Cabezón de la Sal

Salters, Foramontanos, and Free Men

As the place of an ancient exploitation of mineral salt in the High Middle Ages, Cabezón de la Sal was the passage for the Foramontanos (a group of people from the North of the Iberian Peninsula) who repopulated Castile. In the Modern Age, its inhabitants fought for a century and a half against their feudal lords until they obtained freedom. Surrounded by the spectacular contours of the Saja Reserve, the villa maintains examples of popular architecture and traditions.

Planning your Trip to Cabezón de la Sal

There is a lot to see in Cabezón de la Sal, a municipality where it is ideal to spend the first day touring its streets and surrounding areas. The Palace of the Winery, the Parish Church of San Martín, or the Regional Museum of Nature of Carrejo are places that you can not miss.  We will give you more suggestions in our “What to Do” section.  The next day you can head to the coast to visit the  San Vicente de la Barquera and the beaches and marshes of its surroundings; If you opt for the mountain, you can take one of the routes in the magnificent Natural Park of Saja Besaya. Finally, to discover the best of the gastronomy of the area and choose where to stay, we recommend that you visit the page on where to sleep and where to eat in Cabezón de la Sal.

Do you want to learn more about this place?

Originally in this town, the existence of large deposits of salt were discovered that provided work to the inhabitants of the valley. The area was supposedly inhabited by the Cantabrian tribe of the Salaenos, called this for their dedication to work. As in La Médulas, the Romans improved the extraction of salt using water injections, then the water from the salt water would evaporate in a later phase, but the product would remain. Thus, the name of “Cabezón” could be traced back to the time of the Roman invasion, since Kapezone was a measure used in the trade of the salt, although the first document conserved about Cabezón de le Sal is dated back to the year 817; The “De la Sal” had to be incorporated into the toponym by the 10th or 11th century. Another theory suggests that the name was derived from the word cabezo, a name designated to the watchtowers, hill, or mountain.

The geographical situation has benefited to a large extent, from the local economy. During the reconquest, Cabezón de la Sal became one of the key points of the “Route of the Foramontanos”-the route that followed the Cantabrians who went to repopulate Castilla through Campoo, a journey that would become a real road that connected to the Cantabrian ports, making the village a resting place for travelers and merchants.

Imagen antigua del ayuntamiento de Cabezón de la Sal.

Cabezón was also crossing the road to “Las Asturias de Santillana” (some valleys to the west of Cantabria and east of Asturias, between the coast and the Cantabrian Mountains). Under the jurisdiction of the abbot of Santillana, the town was immersed in the struggles for power among the noble families who finished with the hegemony of the Mendoza, later Dukes of the Infanta. Between 1438 and 1444, there was the first dispute between the Lords and the population, dominated by the troops of the poet and knight Iñigo López de Mendoza (the future first Marquis of Santillana).

1544 was a key year in the history of Cabezón de la Sal that was representative of the values of their people. The inhabitants of the “Nine Valleys” met again and contributed the necessary money  to begin a lawsuit against their lords, which would end, forty-five years later, with a famous sentence, where the population finally obtained freedom. From then on, the administrative organization from 1778 would be called the province of Cantabria.

In the year 1979, the exploitation of the last well of salt was closed, after finding out that many urban constructions were   collapsing because they were built on the veins of salt.

The villa bathed by the Saja River, is located in the homonymous valley of great beauty.

The most representative building of the town is surely the Palace of the Winery (Palacio de la Bodega), from the late eighteenth century, a model of Palacio Casona of the Ceballos family whose shield is on the  front of the main facade. It consists of three floors, the lower one with a arcaded gallery with half point arches.

In the Park of the Count of San Diego is the House of Culture, originally built, in 1901, for Don Eugenio Gutiérrez González (Count of San Diego, Doctor of the Royal Chamber and member of the Royal Academy of Medicine), according to traces of the architect Sallaberri. It does not present the typology of the house here, but instead it is a residence of rest with a certain Central European air, to where the Kings and Infantas sometimes attended during their summers. The house was donated to the village in 1981 by its descendants, the Gómez-Acebo family. The estate, with interesting species of imported trees, has become a municipal park and has a bowling alley. Other interesting constructions are the Casa de los Gutiérrez de Mier and the Palacio de los Escalante.

As for the religious architecture, The Parish Church of San Martín, of Baroque style, and the Hermitage of San Roque, of popular architecture, both from the eighteenth century.

The Dungeon Museum (18th Century) has its origins of 15th-century construction, belonging to the lineage of Leonor de la Vega, owner of the Salinas. You can see the sheriff’s room and various period objects. The Cabroja Mill, from the mid-eighteenth century,  and its annexed dependencies cannot be visited because it is a private property.

When you are older and you have children, you have to see in Cabezon de la Sal the  Poblado Cántabro, located at the top of the so-called “Picu of the Tower.” It consists of a recreation of the way of life of the primitive inhabitants from the end of the Bronze Age to the Roman era, when the brave Cantabrians clashed with the Roman legions of the Emperor Augustus. During your route of the town, protected by a wall, one visits the houses, with quadrangular or circular roofs; The different utensils and belongings, animals and even some inhabitants are dressed from the time period.

Museo Regional de la Naturaleza en Carrejo

In Carrejo (2 km away) is the Regional Museum of Nature located in the Palacio de Gómez de la Torre, or Pedro de Ygareda Palace, where, along with a variety of fauna and flora, you can see various ecosystems existing in Cantabria. The Molino de Carrejo, an eighteenth-century river mill converted into a museum, still retains two complete sets of wheels and other components. Also in Carrejo, you can admire some beautiful mountains.

To visit the different museums, it is necessary to contact the tourist office as they are temporarily closed at certain times of the year.

Every Saturday in Cabezón is celebrated with the weekly market where you can find typical products of the locality, as well as other regions and neighboring communities selling handicrafts and antiques.

The Essentials

Ayuntamiento de Cabezón de la Sal
Iglesia de San Martín en Cabezón de la Sal

Important Information


43° 18′ 27″ N, 4° 13′ 57″ W


42km from Santander, 450 km from Madrid


Entering the N-634 from Torrelavega, on a esplanade on the right, you will find an available parking lot and, on Saturday (the market day), parking at the Saja Institute is allowed, both are free


128 m


8,350 (2013)

Día de Cantabria (2nd Sunday of August, a national Celebration of Interest for Tourists)

Olympiad of the Tudanco (on October 12th, Virgen del Pilar. After eating, the traditional passing of the Tudancas cows takes place)

Artisans of wood and stonemasons

Other nearby destinations

About the author