Surfing, Hiking and Eating: Why You Should be in Santander This Summer

Surfing in Santander

By Graham Cruise, ISA Spain Site Specialist

This summer, drop into Santander to surf some of Spain’s most radical waves, cross Cantabria’s labyrinthine hiking trails, and nosh on succulent mariscos and pescados pulled right from the Bay of Biscay!


Surfing in Santander
Photo courtesy of ISA Spain

Your summer home awaits you in Santander, which is best known for surfing, boundless green landscapes and exquisite seafood. Not even the King of Spain could stay away from this quaint city on the country’s north central coast. In the early 1900s, King Alfonso XIII built the Real Palacio de la Magdalena for his summer retreat with the intentions of transforming the city into a summertime destination for the Spanish upper class. Fit for a king, anyone with an appetite for fine gastronomy, picturesque landscapes and sprawling beaches will be sure to find their fulfillment here.

Palacio de la Magdelena
Photo courtesy of ISA Site Specialist Graham Cruise

Boasting some of the country’s best waves, Santander is one of Spain’s hidden surf paradises, lined with beaches, devoid of sandal-and-socked tourists and complete with pristine breaks that make Madrid’s Aquí no hay playa (“there’s no beach here”) take on a whole new meaning of envy. No froth with these beaches, students in this program will have the opportunity to join the Escuela Cantabra de Surf and get a chance to really catch some epic waves.

From the ocean to the land, Santander is also home to some of the best hiking trails in Europe. The verdant coast of Santander touts its national parks, outdoor seashore zoos, mountains, valleys and trails that lead straight to the edge of the Old World, Fines Terre, the most western point of the continent. Join the pilgrimage that consists of the Camino de Santiago and get in touch with Spain’s history and nature. When your feet grow tired, the region’s national parks will not disappoint, like Picos de Europa (an included excursion in this program!), the first national park declared in Spain, which received its title, ‘Peaks of Europe’ from being the first sight of Europe for ships arriving from the Americas.

Picos de Europa Tram
Photo by ISA Student Jana Schneider

If the epic surfing and picturesque hiking aren’t your flavor, maybe some freshly-caught seafood from the Bahía de Santander will satiate the appetite for a summer adventure. The culinary expertise in Santander will be sure to win you over. The region boasts its rich, high-quality and diverse assortment of seafood, ranging from almejas (clams) and mejillones (mussels) to calamares (calamari) and merluza (hake). For a more native culinary experience, dive into maganos encebollados en su tinta, which is served in squid ink, a delicacy of the region.

Sailing in Santander
Photo by ISA Student Eric Gonzales

After a closer inspection of this lesser-known location, you can see why intrepid surfers, adventurous hikers, and foodies alike would never want to leave this illustrious city. While similar to other parts of Northern Spain, yet distinctly its own, the riptides, dusty trails, and culinary mastery of Santander will – sin duda – fill you up.

Learn more about summer study abroad programs in Santander with ISA or contact ISA Santander Site Specialist, Graham Cruise, for more information