The Natural Park of the Santoña Marshes, Victoria and Joyel is one of the most important wetlands in northern Spain and a winter refuge for many migratory birds. It has been a protected space since 1992 and encompasses 6,979 hectares of land along the eastern coast of Cantabria.
The Santoña Marshes are made up of a series of different ecosystems organized around the Treto Estuary, where the Asón and Clarín Rivers converge, as well as some smaller streams and channels. The Santoña Marshes originated during the last Ice Age, when the sea level rose, inundating the nearby valleys and creating the physical conditions necessary to form this estuary, which is inundated daily by tidesfrom the Cantabrian Sea. Beaches and dune formations stretch along its coast, giving way to meadows, forests, and scrublands farther inland from the sea.
The flora of the Santoña Marshes is composed of algae and spermatophytes. There are other species on the marshes and dunes themselves that are adapted to the salinity. In the interior of the marshes, there are holm oak forests accompanied by small sections of strawberry trees, hawthorns, and hazel. This wetland is an important center of winter migration for many species on their way to warmer climates in southern Spain and northern Africa. Among the great variety of permanent and seasonal species in the park of the Santoña Marshes, some of the most notable are the grebe, curlew, little egret, seagull, robin, and spoonbill, an animal which has come to be an emblem of the park and the marshes.
Hiking: The park can be walked by foot, following the signs that point visitors towards the park’s main points of interest. For amateur ornithologists, the park also has several bird observatories.