Caballo lighthouse, more than 700 steps to a Cantabrian marvel

In the north of the Iberian Peninsula, in the eastern part of Cantabria, 48 kilometers from Santander and very close to the Basque Country, is located the fishing municipality of Santoña. There you can find the Caballo lighthouse, in the Buciero mountain, a spectacular place surrounded by nature and with a lot of charm. Its varied gastronomy drinks from the sea. It is a must stop visit for any tourist who comes to the north of Spain.

The lighthouse of the 700 steps

faro del caballo

Caballo lighthouse. | Shutterstock

Located at the foot of Mount Buciero, in a particularly rocky area, is the Caballo lighthouse (horse lighthouse). This lighthouse began operating on August 31, 1863. It originally consisted of a building divided into two blocks. One of them was the lighthouse keeper’s house, with a rectangular floor plan and two floors, but it has not survived to the present day since it was demolished. The second block would be the lighthouse tower, which still exists and is preserved, although in 1993, after 130 years of service, it stopped giving light to the entrance to Santoña Bay.

Caballo lighthouse

The surroundings of the Caballo lighthouse are beautiful. | Shutterstock

There are two ways to access the lighthouse, walking and by sea. To access from below, that is to say, from the sea, you have to approach a stairway that leads directly to the water. To do this you have to wait for the right weather conditions. That is, no waves and high tide.

There are boats and organized kayak routes to visit the lighthouse by sea. The most common is to go down the more than 700 steps of its staircase. This staircase was built by the inmates of a nearby prison, specifically those of the Santoña prison in the nineteenth century. Curiously, more than a century later, in 2013, another group of prisoners conditioned the area for a visit as part of the Nácar (Nature and Prison) program.

A hiking route to access the lighthouse

Punta del Caballo lighthouse

Punta del Caballo lighthouse, Santoña. | Shutterstock

The Caballo lighthouse route of Santoña is very popular with nature lovers. It starts from the promenade of Santoña, which is 5 kilometers from the lighthouse. The route is signposted and passes through laurel and hawthorn forests. It then passes by the Fort of San Martín, built in the 17th century and declared an Asset of Cultural Interest with the category of monument. It is currently the Cultural Center and headquarters of the Heritage Rehabilitation Workshop School.

Both the building and four permanent exhibitions on the history of Santoña can be visited. Afterwards, you can follow the coastline along Mount Buciero, passing by viewpoints that allow you to contemplate the impressive view of the cliffs. To finally arrive at the stairway that gives access to the lighthouse. Once there, if you wish, you can continue downwards, descending some 100 steps that give access to the sea. To return to Santoña you only have to take the same route as on the way out.

The spectacular Mount Buceiro

Mount Buceiro surrounds the Caballo lighthouse. It forms part of the Natural Park of the Marshes of Santoña Victoria and Joyel, which is considered a SPA (Special Protection Area for Birds) and a SCI (Site of Community Importance).


Cantabria, municipality of Liendo, view towards the town of Santoña across the bay | Shutterstock

Protected by the Natura 2000 Network. With more than 600 hectares and a peninsula shape, it enjoys both Mediterranean and Atlantic flora. With forests of laurel, strawberry trees, oaks, hazelnut trees and wild cherry trees. It stands out for being one of the most important Cantabrian oak forests in the country, with a maximum height of 376 meters above sea level. It is home to two endangered animal species. The shag and the Egyptian vulture, which can be seen with a bit of luck. Mount Buceiro protects Santoña from the inclemency of the sea, turning the location of this fishing village into a natural harbor.

Natural Park of the Marshes of Santoña, Victoria and Joyel, a unique jewel

To get to know this Natural Park it is highly advisable to first visit the Visitor Center of the Natural Park of the Marshes of Santoña, Victoria and Joyel, mainly for two reasons. The first and most important is that it offers more than 700 square meters in which to learn about the history, fauna and flora of this Cantabrian coastal natural park, as well as information on the different routes and activities that can be carried out in its more than 6,600 hectares.

Faro del Caballo lighthouse

Faro del Caballo lighthouse, Santoña. | Shutterstock

And the second reason is that the interpretation center itself is a magnificent viewpoint, with a very unique architecture that simulates an ocean liner. A spectacular site for photography lovers. It is worth noting that admission is free, as are the various workshops for the whole family.

Santoña, the world capital of anchovies

If anything characterizes the gastronomy and way of life of Santoña, it is the sea. Its orographic shape as a natural port and its fishing boats are the hallmark of this region. It is a town known for its canned tuna and anchovies in vinegar, but the queen of Santoña is undoubtedly the anchovy.


Portion of anchovies from Santoña. | Shutterstock

We can find from the traditional anchovy preserved in oil, to the anchovy preserved in butter. The preserved in butter was one of the ways of canning, in the Italian salted fish canneries at the end of the 19th century. This is a tribute to the Italians who went to the Bay of Biscay in search of goods for their factories.

The best time to get to know the local gastronomy is during the Anchovy and Cantabrian Canned Food Fair. It is a traditional event organized by the Cantabrian Anchovy Guild, to choose, through a blind tasting, which is the best anchovy of the year. In addition to tasting the best canned Cantabrian anchovies, you can participate in the various activities related to these products. The Fair is usually held in spring.

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