Cycling is really popular in Cantabria, and for those very keen enthusiasts it’s perfectly possible to cycle around the region. Local cycle paths are becoming more and more popular in Cantabria, and new ones keep popping up. One of the newest and longest runs from Los Corrales de Buelna, through Torrelavega and along the river Besaya to Suances on the coast. Both Senda de la Ribera and the surf shop of Los Locos rent bikes from Suances. Other new ones include one running along the stunning stretch of coast from San Vicente de la Barquera to near Comillas (quite hilly) and you can also cycle right from the city centre of Santander, along the boardwalked beaches, and on along the El Sardinero seafront.
Vias Verdes are an initiative in Spain which involves reclaiming old railway lines and turning them into cycle paths and walks. There are some excellent examples of this in Cantabria.
Via Verde del Pas This 34km stretch of old train line (which my mother in law can remember taking the train along), runs from El Astillero in Santander, to Puente Viesgo, where it meets the Pas river and then continues up the Pas valley to Ontaneda. There are lots of interesting places to stop off along the route, the Colegiata Church in Castañeda, the beautiful village of Puente Viesgo, and up the lovely Pas valley (personally one of my favourite villages in Cantabria, and one which I will undoubtedly do a post on soon. UPDATE: I did a post! Check here). The section from Puente Viesgo to Ontaneda is a great day out with lots of picnic places along the way and things to see, it’s one of my favourite excursions. It is possible to rent bikes from two places along the route, the Gran Hotel Balneario in Puente Viesgo, and Alceda Aventura (though not mentioned on the website they have bikes of all sizes, but best to book in advance) in the park in Alceda/Ontaneda.
Vias Verdes of Castro Urdiales Around Castro Urdiales there are 45km of reclaimed railway lines and mining tracks which make up 5 different and interconnecting Vias Verdes, these look great, and I can’t wait to explore them!
Via Verde del Pilugo This is an unsurfaced Via Verde, a 100% flat former mining railway track which gives an interesting insight into Cantabria’s massive mining past. Difficult to find the start of, it’s off a very sharp curve between the pretty villages of Toporias and Cobijón, just past the Posada la Gándara (take the right straight after, up past the green building). It’s a short, very pretty track, through two fun tunnels (you’ll need a torch) and ending up at the old mine shaft, with views to the sea. There are, however, the original tracks beneath the soil, with plenty of huge metal pins still sticking up, so stick to the middle of the path!
There are not as many places as you would expect that hire bikes in Cantabria, although many outdoor adventure centres will do so notably around Unquera and Potes. Senda la Ribera in Suances offer guided tours and trips, including a 30km descent from the top of the Sierra de Ibio. North Spain Mountain Biking, on the CA180 near Ucieda, just south of Cabezón de la Sal (a big centre for cycling) also have high spec bikes for hire and offer guided cycling tours in English. They are 40km from Santander, but will deliver and pick up bikes in Santander if necessary. Another company is Cantabrian Way, offering bike hire (Giant bikes), transport to the destination of your choice to enable one way rides, and guided bike tours. I think they also speak English, although their website doesn’t.
Cantabria By Bike (Fantastic site with interactive map in English)
Rutas en Bicicleta por Cantabria (with Google translate English option)
Senderismo y Cicloturismo en Cantabria (pdf official tourist board leaflet)
Route You – Cantabria (interactive map)