out in the southwest of the region: most of their summits exceed 2,500 m, and their topography is shaped by the former presence of glaciers.