There are handsome seaside resorts, fine restaurants and a whole host of rewarding outdoor activities suitable for all ages. And because of its compact size and excellent roads, Cantabria is day-trip heaven; nothing is very far away and there is so much to see and do.

Inland, there are deep valleys with villages untouched by time; forested hills rise to green pastures and then higher to mighty limestone mountains; the landscape is laced with rivers that flow to the coast with the lowlands shaped by centuries of small scale agriculture.

To compliment natural splendour, there are cultural gems a-plenty. Santillana del Mar, near the coast and Santander, is a perfectly preserved pedestrian-friendly medieval village.

A few minutes' drive away is something very much older: the Altamira Cave. It's here that some of the world's best examples of ancient rock paintings were discovered - the depictions of animals are 14,000 years old. A little further west at Comillas, you'll find some striking architecture including Gaudi's Caprichio nestling in the hills overlooking the resort.

With such a superb natural setting, it's no surprise that there are lots of ways to get active; top pursuits are hiking, mountainbiking, horse-riding, kayaking, white water rafting, surfing and sailing. Indeed Santander will host the 2014 Sailing World Championships. And as for golf... well, this is the home of the late great Seve Ballesteros and a string of emerald courses.